From the parking area, walk back (southwest) along Route 301 for about 500 feet. When the guardrail on the left side of the road ends, turn left and follow a footpath, marked with the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), that leads downhill. The trail bears right and continues on a path built into the side of a hill. This was the route of a narrow-gauge railroad, built in 1873 to...
From the parking area, walk back (southwest) along Route 301 for about 500 feet. When the guardrail on the left side of the road ends, turn left and follow a footpath, marked with the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), that leads downhill. The trail bears right and continues on a path built into the side of a hill. This was the route of a narrow-gauge railroad, built in 1873 to transport iron ore from mines in the area to Dump Hill, at the intersection of Philipstown Turnpike and Dennytown Road (from where it was transported to the foundry in Cold Spring by horse-drawn wagons). Below, on the left, is Canopus Creek, which soon widens into a large wetland.
In about two-thirds of a mile, you'll reach a particularly interesting section of the railbed that crosses a low area on a curved stone causeway. Just beyond, the A.T. bears left, leaving the railbed, and heads gently uphill on a footpath through dense mountain laurel.
In another quarter mile, the A.T. crosses the blue-blazed Three Lakes Trail (the junction is marked by a cairn). Continue ahead on the A.T., which descends, first moderately, then more steeply. At the base of the descent, the A.T. passes a wetland on the right and ascends to the right of a cliff, reaching a ridge covered with mountain laurel.
The A.T. descends through hemlocks to a level area overgrown with barberry thickets, then bears right to skirt a wetland. At the end of the level area, the A.T. climbs steeply to the top of a ridge covered with mountain laurel, hemlocks and pines. A large boulder in an open area to the right of the trail is a good spot to rest from the steep climb.
After descending slightly along a rocky ledge, it continues along the ridge, passing through an area with many young pines and hemlocks. At the end of the ridge, the A.T. steeply descends a rocky slope covered with pine needles. This section of the trail can be very slippery, so be sure to exercise caution. A short distance beyond, the trail follows stepping stones over the outlet of a beaver pond to the right of the trail, with a beautiful waterfall immediately downstream.
After a short climb, you'll reach dirt-and-gravel Sunken Mine Road. Here, the A.T. turns right, but you should turn left onto the road, which heads downhill to cross Canopus Creek (note the stone causeway - probably a remnant of an old narrow-gauge mine railroad - to the left, just before crossing the bridge), then continues along the side of a hill, with a deep ravine on the right.
At the end of the ravine, the rocky Bell Hollow Road begins to the right. Continue ahead along Sunken Mine Road, which bears left and begins to climb. Just beyond the highest point on Sunken Mine Road, turn left onto an unmarked woods road that leads into Clear Lake Scout Reservation, and follow that road past a sign which shows the trails in the reservation that are open to the public.
At the crest of the rise, with several camp buildings visible below on the right, you'll see three blue blazes on a tree to the left. These blazes mark the start of the Blue Trail. Turn left onto the Blue Trail, which climbs to the crest of the ridge. As of this writing, the blazing of this trail is rather sparse, but if you continue along the ridge, you should be able to locate the blazes.
After a relatively level stretch, the Blue Trail climbs steeply to reach a narrow south-facing viewpoint. It continues along the ridge, with views through the trees on both sides of the trail (the views are broader when there are no leaves on the trees). The trail descends a little, then climbs briefly. At the top of the climb, there are unobstructed views of Clear Lake from open rocks to the right of the trail. A little further along, Oscawana Lake can be seen in the distance to the south.
Three blue triangles on a tree to the right mark the start of a side trail that leads down into the private camping area of Clear Lake Scout Reservation, but you should continue ahead on the Blue Trail (marked with blue rectangles). The Blue Trail (which is clearly blazed beyond this point) now descends through dense hemlock and laurel thickets.
In half a mile, the Purple Trail begins to the right, but you should continue ahead on the Blue Trail, which continues through dense vegetation. Then, in another third of a mile, the dense vegetation abruptly ends, and the trail descends through an open deciduous forest, soon reaching a T-intersection. Here, the Blue Trail turns right, but you should turn sharply left, now following the Green Trail, which begins at this intersection.
Leaving Clear Lake Scout Reservation and reentering Fahnestock State Park, the Green Trail descends steadily on a woods road bordered in places by old stone walls. The Green Trail turns right at the base of the descent and soon ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Three Lakes Trail. Continue ahead on the road, now following blue blazes, with a large wetland to the left.
Towards the end of the wetland, the trail bears right, climbs a little, and passes several openings of the Philips Mine. First worked in the late 1700s, this was one of the earliest iron mines in the area. Soon, the sounds of traffic on Route 301 may be heard. As it approaches the highway, the Three Lakes Trail bears right and briefly parallels the road. It then turns left, crosses the old Philipstown Turnpike (now overgrown and wet), and ends opposite the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 11/23/2007 updated/verified on 03/16/2014
This loop hike follows an historic mine railbed and traverses several interesting ridges with views.
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.