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Hiking Review - Mt Spitzenberg at Blue Mountain Reservation

Mount - what? If you don't live locally you may have never heard of Mt. Spitzenberg at all but is one of two peaks in Blue Mountain Reservation and is located in Cortlandt Manor, NY. This is a hike that I am extremely familiar with because it is in my own backyard - and literally, because our property abuts the Reservation on one side. This review will cover the trail that begins at the Sportsman Center off Watch Hill Road.


Mt Spitzenberg, Blue Mountain Reservation, Cortlandt Manor, Hike
View of the Hudson from Mt Spitzenberg (July 2020)

Access

It is possible to reach Mt Spitzenberg via other trails in the Reservation but parking at the Sportsman center provides the most direct route to the peak and is probably best if you're taking an adventure with young children. If the Sportsman Center lot is not open it is possible to park in the dirt lot near the entrance but this will add about 1/4 mile until you reach the trailhead.


The hike to the summit and back to the parking lot is just a little over 1 mile. An adult walking briskly can be at the to peak in about 10-15 minutes! My 5-year old is pretty speedy on this hike but the 3-year olds tend to walk v e r y s l o w l y and pick up every stick and rock along the way so it takes closer to 30 minutes to reach the top even when they are incentivized with snacks.


Trailhead at far end of Sportsman Center Parking lot

Terrain

The initial part of the trail from the trailhead at the far end of the Sportsman Center parking lot takes hikers past a 3D archery course. I've honestly never seen anyone using the course except for the random time that my brother came to visit with his bow and arrow (for this purpose!) and we tried it out. It took me back to middle school gym class, and wasn't something I'd probably take up as a hobby, but it was an interesting experience trying to spear foam animal-shaped targets!


The path is easy to follow as you ascend the small mountain. The ground is matted with leaves in the fall but in the spring and summer makes for relatively easy footing even with the ample tree roots and rocks that require navigation. The elevation gain is 560 feet - not very much at all but still enough incline to feel like you've accomplished something. Short, yet satisfying, which is perfect for someone who perhaps has 30-40 min for self care while their child(ren) is/are napping to get a little exercise and clear one's head. :)


When you reach a 4-way intersection near a recycling/garbage can, you need to turn left to make the "final ascent" up to the peak. (If you were coming from the trail on the right, which originates in the main Blue Mountain Reservation parking lot, you would see a sign posted on a tree that indicates the peak is straight ahead. But this sign is not visible from the Sportsman Center path.


The final ascent is dotted with rocks which you can stair-step your way up, nothing too tricky, but definitely the steepest portion of the hike. I do recommend holding the hands of young children when descending back down because the rocks/dirt can be quite slippery for toddler shoes which often lack adequate treads - we've had a few spills here!


When you reach the peak you will pass the ruins of a stone structure on the left. This was an observatory that was erected in 1929 for someone to watch in all four directions for any early signs of forest fires. The interior, tagged in brightly colored graffiti, is an alluring spot for young kids to stomp, scream and then pose for a photo in their equally-brightly colored clothes (see below).

My favorite time of year to hike to the peak is in mid-fall when the leaves have turned and some have fallen, which allows unobstructed views of the Hudson River from Croton Landing to the Peekskill Waterfront and beyond. The rock faces at the top are the perfect spot to relax for a few minutes with a picnic or sketchbook, even if the natural ambiance is sometimes marred by a far-off metro north train or the gunfire from the nearby shooting range at the Sportsman Center...


Limitations

The downside of this hike is that it is quite short but this is easily remedied by additional exploration of the Reservation trails. The most annoying aspect is that on days when the shooting range is open at the Sportsman Center, the cacophony of gunfire from Police trainings or hunting practice does disrupt the peacefulness of nature....


 

Artist Notes

Since this hike is just a hop and a skip from my house, I do like to pop up here quite frequently. A few times I have taken some watercolor sketching materials to try to capture the tranquil view of the Hudson. Hopefully I will build upon these sketches in the near future!

Leave a comment below if you also frequent Mt Spitzenberg and wave if you see me painting at the peak!

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