Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, the largest park in Westchester County, was opened in 1938. Over thirty farms were acquired for the park, and old stone walls, which once marked the boundaries between the various farms, criss-cross the reservation. The trails – most of which are woods roads – are open to hikers and equestrians, but bicycles are not permitted. Many intersections are marked by...
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, the largest park in Westchester County, was opened in 1938. Over thirty farms were acquired for the park, and old stone walls, which once marked the boundaries between the various farms, criss-cross the reservation. The trails – most of which are woods roads – are open to hikers and equestrians, but bicycles are not permitted. Many intersections are marked by numbered signs posted on trees. These numbers are shown on the park map and referred to in the description below.
The hike described below, in the southeastern portion of the reservation, follows the Blue Trail. The trail is on woods roads for most of the way, but it also includes an 0.7-mile section where it climbs 350 vertical feet on rocky footpaths to reach the highest point in the reservation.
From the parking area, return to the main park road and turn right, crossing a bridge over the Cross River. About 100 feet beyond the bridge, turn left into a grassy clearing, with a picnic table and a metal grill. The trailhead for the Blue Trail is at the southeast corner of the clearing, near the grill. The branch of the trail that goes straight ahead (uphill) will be your return route, but to follow the loop in the clockwise direction, you should bear left onto a level, grassy woods road.
The first half of the hike is along this road, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. It is mostly level, with some gentle ups and downs, and it parallels a rocky escarpment on the right for much of the way.
You’ll soon cross a stone drain – one of many along the road, built by the CCC to prevent erosion. On the left, there is an interesting rock outcrop, with the Cross River just beyond. After passing through an area with a thick understory of ferns, the road heads gently uphill through mountain laurel thickets, then descends slightly.
About half a mile from the start, the road bears right and begins a steady but gradual climb. As it reaches the crest of the rise, massive rock outcrops are visible through the trees on the steep hillside to the right. The road now begins a gentle descent, passing an overhanging rock just to the right of the trail in a quarter mile.
A short distance beyond, the road levels off, with a wetland on the left and a large boulder field on the right. The road now begins to run close to the park boundary, and several private homes are visible through the trees to the left. After passing a small pond on the left, the boulder-littered hillside on the right gradually steepens.
About two miles from the start, with Gilmore Pond visible through the trees on the left, the Blue Trail turns right, leaving the road, and proceeds uphill on a footpath. In a short distance, it reaches junction 17, where a white-blazed trail goes off to the left. You should bear right to continue on the Blue Trail, which levels off.
After curving around a rock outcrop and crossing a wet area on a boardwalk, the trail climbs steeply on a rocky footpath (a section of the trail has been rerouted onto a more gradual route). At the top of the climb, it reaches an area with huge rock outcrops on all sides and levels off. Soon, the trail resumes its climb. It passes through mountain laurel groves, crosses another wet area, and traverses an area with hemlocks (many of the hemlocks have died from the ravages of the woolly adelgid).
The trail continues through a relatively level area, with huge rock outcrops on the left. After steeply climbing a rocky slope (you may need to use both your hands and your feet to negotiate this climb), the trail levels off and proceeds through scrub oak and blueberry bushes to reach junction 16, where a white-blazed trail begins on the left.
Just beyond, you’ll come to a clearing at the summit (elevation 860 feet), the site of a former fire tower. All that remains is a non-functional water pump and the ruins of the observer’s stone cabin. Although there is no view from this spot, a bench has been placed on the west side of the clearing, and this is good place to take a break.
When you’re ready to continue, proceed ahead on the Blue Trail, which once again follows a woods road (which formerly provided vehicular access to the fire tower). The road descends gradually through thickets of laurel. After going down more steeply on a gravel-covered section of the road, you’ll reach a fork at junction 15, where you should bear right to continue on the Blue Trail.
The road now levels off and passes through an area with a thick understory of blueberries. After resuming its descent, it reaches junction 14. Here, a white-blazed trail begins on the left, but you should turn right onto a footpath, continuing to follow the blue blazes.
The trail soon begins a steady descent, rather steep in places, following a winding and badly eroded footpath through laurels. After crossing a seasonal stream, the trail briefly levels off, reaching junction 56, where a white-blazed trail begins on the left. The descent now steepens, and the trail widens to a woods road. It finally emerges at the clearing where the hike began, returning to the start of the loop.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 08/31/2007 updated/verified on 03/17/2021
This loop hike follows pleasant woods roads and rocky trails to the highest point in the reservation.
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.