Dover Stone Church

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Dover Plains, New York, weather forecast

Scenery: 3.5 cameras out of 5

Difficulty: 2 out of 10 (easy stroll)

Highlights: Insanely cool cave with a waterfall in the back

Distance: 1.2 miles, up-and-back

Approximate roundtrip time: 1 hour

Total ascent: 180 ft

Max Elevation: 502 ft above sea level

GPS goodies:  Google Terrain map and a cool Google Earth flyover of hike route

This hike is for you if: You want to check out an awesome cave that seems like it belongs somewhere way more exotic than Dover Plains (no offense, Dover Plains).

Background you can feel free to skip: While surfing the web for some information on a different hike, I stumbled across a page for the Oblong Land Conservancy, which featured a striking picture of a huge cave called the Dover Stone Church.

“How have I never heard of this place?” I thought.  And I still don’t have any good answers for how I managed to live in the Hudson Valley for ten years without anybody ever telling me about the Dover Stone Church.  I’m still a little sore at you for that, everyone I know.

Actually, the odd thing about this place, besides the fact that it exists, is how well it’s hidden, so maybe that accounts for why you don’t hear it mentioned too often.  There’s no sign for it on the street, and you have to park either at the local elementary school or at a gracious local establishment that has agreed to let visitors make use of its parking spaces (more information on parking areas can be found in the official visitor’s guide).

In fact, when our small group went to Dover Plains to check this place out, we couldn’t find it.  As we stood in a huddle on the sidewalk, debating which way to go, a man walking by said, “Looking for the Stone Church?”

“Yes, we sure are,” we said.

“It’s right up there,” he said, pointing between two houses.  “They took down the sign on the street because too many people were coming here, I guess.”

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It didn’t seem like a park could possibly be hiding up that driveway between the two houses.  We felt like we were trespassing at first, but sure enough, he was right.  There was a beautiful park back there with a well-maintained trail to the main attraction.  If somebody doesn’t tell you where it is, though, the trailhead is harder to find than the train to Hogwart’s.

**UPDATE June 2012**: Remember that thing I said about the trailhead being hard to find?  Never mind.  I just drove through Dover Plains and saw a nice yellow-and-blue historical marker for Dover Stone Church right at the entrance to the driveway.  Maybe they were polishing it or something last time I was here.

Also, this hike is called the Stone Church because of the cathedral-like appearance of the cave, so no need to bring any dollar bills for the collection plate.  You should bring a camera, though, because you’ll want to record your visit to this one-of-a-kind place.

 


Trail guide:

1.  From the parking lot at the Dover Elementary School, face Route 22 and carefully cross the street.  Turn to your right to head down the sidewalk for about one block.

2.  Well before the traffic light at Mill Street, you’ll see a gravel road heading up a small hill to your left, between two white houses.  This is Stone Church Lane, which is completely unmarked (or at least it was as of April 2, 2011) now marked with a nice blue-and-yellow historical marker for Dover Stone Church.  You’ll see a split-rail fence leading up the right side of the lane.

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3.  When we visited, there was a blue dumpster visible at the top of the lane, which seemed purposefully placed to block the Dover Stone Church sign (I’m guessing the local landowners get annoyed at people driving up there, but since you’re on foot and following the rules, consider yourself invited to the Stone Church party).  Just behind that dumpster, you’ll see the very nice Dover Stone Church sign, with a beautiful open field behind it.

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4.  Who would have guessed that this was back here?  Somebody takes very nice care of this place.  Hop down the steps and across the field.

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5.  When you come to the “Welcome to Dover Stone Church” sign, take a left to stay on the main trail.

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6.  Cross the footbridge over the aptly named Stone Church Brook to enter a picturesque field with a pond in the back.  Not a bad spot for a picnic.

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7.  The trail heads upstream, hugging the left bank of the brook.  The trail can be a little slippery here, so watch your step.

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8.  All of a sudden, boom, you’re attending church.

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9.  The trail goes all the way up into Dover Stone Church.  You’ll have to be very careful at the cave’s entrance, especially if the water is high.  It can be tricky hopping into the cave without getting soaked.  But once you’re in there, what an incredibly cool place.

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The waterfall rushes down behind you while the cave’s entrance frames the forest in front.  It feels like you’ve left the Hudson Valley and entered some remote spot in Jamaica, Scandinavia or Middle Earth (depending on the weather when you visit, and whether you see any hobbits while you’re here).

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10.  When you’re done marveling over how this place has remained such a well-kept secret (unless you already knew about it, in which case you win tons of coolness tokens), retrace your steps to head back to your car.

 


Directions to the trailhead: From Poughkeepsie, take Route 55 East to Route 82 North.  Follow Route 82 for 9 miles, then turn right onto Route 343.  When 343 dead-ends into Route 22, take a right.  Dover Elementary School is a half-mile ahead, on your left.

Park in the spots closest to Route 22.  (If you’re here when school is in session, please refer to the visitor’s guide to locate the parking areas for the local businesses that have graciously offered their spots for your use instead.)

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You can also get directions by checking out the Dover Stone Church entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.

 

Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The address of Dover Elementary School is:

9 School Street
Dover Plains, NY 12522

Park in the spots closest to Route 22.  (If you’re here when school is in session, please refer to the visitor’s guide to locate the parking areas for the local businesses that have graciously offered their spots for your use instead.)

Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these excellent resources:


More Dover Stone Church pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:

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15 thoughts on “Dover Stone Church

  1. We just went today to this and it was a great short walk! Thanks for the info and keep up the website! This is a great site you have setup.

  2. So apparently stone church is being abused much like bulls bridge, with people having huge bbq’s and leaving piles of trash behind. Nothing is sacred. Just don’t want anyone to waste their time making the trip just to walk through rotting garbage :(

    • That’s really unfortunate. I’ve never understood people who appreciate nature enough to get out into it, but not enough to refrain from defiling it. Sad. It was pristine when I visited – hope it’ll have more considerate visitors from here on out.

  3. We went today and someone must have cleaned up the area because we didn’t see any mess. Just to add to the atmosphere, there was a woman ahead of us burning incense. There was also a purple, yes purple slime at the bottom of one of the pools across from the bridge. Still not sure what that was all about. We plan on going back with better footwear and exploring inside the cavern.

    • Glad to hear that report on the trash situation, Jeff. Also, dude, purple? I don’t know about you, but I’m suspecting some involvement by the incense lady.

  4. This place sound and looks like a place I will visit to take photos, how about parking?. Is this the same Route 22. to Patterson NY. Ty for Shearing with us this beautiful place. If you like taking photos you must go the Croton Falls on Rt 9 to exit 129 Croton On The Hudson NY and see a 100 ft water fall. Easy to get to just a shot drive down to the bridge and you will see this lovely fall. You can also googly it.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve never been, but I’ll have to make a point to check it out. And yes, it’s the same Rt 22. Hope you enjoy your visit and get some great pics here!

  5. My sister and I did this hike a few weeks ago, it was really nice..It was so short though that we ended up climbing all the way up the mountain as well, it was really pretty up there too..We didn’t see any garbage either so it must have been cleaned up..There was a really cool looking rock at one of the ponds before the walk, The rock looked just like a Manatee! Thanks for posting all of your hikes, I love following them and have done a few so far…

  6. Going up there this Saturday. Thanks for the great details on getting there. And Thanks Fredd for that other Falls. I’ll probably do that also.

  7. I live in Dover and the Stone Church is a great place to visit during anytime. I’ve been there in the summer and in the fall. Though I suggest if you plan on going and it starts to rain be very careful on the path to the Church, it does get really slippery. During the summer is one of the best times to visit the Stone Church, and if you plan on taking the hike to the top of the mountain bring snacks and water. It’s a beautiful place and I reccomend visiting there at least once in your life.

  8. I went there many years ago on a winters’ day when the water that cascades over and around the cave was frozen into a beautiful breathtaking ice sculpture. I was definitely moved by this natural sanctuary in the woods where I was filled with a feeling of peace. I hope to return some day.

  9. What a great place! Thanks for the info about where the entrance is located. I flew right past the gravel driveway the first time around. A nice, refreshing walk to help clear the mind and I got some fantastic pictures!

  10. For those who don’t know, the stream runs through 2 more smaller caves behind that one, each with their own unique beauty. Best times of year to go is when the local streams are higher to enjoy the flow of water, but not too early in the spring as it stays frozen up there well after other areas have thawed. Enjoy your trip!

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