Hi! My name is Brian PJ Cronin and I’m honored that Katie has invited me and my wife Kristen to share some of our favorite, family-friendly hikes in the Hudson Valley with the readers of A Little Beacon Blog.
For our purposes, we’re defining “family-friendly” as “Any hike that our 3.5 year old son Cooper can walk all by himself with a manageable amount of complaining.” Although we also always tell him that if he can make it through the entire hike without being carried, he can have ice cream. Your mileage may vary.
For our first hike, we’ve chosen Earl’s Chimney in Garrison. This out-and-back hike is just over two and a half miles long (round trip) and features a scenic overlook at the site of an old camp cabin. Only the stone chimney at the site remains, hence the name. In case you’re wondering who Earl was, or when the cabin was built, or when it was destroyed, here’s your answer: I don’t know. I even checked with the Putnam History Museum, the Putnam County historian, and the Garrison Fish & Game club and they don’t know either. But your kids are going to ask, so better make something up. My suggestion? Ninjas.
This hike starts at the Moneyhole Mountain Access trailhead, located just across from the Garrison Fish and Game Club.
1. Begin by taking the green trail north, as it rises and falls through pine forests and next to the bubbling Phillips Brook. There are a few opportunities to go off trail and head down to the creek if you wish, but the creek will be coming to you soon enough. We always hear woodpeckers during this first section of the trail, so keep those ears open!
2. Soon you’ll hit the first intersection as the green trail ends and meets up with the yellow Catfish Loop. Turn right.
3. Now the pines thin out and are replaced by scores of mountain laurels. The trail flattens out and crosses over the brook a few times, as well as a few swampy patches. Now would be a good time to mention that you should make sure you’re wearing waterproof boots. This middle section of the trail is short but offers plenty of opportunities for puddle splashing and creek dipping so you might want to factor that into your time management. One of the creek crossings also features a small hole in the rocks that you walk over, so that you can look down and see the water rushing beneath you. I am pretty sure that Cooper would live at this part of the trail if we let him.
4. Eventually things dry out and the white trail begins to the right. The pine trees return, and during one point the trail even passes under a broken tree that fell against another tree, creating a sort of “tree arch.” As you take the white trail you’ll finally begin to notice that you’re starting to ascend. Actually, you’ve been climbing this whole time, but so gradually that you (and your little ones) probably didn’t even notice.
5. Soon you’ll top out at Earl’s Chimney itself, 216 feet above the trail-head. Your view is directly facing the Highland Gap across the river that holds West Point inside of it. Look down and you’ll see parts of the Garrison County Club spread out before you.
Note that around the summit are several blueberry bushes but also several buckthorn bushes as well. Buckthorn berries are similar to blueberries except they’re slightly darker in color, lack the distinctive “crown” that blueberries have near the base, and can cause severe cramping and diarrhea. So make sure you pack enough snacks so that hungry little hands don’t get grabby.
6. Backtrack from here to return to the trailhead. Just remember to turn left at both intersections now instead of right. Then, family reward time!
Round-trip distance: 2.7 miles
Where to park: By the Moneyhole Mountain Access trailhead, across from the Garrison Fish and Game Club, 183 South Highland Road. There’s a parking turnout down the street a bit, across from the lake.
What to pack for the kids:
• waterproof shoes or boots
• snacks and water
• first aid kit
• binoculars (We always forget to bring these and always regret it.)
• sunscreen and hat (Most of the trail is shaded, but the terminus is open and sunny.)
• bug spray (just in case)
• a map (See the “East Hudson Trails” map #103 of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conferences Series, which is sold at Mountain Tops. On this map, Earl’s Chimney is referred to as “Chimney Top.”)