Caution: Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.
- Distance: 19.6
Location: 42.0863990783691, -73.4620666503906
Trailhead: Register if you're overnighting and pick up free trail map. Head straight across the meadow on the Alander Mountain Trail. Look for Hunts Pond on the L.
Location: 42.0868949890137, -73.4682006835938
After a short section in the woods, you'll suddenly emerge to an open area with views of Alander Mountain ahead. In summer, veer R off the trail about 50 feet and scan the ground for low-bush blueberries. They're tiny but succulent; fill a bag to snack on or to mix into tomorrow's pancakes or oatmeal.
Location: 42.086296081543, -73.4702835083008
Cross Lee Pond Brook on small footbridge. Like Ashley Hill Brook, which you'll cross next, this stream eventually flows over Bash Bish Falls.
Location: 42.0864448547363, -73.4715728759766
Stay R at 3-way with the Charcoal Pit Trail, which is an optional shortcut on the return. This part of the trail follows an old road bed; you'll occasionally notice rotting road timbers poking up out of the dirt. On the R, note one of New England's ubiquitous stone fences--this is a good place for reading Robert Frost at night.
Location: 42.0879516601562, -73.4738388061524
Veer R @ 3-way, staying on the Alander Mountain Trail. To the L is the Ashley Hill Trail, on which you'll return. You could reverse the direction, but I think it's more pleasant to get the big climb up Alander out of the way, then enjoy the long, shady downhill along Ashley Hill Brook and its wide, smooth trail.
Location: 42.0882186889648, -73.4749526977539
Cross Ashley Hill Brook on a small footbridge. This is a good place to tank up on water and take a pleasant breather before the 1-plus hour climb to Alander. You can also hiking quite a ways downstream, passing several excellent swimming holes (only waist-deep) and picnic spots along the way.
Location: 42.0922241210938, -73.4859313964844
Side trail to campsites. In the middle of a long uphill section, a blue-blazed path leads left about .5 mile to decent but not spectacular campsites. Camping is officially permitted only at two designated areas, this one and a nicer location along Ashley Hill Trail (which was closed in August 2005--call the ranger for an update).
Location: 42.0924644470215, -73.4945068359375
Cross seasonal stream that's often dry in summer. Look around and enjoy some of the most bucolic mature forest in the Berkshires.
Location: 42.0909461975098, -73.4968566894531
Good rest stop before continuing onto a steeper section of the climb to Alander. Stay R, following the blue blazes into a switchback.
Location: 42.0913391113281, -73.4992218017578
Sometimes there's water here, at a flat, righthand bend in the trail. Go L about 15 feet on a game trail to a small, spring-fed trickle.
Location: 42.091236114502, -73.5006256103516
Another seasonal water source.
Location: 42.0881462097168, -73.5032577514648
Skanky old cabin that gets more tenants than it's dank, dark, musty interior deserves. Camp here only in an emergency.
Location: 42.0877723693848, -73.5035095214844
Turn R at the T just 50 feet beyond the cabin at a sign that says "To Taconic Trail"; head uphill.
Location: 42.088191986084, -73.5039520263672
Turn L @ 3-way, and follow the white blazes to Alander's summit. Turning R here leads to Bash Bish Falls on a long, rugged, often steep downhill hike.
Location: 42.0870513916016, -73.5052719116211
Summit of Alander Mountain. To the W are views of the Catskills High Peaks and the farms of Dutchess County. To the S, you can see the ridge that leads to Brace Mountain, the highest peak in that direction (bald on top), and Mt. Frissell (just to the L of Brace). You're now on the Taconic Trail, which runs from south of Brace all the way north to the Catamount Ski Area in Massaschusetts (see photo of trail sign). It's often windy up here, and sometimes crowded, so save your lunch for later in the hike, when the views get better and the crowds thin. But do spend a few minutes gathering blueberries, which grow all over the summit. Note: Make sure you avoid the other, blackish berries growing up here, which can be confused with the similarly sized blueberries (see photos for comparison). From here, return to WPT 13 to get on the Alander Loop Trail, which will reconnect with the Taconic Trail later; this diversion keeps you up on the ridge rather than dipping way down on the Taconic Trail, only to climb back up.
Location: 42.0873908996582, -73.5020599365234
View back to Alander and more blueberries.
Location: 42.0832176208496, -73.4999923706055
This section of trail is tight, almost tunnel-like, due to overgrown scrub oak and rhododendron. You may want gaiters and long sleeves here to avoid the scratching. Farther ahead, a trail crew has recently done excellent work to cut back the shrubs.
Location: 42.0819892883301, -73.5006408691406
Turn R @ confusing 3-way; follow blue blazes downhill. Just below here, I saw an odd half-green, half-brown frog.
Location: 42.0790328979492, -73.5050277709961
Turn L @ 3-way intersection back onto the Taconic Trail (white blazes). A small, hand-carved sign says "Gentz's Corner." Ahead, you'll briefly cross into New York as the trail winds through beautiful open forest and gradually climbs back towards the ridge on old carriage road.
Location: 42.0769805908203, -73.5049285888672
Fairly reliable water source, the first in several miles.
Location: 42.0724258422852, -73.5040740966797
Straight at 3-way with red-blazed Robert Brook Trail, which leads down to a parking lot on the New York side.
Location: 42.0712013244629, -73.501594543457
Photo of a grassy roadbed winding through mature beech, birch, and maple forest. There's little understory, mostly ferns, so the sight lines are great and the breeze is unimpeded. These roads are one of the things I love about New England, because there a sign that nature can reclaim a great degree of wilderness feeling, even after being logged or farmed. No doubt this area was heavily used a century ago, but now the only signs of that exploitation are a few stone walls and hiker-friendly roadbeds like this.
Location: 42.0700263977051, -73.4993667602539
Usually there's good water on the R.
Location: 42.0582542419434, -73.49658203125
Straight at 3-way; L is a shortcut to the Ashley Hill Trail, a good option if there's any sign of thunderstorm approaching the ridge.
Location: 42.0483627319336, -73.4941558837891
Bear R @ 4-way at trail sign pointing (the other way) to Mt. Frissell. You'll return to this junction after summitting Brace Mountain.
Location: 42.0443649291992, -73.4925918579102
Summit of Brace Mountain. Enjoy wraparound views of the gently-rounded peaks and ridges in the southern Berkshires, plus the Catskills and the pastoral landscape in the valley to the W. Frissell is the nearest "high" peak; Bear Mountain, the highest peak entirely in Connecticut, is just to the right and behind it. On Brace, someone has planted a windsock in the summit cairn; it almost always is straight out, thanks to the thermals that blow up the ridge from the west. Continue to South Brace, or retrace your steps to WPT 26 to continue the red-blazed loop.
Location: 42.0490951538086, -73.4893569946289
Straight @ unsigned 4-way; to the left is the Ashley Hill Trail. You'll return here after tagging Frissell.
Location: 42.0495414733887, -73.4874649047852
Tri-state marker dated 1898. From here, you climb rather steeply to Frissell.
Location: 42.0495452880859, -73.4837875366211
Holy *&^*%&^!!!!! I nearly stepped on the biggest rattlesnake I've ever seen, and the first I've seen in this area. I was chugging up the trail, which alternates between forest and open slabs of rock here, when I heard a sudden unmistakable rattle and looked up to see this beautiful but monstrous snake only two strides in front of me. It was easily four feet long and as thick around as my wrist or lower forearm, and it had a bright yellow belly, somewhat small head, and 7-section rattle. No doubt it was sunning itself on the rock when I came along. Fortunately, it seemed very sluggish, because it didn't give me more than that first rattle as it slithered slowly off the trail into the bushes. I waited a couple minutes before going by, really nervous that it would strike, or that its mate was nearby. Phew, neither happened, and I continued to Frissell-only to see the same snake in the same place only 10 minutes later on the way down! Ack, my heart was beating like crazy.
Location: 42.049690246582, -73.4828491210938
Highest point in Connecticut. This anticlimactic location is marked by a pile of rocks and a small metal benchmark. Perhaps that's appropriate, since the highest point in Connecticut is actually on the shoulder of a mountain (Frissell) whose peak is in Massachusetts. The highest peak that's entirely in Connecticut is Bear Mountain, which is visible through the trees about 5 trail miles away to the SW.
Location: 42.0494232177734, -73.4880447387695
Another rattler! Once again, despite my nerves being on edge and my eyes intently focused on the trail, I nearly stepped on it. That's because it looked just like a stick laying next to the trail--until I got close enough to see its tongue flicker. This guy was a bit smaller, but more sinister looking, and he immediately got defensive, coiling up into a ball in the middle of the trail and giving me a good, long rattle and hiss. I waited 5 minutes, but he wouldn't move, so I bushwhacked around, worried the whole time that he must have a nest of babies somewhere nearby. Needless to say, my heart was racing and I spent the rest of the day thinking every noise--and every stick that popped up and nicked my leg--was a rattlesnake coming to get me. Irrational, I know, but there's nothing quite like that rattling sound suddenly coming from your feet to change your entire perspective. Return to WPT 28 and turn R onto Ashley Hill Trail, beginning long descent to WPT 5.
Location: 42.0611114501953, -73.4870529174805
Possible water source. Often dry in late summer.
Location: 42.0683097839356, -73.4892730712891
Veer R @ 3-way, continue following blue blazes. Trail follows graded roadbed.
Location: 42.071117401123, -73.4894256591797
First spot with guaranteed water since before you began climbing Alander. A few feet to the L is Ashley Hill Brook.
Location: 42.0782470703125, -73.4809417724609
Stay straight at 3-way with Charcoal Pit Trail. (Option: Go R here and save a bit of mileage while climbing up and down on a more rugged path.)
Location: 42.0829429626465, -73.4824905395508
Bear R @ Y next to outhouse. The trail to the L leads down to very nice official campsites next to Ashley Hill Brook (currently closed: August 2005), plus swimming holes and big sunning rocks. Continue to WPT 5 and turn R to return to your car.
Location: 42.0505867004394, -73.4947280883789
Veer R @ Y and follow the white blazes onto open slabs of granite with primo views and rest spots in about 50 feet. Lots of blueberries here, but keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, especially mid-morning and later, when they come out to bake in the sun. This area is known as a prime breeding ground, and a ranger once told a friend of mine that the largest eastern timber rattler on record was found here. That said, I hiked here probably 20 times over 10 years without ever seeing a snake--until this trip (keep going!).
Location: 42.086856842041, -73.4681091308594
Blueberries in hand. ©Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0864524841309, -73.4703903198242
Alander Mountain Trail sign. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0880661010742, -73.473876953125
Trail signs. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0884666442871, -73.5031433105469
Old cabin. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0890045166016, -73.50341796875
Camp here only in emergency. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0884666442871, -73.503547668457
Trail sign. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0871238708496, -73.5054321289062
Wrong berries. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0872573852539, -73.5058288574219
Trail on top. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0871238708496, -73.5058288574219
View of Brace and Frissell. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0873947143555, -73.5058288574219
Catskills High Peaks. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0872573852539, -73.5055618286133
Trail sign. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0875282287598, -73.5056991577148
Summit cairn. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0875282287598, -73.5058288574219
Good berries. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0861854553223, -73.5018005371094
View back of Alander and more blueberries. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0832481384277, -73.4999542236328
Overgrown trail. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0832481384277, -73.5001373291016
Follow blue blazes. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0820693969727, -73.5014877319336
Odd-colored frog discovered on trail. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0713996887207, -73.5016708374024
Grassy road. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0507850646973, -73.4949798583984
Wide, open rock. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0509643554688, -73.4952545166016
Alander sits in the horizon. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0443649291992, -73.4925384521484
Trail leading to summit.© Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0444526672363, -73.4925384521484
Summit cairn with windsock. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0442733764648, -73.4925384521484
Cairn with Frissell to R. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0447235107422, -73.4925384521484
View back to Alander. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0445442199707, -73.4927215576172
Me on Brace Mountain. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0484313964844, -73.4941635131836
Trail signs. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0485229492188, -73.4943466186524
Trail signs. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0496101379394, -73.4873809814453
Stone marker. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0497894287109, -73.4874725341797
Close up. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0498809814453, -73.4824981689453
Marker from 1906. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0502395629883, -73.4824142456055
Huge cairn. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0496101379394, -73.4843063354492
Snake! © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0495185852051, -73.4886474609375
Black snake. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0494270324707, -73.4881057739258
Snake slithers by the log. © Jon Dorn
Location: 42.0496978759766, -73.4881057739258
It's a big rattler! © Jon Dorn