This loop hike goes through dense mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets and climbs over puddingstone rock outcrops to reach beautiful Terrace Pond.
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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 (designated as P-7) 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.).
From the parking area, cross the road and enter the woods at triple yellow and blue blazes. Follow the yellow-blazed Terrace Pond South Trail, which turns right almost immediately. (The blue-blazed Terrace Pond North 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 and large rocks.
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. Soon after 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 short distance ahead, the yellow trail passes a swamp on the left, with many dead trees. A quarter of a mile beyond the sharp turn, the yellow trail bears left at the top of a rise, with another woods road going off to the right.
The trail again begins to run along the swamp on the left. 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. Between the two detours, the trail crosses a large concrete pipe, with much beaver activity visible in the swamp.
A short distance beyond, you’ll reach a junction with the Yellow Dot Trail, marked with yellow-on-white blazes. Bear right here, leaving the yellow trail, and continue ahead on the Yellow Dot Trail, 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 (marked by a sign). 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 an intermittent 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 rock.
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 left and continue to follow the red blazes. The Terrace Pond Red Trail climbs along another rock outcrop, then steeply climbs over rocks to reach a seasonal viewpoint to the east through the trees. Just beyond, Terrace Pond itself may be seen below to the right (when there are no leaves on the trees).
Continuing along its rugged, rocky route, the red trail passes to the left of a huge boulder with some interesting crevices that you can walk through. There is a view over Terrace Pond from the top of the boulder. Just beyond, the Terrace Pond Red Trail descends steeply over rocks to end at a junction with the white-blazed Terrace Pond Circular Trail. Turn left and follow the white trail. A short distance ahead – just beyond another rock scramble – you’ll reach an open area along the lakeshore. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy the beauty of this secluded glacial lake.
When you’re ready to continue, proceed north along the white trail. Soon, you’ll come to a junction with the blue-blazed Terrace Pond North Trail. Here, you’ll notice a triple white blaze (indicating that the Terrace Pond Circular Trail technically begins and ends here).
Turn left and follow the blue blazes of the Terrace Pond North Trail, which crosses several wet areas on planks, logs and rocks. After 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 steep rock outcrop immediately to your left. Climb this outcrop for another panoramic view to the west and northwest.
Soon afterwards, you’ll come out onto a wide cut for a gas line. Bear left here and follow along the left side of the steep and eroded gas line for about 450 feet to the bottom of the hill. Here, the blue trail re-enters the woods on the left and leads in about half a mile, over relatively level terrain, back to the trailhead, crossing several wet areas on rocks.