Background you can feel free to skip: As I stood on the Appalachian Trail in Harriman State Park, looking at the rock formation known as the Lemon Squeezer, a through-hiker on his way to Maine came up behind me, shook his head and said, “Why do they always make the trail go through these things? It would be so much easier to walk around them.”
If I was walking 2,200 miles, I’d probably agree with that sentiment. But since I was only walking 7.4 miles that day, and the Lemon Squeezer was one of the main reasons I’d come to this spot, I had the luxury of appreciating this little slice of more-difficult-than-it-needed-to-be trail. Plus, there was a well-marked “Easy Way” around the top of the Lemon Squeezer, for those looking to avoid that particular little adventure.
If you’re comparing the Lemon Squeezer at Harriman State Park to the Lemon Squeeze at Mohonk Mountain House, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. The Lemon Squeezer is a great spot and absolutely worth a visit, but it’s not the one-of-a-kind adventure you’ll find at Mohonk, and not really a destination in and of itself.
Good thing there’s so much other awesome stuff to see! The Lemon Squeezer had been the landmark that initially drew me to this hike, but I found it to be a sideshow compared to several other main events offered here.
This 7.4-mile loop is beautiful for pretty much the entire journey, with different sights to see all the way around. It also features some open stretches of rocky trail that make it feel as if you’re WAY further from the nearest J. Crew outlet than you actually are.
(Woodbury Commons is just a few minutes from the trailhead – if you stop on your way home, you might want to wring the sweat out of your shirt before hitting the Armani outlet.)
Whatever you like about hiking – climbs, views, lakes, ponds, solitude, ferns, big funky rocks – you’ll find it on this hike. And maybe on the way home, you’ll find some nice no-pleat, wrinkle-free chinos, too.
**CAUTION** Harriman State Park features about a zillion different trails heading in a hundred different directions, some of them going to very remote locations. If you do not pay special attention during your entire visit here, your chances of getting lost are bordering on excellent. If you haven’t already invested in the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference maps for this area, I’d strongly recommend it. I’ll do my best to give you everything you need to complete this circuit successfully, but if you’re going to take navigation in this park lightly, you should really just pick a different hike, or pack an extra granola bar for the ranger who’s going to have to come rescue you. Maybe something with chocolate chips? (Read the Amazon user reviews on this trail book to see a real-life story where this exact situation happened in Harriman, minus the granola bar part.) Oh, you’re going to pay super-close, extra-special attention to the trail markings? Sweet! On with the hike!
1. From the parking area (See “Directions to the trailhead” below), locate the white-blazed Appalachian Trail marker on the signpost heading into the meadow (it’s on your left, assuming you are walking along the driveway into the parking area, away from the road). Hop on that trail! Time for an adventure.
2. Keep following the White Trail across the meadow, into the trees on the far side. You’ll almost immediately come to a well-marked junction, which is the start of your loop for the day. The next time you see this spot, you’ll hopefully have one awesome 7.4-mile hike just about conquered. And most likely some tired doggies (and by that I mean feet, but if you have actual doggies with you, then I mean doggies, too).
Turn left to stay on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail toward Island Pond Rd and the Lemon Squeezer, two of our destinations for the day.
3. Ascend! Carefully follow the White Trail onward and upward, being careful not to get bucked off when an unmarked trail ventures off toward the paved road to your left. No worries – we’ll be ditching that road (and the road noise from I-87) soon enough. Over the next .8 miles, you’ll climb 589 feet. Enjoy!
As you get to the top of this first hill, you’ll see some rocks just off the trail on your left that look like they might have some views on top (this spot is marked as a viewpoint on the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference map). My advice: Meh. Save your calories to spend elsewhere. You’re gonna need ‘em.
4. Continue following the White Trail as it crests that first hill and begins descending toward Island Pond. You might be able to catch a glimpse of some shimmering water through the trees. Careful not to get bucked off the White Trail by the numerous unmarked trails that wander around the pond.
From the top of the hill, you’ll descend 200 feet over .4 miles until you emerge onto a wide-open gravel road that goes to Island Pond. Most trail guides list a visit to Island Pond as optional. It is NOT optional. Island Pond is gorgeous, and it will be a travesty if you come this close and miss it. Turn right to visit the pond, which is a flat 500 feet down that road.
5. If you ask me, Island Pond needs a better marketing department. The word “pond” conjures boggy images of algae, snapping turtles and bull rushes. This sure looks like a beautiful lake to me.
Here’s a six-photo panorama:
What an awesome spot. This was a worthwhile side trip, no?
When you’re done hanging out by the shore or lounging on the rocks, retrace your steps back up the gravel road to the intersection with the White Trail, and turn right to continue on your way.
6. From the gravel road, it’s another .55 miles (it took me 15 minutes) to the Lemon Squeezer. A couple of minutes into this stretch, you’ll pass over a wooden footbridge that spans a stone, uh, structure of some sort. I don’t really know what a sluiceway is, but I think this might be one.
In any event, keep following this very nice rolling section of trail that parallels Island Pond (LAKE!), visible through the trees on your right.
And then – dun dun dunnnn! – the trail descends into the mouth of the Lemon Squeezer. If your loins are not sufficiently girded, you may want to consider girding them now. Just kidding. What you do with your loins is entirely up to you.
7. Before you enter the Lemon Squeezer, take note of the Arden-Surebridge Trail departing to your right, marked with the funktastic red triangle on a white background (henceforth referred to as the Red Triangle Trail).
After you finish exploring the Lemon Squeezer, we’ll come back to this spot and hop on the Red Triangle Trail.
For now, though, time to get squeezed! Duck in there and go as far as you like. You can pretty much exit the Lemon Squeezer at any time and come back down to the left of it on the unmarked trail that exists from people ducking out, but why do that? What a cool place.
After the initial crevice, you’ll find a short rock scramble with a well-marked, blue-blazed Easy Way around. I recommend going up the scramble and down the Easy Way, but, you know, whatever works for you. Beyond that little scramble, it’s just plain old trail heading into the woods, going toward a place called Dismal Swamp (which sounds like a fabulous destination, but I hope you won’t get too upset if we don’t go there).
Once you’re done frolicking on the Lemon Squeezer, bring your fresh-squeezed self back down to the entrance. Time to hop on the Red Triangle Trail! (If you’re facing the mouth of the Lemon Squeezer as if you’re approaching it for the first time, you’ll make a right turn onto the Red Triangle Trail.)
NOTE: Depending on how you count ‘em, we’re going to visit approximately 10 more trails to complete the remaining 5.1 miles of this loop. If you aren’t going to pay attention closely to the directions from here on out, maybe you should head back to your car from here, or get that granola bar ready for the ranger who is going to have to come rescue you. The trails are all well-marked, but if you’re not playing a game of “locate the next trail marker and verify that it’s correct, and also keep an eye out for the next trail junction” things will probably go badly. Shall we stop belaboring this point now? Yes, let’s. On with the hike!
8. We’ll be on the Red Triangle Trail for about a half-mile. You like ferns? If so, you came to the right place.
In less than ten minutes, you’ll cross over a small stream.
Then, in another minute, you’ll come to the funkily blazed beginning of the White Bar Trail, with WB written on white rectangles. Continue straight past this intersection, staying on the Red Triangle Trail. (And you can ignore the turquoise Long Path markers, too.)
9. From the White Bar Trail intersection, it took me less than ten (somewhat swampy) minutes to reach our next junction, a right turn onto the Lichen Trail, blazed with a blue letter L on a white background. This fork is marked with a small cairn (fancy talk for pile of rocks) and those L blazes, but would otherwise be fairly easy to stroll right past. Please try very hard not to do that.
When you get there, turn right onto the Lichen Trail, my favorite trail in Harriman. I’m kind of jealous that you’re standing there right now, and I’m at my computer.
10. The Lichen Trail ascends through some underbrush until the trail becomes one big sheet of rock under your feet.
Is it awesome up here or what? Feels like you just stumbled into the Maine backwoods.
Carefully follow the painted blazes and cairns across the rock face, eventually ascending to your best view of the day.
Boom. Grab a seat and enjoy it – this is the money spot.
11. When you’re done checking out the view, continue along the Lichen Trail as it plunges through some dense underbrush. This is the trail? Seriously? Seriously. Don’t worry, this part doesn’t last long.
You’ll continue over more rocky, beautiful awesomeness for about five minutes as you scan for the next trail junction.
You’re looking for a right turn onto the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, blazed with a red dot in the center of a white circle, heretofore referred to as the Red Dot Trail. You’ll see an RD (for Ramapo-Dunderberg, but really for Red Dot) painted on the rock at your feet, and some blazes on a boulder to your right. Follow that arrow to your right to hop on the Red Dot Trail, which you’ll be on for about 10-15 minutes.
12. Carefully hunt for those Red Dot blazes as you make your way across more wide-open rock faces.
You’ll also venture through some less wide-open spots.
Keep an eye out for the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail on your right – it took me twelve minutes to reach that junction from the start of the Red Dot Trail. I almost walked right past the Yellow Trail – it is NOT obvious. You’re looking for a cairn just to the left of the trail, right across from a large tree with a Red Dot blaze on it.
To the right of that cairn, you’ll see a tree with a faint (faint as of June 2013) yellow blaze, and then a rock with a much brighter yellow blaze, just beside a trail that heads into the woods. Turn right here to hop on the Yellow Trail.
**UPDATE June 2017** Per FL’s comment below, if you come across the Bald Rocks trail shelter on your left along the Red Dot Trail, that means you missed the turn onto the Yellow Trail and need to backtrack for several minutes. Be sure to keep a keen eye out for that little cairn and those yellow blazes — they’re very easy to miss!
13. From here, it took me ten minutes to reach the next (moderately confusing) junction, where you’re looking to merge to your left when the Yellow Trail joins forces with the White Bar Trail (which is blazed with a horizontal White Bar, and heretofore referred to as the White Bar Trail, since, you know, that makes sense).
When you see the tree with crazy yellow and white blazes all over it, turn left (the White Bar Trail heads off straight ahead – I almost went that way, which would have returned me to the Lemon Squeezer, not the desired result). You should now be following the Yellow-and-White-Bar blazes of this hybrid Dunning(Yellow)-Trail/White-Bar-Trail monster.
14. From the crazy white/yellow tree, it took me 8 minutes to reach the next junction, where you want to follow the Yellow Trail to your right when it splits from the White Bar Trail. Keep your eyes peeled for the tree with two yellow blazes and one white blaze. Those yellow blazes are saying, “Turn right, Holmes!” Bid adieu to the White Bar Trail as it departs to your left, and turn right onto the Yellow Trail.
15. Carefully follow those yellow blazes through the woods.
You’ll stroll past a very cool rock formation that surely at one time served as an ogre’s house.
A short while past the ogre’s house (it took me 12 minutes), the trail passes a spot marked as Boston Mine on the NY-NJTC Harriman map (you bought it, right, you big cheapskate?). When I was here, the open-top mine had an at-least-six-inch-deep layer of mud and sludge along its floor. But, you know, maybe it’ll be a good day to explore it when you’re here. (There’s apparently an actual mine tunnel back there, too, but it’s not safe to go in.)
Immediately past the mine, the Yellow Trail joins an old woods road, on which you’ll turn left to continue following the yellow blazes.
16. Follow the old woods road for about one minute, then look for the Yellow Trail to split off to the right. The tree marking the fork has two yellow blazes on it. Turn right here to keep following the Yellow Trail.
17. Immediately after leaving the woods road, you’ll see the white-blazed Nurian Trail intersecting the Yellow Trail (pay it no mind for now, though we will pay it some mind later today, at a different junction). Keep following the Yellow Trail.
18. If you’re from Troop 17 and you’re wondering what happened to your hat, this is where you lost it. Bummer! I thought you might want some closure. Everyone else, you know, you can skip this step.
19. In just a few minutes, the Yellow Trail approaches and skirts Green Pond. Now THIS is a pond.
When I approached the edge of the pond on June 21, 2013, some crazy tadpole graduation ceremony must have just taken place. At first glance, I thought the ground was infested with termites or ants. Turns out, it was hopping with these cute little guys. There seemed to be thousands of them.
Anyway, this is a very nice section of trail – enjoy the sights and sounds of Green Pond as you make your way around it. And try not to stomp on any cute little critters.
20. Just beyond the pond, you’ll climb a hill and, shortly thereafter, say goodbye to the Dunning Trail, when it ends with a three-yellow-blaze of glory (**UPDATE August 2016**: According to Chelsea’s comment below, there are now only two blazes here. Thank you, Chelsea!). Thanks for the good times, Dunning Trail!
And hello again, Nurian Trail! Look at you, sporting your N on a white background! (Most of the blazes for the Nurian Trail are simply white, so we’ll refer to this as the White Trail after this step.) Turn left onto the white-blazed Nurian Trail to continue your adventure.
21. Follow the White Trail downhill as you enter the Valley of Boulders.
With a name like Valley of Boulders, I was kind of expecting to see Rock Biter from Never Ending Story here. No Rock Biter, but if he ever shows up, he won’t go hungry.
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll see a stream, which you do NOT cross (yet). Just follow the White Trail as it bends to the left, slightly uphill from the stream. No, I didn’t cross the stream and get (briefly) lost here. Why do you ask?
22. It took me about ten minutes to get to the actual stream crossing, just below a nice little cascade. Hop across the stream and head uphill to continue along the White Trail, ignoring the unmarked trail on your left that tries to trick you into going back downhill.
23. It took me about ten minutes after the stream crossing to reach the beginning of the Stahahe Brook Trail, which splits off from the White Trail to your right, and is blazed with a horizontal red stripe on a white background. We’ll call it the Red Stripe Trail, and keep our fingers crossed that Red Stripe Beer (it’s delicious!) won’t sue us. (You can see the burbling Stahahe Brook downhill from this junction, so that’s one clue you’re getting close.)
Turn right on the Red Stripe Trail to start heading back towards your car.
Note: My copy of the NY-NJTC Harriman map (remember, that map I strongly recommended that you purchase, and which also shows many other awesome Harriman hikes on it – the one that is in your hands right now?) is a couple years old, and it shows the turn onto the Stahahe Brook Trail happening AFTER you cross the Stahahe Brook, but this is no longer the case. The bridge that allowed that route looks like it got destroyed during a flood, and the trail has been rerouted on the near side of the brook. The Harriman maps have since been updated, and I would guess that the new version reflects this change.
24. Follow the Red Stripe trail as it meanders along just within sight of the beautiful Stahahe Brook.
If you happen to notice a hornet’s nest just off the trail, do NOT stop to see if there’s any honey in it. I already checked – there’s not.
You’ll travel along the Red Stripe Trail for about .55 miles (it took me 17 minutes, with an extended stop for hornet pictures) until you come to a very nice cascade at the site of the washed-out bridge. It’s a shame that bridge isn’t there anymore – what a nice spot for it.
25. From the washed-out bridge site, the Red Stripe Trail becomes an old woods road.
Follow the Red Stripe blazes for another .3 miles, and the trail emerges beside a field on your left. Hello again, really loud road noise from I-87! We didn’t miss you today.
You might not even notice when the Red Stripe Trail ends and you rejoin the Red Triangle Trail (also known as the Arden-Surebridge Trail) to continue strolling beside the meadow. The final three Red Stripe blazes are kind of hidden off to your right. In any event, whether you notice this junction or not, just keep heading straight/left when the Red Triangle Trail emerges from the woods to join us from the right.
26. The Red Triangle Trail takes us .36 miles back to the junction where our loop began today, so many hours and miles ago. Remember how young you were back then? It’s amazing you’re still so good-looking now, after all this time.
Continue straight/left to rejoin the Appalachian Trail for the final jog to your car.
27. You’ve probably already stopped reading, since you can pretty much see your car from here, but just follow those white blazes through the field, back to the Elk Pen parking lot.
Whooooo-weeee! That was an awesome day, wasn’t it? Bonus – if you’re still reading this, that means you can eat the extra granola bar you brought for the ranger who doesn’t need to rescue you now! Nicely done.
Now who’s up for some shopping?
Directions to the trailhead: From I-87 headed south from Newburgh, take exit 16 for NY 17 toward US 6/Harriman (your goal is to get on NY 17 South – the roads immediately off the exit are slightly tangled and confusing). Merge onto 17 West, then take the exit toward Central Valley. Keep left at the fork and follow signs toward 17 South & Harriman. Turn left onto Route 32 South, then stay straight to continue on what is now 17 South. Whew.
Say, “See ya, suckers!” to all the people who exited for Woodbury Commons, and keep heading straight on 17 South for about 4 miles, until you come to the big fat “WELCOME TO HARRIMAN STATE PARK” sign at Arden Valley Road. Turn left onto Arden Valley Road.
Continue .4 miles on Arden Valley Road. Turn right into the large parking area known as the Elk Pen lot (don’t get your hopes up for seeing any elk). When I visited, Arden Valley Road was closed just beyond the Elk Pen turnoff, so there wasn’t much danger of accidentally driving past it.
Find a spot, hop out and let the adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Harriman State Park: Lemon Squeezer, Lichen Trail entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: This intersection is right at the entrance to the hike:
NY 17 & Arden Valley Road
Just turn onto Arden Valley Road (it doesn’t cross over 17, so there’s only one way to turn onto it – a left turn if you’re heading south on 17), and continue .4 miles to the Elk Pen parking area on your right.
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.26476, -74.15432 (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:
- A nice guide for a nearly identical hike (1.1 miles longer, since they go a bit past the Lemon Squeezer before coming back to the Lichen Trail) from the very comprehensive njhiking.com
- A cool Youtube video of the njhiking.com version of this hike – you’ll see everything in this video if you follow my trail guide above, with the exception of the section from 1:03 – 1:23, since I was trying to knock the distance down a bit. And at 2:08, it looks like they got a better look at the Boston Mine than I did. Oh, man, and that bridge at 2:27 has since been destroyed (mentioned in Step 24 above). Sad. Cool video, though!
- Another nice write-up for a similar loop from the always-awesome New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (though this version misses the Lichen Trail, which, for me, is the highlight of this trek)
- Another succinct trail guide from nycdayhiking.com, identical to the longer route chosen by njhiking.com above, and complete with some gorgeous fall photos. Also, there’s an explanation of why I didn’t get a better look at the Boston Mine – apparently, you have to trudge through the sludge to see the inner entrance. I feel like I made the right call on that one.
- Some good public transportation tips (and comments from people who took the hike) on this meetup.com page
- The brief Lemon Squeezer Wikipedia page, in case you have to write a third-grade book report about it
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.)