This Featured Hike encompasses three unique trails that, when combined, offer highly appealing variety to the hiker. Sweet Clover Trail
is a first-rate starting point and takes one through several large open meadows replete with wildflowers and wildlife before heading into the woods and up to a ridgeline. On the way, traverse through boulder fields with several viewpoints of the surrounding countryside. Hook in with Jessup Trail
for a taste of New England, and follow the contours of the ridge over expansive rock formations with countless scrub pines marking the route. Just off the trail, take a side route to a huge megalith overlooking Washingtonville. Finally, head back via Dark Hollow Trail to experience a deep woods feel through a minor wetland area, next to a small cave, and along open portions of the southern and eastern ridge to spy the Hudson River and Storm King State Park in the distance.
Hunting is permitted within the park boundary, and there are signs encouraging hikers to wear bright colors.
The park is very close to I87, and you can hear highway noise on portions of the hike at the beginning and end. Do not let this deter you! It really is a worthwhile hike.
The initial portion of the hike is on the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail
(though the very beginning is also yellow-blazed). This section is quite lovely and mostly flat through a striking meadow with open views. There can be non-hikers here taking in the view and snapping pictures. Follow the trail southwest for about 0.25 miles before bearing right and crossing a hunters' parking lot. Towards the end of the lot, the Sweet Clover Trail
continues, so quickly bear left (staying on the white-blazed trail), leaving the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail
behind. This section traverses a second lovely meadow and eventually breaks into the woods around the 0.6 overall mile mark.
This early part of this wooded section is up a slight incline on a very wide trail, and you’ll soon cross over an operating railroad track (approximate overall mile 0.9)—cross with caution. The next mile is mostly uphill with about 1,200 feet of total elevation gain from the initial meadows. This section is superb with sections of the trail cut into the side of a steep incline and several limited overlook points where you can see how quickly your climbing. There are also a few very minor rock scrambles and a very interesting boulder field along the side of a very steep hill.
At approximately the overall 2.1-mile mark, bear left onto the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail
. This junction occurs at the top of a ridgeline, and the trail continues southwest for about 0.8 miles. Hike in and out of wide open rock formations past great looking scrub pines, and several overlooks. Keep a sharp eye out for the trail and expect to backtrack a few times. There is much exposed bedrock and finding the trail at the other end of the expanse can be tricky at times. The rock itself is of interest, with several areas colored pink and referred to as Puddingstone. Around the overall 3-mile mark and at a huge open expanse on exposed bedrock, pause and look for the white-blazed Megaliths Trail
. This is not easy to find as the sign is worn away, and the trail commences several hundred feet northwest of Jessup Trail
Take Megaliths Trail
a few hundred yards to the megalith itself. Here is a great spot to rest and have a snack or lunch. The megalith is quite large, and it takes a small bit of balance to get there, but if you made it this far, it will be simple enough. You can see the Catskill Mountains in the distance as well as Stewart Airport.
Once rested, follow your steps back to the Jessup Trail
and retrace them to the overall 3.5-mile mark and bear right onto the black square on white-blazed Dark Hallow Trail
. This is also a great section that descends the 1200 feet you climbed earlier. Pass through rhododendron tunnels, down through some tricky and steep rocky sections of trail, over a minor stream crossing (mile 3.8), and along a portion of the ridge line facing south. Make sure your laces are tight, as it’s all downhill for the next mile and half. The highlight of Dark Hallow Trail
is probably the small glimpses you see of the surrounding valley from a few vantage points along the way. Eventually, the trail takes you through a nice overlook where you can see the Hudson River far in the distance and the mountain that makes up Storm King State Park.
Finally, there is one tricky section navigating your way back to Sweet Clover Trail
. As Dark Hallow Trail
descends toward the railroad tracks, it makes intuitive sense to cross them. There is even a trail directly opposite of where you come out—but don’t cross here. Look left, and there is a tree marker for the red-blazed Otterkill Trail
. Take this for a few hundred feet, over a stream crossing that has a nice cascade when flowing, and pick up Sweet Clover again by bearing right. Sweet Clover now retraces your way across the railroad tracks, through the meadows, and to the trailhead.
Mostly hardwood trees with additional sections of scrub pine. Also open meadows with wildflowers and an abundance of crickets and butterflies as well.
Skirmishes were fought within the park during the American Revolutionary War.