Background you can feel free to skip: While I’d driven by the parking lot for Pelton Pond many times, I’d never seriously considered checking it out. I just had this image of a swampy pond right off the road, covered in algae and buzzing with mosquitoes.
Then I got this email from friendly hikers Pam and Dewey: “Consider Pelton Pond in Fahnestock State Park. Short easy hike around the pond. Nice views, and easy to get to because it’s so close to the Taconic.”
Nice views? Really? Nice views of algae, maybe. But Pam and Dewey seemed like knowledgeable folks, so I added Pelton Pond to the Coming soon(ish) list.
Well, Pam and Dewey, I owe you one. Without your gentle prodding, I might never have visited this beautiful spot, perfect for a breath of fresh air when you’re looking for a pleasant trail that doesn’t ask you to scale a mountain.
With a nice stone pavilion sitting up on a rocky bluff overlooking the pond, from some angles, this place even looks vaguely Minnewaska-esque.
Several local beavers also apparently agree with Pam and Dewey about the righteousness of Pelton Pond – the trees here must be delicious.
There aren’t any summit-type views at Pelton Pond to speak of, but what this place lacks in earth-shattering panoramas, it makes up for with an abundance of overall pleasantness. It’s not a secret, either – this is a popular spot for a stroll, and the parking lot can fill up on nice weekends.
If you have a hankering to get outside and you have an hour to burn, the loop around Pelton Pond is a great place to burn it. Thanks for the recommendation, Pam and Dewey!
1. From the parking lot off of Rt 301 (see “Directions to the trailhead” below), check out the educational signage and kiosk at the edge of the parking lot. Might as well learn something while we’re here. (And thanks for striking a perfect learning pose, stranger person.)
2. Facing the kiosk, turn right to begin following the Yellow Trail around Pelton Pond (we’ll be on the Yellow Trail for the entire 1.5-mile loop, so feel free to not read anything else I’ve typed from this point forward).
3. If your out-of-town friends brought their baby on his very first hike with you today, take a picture of their growing, happy, relatively sleepless family. Otherwise, keep on trekking and enjoying the water views to your left.
4. Ten minutes (moving at a very casual pace, which is the recommended pace here) from the parking lot, the trail dips down to let you take in a nice long view of the pond.
5. Immediately after that view, you’ll see some serious beaver carpentry along the banks of the southern section of Pelton Pond.
6. As you round the scenic southern end of the pond, the forest opens up to give you a clear view across the water. You may also notice, in the furthest corner of the pond, an old half-submerged rowboat that looks as if it has spent a fair amount of time as a beaver chew toy.
7. Keep heading around the lake as the Yellow Trail rolls along, never venturing far from the shore.
8. About five minutes after you pass the rowboat (or the spot where the rowboat used to be, in the likely event that the beavers have finished it off by now), you’ll see the White Trail splitting off to your right.
Ignore the White Trail and hang a left to continue on the Yellow Trail.
9. Enjoy the next stretch of trail, perhaps the nicest of the loop, with its wide views across the pond and picturesque wooden bridge over a burbling stream. What a nice spot.
10. As you round the far side of the lake, you’ll pass an abandoned habitat of the rare northeastern bald-footed hobbit.
This subspecies prefers rectangular doors to round ones, but is otherwise nearly indistinguishable from its more well-known cousin, the common hobbit.
11. Just a minute after the hobbit habitat (or “hobbitat” to local naturalists), the Yellow Trail takes a hard left – be sure to follow it. Careful not to wander straight here, which is what you’d probably do if you didn’t notice the abundance of yellow blazes and arrows advising otherwise.
12. The trail climbs up to that cool old stone pavilion, where you can feel free to wander up and check out the overlook across Pelton Pond.
(We didn’t check out the overlook on our visit because there was a birthday party going on in the pavilion. If that’s the case during your visit, you should probably steer clear, too, unless there’s a gift-wrapped Buzz Lightyear in your cargo pockets.)
13. Just behind the pavilion, you’ll find the steps leading down to the parking lot and your car.
Beautiful stroll, right? This may be a short hike, but it’s still a hike, which means you’ve earned lots of pizza and/or ice cream tonight. Don’t forget to cash in those credits!
Directions to the trailhead: From the Taconic Parkway headed either north or south, take the exit for Rt. 301 West (about 7 miles south of I-84), toward Cold Spring. Follow 301 to the southwest for one minute or less (.5 miles). The well-marked parking area for Pelton Pond Picnic Area will be on your left. (View from parking lot shown below.)
Park here and let the (brief) adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Fahnestock: Pelton Pond entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The official Fahnestock State Park address is:
1498 Route 301
Putting this address into your GPS will land you on Rt. 301, right off the Taconic Parkway. The Pelton Pond parking area is .5 miles south of this address on Route 301 (on your left if you’re heading south, away from the Taconic).
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.4625, -73.82871 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:
- The official Fahnestock State Park homepage
- A jam-packed Fahnestock map from the NYS park service
- A cool virtual tour from the NYS park service, with 360-degree images of various Fahnestock locations, including the Pelton Pond picnic pavilion. (Pavilion can be reserved at 845-225-7207, or it’s first-come, first-served.)
- The DEC’s Pelton Pond page, with links to maps and some fishing info
- Want to sleep here? There are a ton of campsites tucked back behind Pelton Pond. You can reserve them on the Reserve America site for Fahnestock.
- This PDF depth chart of Pelton Pond. You know. In case you’re curious.
- A nice alternate trail write-up from Adventures Around Putnam
- Some nice information (and prices) on all the recreational activities in the area from the Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks’ Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park page
Want to support trails in the Hudson Valley? Here’s one great way: Visit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference homepage and click on Volunteer, Donate, or Shop! (Then you can volunteer, donate, or shop, depending on your mood.)