Scenic Trail to Jupiter's Boulder
Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, N.Y., features dramatic topography, numerous lakes and streams, and a high diversity of species and habitat, making it a valuable place for research opportunity as well as hikes. Located just north of Harriman and west of Storm King state parks, it functions as a 3,914-acre “living laboratory” dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of the natural world through programs in research, education, and conservation. As a scientific field station that is also open to the public for day use, Black Rock Forest is an incredible resource for exploring and learning about nature in the Hudson Valley.
The Scenic Trail on the west side of the forest is a very rewarding out-and-back hike option for moderate effort. Co-aligned with the Highlands Trail, it’s a 1.35-mile (each way) trek that packs in a magnificent seasonal waterfall, diverse habitat, and views that stretch to the Catskills. It also features the work of the Trail Conference’s Hudson Nor’Westers Trail Crew, who have remediated several wet and/or eroded areas of the trail over the years.
You’ll find the trailhead on Old Mineral Springs Road, where there is pull-off parking for several cars. This road is owned and maintained by the town and clearly marks where parking ends. The Scenic Trail (white blazes)-Highlands Trail (teal diamond blazes) hike starts on an old woods road. Walk beyond the gate, and in just about a quarter mile, bear right to arrive at the Mineral Springs Waterfall—a lovely spot for both quiet meditation and a photo opp. Turn back 100 feet, and you’ll see the trail continuing to your right, up around the waterfall. You may see tall, black mesh fencing as you climb this section—a reminder that Black Rock Forest is an active research center. The fencing is in place to keep deer out and to encourage recovery of native species that have been trampled from overuse.
The trail skirts walls of rock as it climbs along the waterfall. Hikers are asked to remain on the trail and not venture near the falls to avoid both injury and the impacts of erosion. In an effort to create a safe experience and sustainable trail that will last decades, the Hudson Nor’Westers Crew built a beautiful stone staircase along this section in 2019.
Enjoy the view and the splendidly built trail, then continue your rolling ascent along the stream through hemlock groves, mountain laurel, and a young birch forest. Along the way you’ll encounter additional handiwork of the Nor’Westers Crew in the form of two stepping stone bridges. In little time, Jupiter’s Boulder will appear to your left, marking the turnaround point for this hike. Pausing at this glacier erratic, enjoy the views of Schunnemunk Mountain to your right, the Shawangunk Ridge beyond it, and the Catskill Mountains rising in the distance. Soak in this opportunity to connect with nature, turn back, and retrace your steps, following the white and teal blazes back to the trailhead.