July 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Hike the Rocks Trail at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

This 7.5-mile, moderate-to-strenuous hike loops around Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in the northeastern corner of Westchester County. The reservation, opened in 1938, is the largest park in Westchester County. Over 30 farms were acquired for the park, and old stone walls, which once marked the boundaries between the various farms, criss-cross the reservation.

 

Most of the trails in the reservation follow old woods roads. This hike, however, follows the Rocks Trail—so named because it links six historic and scenic features, each of which has “Rock” as part of its name. The features include Spy Rock, used by the Americans in the Revolutionary War to observe the movements of British troops, and the Indian Rock Shelter, an overhanging rock that the Native Americans used for shelter. The Rocks Trail was constructed by volunteers in 2010 and, for much of its way, follows a footpath. The hike should take about five hours. Dogs are permitted on leash.

 

Most intersections in the reservation are marked by numbered signs posted on trees. These numbers are shown on the park map and referred to in the description below. Since the trail system in the park is complex, hikers should obtain a copy of the free park map before beginning the hike. The map is available online at https://parks.westchestergov.com//wp-content/uploads/images/stories/pdfs/2020wprmap.pdf or at the Trailside Museum at Ward Pound Ridge.

 

To reach the reservation from Teaneck, cross the Tappan Zee Bridge and follow signs for the Saw Mill River Parkway North. Take the Saw Mill River Parkway for 18.6 miles to Exit 6 (Cross River/N.Y. 35). At the top of the ramp, turn right onto Route 35 East. In 3.7 miles, turn right onto N.Y. Route 121, cross a bridge over the Cross River, then immediately turn left and enter Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Continue for 0.7 miles to the tollbooth (a $10 parking fee is charged on weekends; no parking fee on weekdays after Labor Day). Take the next right onto Michigan Road and continue for 0.7 miles to a parking area just before a circle at the end of the road. GPS address: Michigan Road, Pound Ridge, NY 10576. The reservation is about 50 miles from Teaneck, and it should take about one hour and 15 minutes to get there.

From the circle at the end of Michigan Road, bear right and follow a grassy road. Just beyond a gate, you’ll pass a kiosk on the right with a map of the trails. Just ahead, bear right at the fork (junction 70), following the red and green blazes, then bear left at junction 53, continuing to follow the Green Trail (the Red Trail and a branch of the Green Trail turn right here). The Green Trail climbs steadily on a woods road, then descends to junction 35 (the number is on the back of a tree and may not be immediately visible). Turn left here onto the Red Trail, but just ahead, turn right onto the Rocks Trail, marked with the letters “RT” on a white background. You will be following the Rocks Trail for the next four-and-a-half miles (with a side trip to Dancing Rock on a white-blazed trail).

 

The Rocks Trail proceeds uphill on a woods road through mountain laurel thickets. In about half a mile, at junction 37, a white-blazed trail begins on the left. Turn left and follow this white trail uphill to Dancing Rock—a large flat rock where farmers used to dance to celebrate the conclusion of the harvest season. Continue to follow the white trail, which loops behind the rock, passing stone ruins, and descends to rejoin the Rocks Trail at junction 60.

 

Turn left and continue along the Rocks Trail, which climbs a little and crosses under power lines. It briefly parallels the power lines, then bears left. As it descends through the woods, it passes Bear Rock on the right. Bear Rock is named for a petroglyph, a carving in the shape of a bear, on the west side of the rock.

 

After paralleling the power lines again, the trail reaches junction 39 and turns left. After crossing two stone walls, it reaches a junction with a yellow-blazed horse trail, maintained by the Bedford Riding Lanes Association (BRLA), which goes off to the right. Follow the Rocks Trail, which turns left and descends. At the base of the descent, turn right and cross a seasonally wet area on puncheon and rocks. After crossing two more stone walls, the Rocks Trail turns sharply left and parallels a stone wall, while a yellow-blazed BRLA trail continues ahead.

 

At the end of the stone wall, the Rocks Trail bears right and climbs to Spy Rock, with south-facing views through the trees. During the Revolutionary War, this rock ledge was used by the Americans to observe the movements of British troops. Unfortunately, the growth of vegetation now limits the views from this location. Now descending, the Rocks Trail passes a ledge on the left, with more views. It continues down into a gully, known as Matey’s Gulch, with impressive cliffs on the right, then climbs out of the gully and crosses a level area. It soon begins a steady descent, first gradually, then more steeply on a series of about 80 rock steps, and continues through a mixed forest of fir and beech trees.

 

At the base of the descent, the Rocks Trail bears left and heads northeast, following a level woods road through a pretty valley. Just past a deer exclosure on the right, the Rocks Trail turns sharply right, leaving the woods road, and continues on a footpath. It briefly parallels the road, then begins to climb. After crossing an underground intermittent stream and an old stone wall with some cut stones, the trail climbs more steeply. It levels off, then continues on an undulating route along the side of the hill, with several rather steep ups and downs.

 

After briefly joining an old woods road, the Rocks Trail crosses an intermittent stream and climbs to pass beneath the power lines. Just beyond the power lines, it passes a huge boulder on the left, known as Castle Rock (visible behind the trees). The trail now follows a woods road to junction 59, where it turns right. Ahead, the woods road is a white-blazed trail.

 

The Rocks Trail crosses a wet area on puncheon, descends a little to cross an intermittent stream on rocks, then climbs steadily to reach a high point, where the trail crosses exposed rocks. It then descends a little and continues along the edge of the escarpment, with views to the right through the trees across the Stone Hill River valley. After passing junction 62, the Rocks Trail reaches Raven Rocks (junction 68)—a spectacular south-facing unobstructed overlook from a cliff (use caution, as there is a sharp drop here!). This view is the best on this hike, and a bench has been placed here, so you may wish to take a break and enjoy the view.

 

From Raven Rocks, the Rocks Trail continues ahead along the escarpment. It soon begins to descend, crossing an intermittent stream on puncheon. After briefly leveling off, the Rocks Trail turns left at junction 67 and begins to climb. It passes through dense mountain laurel thickets and reaches junction 58, where it turns right. After crossing two wet areas on puncheons, it reaches junction 49, where a white-blazed trail begins on the right. Continue ahead on the Rocks Trail, which climbs gradually and then levels off.

 

Immediately after passing junction 18 (where another white-blazed trail begins on the left), you’ll come to the Indian Rock Shelter (on the right). It is the last of the six “rock” features along the hike. Native Americans frequented this spot because the overhanging rocks offered protection from the rain. Continue ahead on the Rocks Trail, which crosses two streams on wooden bridges.

 

After crossing the second bridge, bear left, uphill, to reach junction 19, at an intersection with the Red and Yellow Trails. Here, the Rocks Trail turns left, but you should turn right onto the joint route of the Red and Yellow Trails, soon passing dramatic cliffs on the left. Continue to follow the Red and Yellow Trails along a wide woods road for about 1.25 miles, turning left at junction 12 and passing junctions 50 and 11, returning to the parking area where the hike began.

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