Bald Rocks Shelter: Divide & Conquer
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Blog by Marlon Smith of Hike Live Love Adventures, 11/19/22
Pics by Hike Live Love members Jen, Matty, Annette and Marlon
“Wow what a perfect day” came to mind when I turned off of Seven Lakes Drive and headed down the sloped road to the parking lot situated at beautiful Lake Skannatati. There was literally not a cloud in the sky. The sun had a full blue playground to dance on. And I was fully appreciating it since we were forced to postpone this hike due to inclement weather on a previous date that had a sub-zero morning to boot. Bald Rocks Shelter is one of the higher points in Harriman State Park so the views on this clear morning were sure to be amazing.
Most of the Hike Live Love Adventure team had already arrived for our 9am meet; we had our quick ‘hike discussion’ before we headed out at 9:15.
This trail head begins to the right of Lake Skannatati from the lot. We chose the Long Path (LP) approach following the teal blazes. It parallels Lake Skannatati for the first half mile. I found a newly built stone path in what was usually a muddy section of the trail. A mix of loose rock and tree trunks were the norm for crossing this in years past. This build out will be a huge help for campers as their heavier packs tend to offset their balance.
Shortly up the trail, we came to our first water crossing — a great spot for hikers to top off their water bladder bags. I’ve never been able to get the name of this stream or the lake/marsh it flows from, but I've used it many times on camping trips. As on previous hikes, I advised the group’s members to always filter or treat with water purification tabs before drinking — my filter and tab of choice is by Katadyn. Their BeFree filter is perfect for the day hiker, it’s small, packable and filters down to a 0.1 micron giving you clean safe drinking water on the fly.
We continued up the trail on the first incline. I stopped the crew at a hidden campsite that one of our Urban and Outdoor Survival (UOS) co-organizers had found on a scout hike some years back. It’s a hidden gem, a spot that we now call “The Bald Rocks Easy” camp ground. The area is better suited for hammocks but there are some tent spots if you look hard enough. With tons of firewood around and a water source nearby, everyone agreed they would join us for a campout sometime.
Pressing on up the trail, still following the (LP) teal blazes, we came to the famous Time Square of Harriman State Park. Unlike the hustle and bustle of NYC’s Times Square, this one in this peaceful forest is a favorite spot for hikers to sit, talk and have a drink before continuing. This is where we shifted right onto the Arden-Surebridge Trail (AS-B) briefly, then onto the Dunning Trail’s yellow blazes. It was noticeable how the vegetation changed as we ascended, seeing more Eastern White Pine and Birch. There’s one more stream along the trail. However, it isn’t always flowing so packing in your water is suggested.
After a quarter of a mile on the Dunning (yellow), we came to The Bowling Rocks — an especially large open area, dotted with glacial boulders three to five feet in diameter referred to as the bowling balls. I directed the group to take a short break, have a drink and to take some photos as the views here are amazing. After our break we took a westerly turn staying on the Dunning Trail (yellow). There was a slight error on my part in navigating a turn here and we took the wrong one. I must have gone fifteen, maybe twenty yards and it just didn’t seem right. I had everyone back track quickly and up the trail we continued — this goes to show that wrong turns happen to even those who are out in Harriman all the time. We came to a fork in the trail and I explained that left would take us up to Bald Rocks shelter the back way and right followed the marked trail. I advised that always sticking to the trails is your best bet.
We soon found the Ramapo-Dunderberg (RD) red-disc-on-white trail, which would take us south towards today’s goal to Bald Rocks Shelter. As we arrived, we kicked back and relaxed for a few. Some of the group packed a light lunch but most just enjoyed the beauty of Harriman State Park. We had our first youngster on the hike, a cool lil man named Lucas. I gave him a quick fire class. Lucas did an awesome job on this outing keeping pace with everyone. We look forward to seeing him again.
It was time to head back down to the trail head. We found two campsites on the way where two solo campers were surely going to enjoy a weekend of amazing weather. I have to say again, this weather was unbelievable for this time of year. The warmth made our descent so very pleasant. And of course the chatter of which eatery we’d be heading to afterwards only caused our pace to quicken.
As luck would have it, we ran into three of our favorite members in the lot, two of which are long timers of my UOS group and one from Explore Harriman. These women are awesome and bring the best energy to my hikes — Marlon’s Angels is what they’ve dubbed themselves kiddingly. They missed our 9am meet and took a slightly different approach to today’s trail. I took a moment here to stress the importance of two way radios. Always good to keep you and crew connected when cell service is spotty which is definitely the case in this part of the park. Nonetheless, they had their own epic day…
This threesome also approached the trail via the teal-blazed LP Trail but instead of taking the LP straight to Times Square, they took a left onto the yellow-blazed Dunning which passes Hogencamp Mine and arrived at Bowling Rocks where they stopped for a bite. They then continued on the Dunning to reach the RD junction, where they turned right and enjoyed several scenic viewpoints at Ship Rock and along their way to Times Square. From there, they took the AS-B back to the parking lot — approximately a 5.5 mile loop. Check out the photo gallery at the bottom for some fantastic pics!
All into our cars, we headed out and some of us were ready for lunch so this time we paid Valley Rock Mountain Market in Sloatsburg a visit. Many great wholesome healthy options to choose from! And if you're looking for a treat, they also have lots of yummy fresh-baked goods and freshly roasted coffee. This is also a market so you can pick up produce and other interesting staples and specialty items — definitely returning!
Interested in joining future outings in Harriman State Park and beyond, including winter-friendly trails? Go to Hike-Live-Love and/or Urban and Outdoor Survival on Meetup.com.
As always, carry out what you carry in and always carry a tyvek map from the nynjtc.org
Blog In partnership with Rockland County Tourism