From the parking area, cross to the south side of Spring Valley Road, go through an opening in a stone wall, and immediately turn left. Bear right ahead, passing a kiosk on the left and a stone-lined pond on the right, and continue on the orange-blazed Three Lakes Loop, which descends towards Vernay Lake on a woods road. Near the base of the descent, the trail bears left, leaving the road, and...
From the parking area, cross to the south side of Spring Valley Road, go through an opening in a stone wall, and immediately turn left. Bear right ahead, passing a kiosk on the left and a stone-lined pond on the right, and continue on the orange-blazed Three Lakes Loop, which descends towards Vernay Lake on a woods road. Near the base of the descent, the trail bears left, leaving the road, and makes the final descent to the lake on stone steps.
When you reach the lake, turn left and head north on a narrow footpath along the lakeshore. On the right, a concrete dock affords panoramic views of this pristine lake. At the end of the lake, turn left onto the white-blased Shortcut Trail, which climbs on a footpath. After crossing a grassy field, the trail goes through an opening in a stone wall and turns right onto Spring Valley Road.
The trail follows the road for 50 feet, then turns left and reenters the woods at the driveway of a private home (follow the sign “Connector to the Hidden Valley Trail”). It climbs to a stone wall at the crest of the rise and levels off. When the white-blazed trail ends at a T-intersection, turn right (uphill) onto the red-blazed Hidden Valley Loop, which passes a huge rock outcrop on the right and soon begins a gradual descent.
After descending a little more steeply, the trail crosses a footbridge over a stream and bears left onto a woods road, which climbs briefly, then descends steadily. At the base of the descent, the trail curves sharply to the left and emerges into the Hidden Valley. It crosses a boardwalk over a wet area and recrosses the stream on a wooden bridge below attractive cascades. The trail immediately turns right, briefly paralleling the stream. It then crosses a boardwalk over a wetland (with abundant skunk cabbage in season), turns sharply left, and follows a path between the wetland on the left and a rocky slope on the right.
Near the end of the wetland, you’ll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Overlook Loop, which begins on the right. You should continue ahead on the red-blazed Hidden Valley Loop, which bears left, crosses a footbridge over the stream, and climbs out of the valley.
At the top of the climb, the trail passes through a gap in an old stone wall. After winding through an evergreen grove and crossing another stone wall, it emerges onto an overgrown field, with signs on a post on the left. Turn right, following the sign to the “nature center,” and continue along the red-blazed trail, descending through the field. At the base of the descent, the trail crosses a wooden boardwalk and passes through a gap in a stone wall. A short distance beyond, the trail crosses the paved Blinn Road, then turns left to parallel it.
Just ahead, the red-blazed Hidden Valley Loop ends at a junction with the orange-blazed Three Lakes Loop. Continue ahead on the orange-blazed trail, paralleling Blinn Road. After passing the entrance to a dirt parking area, the trail climbs a little and soon emerges onto a gravel parking area, with a red barn on the right. Continue ahead to the end of the trail at a kiosk behind the Nature Center. The parking area where the hike began is on your right.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 06/09/2011 updated/verified on 02/26/2018
This loop hike runs along the shore of Vernay Lake and descends into the fascinating Hidden Valley.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.