LENGTH: 7.26 MILES
TIME: 6H (W/ICY TRAILS)
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,842 FT
It has taken me three whole days to recover from this hike. Even now my calves are still tight. I was so sore afterwards that I didn’t even want to sit down and write this post lol. But here we are, less sore and writing. Let’s talk about this hike and why you should do it anyways lol. Ignore the complaints. It’s not that bad. Actually if you want to skip the whining all together, scroll down to where it says TRAIL GUIDE.
For those of you concerned about being sore for three days (or simply want to read all the extra stuff I have to say), let me give you some quick notes for context:
I have been hiking a lot less.I haven’t been hiking at all due to medical reasons. Basically I haven’t seen the inside of a gym (except for that one time this year) or been hiking (I’m talking about moderate elevation gains and several miles) for 4 months. That’s plenty of time for my body to revert to “pre-hike” body.
- Due to that same medical reason, I have gained all 20 pounds back. Uggghhhhhhhh! I know I can lose them again but easier said than done. Am’I’right?
- I also don’t know what I was thinking when planning this hike. I normally keep my hikes under 5 miles. And when I’m super active I’ll push the mileage or elevation. This one was unexpectedly 7.26 miles long. I still can’t explain why I thought sedentary Salvi Nomad should hike this. ::Insert huge face palm here::
- Last but not least, it was very cold out (even though a certain someone said 40 something degree weather). It actually was 29 degrees when we got there and did not warm up to 40 degrees until we were leaving. That means every time my body went into heavy breathing, the cold pierced my lungs. So basically, the whole time.
If any of those points apply to you, meaning you’ve been completely inactive, you aren’t used to hiking 7+ miles, gained 20 pounds, and it’s cold out. Then maybe you will be sore. BUT! It’s a fun trail with so many neat “Narnia” moments (more on that later) that it’ll be worth it. Everyone else, you’ll be just fine. If I did it, you can too. Trust me ; )
Anyways, an hour and forty-five minutes from my house is the trailhead for Schunemunk Mountain. You park in the lot, lace up your hiking boots, and cross the street to the trail head. If you have them, bring your hiking sticks. If it’s rained at all or snow is melting you’re definitely going to need them.
Following the GPS coordinates you’ll find a parking lot with this board. Notice the red and white sign. Of course on this trail I chose to wear all black- during hunting season. Where are my bright pink leggings when I need them? We heard several gun shots going off throughout the day too. Please stay on the trails and wear bright colors if you can!
You can take a map, or pictures of the maps and cross the street. You’ll find this trailhead with white (Sweet Clover Trail), yellow (Jessup Trail), and blue/white trail blazers (Highlands Trail).
Follow the white trail markers. Some will be placed on short posts or trees.
When you arrive at the “SEASONAL HUNTER PARKING” sign, you’ll make a right and continue following the trail. Walk around or over the chain gate.
Shortly after you will see the sign for the Sweet Clover left turn.
After that left turn you’ll walk across this meadow. Continue following all the white trail markers.
After the meadow you’ll see two white trail markers on a tree. You’ll make this right and head into the woods.
They have done a great job with all the white trail markers. Continue following them up to the train tracks.
This section of train tracks sits on a curve at both ends. This means you can’t see far enough ahead to sit there and have a photo shoot. I took this photo as I was crossing. Is it a tempting location to stand in the middle of and grab some shots? I’m sure it is. Especially in the summer. But know your limits people! Trains move hella fast.
The tracks are very active and not the place to die for the ‘gram. Did I mention trains travel quickly? Please cross carefully and at your own risk. Once you’re across you’ll see a sign and trail markers to continue on the Sweet Clover/white trail.
The white trail will make a left and then a quick right. Ignore any red trail markers and continue following the white. I quickly realized the Sweet Clover trail was going to kick my ass. The trail goes up…
Take some breaks…
Take another break at the cute little waterfall. Can you see how red my face gets when I’m in cardio mode?
And then keep going up… Oh look at that, it’s all covered in snow now lol.
Finally you’ll reach the the Jessup/yellow Trail. Make a left at this junction and follow the yellow/blue trail.
This is where it felt like we’d walked through a closet and entered Narnia. The landscape was so different from everything we’d seen beforehand. The only other time I’d seen trees like this was hiking to Verkeerderkill Falls. The small pine trees look so unbothered by the cold air up there.
In this section of the hike the markers were both on the trees and on the ground. In some spots it was easier to follow the cairns and lined up sticks and stones previous hikers left behind.
There was a moment I felt like I was going the wrong way when I got to this viewpoint. But it was because the trail does a hair pin turn here. If you stay the course on the yellow/blue trail you’ll be fine.
I was really worried about missing this sign for the megaliths after reading other guides. But it was super easy to spot! And since you’re following yellow the whole time, it’s conveniently also written in yellow. Make a right.
Follow the cairns.
Briefly walk through the woods again.
I wasn’t expecting it to be so close, but you get to the megaliths pretty quickly (comparatively speaking). The view and megaliths were so peaceful. We were the only ones up there. However, it was cold so we didn’t stay very long.
We retraced our steps to the megalith sign. Then we made a left to go back down the yellow/blue trail to the Dark Hollow/black trail shown below.
You’re going to follow the black trail markers all the way back to the train tracks. This is where the hiking sticks will come in handy if you have them. The steep descent is rough on the knees. And if you slip and fall on a rock like my friend did, it’s also rough on the skin.
She slipped on ice, scraped a pretty big portion of her thigh and bled through her leggings. Shout out to Nike because her pants did not rip. There was plenty of ice on this portion of the trail. Please proceed with caution.
And then this happened. The trail marker was on a tree in the center of a very overgrown creek. I don’t know how well you can see it in the picture below, but the only way to get across was through the water. The ice was also not thick enough to hold our weight. And where were my hiking sticks? At home in a drawer…
::insert second face palm here::
So after using roots, rocks and whatever I could put my foot on to get to the trail marker in the middle of the moat, I still had to cross on this very narrow unstable log. I found the two best sticks I could find and prayed I wouldn’t fall. That water was definitely frigid and I did not want to squish around the rest of the day with frozen toes.
After crossing the
creek moat, you’ll have one last viewpoint. Take a break, drink some water, eat some snacks.
When you reach the train tracks cross with caution. I’m serious about the curve people. Cross quickly and carefully please!
After crossing the tracks, do not go into the woods. Make a left and follow this well worn trail for a brief moment. Soon after, you’ll see the white trail on your right. Follow that white trail through the woods and the meadows, re-tracing your steps all the way back to your car.
Ok, now that you’ve read all about the trail let me say something not drenched in sarcasm. I promise, this part is from the heart…
This trail really can be a test of endurance if you aren’t mentally/physically prepared to hike 7 miles and gain almost 2,000 ft in elevation. But it is definitely worth it. The hike itself is very interesting with several changes in terrain. You get so many viewpoints, waterfalls, and the megaliths. I mean how cool does it sound saying, “I hiked the megaliths,” when someone asks you what you did this past weekend?
My only recommendation would be to do it in the spring time and not in the dead of winter. Not having to combat the ice or cold air would make for a better experience. See you on the trails!
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.”Napoleon Hill
I’m a Salvadorean adventurer simply having fun outdoors!