Know the New Hiking How-tos
Guilder Pond to Mount Everett
Directions to trailhead
New York State Thruway I-87 to Saw Mill Parkway north to I-684 north, which becomes NY Rte. 22 north. Follow NY Rte. 22 north for 50+ miles to Copake, NY. From NY Rte. 22 in Copake Falls, NY take NY Rte. 344 east through Taconic State Park into Massachusetts (becomes Falls Rd.) for 3.3 miles. Turn right onto West Street. Continue for 1.1 mile then turn left on Cross Street. Make the first left on East Street and continue ½ mile to the Mount Everett State Reservation park entrance on the right.
Depending on when you do this hike, you may drive into Mount Everett State Reservation to find the gates open or closed to traffic. The gates are generally open in the summer during the day (closed at night) so people can drive all the way up to the picnic areas at Guilder Pond but at the time of this writing, October 2011, the gates were closed due to severe erosion of the road, damage resulting from Hurricane Irene. Although this prevents cars from driving through, foot traffic is allowed and there is plenty of stable surface to walk on. Ample parking spaces are available before the gates so park your car and begin the hike by following the packed gravel road beyond the gates. Even if the gates are open you might want to park here, as it’s a lovely .65-mile hike up the gravel road.
The road ascends through lush forests, never very steeply but enough to get your blood pumping. As you enter a hemlock grove, sounds of a small waterfall in the woods to your left will indicate you are nearing Guilder Pond. At the .65 mile point, turn left at the sign for the Guilder Pond Trail. The trail will be blazed in blue. Sometimes turns are indicated by the direction of the point of a blue triangle, other times by the double rectangle blazes. This inconsistent blazing is typical of the blue-blazed trails in this area.
Almost immediately cross a creek, the source of the waterfalls heard just a few minutes earlier, on a split log footbridge. A picnic table on the right might beckon you to take a break but there will be spots with better pond views along the way. Continue to follow the trail as it alternately skirts the pond then veers into the hemlock forest and back. At the 1.20-mile point, start watching for unmarked side trails to the right that will bring you to a large rock ledge overlooking the entire pond. Now this is a break spot!
In another .10 mile you will run into the Appalachian Trail. Turn right as the blue-blazed Guilder Pond Trail joins with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail for a tenth of a mile before the two split apart in the upper parking lot, the destination of cars if the park gates were open. A composting toilet is located in this parking lot.
There are two ways to reach Mount Everett from this lot. Straight ahead beyond a gate a gravel road ascends up the mountain. To your left, at the large Appalachian Trail sign, the AT also ascends the mountain but more steeply. For this hike, let’s keep straight beyond the barrier on the gravel road and return via the Appalachian Trail.
After a short distance on the gravel road, the Appalachian Trail will join in from the left briefly before leaving to the right up stone steps. An occasional glance to your left might give you previews of the upcoming scenery. Soon you will see a stone shelter up the mountain to your right. This is your destination as the road switchbacks in that direction.
As you emerge from behind the stone shelter, no doubt your jaw will drop at the on-top-of-the-world panoramic view. Look for the highest point on the distant horizon where on a clear day you will see Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, about 40 miles away. To the left of Mount Greylock you are looking into New York, to the right Massachusetts and just the other side of Mount Greylock is Vermont. New Hampshire would be beyond the horizon to the right. After enjoying the views, keep going because you have not yet reached the summit.
Continue on in the direction you were heading to meet up with the Appalachian Trail a short distance ahead. Turn left and continue on the white-blazed AT to complete your ascent of Mount Everett. Watch for short side trails to views along the way. Arrive at old fire tower footings, the summit of Mount Everett at an elevation of 2,624 ft, the highest point of the South Taconics in Massachusetts. Looking over the pitch pine and scrub oak, you can catch views of the rest of the South Taconics to the south, the Catskills to the west, the Berkshires to the north. Some side trails lead around to more of the same views.
After exploring the summit, retrace your steps back down on the Appalachian Trail. Watch your footing here if the trail is wet as it can be very slippery. When you arrive at the parking lot by the large Appalachian Trail sign, veer left towards the composting toilet; continue with the composting toilet on your right to the gravel road which leads back to your car.
[ 0.00] From parking area before gate, walk beyond gate and follow the gravel road
[ 0.65] Turn left on blue-blazed Guilder Pond Trail
[ 1.20] Unmarked side trail to right to rock outcrop with pond view
[ 1.35] Turn right on boardwalk on white/blue-blazed combined Appalachian Trail/Guider Pond Trail
[ 1.45] Straight through parking lot past composting toilet on right, cross barrier and follow unmarked gravel road
[ 1.60] Appalachian Trail joins gravel road briefly from left then leave to the right
[ 2.05] View at stone cabin, continue straight to white-blazed Appalachian trail and turn left
[ 2.20] View to the right at blue triangle marker
[ 2.30] Summit of Mount Everett at old fire tower footings; retrace
[ 2.40] View to the left at blue triangle marker
[ 2.60] Keep straight on AT when unmarked road to stone shelter comes in from right
[ 2.85] AT turns left on gravel road briefly then leaves to the right on stone steps
[ 3.00] Come out at upper parking lot at large AT sign, keep left towards composting toilet and take the gravel road back towards the parking lot
[ 3.85] Back at lower parking lot