December 30, 2006

Hiking: Saxon Woods Park, Westchester


WHERE: Saxon Woods Park (Mamaroneck, N.Y.)

FEATURES: This loop hike circles the southern section of this Westchester County Park, affording a pleasant stroll on gentle woods roads.

LENGTH: About 2.7 miles.


TIME: About two hours.

MAP: Saxon Woods Park map (available online at parks/pdfs/Maps/Trailways/SaxonWoodsPark.pdf).

DOGS: Permitted on leash.

HOW TO GET THERE: Cross the George Washington Bridge and take the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95). Continue to follow I-95, which becomes the New England Thruway. Take Exit 18B (Mamaroneck Avenue) and continue north on Mamaroneck Avenue for 1.4 miles to a traffic light. (If you reach the Hutchinson River Parkway, you have gone too far.) Turn left at the traffic light and enter Saxon Woods Park. (Although a sign at the entrance states that everybody entering the park must show proof of Westchester residency, that applies only to those using the developed recreational facilities of the park, and not to hikers.) Follow the entrance road up to a parking area, where the hike begins.

DESCRIPTION: Saxon Woods is a 700-acre park in the heart of Westchester County, 20 miles from the George Washington Bridge. Although the park is surrounded by development and bordered by several major highways, it offers the opportunity for a pleasant walk through attractive woods, passing interesting rock outcrops along the way. The trails in the southern section of the park (which largely follow woods roads) are not officially blazed, although you will encounter old orange and white paint blazes along the route of the hike. (The route of the hike is shown as "Loop 1" on the park map that is available online.)

From the parking area, walk back down the entrance road. Just before reaching the bridge over the western branch of the Mamaroneck River, turn right on a gravel road blocked with a cable barrier. Follow this road as it heads southwest, parallel to the Mamaroneck River. Unfortunately, you can hear the sounds of the traffic on Mamaroneck Avenue (on the other side of the river), although this busy road is largely shielded from view by the trees.

In roughly half a mile, you'll reach a Y-intersection. Here, you should bear left and cross a stone bridge, with the wide river visible through the trees on the left. The road you are following now becomes somewhat rougher. In another half-mile, you'll pass a wetland to the left. Just beyond, the road curves to the right and passes between two huge boulders. By now, the trail has moved away from the road, and the noise of the traffic barely can be heard.

A short distance beyond, just before reaching a boulder on the right side of the trail, you'll notice a tree with a double orange blaze. Turn left onto a narrower path, use rocks to cross a small stream, and follow a woods road gently uphill. Near the top of the climb, you'll pass an interesting split boulder to the left. The path now narrows to a trail, with houses visible to the left.

After passing small ponds, first to the right, then to the left, the trail again approaches Mamaroneck Avenue. It descends slightly, passes a modern brick house and bears right, heading uphill. The trail once more widens to a woods road, and old white blazes begin to appear along the route.

About a mile and a half from the start of the hike, you'll cross a stone bridge over a stream and reach a T-intersection. Turn left here. After passing interesting rock formations on the right, you'll encounter a huge fallen tree that blocks the trail. Follow a footpath to the right that skirts the tree and returns to the woods road that you've been following.

Just past two unmarked trails that lead to the left, you'll reach an abandoned stone building. Stay to the right and continue ahead on the woods road. Houses are soon visible through the trees to the left. You're heading northeast, parallel to the route that you followed at the start of the hike, but further uphill.

After crossing a bridge (with wooden railings) over a stream, you'll reach a junction with a woods road that juts off to the right. Continue straight ahead, uphill. Soon, you'll pass a pond to the left and come to a pic- nic area. Just beyond, a paved path to the right descends to the parking area where the hike began.

"Hiking" is provided by Daniel Chazin of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The trail conference is a volunteer organization that builds and maintains 1,670 miles of hiking trails and publishes a library of hiking maps and books, including the "New York Walk Book" ($22.95) and the "New Jersey Walk Book" ($19.95). The office is at 156 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah; 201-512-9348;

(c) 2006 Record, The; Bergen County, N.J.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.