Terrace Pond

At times, the hike is like a walk in the park.

Terrace Pond is one of those unique places, where within a few miles you can see almost every possible terrain you can imagine. From rock climbing, to wide flat woods roads, from a dense undergrowth to a mountain lake, from swamps to peaks offering nice views - everything is represented here. A little away from main hiking routes, this hike remains relatively unknown.

Getting there
Take the Clinton Road exit off Route 23. This exit is located about 10 miles away from I-287, and about 1 mile west from the junction with Rt. 513. Follow the little-traveled Clinton Road for about 7 miles. The parking lot will be on your left, about 2 miles after you make a big left swing around the northern edge of the Clinton Reservoir.

Cross the street and enter the woods, following the yellow-marked trail. The trail starts out gently, going through some terrain of an almost fairy-tale quality. You will follow a narrow path leaning against the slope, walk across moss-covered rocks, but the forest will remain open, with a relatively little undergrowth. After about 20-25 minutes of hiking on a relatively wet trail, you will turn slightly left and start a steady ascent.

This part of the hike leads under tall rhododendrons, which completely enclose the trail, creating a tunnel vision, which is especially powerful in summer. After this section and a little more walking, you will come to a wide-open area, with the trail leading straight across a boulder several hundred feet long. Look for the markers on the boulder.

Just as you reenter the woods, the trail crosses a wide woods road. The markers will lead you to turn left, taking this road. The road first slopes upwards very gently, but after a while starts descending. The descend ends in a small valley, when the woods road gets a gravel surface. Continue walking on this road, and soon you will turn sharply left and start climbing. You've got to pay a lot of attention at this left turn. Your trail will merge with another road under a sharp angle, and a marking on a tree left of you will tell you to turn right here. That's wrong, however; the marking is telling people coming from the other direction to turn right here. You've got to take the very sharp left turn, otherwise you'll end up going away from the lake.

At other times, the hike will be very gloomy.

Towards your left, there will be a large swamp. Even in a dry season, the swamp has grown and swallowed a few section of the road; alternate trails now circumvent these areas. To your right, you will see several large outcroppings. I tend to climb up here and rest a little, as these rocks are ignored by the few other hikers here, and the view is decent. As you continue on this road, you will come to a fork, with a yellow dot trail leaving to your right. Ignore that trail, and turn left.

Almost immediately, the trail starts a series of short ups and downs. Negotiate this area, but watch out for the downhill parts - many rocks look firmer than they really are, and you may slip easily. Soon, you will climb up a flat rocky ridge, which offers a few resting spots. Once refreshed, follow the train, as it descends into a wide gully. The last time I have been here, the sun has already vanished behind the ridge, and the gully has gained a very gloomy quality. The trail is very narrow here, leading through relatively dry sections of a swamp, but well defined by very thick undergrowth on both sides. In addition, the rocky outcroppings on the top of the ridge next to you always seem on the verge of falling down. Needless to say, I really liked this section.

The book 50 Hikes In New Jersey calls the next section a "roller coaster", and I could not agree more. The trail goes sharply up and down over and over again. This section is little used and overgrown with lichen and moss; when it gets wet, this part can be very slippery. Proceed carefully through this area and note the red trail that joins yours for a few feet and leaves to the left. Ignore this trail. The yellow trail soon ends on a T-junction with the white trail. Turn left here.

After another short but very atmospheric gully, the trail merges with the red trail again, and climbs across another steep rocky ridge. Once you negotiate this ridge, you will come to a wide-open section, with the Terrace Pond right in front of you. Descend to a small sandy beach on your right for a rest.

Terrace Pond can be very serene after sunset.

When you entered the forest at the beginning of the hike, you may have noticed "no swimming" signs everywhere. The reason for posting these signs is the Terrace Pond. It is completely enclosed by large stone walls, quite deep and very clean. No matter what the temperature is (last time I was here, it was just below freezing), I always want to jump right in; the lake looks very inviting. Resist the urge, and simply sit or lay down and relax. If you are lucky and nobody else is around, you will have the best relax you could wish for.

After refreshing the body and the spirit, go on along the lake. At the other end, you will run into the blue trail. Turn left onto this trail and start a steady descend. This section has the roller coaster qualities again, but this time you will spend a significant portion of time climbing up a flat rock, which can be slippery even when it's dry. Be extra careful here. At the top of this rock, the trail leads right, but you may want to climb left for a spectacular view of the surrounding area, from the sharp peak of this rock. Below this rock you will find lots of trash; I always collect some and take with me to depose of it, but people I'd really love to hurt mess up this area again.

The descend can be tricky here - the trail goes steeply down, and in one section you will actually have to sit down and slide a little. Once you are done with this section, the trails turns left and remains relatively flat until it hits a wide-open area. Turn left here and go downhill. Watch for trails leaving to your left; after your hike levels off, the blue trail leaves this area again. It is the third main trail in that direction. After another 20 minutes or so of a very level walk through a beautiful forest, you will emerge at the beginning of the trail again.

Difficulty: 6 out of 10. Slippery terrain and many ups and downs, but a relatively short hike.
Orientation: 7 out of 10. The trail markers are a little too infrequent for my taste.
Beauty: 9 out of 10. This is the most atmospheric hike you are likely to take.

Additional notes
As much as I like to hike alone, I'd recommend you go with somebody. Take a cell-phone as well. The hike can be very treacherous for people without sturdy boots, and you don't want to get stuck here with a twisted ankle alone.

Additional resources
Hike profile at LocalHikes

Time table
Net time Total time Notes
25 - 45 min 25 - 45 min You will be full of energy and finish this part in no time. The first section goes from the start till the yellow trail merges with a woods road.
25 - 35 min 50 - 80 min The second part is relatively flat and easy. It's a single woods road, which ends at a trail fork where the yellow trail and yello dot trail part. A potentially difficult stream crossing here.
45 - 90 min 95 - 170 min This part is a roller coaster of mutliple steep ups and downs. The trail is extremely rocky, and will slow you down until you arive to the lake.
35 - 60 min 130 - 230 min The blue trail will lead you across multiple ridges back to the parking lot. These low ridges can be very slippery when wet. Also, a potentially difficult stream crossing towards the end.
Methodology: The lower number is how long it took me to finish each part. While I'm in mid 20s and in a relatively good shape, I tend to stop often to take pictures or simply enjoy the view. It is very likely that your time will be close to mine. The upper limit is my time adjusted to the difficulty of the trail and various distractions. I assumed a family with children in my calculation. I believe that the upper limit is rather extreme. I have not taken into account the time spent for an extended break.

© Jozef Purdes, 2001-2003

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