Cornell Mine Trail & Doodletown — May 1st 2011


  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Harriman/Bear Mountain, Northern Section
  • Trails: Cornell Mine, Ramapo-Dunderberg, and 1777 (East) Trails
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approx. 5 miles
  • Time: About 3 hours
  • Exertion: Moderate with one section of hard climbing

Getting There

Take US 9W South from the Bear Mountain traffic circle.  Drive past Hessian Lake and the main entrance to Bear Mountain SP.  Watch for a road coming in from the right (Seven Lakes Drive).  Shortly thereafter, you will see a parking area on your left.  If you hit the entrance for Iona Island Preserve, you’ve gone too far.  If coming up 9W from the south, the parking area is right after the Iona Island entrance on the right.

The Hike

This is a nice hike for several reasons.  First, it has a bit of everything, a nice panoramic view of the Hudson Valley below Bear Mountain, some good exertion, cascades and streams, less strenuous walking at the end, and a trip through the abandoned village of Doodletown.  From the parking area, cross 9W carefully and enter the Cornell Mine Trail (CMT–blue blazes) before you cross the culvert through which Doodletown Brook runs under 9W.  The brook forms a nice pool at this point, and as you climb the trail to the left, you can see more of the brook and the cascades it forms.  Here’s a video of a nice double cascade:

Double Waterfall

As you meander along the CMT, you stay near the brook for a while.  As I discovered, the trail seems to have been re-routed at some point a few years ago, so if you’re following the ground rather than the blazes, you’ll find yourself off-trail, but it’s OK, just head uphill to your left and you’ll pick it back up easy enough.  There are a few glacial erratics along the way, which is a fancy term for really big rock just hanging out on the ground.

Glacial Erratic

Glacial Erratic

About halfway through this first section, the map shows an unmarked road that is suppose to cross the trail, leading to something called the Edison Mine.  (Yes, that Edison.  Per the Myles’ book, Harriman Trails, TAE did own some land here starting in the 1890′s with the idea of getting iron for his magnetic experiments, but things did not work out.)  I’ve been over this ground several times, and have yet to come across this mine.  At one time, I did manage to follow a trail out of Doodletown that should have taken me across the CMT, but I recall getting very lost and having to bushwhack my way back to 9W.  No matter, this is not our objective today.

The CMT climbs very gently through Mr. Edison’s ex-property, but about a half-hour or so in, the trail will make a noticeable right turn, and before you will be a lot of UP.  As a tease, it will jog along the base of the mountain (Bald Mountain) for a little bit, but then the serious climb begins on a series of switchbacks.  This is one of the hardest climbs in the Harriman/Bear Mountain park.  Again, per the Myles book, you gain about 1000′ in elevation from where you parked the car to the top of Bald Mountain.  I have to say, except for the very last bit, the footing is good, and the switchbacks are well-placed.  It’s a hump, but not a horror.  About 2/3 of the way up, there’s a nice opening in the trees and you can see the river and the Bear Mountain Bridge.  A nice place to catch your breath and have some H2O.  (Truth be told, not the first stop, either!)

Hudson Valley From Cornell Mine Trail

When you hit the end of the CMT, you will be on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail (RD)–at 21 miles, one of the longest trails in the park.  Hang a right here, although there is still more climbing to do.  Somewhere in this neighborhood is the eponymous Cornell Mine, although I’ve not run into myself.  Every time I’ve been here, I’ve been just too shagged out to try to find it, but if you have some extra joules left in you, go for it; Myles said it was worth it.

The summit of the hike awaits you.  The top of Bald Mountain is the highest point of the hike as well as its visual high point.  It took me about an hour to get there from the car, but YMMV.  This is a good place to hang out and enjoy the view of the river, Bear Mountain, and the rolling hills of Harriman.  There’s a good 270-degree view here, and the top is rocky (befitting its name I suppose).  I suggest heading to the northern portion of the summit for the best views, and a nice place to have a snack, a drink, or just some quiet time.  Be a bit careful on the way down: the RD Trail does something of a hairpin turn on the top here, and if you’re not paying attention, you will find yourself backtracking.  Just be sure you don’t go past the CMT again, and you’ll be OK.

The second portion of the hike begins, with the RD falling off Bald Mountain fairly quickly.  You will go through a nice, flat path carved through a rhododendron field that will then start to go further downhill.  The unmarked Bockberg Trail comes in from the left and then leaves again almost immediately.  Stay on the RD, although the Bockberg will wind up in the same place anyway.  A fireplace is marked on the trail map with an “F”, and it’s very apparent.  A small stream flows from a swampy area to the left, and the Bockberg trail, which is really a dirt woods road, comes in as well.  Cross the little stream, and you can choose to continue on the RD more or less straight ahead, or you can take the Bockberg as a shortcut.  The map indicates that if you take the RD, there is vista, but the flat, rocky section at the top of the hill is surrounded by trees which, even at this early spring date blocked out just about any view.  So unless you have a problem walking unmarked trails, or need the extra steps, the Bockberg shortcut to the 1777 Trail is recommended.

If you take the RD, watch for the intersection with the 1777 trail, which has circular, blue-printed blazes.  Take a right.  (For you cheaters :-) on the Bockberg, it ends at the 1777, and you should hang a right there as well.)  This stretch of the 1777 starts out as an obvious dirt woods road, becomes gravelly, and eventually becomes a macadam road that leads into the abandoned village of Doodletown.  There’s really nothing left of Doodletown, a hamlet that had been occupied since Revolutionary War days; it was absorbed by Bear Mountain Park, and by 1965 all the populace was gone and the park razed the buildings.  (The primary source on this is Doodletown, by Elizabeth Salter, published by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.  Most of the historical information comes from this book, as well as the signposts that have recently been added alongside the remaining foundations.)

The 1777 trail runs along what was called Pleasant Valley Road, an appropriately-named stroll on a gentle downgrade that takes you into the razed village.  As compensation for the rigors of the climb up Bald Mountain, the remainder of this hike is pretty much completely downhill, on wide, and sometimes even paved roads.   As I said, Pleasant Valley road starts as a dirt road, heavily eroded.   Pretty soon after the road levels off a bit, if you are really observant, you will see the unmarked Timp Pass Road coming in from the left.  It’s a little tough to pick up, but there is a small tree with a red ribbon tied on it that might help.

Timp Pass Road Comes into 1777 Trail

If you have some extra time and want another great view, this road will take you up to the Timp, which we visited here.  (Of course, if you really want to work the Timp into your hike, then you would stay on the RD and come back here via the pass road.)  Soon after this intersection, you will come to the first of the Doodletown ruins, the Moore home, which has a small shed, a pool formed by a dam, as well as the foundation:

Moore House, Doodletown

This is one of the more extensive ruins you’ll see on the way into the main part of the town.  The park did a pretty good job of knocking down all the houses, so don’t expect this to be like ghost town tour.  The signposts at each home site have pictures of the houses that stood there, although they are a bit grainy.  (If you want pictures, the Stalter book is positively chock-a-block with them.  If you want to play amateur archeologist, then bring the book with you.)

The road becomes mostly paved or gravel as you head into town, but of course it is heavily eroded.  You go past the intersection with a ski trail where a laminated 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet informs you that the You Are Here sign was stolen by vandals.  Way to go, vandals! :-( The ski trail, which was actually a bridle path for the town, makes for a nice side trip either way you decide to go left or right.  But we’re staying on the main road here.  We go past the purportedly 200-year old oak tree.  Looks a bit shabby, but then again, I won’t be so hot looking either when I’m 200 years old.

The 200-Year Old Oak

Pleasant Valley Road ends at Doodletown Road–one of only two other major roads in the place.  You can go left or right here, and the 1777 trail itself splits here as well into a West and an East branch, to mimic the movements of the British troops in 1777, where they did split up on their way up north to capture Forts Montgomery and Clinton near Bear Mountain.  Our journey will take us to the 1777E trail, which goes right into the main part of town.  The 1777W branch takes you past some more razed lots before the road ends.

The main part of Doodletown is very nice and quiet.  There’s a reservoir and dam there, and if desired, when you hit the reservoir, go right instead of following the main road over the brook, and stop by the June Cemetery.  (June being a Doodletown family name; a second cemetery for the Herbert family could be reached just before the end of Pleasant Valley Road.)  There’s a platform you can walk out on into the reservoir to get a closer look at the dam.  Depending on the time of year, this will be where you’ll run into the most people.

Doodletown Reservoir

Doodletown Reservoir

Shortly after you leave the reservoir and continue east on Doodletown Road, Lemmon Road comes in from the left.  This is a nice, secluded walk that will take you out to Seven Lakes Drive.  There’s not much to see on this road, however, until near the end.  After Lemmon, you will notice a trail coming uphill on your right.  This will take you down to the brook, which we were walking along at the start of the hike.  Although I skipped this on this day, it’s a nice detour, and if you feel adventurous on a nice hot summer day, you might want to take a swim in the town’s swimming hole, known as “Ten Foot.”  Expect some cold water!

The last stretch of the road is very badly eroded, likely by some of these very severe rainstorms we’ve had over the last several years.  The 1777E trail departs from road soon after the Ten Foot side trail, following the ski trail/bridle path to the left.  To get back to 9W, stay on the road and you’ll soon be back at the Cornell Mine trail.  Not a bad day’s work.

The Trail Ends--Or Begins!

The Trail Ends--Or Begins!

2 Responses to “Cornell Mine Trail & Doodletown — May 1st 2011”

  1. Lori says:

    Can we hike/backpack this in reverse and camp near the base of bear mountain? Any tips?

    • pjneary says:

      Doing this in reverse is fine, however on very steep terrain, like the Cornell Mine Trail in this hike, I usually prefer going UP rather than DOWN–it’s just a little safer. That said, there are dicier downs in the park, so you should be OK. As I don’t camp, I can’t say where you might camp near the base of Bear Mtn. (In my case, I’d prefer a bed, and there IS an inn there!) There is a nice shelter on West Mountain, on the Timp-Torne Trail, which you can pick up from the R-D Trail. It’s a little extra walk, but not too much, plus you get to go over the Timp with its great views, and the shelter is in a nice spot as well.

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