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Black Rock Mountain/Hill of Pines/Rattlesnake Hill Loop from Mine Hill Road
This loop hike climbs to three of the highest summits in the forest – Black Rock, Hill of Pines and Rattlesnake Hill – and passes five ponds.
Allowed on leash
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Take the New York Thruway north to Exit 16. Follow N.Y. Route 32 north for seven miles to Mountainville, and turn right onto Angola Road. After 0.8 mile, you will come to a stop sign. Turn left to continue on Angola Road. In another 0.8 mile, turn right onto Mine Hill Road. Follow Mine Hill Road uphill for 0.9 mile to a parking turnout on the right side of the road, just beyond a very sharp, steep hairpin turn. NOTE: Trailhead parking is very limited (maximum five vehicles). Please make sure that you do not block the road or hamper access by emergency vehicles.
The hike begins by following the yellow-diamond-blazed Mine Hill Trail, which starts on the opposite side of the road, just beyond the parking turnout. The trailhead is marked by a triple blaze. Follow the trail uphill, steeply in places. Just before a switchback turn, there are views over Schunemunk Mountain, the Moodna Viaduct, the Shawangunks and the Catskills from open rocks. The Mine Hill Trail now heads south and soon ends at a junction with the yellow-circle-blazed Sackett Trail. (You'll encounter four different yellow-blazed trails on this hike, so it's important to note the shape of the blazes, in addition to their color.)
Turn left and follow the Sackett Trail, which soon reaches a viewpoint from an open rock ledge. It climbs to reach a second viewpoint, then begins a steady descent. After crossing two streams, you'll notice a stone chimney to the left of the trail – the remnant of an old cabin, built many years ago as a family camping retreat.
A short distance beyond, the yellow blazes turn left and follow the grassy Hall Road for about 300 feet. Where the road bears left, continue along the yellow-blazed trail as it bears right, leaving the road. It descends to a low point, with many fallen trees, then ascends gradually, traversing several rocky areas on the way. About a mile and a half from the start of the hike, the Sackett Trail turns right onto Continental Road, another woods road, which it follows for a short distance to its junction with Hulse Road (Continental Road is blocked off with a cable immediately before this junction).
Here, the Sackett Trail ends. You should turn left onto Hulse Road, now following the route of the Stillman Trail, blazed with yellow rectangles, which is co-aligned with the Highlands Trail (teal diamond blazes). The trail follows the road for only 150 feet. Just past a stream crossing, watch carefully as the yellow and teal blazes bear right, leaving the road, and continue ahead on a footpath. Follow the Stillman and Highlands Trails through a thick stand of mountain laurel and then steadily but gradually uphill. About 0.4 mile from the last intersection, the trail climbs steeply over a rock outcrop and reaches the 1,410-foot summit of Black Rock Mountain, after which the forest is named. The panoramic view from the summit includes Schunemunk Mountain and the Metro-North Railroad's Moodna Viaduct to the west, the Hudson River (crossed by the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge) to the northeast, and the Shawangunks and Catskills to the northwest.
After taking in the spectacular view, turn right and follow the teal and yellow blazes as they descend rather steeply on a wide footpath. At the base of the descent, with White Oak Road visible on the right, continue to follow the teal and yellow blazes, which turn sharply left. At the next intersection, the white-blazed Black Rock Hollow Trail begins on the left, but you should bear right to continue on the Stillman/Highlands Trails, which descend to Aleck Meadow Reservoir.
When you reach the reservoir, bear left and follow the trail below the dam. At the end of the dam, turn right and head uphill. Do not follow the first unmarked trail on the left, but a short distance beyond, turn left to continue on the Stillman/Highlands Trails. The trails proceed through an attractive forest of mountain laurel and hemlock and cross White Oak Road.
In a rocky area at the base of a descent, you'll notice a triple white blaze on the right, which marks the start of the Scenic Trail. Turn right and follow the white-blazed Scenic Trail, which crosses the blue-blazed Swamp Trail at the end of the rocky area and begins a steady climb of the Hill of Pines, passing through attractive mountain laurel and hemlock.
At the top of the climb, the trail comes out on open rocks, with a spectacular west-facing view. Black Rock Mountain may be seen on the right, and the Black Rock Forest fire tower is to its left. (Despite the name "Hill of Pines," there are only two pine trees near the summit, which is mostly covered with oaks). You'll want to spend some time at this magnificent vantage point.
The trail climbs a little to the true summit, descends the hill, and soon crosses the dirt Carpenter Road diagonally to the right. It now begins a gradual climb of Rattlesnake Hill. After about ten minutes, you'll reach a viewpoint on the right (the best view is about 150 feet to the right of the trail -- from a rock ledge adjacent to a large pine tree). The fire tower may be seen straight ahead, and Bog Meadow Pond is to the left. After a short but steep descent and a relatively level stretch, you'll reach a second viewpoint – this one marked by a cairn and a gnarled, nearly horizontal pine tree. Continue ahead through a dense mountain laurel thicket to the third viewpoint on Rattlesnake Hill, which offers a panoramic view from open rocks. Bog Meadow Pond is below on the left, with the rolling hills of Orange County beyond.
After pausing to enjoy the view, continue ahead on the white trail, which begins to descend, first steeply, then more gradually. The trail briefly runs along the southern boundary of Black Rock Forest, with Bog Meadow Pond visible through the trees to the left. After crossing the inlet stream of the pond, the trail reaches the dirt Bog Meadow Road. Turn left and continue along the road, which is marked with the white blazes of the Scenic Trail.
After about five minutes, you'll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Tower Vue Trail, marked by a cairn. This junction is just before a large rock outcrop. Turn right and follow the Tower Vue Trail over undulating terrain, through mountain laurel with an understory of blueberry. In about a third of a mile, there is a view through the trees of the fire tower from a rock ledge to the left of the trail. The trail now begins to run above Arthurs Pond, with views of the pond through the trees on the left.
When the Tower Vue Trail ends at the northern tip of the pond, by the dam, turn left onto the white-blazed White Oak Trail, cross below the dam, and continue along a gravel road. Soon, the White Oak Trail reaches Continental Road at a T-intersection. Turn right onto the road, continuing to follow the white blazes, but in 500 feet, turn left as the White Oak Trail leaves the road. The trail runs along a grassy woods road for a short distance, then continues ahead where the main woods road turns left. The White Oak Trail soon narrows to a footpath and goes through a dense mountain laurel thicket, with an understory of blueberry. In about a third of a mile, it crosses a wet area and reaches the stone dam of Sphagnum Pond. The trail turns right to skirt the dam, crosses a wet grassy area on puncheons, bears left at the end of the pond, and climbs to Sutherland Road.
Turn left onto Sutherland Road, paralleling Sphagnum Pond on the left. At the next intersection, where Chatfield Road comes in from the left, continue ahead on Sutherland Road. Soon, you begin to parallel Sutherland Pond on the left. Just beyond the pond, an unmarked trail on the left leads to an unofficial swim area on the western side of the pond (Sutherland Pond is the only pond in Black Rock Forest where swimming is permitted).
At the next intersection, turn right onto Hall Road. In 750 feet, the yellow-triangle-blazed Short Cut Trail comes in from the left and begins to run along the road. Then, in another 750 feet, the Short Cut Trail ends. You should continue ahead along the road, now following the yellow rectangle blazes of the Stillman Trail.
In a quarter mile, near the crest of a slight rise, follow the yellow-rectangle-blazed Stillman Trail as it turns left, leaving the road (there is a sign for “Mine Hill Road” at this intersection). The Stillman Trail soon reaches a T-intersection, where the yellow-circle-blazed Sackett Trail begins. Turn right and follow the Sackett Trail past another west-facing viewpoint. When you reach the next intersection, turn left and follow the yellow-diamond-blazed Mine Hill Trail down to Mine Hill Road, where you began the hike.