by DANIEL CHAZIN/, THE RECORD, link to original post
LENGTH: About 5.1 miles
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate
TIME: About 3 1/2 hours
MAP: Wonder Lake State Park map (available online at nynjtc.org/files/WonderLakeTrailMap_BW_2012.pdf)
DOGS: Permitted on leash
HOW TO GET THERE: Cross the George Washington Bridge and proceed north on the Henry Hudson Parkway, which becomes the Saw Mill River Parkway. Take Exit 4 and proceed east on the Cross County Parkway. In about three miles, bear left to continue on the Hutchinson River Parkway North. After about eight miles, bear left to continue on I-684. Follow I-684 North for about 28 miles and take Exit 9W to continue on I-84 West. Take Exit 18 (Lake Carmel/Patterson), and turn right at the bottom of the ramp onto N.Y. Route 311. Make the first left onto Ludingtonville Road and continue for 1.8 miles to the parking area for Wonder Lake State Park, on the right. GPS address: 380 Ludingtonville Road, Holmes, N.Y. 12531.
To the left of the kiosk in the parking area, you’ll see a post with a yellow blaze (for the Yellow Trail) and a teal diamond blaze (for the Highlands Trail). Follow these trails uphill on a grassy path that widens into a woods road. Soon, you’ll reach a junction. The Yellow Trail goes off to the left, but you should bear right to continue on the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail that follows a footpath along the side of a hill, climbing gradually.
The red-blazed Bare Hill Trail begins on the left, but proceed ahead on the Highlands Trail that descends to cross a stream, then climbs gradually on a rocky footpath. At the crest of the rise, the Yellow Trail crosses. Continue ahead on the Highlands Trail that begins to descend, soon reaching a fork. The white-blazed North Spillway Trail begins on the left, but you should bear right and continue along the Highlands Trail that descends to Wonder Lake.
The trail briefly follows close to the lakeshore, then turns right and climbs a little. Soon, it again descends toward the lake and continues to parallel it. At the southwest corner of the lake, the Yellow Trail joins briefly, but continue to follow the Highlands Trail that proceeds around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction.
At the southeast corner, the trail crosses a dam and wooden footbridge across the lake’s outlet. A white-blazed trail begins on the north side of the dam, but you should bear left to continue along the Highlands Trail. After crossing a woods road (the route of the Yellow Trail), the trail turns away from the lake. It climbs a little, then begins a steady descent and follows along the edge of an escarpment, with a beautiful hemlock grove in the ravine below.
With Laurel Pond visible through the trees ahead, the Highlands Trail turns sharply right and continues to descend on a switchback. At the base of the descent, it crosses a woods road and proceeds to pristine Laurel Pond.
The trail crosses a concrete spillway over a secondary outlet and follows along the pond. After crossing a stone dam and wooden footbridge across the pond’s main outlet, the trail heads uphill, following a woods road.
At a T-intersection at the crest of the rise, the Highlands Trail continues ahead onto a footpath that loops around and soon reaches another woods road. The trail turns right and follows the road that soon begins to climb. Be alert for a turn, just before the start of a steeper climb, where the Highlands Trail turns right and continues on a footpath.
After crossing an intermittent stream, the trail continues along the side of a hill and soon begins to descend. In a short distance, three blue blazes on the left mark the start of the blue-blazed Orchard Hill Trail. Turn left and follow the Orchard Hill Trail that climbs gradually to the crest of a rise, then descends and continues across gentle, rolling terrain.
After another gradual climb and descent, the Orchard Hill Trail ends at a junction with the white-blazed North Spillway Trail. Continue ahead on the white-blazed trail for about 150 feet to its terminus at the Highlands Trail, then turn right and follow the teal diamond blazes, retracing your steps back 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 over 1,800 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 Trail Conference’s office is at 156 Ramapo Valley Rd. (Route 202), Mahwah; (201) 512-9348; nynjtc.org; HikeoftheWeek@aol.com.