This hike traverses the northern section of the South Taconic Trail, from Route 344 (near Bash Bish Falls) to Route 23, just east of the New York-Massachusetts state line. For the entire hike, you’ll be following the white blazes of the South Taconic Trail. Although there are relatively few steep climbs, the hike involves a total elevation gain of over 1,500 feet....
This hike traverses the northern section of the South Taconic Trail, from Route 344 (near Bash Bish Falls) to Route 23, just east of the New York-Massachusetts state line. For the entire hike, you’ll be following the white blazes of the South Taconic Trail. Although there are relatively few steep climbs, the hike involves a total elevation gain of over 1,500 feet.
From the parking area, head west on Route 344 (going back the way you came), crossing a stone bridge over Cedar Brook. Just beyond the bridge, turn right at a sign “To campground .75 miles,” climb wooden steps, and head uphill on a woods road, following the white blazes of the South Taconic Trail. After climbing rather steeply, the trail levels off. In 0.3 mile, the white blazes turn sharply right (at a sign for the South Taconic Trail) and climb steeply on a footpath.
At a fenced-in area, the South Taconic Trail turns left onto a woods road. Here, it is joined by the red-blazed Sunset Rock Trail. The two trails will run concurrently for the next 1.7 miles. The trails continue to climb and, in another 0.2 mile, they are joined by the yellow-blazed Gray Birch Trail, which comes in from the left. After climbing some more, the yellow trail leaves to the left, but you should continue ahead, following white and red blazes.
Soon, the grade moderates, and then the trails level off, with some minor ups and downs. In 0.6 mile, the blue-blazed Cedar Brook Trail begins on the right. A short distance beyond, the uphill grade resumes, and the trails climb steadily on a rocky footpath. As the trails approach the crest of the rise, the vegetation changes to a dense mix of mountain laurel, scrub oak and pitch pine, with an understory of blueberry.
Just over two miles from the start of the hike, the trails emerge onto a small open area. Here, a sign “Sunset Rock” points to the left. Turn left and follow a footpath for about 500 feet, through dense vegetation, to Sunset Rock (elevation 1,788 feet) – a panoramic west-facing viewpoint. The rural countryside of the Harlem Valley is visible below, with the Catskills in the distance. To the south, you can see both Alander Mountain and Mt. Everett. You’ll want to take a break here to enjoy the views and rest from the elevation gain (to this point) of over 1,000 feet.
When you’re ready to continue, return to the South Taconic Trail and turn left. The trail (now blazed only white) proceeds on a level route through a canopy of overhanging trees, then bears left at a fork and descends on a footpath to the unpaved Sunset Rock Road. It turns left and follows the road for 100 feet, then turns right and reenters the woods, crossing a brook and passing an old springhouse on the right.
The South Taconic Trail now begins a steady climb of Prospect Hill, soon reaching another area with dense mountain laurel and scrub oak. After climbing about 200 vertical feet in a third of a mile, you’ll reach the summit (elevation 1,919 feet), with a New York-Massachusetts boundary marker (erected in 1898) on the right. Just beyond, you’ll come to another panoramic west-facing viewpoint over the Harlem Valley, with the Catskills in the distance.
The trail continues through the woods on a relatively level footpath, with some minor ups and downs. In a mile and a half, after a short, steep climb through dense scrub oak thickets, the trail reaches the summit of Mount Fray, with a west-facing viewpoint.
A short distance beyond, the trail emerges onto the Ridge Run ski trail of the Catamount Ski Area. It turns right and follows the wide ski trail, lined with snow-blowing equipment, downhill for about half a mile (this section is rather sparsely blazed). Along the way, the Catapult and Upper Turnpike ski trails begin on the left (with west-facing views at each ski trail), but you should continue ahead on the Ridge Run ski trail. After passing the Upper Turnpike
ski trail, keep a close watch on the left for a turnoff (marked by a sign painted on snow-blowing equipment) and follow the South Taconic Trail as it turns left and proceeds through the woods on a footpath.
The South Taconic Trail soon emerges onto another ski trail. It crosses the ski trail and reenters the woods on a woods road to the left of a first-aid station (do not follow the Upper Promenade ski trail, which begins on the left). The white-blazed trail climbs a little, passes a panoramic west-facing viewpoint, and reaches a long rock outcrop at the crest of the rise. It then descends, bearing right at the next intersection.
In a quarter mile, the white-blazed trail turns sharply right, leaving the woods road, and climbs steeply on a footpath (this turn is easily missed; if you notice xxxxx blazes on a tree, you’ve gone too far). After a short but steep climb to elevation 1,510 feet, the trail bears left and levels off. Soon, it begins a rather steep descent. Near the base of the descent, it crosses an open field (with buildings visible on the left) and reeenters the woods. A short distance beyond, the trail joins a dirt road coming in from the left and continues to descend.
The trail bears right at the next intersection but, with Route 23 visible ahead, it turns sharply left and curves around to end at Route 23, a little further west. Turn left and follow the road for about 500 feet to the parking area where you left the first car.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 10/08/2015
This one-way hike on the northern end of the South Taconic Trail climbs to a series of panoramic viewpoints.
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.