Difficulty: 6 out of 10 (long, gradual climb)
Highlights: Gorgeous meadow with wide-open views, Appalachian Trail section
Distance: 5.3 miles, up-and-back
Approximate roundtrip time: 4 hours
Total ascent: 1,395 ft
Max elevation: 1,480 ft above sea level
This hike is for you if: You’d like to visit a one-of-a-kind meadow with awesome views, and you’re not scared to climb over a mountain to get there.
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Background you can feel free to skip: No matter how many hikes you’ve done in the area, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever done one quite like Rand’s View. Most of the hike is standard enough, following the Appalachian Trail over moderate inclines. You’ll climb past the decent view atop Mt. Prospect, which might serve as its own a destination on a normal hike. But then you come down the other side of the mountain and emerge from dense woods into this crazy, enormous meadow that seems like it shoudn’t exist at all.
The low grass stretches on and on, leading to a panoramic view of the Berkshires beyond. A perfect place to enjoy a romp, a picnic or both.
I’ve been here twice: once on a glorious fall day right at the peak of foliage, and once during a perfect late-summer weekend afternoon. There were a few other hikers along the trail, but nowhere near the gobs there should have been, and we had Rand’s View all to ourselves both times. It wouldn’t really matter if there were dozens of other hikers here, though – there’s plenty of room to spread out and take it all in.
Why does this place exist? I don’t know. I’d love to hear a good reason why this meadow is here – it doesn’t look like a hay field, but if nobody’s mowing it, shouldn’t it be a forest by now? And shouldn’t you have to go to Switzerland to find meadows with views like this?
Whatever the reason for its existence, we’re lucky that Rand’s View is in our backyards, and if you’ve never visited, I recommend putting this one at the top of your list.
1. From the parking area, turn to face Housatonic River Road, with your back to the river. Turn left onto the road, then take a right turn in just a moment onto the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. You won’t see any signage marking the trail, but it’s very well-worn, and you can see a white blaze on a tree just a short way off the road.
2. In a couple minutes, just past a box with trail maps, emerge into a small clearing. Follow the trail until in plunges back into the woods, but just before you enter, turn around to see the small view behind you. Nothing earth-shattering, but it gives you an idea of the surrounding landscape.
3. Keep on truckin’! To get to the top of Mt.Prospect, you’ll climb 969 total feet from the parking area over 1.8 miles. It took me about an hour. It’s never extremely steep, but you’ll know you’re climbing a mountain for sure.
Just keep following the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail until you reach the summit. You’ll know you’re at the summit when you come to a rocky little clearing with a beautiful, if somewhat narrow, view off to your right. Stop to take a breather and soak it all in.
4. From the summit, it took me another dawdling 30 minutes to get to Rand’s View, heading downhill the whole way (try not to think about the way back). This side of the mountain is much smaller – it’s .7 miles to the junction with the side trail that leads to the Limestone Shelter, dropping 200 feet in elevation. (And as Erik noted in his comment below, it’s a pretty easy stroll once you pass the summit – perhaps thinking about the way back isn’t so scary after all.)
Take a right here to continue downhill on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, and Rand’s View is just around the corner.
5. From the Limestone Shelter junction, it’s just another .1 miles to Rand’s View. Keep heading downhill and you’ll burst out of the woods into the coolest meadow this side of The Sound of Music. Plunk down and enjoy it.
If there’s a better place to visit during fall foliage season, I’m not immediately thinking of it.
6. When you’re done taking it all in, head back the way you came. Climb back to the Limestone Shelter trail junction, where you’ll hang a left to follow the sign toward Prospect Mountain (.5 miles).
Then just keep following those white blazes all the way back to Housatonic River Road, where your wheels await. The return trip took me 1 hour and 15 minutes. When you get back to your car, rest your weary legs and start daydreaming about your next visit here.
Directions to the trailhead: From Poughkeepsie, head east on Route 44 all the way through the town of Millerton. 2.1 miles after the center of Millerton (still on Route 44), turn right onto CT 112 E (Interlaken Road), which becomes Lime Rock Road. 4.8 miles after leaving Rt 44, turn left onto Salmon Kill Road. In .6 miles, veer right onto Brinton Hill Road, which is a tiny, windy affair. In 1.1 miles, Brinton Hill Road dead-ends into Dugway Road, where you’ll turn left. Head straight, and Dugway Road becomes Housatonic River Road in .3 miles. Follow Housatonic River Road about another half-mile to the gated, dirt parking area on your right, just above the falls and dam on the Housatonic River.
Hop out of your car, carefully take a gander at the top of the falls, then let the adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Rand’s View entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The intersection of Housatonic River Road and Sugar Hill Road in Falls Village, CT is just a couple hundred yards south of the trailhead parking lot. My old-ish Garmin Nuvi lets me put in an intersection as a destination, so hopefully yours does, too.
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.96369, -73.37222 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:
- The excellent Rand’s View write-up at Berkshirehiking.com
- Another write-up with some good tidbits at litchfieldhills.com
- Maps and trail descriptions for a longer stretch of AT at cnyhiking.com
More Rand’s View pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:
Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!