The last time I posted about a hike in upstate New York it was when I hiked Stissing Mountain. That was shortly after I returned form the trip around the world. Since then, I have been meaning to hike more around my hometown area.
The day after Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law, Kate, and I decided to digest our turkey and stuffing with a local hike! I searched for a hike with the following features: in the Dutchess County region, challenging enough to burn some significant calories, short enough to accomplish in a few hours, and able to deliver some spectacular views.
Brace Mountain (2,316 ft) matched all my criteria! And it was a beautiful, late autumn day for a hike.
South Taconic Trailhead
Kate and I drove through Millerton, New York to the trail head at Quarry Hill Road (Map to: 89 Quarry Hill Rd, Millerton, NY 12546). There is a small parking spot right next to a sign marking the start of the trail.
We followed the path to the right of the chain link fence, with views of a brick house in a field to the left of the fence.
The path eventually meanders diagonally into the red oak wood and starts to incline slightly. Yellow markers on the trees indicate the correct direction.
Eventually we came to a stream and the path veered dramatically uphill. Since this was late autumn, we found that the waterfall here was starting to freeze.
The icicles forming out of moss looked beautiful!
After the waterfall, there was a bit of a rock scramble that takes you up a 35% average slope grade. There are lots of exposed boulders to grab onto and mount for what I call "Simba" views (when Simba stands on Pride Rock overlooking his kingdom in The Lion King).
Only after about 15 minutes of climbing, we could see why this trail is known for its great views. We could already see the Catskill Mountains in the distance past miles and miles of farmland and forest.
After the rock scramble, we basically had reached the top. We walked for another 45 minutes or less with a few parts dropping down or ascending up again before reaching the final destination.
A small cairn of loose rocks marked halfway to the end of the trail.
Otherwise, there are many moments when markers are not clear and we went off-path for a minute.
Backtracking a bit, we were always able to spot a hidden marker or arrow sprayed onto exposed rocks. The markers do change from yellow to white at one point.
A much larger cairn with a tattered American flag marked our arrival at the main clearing for 360-degree views. Most people don't realize the State of New York mostly looks exactly like this view.
New York is not just made up of the city. There are mountains with vast stretches of farmland and forest in between.
Here, near the border of New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut (42°02'40.0"N, 73°29'33.6"W), we could see 3 natural landmarks across these 3 separate states. There was Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains to the Northeast, New York's Catskill Mountains to the West, and Connecticut's highest elevation lakes, Riga and South pond, to the Southeast.
We sat on the slope overlooking New York views. We chugged water and ate snacks as we took in the beautiful scene.
I heard warnings that this trail can be very slippery and muddy after rain. Luckily, we had a stretch of dry days leading up to Thanksgiving last year—so the path was relatively free of mud. However, this did not prevent us from slipping.
Layers and layers of fallen leaves covering slick sheets of rock made the path down treacherous. Especially on the steep parts, one misplaced foot could land you on your ass, sliding down sheer rock.
I fell a few times and Kate fell hard once right at the end of the hike. Thankfully it was at the end because she definitely felt that one! And if it was worse and sooner, she would have needed a lift out of there.
The Overall Hike
Overall, this hike took us no more than 3.5 hours to complete. It was less than 4 miles, but we elevated over 2300 ft above the sea. So this was a challenging hike—perfect for burning some Thanksgiving calories. Plus, this hike rewarded us with great, 360-degree views and a short return time so we could get back to our family.