Harriman Park in Spring: 4-Mountain Loop

May 18, 2010

A popular Harriman hike is a four-mountain circular known as the Parker Cabin/Black Rock Mountain Loop.  While moderately strenuous, it’s a bit less than 5 miles and boasts some excellent views from the hilltops.  The loop is bisected by county route 106, with small parking areas at each of the two trail crossings.  You can choose your starting point and then hike either clockwise or counter-clockwise.

On a fine day in May, with temperatures in the 70’s and a light westerly breeze to keep the black flies at bay, I parked at the Ramapo-Dunderberg (R-D) trail crossing just west of Little Long Pond and started my hike by climbing 1289-foot Tom Jones Mtn by heading southwest on the R-D (blazed with a red dot on white).  There are views to the east from the summit.

I continued on the R-D as it descends the mountain to the west, crosses the Victory Trail and then climbs Parker Cabin Mtn, with its broad views to the southeast (a good spot for lunch or a water break).  The descent southwest on the yellow-blazed Triangle trail wanders through a sea of mountain laurel, which will bloom spectacularly in June.  I picked up the White Bar (blazed with a horizontal white bar), turning north through deep, dark woods as it descends into Parker Cabin Hollow and crosses a babbling brook on a wooden bridge. This easy jaunt was followed by a steep ascent of Carr Pond Mtn, which has excellent views across Sterling Forest to the west (see photo) from a rocky outcropping, another nice spot for lunch.  I descended to a stream crossing and climbed another hill before descending to Route 106.

Across the road, the White Bar heads north into the woods and eventually intersects with the white-blazed Nurian trial.  After crossing a stream, the Nurian climbs southeast to the highest of the four hills, 1382-foot Black Rock Mtn, a veritable massif.  At and near the top, where the Nurian intersects the R-D, are excellent views in every direction.

The ecosystem of Black Rock is very different from the woodlands I hiked through earlier.  Large expanses of bare rock, eroded by wind, are  broken by scrub trees and grasses.  Several hiking trails meander over the nearby rocky hills, offering vistas at every turn.  A massive erratic, deposited by the last glacier and dubbed the Ship Rock, hulks near one of these trails. An ancient Native American cliff-shelter hides well out of sight.  Old iron mines cluster on the eastern and northern slopes.

I took the R-D heading south as it descends the mountain through rock, woods and expanses of ferns (see photo) and returned to the parking area on Route 106.  If you go, you might want to pick up a map of the trails published by the NY-NJ Trail Conference, at any sporting goods store.  Or join a local hiking club, like the North Jersey Ramapo Chapter of the Adirondack Mtn Club.

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