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Terrace Pond Loop via Terrace Pond Red and Terrace Pond South Trails (longer loop) from Clinton Road
This loop hike climbs over puddingstone rock outcrops to reach beautiful Terrace Pond and two panoramic viewpoints.
Moderate to Strenuous
Allowed on leash
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Take I-287 to Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and continue on Skyline Drive to its western terminus at Greenwood Lake Turnpike (County Route 511). Turn right and proceed north on Greenwood Lake Turnpike. When you reach a fork at 8.4 miles, bear right to continue on Warwick Turnpike (still County Route 511). Proceed for another 2.3 miles and turn left onto Clinton Road. Continue on Clinton Road for 1.7 miles to a large parking area on the right side of the road, about 0.2 mile south of a gas pipeline crossing (and just north of the entrance to the Wildcat Mountain Wilderness Site - Project U.S.E.). This parking area is designated as P7 on Map #116, although it is not signed as such on the ground.
From the parking area, cross the road and enter the woods at a trailhead with a triple-blue blaze and a triple-yellow blaze. These mark the start, respectively, of the Terrace Pond North Trail and the Terrace Pond South Trail. Follow the yellow blazes, which almost immediately turn right (the blue trail, which goes off to the left, will be your return route.) You will soon find yourself in deep woods, following a rocky trail through a large stand of mountain laurel, hemlock and white pine, and crossing several wet areas on plank puncheons.
In about half a mile, the trail goes through a magnificent rhododendron grove, with the large rhododendrons forming an arch over the trail in places. As you leave the rhododendron grove, the laurel and evergreens end, and you proceed through a second-growth forest of deciduous trees. After following an interesting whaleback rock and crossing two low stone walls, the yellow trail turns left onto a woods road. You'll be following woods roads, with gentle grades, for the next 1.3 miles. Soon, the yellow markers bear left again onto another woods road lined with barberry bushes - indicating that this area was once farmed. Then, after half a mile, take care to follow the yellow markers as they bear very sharply left at a junction of woods roads. A quarter of a mile beyond this sharp turn, the yellow trail bears left at the top of a rise, with another woods road going off to the right.
The yellow trail now passes a swamp to the left, with many dead trees. Towards the end of the swamp, the yellow markers twice bear right, bypassing flooded sections of the woods road, and crossing the outlet of the swamp on rocks. Soon after crossing over two concrete pipes, the trail reaches a fork. Bear right here, leaving the yellow trail, and continue ahead on the Yellow Dot Trail, marked with yellow-on-white blazes, which follows a pleasant woods road.
In another quarter of a mile, after passing cliffs to the left, you'll reach a junction with the red-blazed Terrace Pond Red Trail. Turn left and follow the red trail. The hike now becomes more rugged. After a steep climb up a ridge, the trail follows the ridge to the north, continuing to ascend gradually. It then descends to a valley, crosses a stream, and continues across several low ridges.
A huge rock outcrop soon appears directly ahead. The trail turns right, parallels the outcrop, then climbs to its top and continues along it. The outcrop is composed of reddish-purple "puddingstone" conglomerate rock, with quartz pebbles embedded in the rock. You'll have to look carefully to find the red blazes painted on the rocks, with cairns (piles of rocks) also used to mark the trail in places.
After following the outcrop for some distance, the trail descends to the right and soon reaches a junction with the yellow-blazed Terrace Pond South Trail (the same trail that you followed for the first two miles of the hike). The two trails run jointly for a short distance. When they again divide, turn right and follow the yellow blazes.
The yellow trail now climbs steeply up a rock outcrop and descends to a valley. After continuing over rugged, rocky terrain, it ends at a junction with the white-blazed Terrace Pond Circular Trail. Turn right onto the white trail, which soon climbs to a rock outcrop with pitch pines. Here, a triple-blaze marks the end of the Yellow Dot Trail, but you should continue along the white trail, which follows the long rock outcrop for some distance before reentering the woods.
After passing a huge glacial erratic to the left, the white trail comes out onto another rock outcrop, from which it descends steeply. At the base of the descent, you'll come to a fork. Here, you should turn left onto a short unmarked side trail which leads to a rock outcrop, with fine views over Terrace Pond. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the beauty of this secluded glacial pond.
When you're ready to continue, bear left at the fork and continue along the white trail, parallel to the pond. After passing another viewpoint over the pond, you'll come to a T-intersection, where the blue-blazed Terrace Pond North Trail joins from the right. Turn left, now following both white and blue blazes.
Just beyond, the trail descends very steeply. You'll need to use both your hands and your feet to make your way down the steep rock faces. At the base of the descent, the trail crosses the outlet of the pond on logs. This crossing can be extremely difficult in wet periods. The trail now climbs, steeply in places, over rock ledges and outcrops, soon reaching another junction, marked by a triple white blaze (indicating that the Terrace Pond Circular Trail technically begins and ends here).
Bear right and continue to follow the blue blazes of the Terrace Pond North Trail, which crosses several wet areas on planks and logs. After a steep descent, followed by a short climb, you'll emerge onto a large open rock outcrop. Just to the left of the trail, there are panoramic west-facing views from the top of a rounded peak of conglomerate rock. This is another good spot for a break.
Continue along the blue trail, with level stretches interrupted by several short, steep descents (and a few short climbs). At one point (just before beginning one of the descents), you'll notice a rock outcrop immediately to your left. Climb this outcrop for another panoramic view to the west and northwest.
Soon afterwards, you'll turn right on a woods road and come out onto a wide cut for a gas line. Bear left here and follow the rather steep and eroded gas line for about 450 feet to the bottom of the hill. Here, the blue trail re-enters the woods on your left and leads in about half a mile, over relatively level terrain, back to the trailhead, crossing several wet areas on rocks.