Family Friendly Pond Quest Trail at Hudson Highlands Nature Museum
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway north to Exit 16. Follow Route 32 north for seven miles to Mountainville, turn right onto Angola Road. Turn left at the first stop sign to continue on Angola Road. The Outdoor Discovery Center's entrance on Muser Drive is just over 1 mile ahead on the right, directly across from 174 Angola Road.
Going north or south on Route 9W take the Angola Rd. exit and turn left. The sign for the entrance is about a tenth of a mile west on the left. The entrance on Muser Drive is about a tenth of a mile ahead on the left, directly across from 174 Angola Road, Cornwall.
The Pond 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 watersheds, bird identification, tracks, dragonflies, amphibians, wetlands, milkweed and butterflies.
To begin, walk to the red flag in the right-hand corner of the field behind the Visitors' Center. From there, bear right to reach the Pond Quest trailhead at the blue flag. Proceed straight ahead along the edge of Goose Pond, a habitat for large mouth bass and Canada geese. Follow the gravel path to the lookout pavilion overlooking the entire pond habitat. This is a popular bird watching spot; a plaque offers information about some of the species you may encounter in the area.
Double back to the trailhead and bear right, following the blue trail markers. Here the path begins to weave among five ponds that are part of a mitigated wetland installed at the museum in 1998. In springtime, Newts breed in the first pond on the left. Beyond post 6, walk between the two lower ponds to the right of the trail. Look for muskrat tunnels on either side of the trail. At post 7, a platform is visible across the pond; but this observation point is no longer in use. As you head back to the trail an abandoned muskrat lodge that's become a nesting site for Canada geese is visible in the reeds at the edge of the pond on your right. In the early spring, tadpoles can be seen in the shallow water at the edge of this pond.
Just beyond post 8 a steep incline leads to an intersection with a viewing platform on the left and a bench a few feet off the trail on your right. In July and August a field of wildflowers beneath the platform sometimes draws the Clearwing Sphinx or Hummingbird Moth to this area.
After exiting the platform, follow the trail markers to the left through some bush vegetation, past a bench on the right, into a small clearing. The pond loop ends at a T-intersection. Go left to return to the Visitor's Center and parking lot or right for a nice walk around the loop Stowell Trail.