Storm King State Park – Butter Hill and Storm King Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map – though I used these, highly recommended

Hike Distance: 2.44 miles

Mountains:  Butter Hill, Storm King

Trails:  Butter Hill (orange), Stillman, (yellow – Highlands trail follows this), Bypass (white)

My Map:

Note:  I would call this the Mt. Tammany of New York.  This is a good workout, with some early scrambling, and some amazing views.  It’s not a long hike, clocking in at 2.44 miles, with a long descent after the view.  My only drawback is the length, I would have loved to have done more, and maybe with a little more planning, I could have found a connector to extend the trip.

That said, I had a gorgeous day to hike; though it started out cloudy.  The temperatures were in the upper 70s to start, and by the time I finished they were in the upper 80s.  I got up extra early because I feared not getting a parking space – and after my drive, I found that I didn’t have to worry.  There were plenty of spaces upon my arrival.  Even when I finished, about two and half hours later, there were still spaces.  Though, the lot was mostly full.

To start this hike, you climb Butter Hill, which also happens to be the highest elevation.  Right after your first ascent, you are greeted with:

Oh good morning….

That wasn’t too bad, though a good workout.  Right off the bat I was presented with a view looking west off Butter Hill.

Feel free to catch your breath here, because the next section is:

It’s too early for this

Two big scrambles and I wasn’t at the top of Butter Hill yet.  However, it was less than a half hour’s climb.

After the first two scrambles I came to some ruins.

Before the final ascent of Butter Hill I saw some small Striped Maple growing.  I would find this all over the park (at least on Butter Hill) including some big groves.

The beginning of the final scramble to the top:

With some great views:

There’s a large rock on top of Butter Hill, and a marker so you know you found it.

From the top of Butter Hill it is a nice walk to the eastern face (and viewpoint) of Storm King.  The walking is pleasant, on mostly soft trails with plenty of rocks sprinkled in so that you pay attention.

Striped Maple grove

I passed a couple of viewpoints that were partially obscured by foliage, but eventually came to THE viewpoint.

There were a couple of other people sitting here, but you could tell this spot gets very crowded.  It’s easy to see why.  That’s the Beacon bridge in the top of the picture and that is Pollepel Island (with Bannerman’s Castle) in the middle.  I sat here a while just to take it all in.  In fact, I had lunch, though it was only 9:30.

Bannerman’s Castle

It felt noticeably warmer, and with the sun coming out, I figured I would descend before the crowds started to arrive.

Cyprus Spurge

I took the Bypass down, and right at the junction of the Bypass and Stillman, there is a great view south.

The walk down was fairly straight forward on a wide rocky trail.

Greater Calendine

When I got back to my car, I couldn’t believe how early it was.  Though, this was a great hike, and on a great day to boot.  The trails were all well marked and are easy to follow.

I couldn’t believe I was on top of these rocks two hours ago.

Ticks: 0


Hiked:  5/22/2021

Harriman State Park – the Lemon Squeezer

Park Site

Trail Map – I used these.  And they are EXCELLENT.

Hike Distance:  7.8 miles

Mountains:  Island Pond Mountain, Surebridge Mountain, Hogencamp Mountain

Trails:  Appalachian, Arden-Surebridge, Lichen, Ramapo-Dundberg, White Bar, Dunning, Stahahe Brook

My Map:

Two weekends of hockey trips, a short work week, but it felt like two weeks of work, and I was ready to get back on the trails.  This trip, as fun and as awesome as it was, was more about getting out, recharging, and finding some quiet.  All of those boxes were ticked.

The last time I hiked Harriman State Park had to be in the middle to late 80s with my scout troop.  I have no idea where we hiked; I remember a winter hike to one of the shelters, but I couldn’t tell you which shelter – it was a long time ago.  The park is huge.

I left at my usual time, traffic was light; I was headed for the Elk Pen lot – which I later read was used to house Elk from Yellowstone at one point.  I missed the turn for Arden Valley Road, GPS took me to Arden Road – which is NOT what you want.  Arriving at the lot, I found it FULL, and this was before 8:30.  I couldn’t believe it – though fortunately, someone was leaving; so I waited five minutes and took their spot.  At the end of the day, cars were parked on both sides of the road to the lot, AND on the road TO the lot.  Get there early.  And, note to self, start getting up even earlier.

In this case there were at least TWO large groups of hikers, which I would see numerous times throughout the park.

I jumped on the Appalachian trail and was off.

It’s not long before I came to the first junction.

For the most part (in this section) trails were nice and flat, dirt, with only nominal amounts of rocks and roots.  Obviously, that would change.

The first stop was Island Pond.  This is no ordinary pond, to me it seemed much bigger than a pond, more of a lake.  This seemed bigger than  Surprise Lake or Terrace Pond.  Because it was warm, with no wind, I could have stayed at this spot for quite a while.  But, I had places to be, with things to do.

Right after the pond I crossed a spillway which was built for an unfinished dam.

Soon enough, I encountered the Lemon Squeezer.

This was a lot of fun and an interesting workout.  Upon going through the opening, you’re greeted with:

I really had to shimmy through there to get through.  Completing that, you are presented with a scramble up a good-sized rock.  There is a route around it, if you so choose, but I came here to at least give it a try.  I had read that it was pretty difficult, but I found a foot hold, pulled myself up, then realized it wasn’t as bad as I had read.

I went back downhill, around the Lemon Squeezer to jump on the Arden-Surebridge trail.

This, I took to the Lichen Trail, which I had read is one of the under-rated trails in the area.  This climbs to the top of Hogencamp mountain and has some amazing views.

Looking back towards Island Pond

Heading towards the junction on top of Hogencamp, I came across these Half Scented ferns.

At the top of Hogencamp, I looked for Ship Rock, and it wasn’t hard to find.

On the Ramapo-Dundenberg, there was an interesting water crossing.

All along the trail were lots and lots of blueberry bushes.  It was a little early in the season, so nothing worth eating.  I’m sure the bears have a field day.


Coming down the Dunning trail I came across the Boston Mine.  This was a really neat site, though not easily explored.  You can see in the first picture that there is easily six inches (maybe more) of mud in the entrance.  Fortunately (for me) someone had laid branches and rocks along the left side of the entrance in order to peek in.  The mud was deeper the farther you went in, with full on water of an undetermined depth.  I could hear water dripping, but I couldn’t tell you from where.


Right after the mine I came across Green Pond, which is a pond in all senses of the word.  I couldn’t find access to it, but the sky clouded up (for a few minutes) and I didn’t want to stick around and test the weather.

Around this area the Dunning and Nuran trail intersect at times.  I don’t think I followed Dunning to the proper end, I think I jumped on Nuran early.  It’s not hard to figure out why.

This doesn’t help

I noticed many blowdowns on this hike.

While coming down the Nuran, and descending some rocks, I almost stepped on this guy.  Fortunately (for me) he got out of the way quickly.  I’d guess he was about three feet long.

Black Rat Snake (zoomed in)

Next, I descended Nuran farther into the Valley of Boulders.

Just before getting back onto the Arden-Surebridge trail, there was a watercrossing at a cascade.

After that, it was smooth sailing back to the parking lot.

False Turkey Tail

Harriman is huge.  I did a real small section.  I plan on coming back for more.  Due to the number of blowdowns, the Nuran and Dunning trails get confusing.  And the junction of the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Dunning trail is very difficult to find.  I got lucky and happened to spot a marker.  I came across two other hikers that were looking for it, and they totally missed it.  I had read that there was to be a cairn at this intersection, but I did not see one.

Ticks: 0


Hiked: 5/15/2021

Palisades Interstate Park – The Giant Stairs

Park Site -> State Line Lookout

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  4.61 Miles

Trails:  Long Path, Forest View, Shore Trail

My Map:

The last hike I took was in the solitude of the Allumuchy mountains; that would not be the case today.  Forget that there was bright sun; when I got to the parking lot around 8:00, there were already a whole bunch of cars there.  When I left cars were parked down the side of the access road.  It gets busy here.  I fully admit, I came here to check this hike off.  Make no mistake, this is grueling.  This is not your typical hike (whatever typical may be.)  And, there were LOTS of people.

I saw people woefully unprepared for the Giant Stairs.  I saw plenty of dogs (some being carried.)  I saw people carrying coffee cups from the Cafe.  I saw people in sneakers, and less.  And I saw people without water, and for this day, the sun was out and it was pretty hot.  Do not start this hike just before sundown; once on the Giant Stairs, you’re committed.

I picked up the Long Path from the northwest corner of the parking lot.


The trail up top is nice and flat, mostly dirt, with only scattered rocks.

Once you cross the access road, it’s on to the cliffs.

Before heading down, I hiked the half mile or so to the Women’s Federation Monument.

Climbing the stairs on the right gives you a view from the top.

Back to the Forest View trail:

At this point, there are stone steps (not THE Giant Stairs, but stairs none the less) that head down the cliffs.  Yep, it’s pretty steep.  And the steps are worn making them feel like they slant down.  The views were insane, but I was more concerned with making it down the steps and not taking the express route to the bottom.  It was not my favorite part.  This picture is just a sample of what it looked like but does not do the steepness justice.

Welcome to Jersey! I’m not even going to ask…

And while we’re at it

Garlic Mustard

The Shore Trail is wide and flat just before the Giant Stairs.  It’s very serene, until:

There’s lots to see before the Giant Stairs.

Mossy Maze Polypore

And then, we’re off.

At this point, before starting the rocks, I took off my fleece – and it was a good thing.  It got much warmer and the scramble was difficult and exhausting.  Further, this was a good place to stow the trekking poles; there would not be a need for them until the Giant Stairs were finished.

Herb Robert

And onto the Giant Stairs.

At one point there opened up a great view of the cliffs.  The lighter color is where the rockfall of 2012 occured.

Here’s just one shot of a significant portion of the trail.

You can see how much further to go by the rocks that are dead center in the picture.  The last section of the Giant Stairs I called the Jetty, because that’s what it felt like I was walking on; a jetty that sticks out into the ocean.  And, you can hear the water below you.

When finished with the Giant Stairs, the trail returns to a dirt path.  I followed this all the way to Peanut Leap Cascade, where I had a nice long lunch.

After lunch, I finished up the Shore Trail, which goes straight up the hill; parts of which are very steep.  I didn’t bother with pictures, I wanted to get to the top.  Once you get to the top, the trail becomes more “normal” and some really nice views open up.

There is one more section of stairs.  And at the top……..HEAVEN.

Wide, flat, soft dirt.

This goes right back to the parking lot.

And at the parking lot, there are numerous spots for pictures and views.

This hike is an absolute workout.  Like Mt. Tammany and Stairway to Heaven, it was way too crowded for my tastes.  There are a couple of spots on the Giant Stairs that are difficult to navigate – and yet there were people who blew on through without care to the people trying to negotiate the obstacles.  At one or two locations I easily waited 20 minutes or so for the line to thin out.

The views were awesome, though.  It was neat being a stone’s throw from New York City.  There is the added bonus of crossing into and out of New York (and surprisingly, there wasn’t a toll.)  There is a whole section of the park in New Jersey to the south to explore.

Ticks:  0


Hiked:  4/24/2021

Schunnemunk State Park – Schunnemunk Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  8.23 miles

Trails:  Trestle (White), Barton Swamp (Red dot), Jessup (Yellow), Dark Hollow (Black dot), Otterkill (Red)

My Map:

It’s election day and my company gave me the day off to vote.  The joke’s on them, I voted three weeks ago.  So, with all the rain this past weekend, I planned on hiking today as the weather was supposed to be better.  It started out nice at home, by the time I reached the trailhead and parking lot on Otterkill Road, it was cloudy and there was a smattering of rain drops on my windshield.  By the end of the day the sun was out and it was gorgeous.  The wind was blustery, and at the top it was downright howling, especially in the exposed areas.

I started by heading up the Trestle trail, aptly named as it starts into the woods under the MTA train trestle.  On the way, I took this picture of what I would be doing very shortly.

I started out with a jacket on as I wasn’t entirely shore if I would get soaked.  And the trail heads steeply up.  By the time I reached Sharon’s Bench, I took the jacket off.

Sharon’s Bench, with the Gunks in front of the Catskils

The trail kept climbing until it got onto the ridge.

Smooth Rock Tripe

There was lots and lots of puddingstone.

Once onto the ridge, there are lots of views in all directions.

After a short walk, you’ll run into cairns; which is where the Barton Swamp trail meets the Trestle Trail.  Hang a left, then head downhill.  For my entire trip, most of the difficult scrambles were in the downhill direction; and made worse by the large amount of leaf litter.  Yes, I slipped a couple of times.  This picture will give some idea of what the downhill scrambles look like.


Winter Russula

Barton Swamp heads down (with extensive scrambling) into a valley where it comes to Baby Creek.

After crossing the creek, you’ll head uphill to the junction with the Jessup trail.  This climbs onto the ridge of Schunnemunk Mountail, with views-a-plenty.

Did I mention puddingstone?

I wonder what this is?
Eastern Teaberry

Before reaching the ridgeline, there was a viewpoint where I could look across to the western ridge – looking across the valley I had just traversed.

When I got onto the top of the ridge, the wind really picked up.  And while I wasn’t above tree-line, there was a little exposure here.  Much of the walking was on huge, long, flat puddingstone rocks; almost like walking on a roadway.  At least the sun had finally come out and took the bite off the wind.  I got as close as I could to the top of Schunnemunk Mountain.

From here I retraced my steps to the Dark Hollow trail; which would be my descent off the mountain.  You could almost skateboard on some of the sections of rock.

The Dark Hollow trail is one continuous descent.  There were lots of rock scrambles, one with water pouring from it (tough to see in this picture.)

Here’s a shot looking back up.  Treacherous, with all the leaves on the trail.

Also, there would be numerous stream crossings, many of the streams were too deep to rockhop.

And what do we have here?

I wasn’t sure, until I checked here (scroll down until you get a match.)

To my eyes, it looks like Bobcat.  I certainly wasn’t prepared for that.

There are a couple of nice viewpoints coming down Dark Hollow.

The trail junctions with the Otterkill trail at the railroad tracks.  DO NOT CROSS the tracks.  At this point most of the uphill/downhill is over, and the Otterkill is more of a woods road.  There will be some small climbs, but it is a good way to finish the day.

You cross a small stream

before eventually crossing Baby Creek again, this time over a bridge.

Bracket Fungi
Oyster Mushroom
Eastern Wintergreen
Asian Beauty

There is one last viewpoint on the Otterkill trail before it meets back up with the Trestle Trail.

This was a great hike and it turned into a great day.  It felt great with the sun out, and the wind was bearable.  The trails are fairly well marked, there are only a couple of spots I had to really look around.  On the large puddingstone rocks on top of the ridge, there are cairns to keep you from getting off trail, and painted arrows on the rocks when there are turns.  What was nice is I only ran into one other hike the entire day.  Though, there are signs along Otterkill road warning not to park on the sides – so I suspect it’s pretty busy on the weekends.  All in all, a great day.

Ticks:  0

Bobcat:  Well, I didn’t see one, I saw where one was.


Hiked:  11/3/2020

Bear Mountain State Park – Major Welch Trail and the Appalachian Trail

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  3.6 Miles

Trails – Major Welch going up, Appalachian Trail coming down


This hike has been on my list for a while.  What’s interesting is that I remember going by the park when I was little when we would visit my grandparents.  We would take the Palisades Parkway to the Bear Mountain bridge, cross, and take 9D up.  But, it’s been a long long time since I had been up this way.  Leaving the house a little after 8:00, skies were clear, the sun was out, and it was the middle 70s.  When I got to the park, it was already in the middle 80s.  My plan of attack was to go up the Major Welch as I had heard that there was some rock scrambling on the way up.  Oh, there was.  Just look at the map:  after you go by the lake, and turn off the paved trail, you can see how many contour lines I crossed in a short amount of time.

A little foreshadowing:

I’m pretty sure this guy was circling overhead when I was part way through the rocks.  I think he was just getting a count of how many walked by so he could triage lunch.

Some shots of walking by Hessian Lake:

It was walking on pavement around the lake.  Make sure the lake is immediately to your right – the trail head isn’t the most intuitive.

Here’s where the trail leaves the pavement and the lake.  Read the sign.  That’s the longest 1.5 miles I think I’ve ever walked.  Of course, I started to blow through the rocks when I left the pavement – it wasn’t that bad.

There were some (short) sections that were pretty flat.

There were lots and lots of those stairs.  And yes, they took a toll.

After an immediate left turn, the fun began.  I like rock scrambling as much as the next guy; but wow, this went on for a while – or so it seemed/felt.  These next pictures just don’t do it justice.  There were multiple sections of these immense boulders to scramble up.  And in the heat, it got tiring.

I only managed two pictures.  There were more sections.  At this point there were three or four groups of us leap frogging each other as we passed through the scrambles.  At one point, though, a young woman came RUNNING by us.  She blew by us like we were standing still (we were.)  Just before the top, the trail crosses Perkins Drive, and it’s a nice place to stop and get a drink.  The groups I was with all commented on how someone was RUNNING up that trail.

After crossing the road, and one more scramble, the trail flattens for a bit.

Don’t be surprised at the top, Perkins  Drive stops at the fire tower for people to picnic.  The looks I got when I came out of the woods were priceless.  Probably the best part, there was a soda machine selling  Powerade, maybe the best $3 I have ever spent.  I had plenty of water, but I needed something else.

I looked at the fire tower for a good ten minutes.  After coming up that grueling trail, did I really want to climb the steps to the top to see the view?  No.  But when was I coming back – so of course I climbed.  And I’ll admit, the view was nice.  Supposedly, you could see four states from the top.  But I needed to eat, and finish that Powerade.

My eating rock:

After a good long rest, it was down the Appalachian Trail.

Don’t kid yourself.  Yes, it’s crushed gravel, all the way down – a welcome respite from what I climbed going up.  However, there are a ton of stairs cut out of rock – which I really appreciate – but takes its toll on the way down.

There were a couple of viewpoints on the way down:

To give you an idea on the stairs, I took this picture looking back:

It’s really impressive how this portion of the Appalachian Trail was built.  And, when you reach the bottom, there are interpretive displays on building the trail, and some of the features that make up a trail.  I highly recommend stopping to see the displays.

Another great hike, though if I were to plan it again, I would wait until the temperatures have dropped a bit.  Be prepared when doing this hike.  Bring plenty of water (though there are vending machines at the top.)  And know that the rock scrambling truly is strenuous.  My final verdict:  I loved it, I’ll pay the price tomorrow, but it will be worth it.  One final note: the park was PACKED with people, so get there early.  I didn’t have a problem at 10:00 when I arrived, but I suspect parking would be a premium much after that.  (Side note, it was $10 to get in the park.)

Ticks: 0

(A new feature I’ll add going forward)


Major Welch:

Appalachian Trail:

(Missing:  the piece of the trail at the top, around the fire tower.  Markers had the Major Welch red circle above the AT white blaze.)

Hiked:  7/28/2019