The Highlands Quest is one of four Discovery Quests available at the HHNM. These self-guided hikes are complemented by an interactive guidebook, available for purchase at the Visitor's Center. Designed with elements for all age levels, the guides combine word games, hands-on experiences, and informative field notes. Well marked posts along the trail correspond to activities and information in...
The Highlands Quest is one of four Discovery Quests available at the HHNM. These self-guided hikes are complemented by an interactive guidebook, available for purchase at the Visitor's Center. Designed with elements for all age levels, the guides combine word games, hands-on experiences, and informative field notes. Well marked posts along the trail correspond to activities and information in the Quest guidebook covering topics such as native plants and animals, man-made evidence of the land's past, glacial erratics, and the history of maple sugaring in New York state.
To begin the Highlands loop, cross the field behind the Visitor's Center heading left towards the orange, yellow, and turquoise flags. From here the trail curves through a wild field into the tree line where a yellow flag a few feet in marks the Highlands Quest trailhead. The trail here follows an old carriage road that showcases various faunas from fern to some of the tallest deciduous trees in the area. When the trail splits, veer left and continue to follow the yellow trail markers.
The trail runs parallel to a stream bed, crossing over it three times before progressing away and to the right past a stand of Tulip trees. Lenape Native Americans used the Tulip tree to make the canoes that were their principal means of transportation. Here the trail curves again to the right, meeting up with another old carriage road that was used to transport mining ore and timber. Follow this to a stone fence made by early farmers of this property from rocks they unearthed while cultivating their fields.
Continue alongside the stone fence to the site of a collapsed iron ore mine on the left hand side that dates from the mid 1800s. You may find magnetite tailings, rust colored rocks containing small amounts of this magnetic mineral, on the ground in this area. The trail turns right after the mine. As you continue, look to your left to see a large boulder dropped here by the Lourentide Ice Sheet glacier some 18,000 years ago.
Stay on the trail as it winds through the forest until you reach post 7. Just off to the right the stone foundation of a house is visible amongst the trees. In the 1720s this property was owned by a prosperous farmer; the foundation here is likely the remnants of a house lived in by one of his tenants. Notice that part of the stone wall, used to keep livestock in and predators out, still stands here nearly 300 years later.
Beyond this point the trail curves right again. Continue through various woodland habitats until the trail turns out into an open field. A fenced-in area called an exclosure is straight ahead. Deer and other wildlife are prevented from foraging for food amongst the plant life growing inside the fence; the exclosure gives us an idea of what the area might look like if the deer's natural predators still hunted here.
Continue on the path until reaching Muskrat Pond off the trail on the left side. Look for Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks; both species are often seen fishing this water. Water lilies and blue flag irises are abundant here during the late spring and summer. The building next to the pond is a sugar shack. In the late winter and early spring, museum educators make maple syrup in this evaporator. Double back and continue to the right until an intersection of three trails. This is the end of the Highlands Quest. Follow the red trail markers back to the Visitor's Center.Publication: Submitted by Georgette Weir on 05/18/2010
The Highlands Quest leads past geologic features and signs of former human activity including the stone foundation of an old farmhouse and a collapsed iron ore mine.
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.