PRESENT STATUS: Paved and open (a 0.4 mile section is along
a fairly smooth, scenic dirt road)
STATUS DETAILS: From the parking lot at Under Mountain
Road, the trail is paved for 2.9 miles going northward.
Then the trail detours on to a scenic dirt road for
0.4 miles to bypass the only privately held parcel
bed between Copake Falls and Wassaic. The dirt road
rejoins the paved rail trail which then continues for
mile to Route 344 and the entrance to Taconic State
FLORA & FAUNA:
Section 5 is more
of a deep woods trail, although it is by no means closed
in by trees. It almost hugs the base of the South Taconic
Mountains to the east and is bordered by agricultural
lands at times on either side. Near the northern end,
wonderful views of the Catskill Mountains to the west.
Also at the northern end, you are only about a mile
away from historic and scenic Bash Bish Falls. The
located just about a mile east of the trailhead in
Copake Falls, just over the Massachusetts state border.
This segment crosses over two streams, and rattlesnakes
and black bears are occasionally reported. The rail trail
association's 4-color Botanical Brochure will be posted
at the website soon.
UNDER MOUNTAIN ROCK CUT
The single rock cut north of Millerton,
about 300 feet north of Under Mountain
5-6 feet high,
mossy seeps and an abundance of ferns,
including marginal woodfern,
hay-scented fern, lady fern, rock polypody,
fragile fern and sensitive fern. Other
hazelnut, skunk cabbage (very unusual
on rock) and purple-stemmed aster.
It is unusual
plants like skunk
growing on the walls of a rock-cut.
Sometimes botanists refer to these
their assemblage of
wetland flora as “vertical wetlands.”
UNDER MOUNTAIN FERN BANK
About 120 feet north of the rock cut north of Under Mountain
Road is a steep bank on the east side of the trail covered
with hayscented fern, a lovely stand of a single species.
Such single-species stands are helpful in teaching recognition
of a particular plant, because they lack the visual confusion
of a multi-species community. The juxtaposition of the
multi-species fern community on the rock cut and the single-species
stand on the bank is especially serendipitous for teaching
or learning ferns.
BUTTERFLY WEED GARDEN
Immediately north of farm crossing
#4 (counting north from the Under Mountain
lot) is where
weed garden is located. There are 5
crossings, all south of the intersection
with the dirt
road, Valley View Road. At the garden
are high weedy
attracting butterflies. A partial list
includes knapweed, bouncing bet, white
lace, birdfoot trefoil, bladder campion, milkweed, daisy
fleabane, vipers bugloss, common burdock, ox-eye daisy,
evening primrose, spotted St. Johnswort, Norway cinquefoil.
Possibly these plants (common along the trail, but only
here found all together) could be enhanced with plantings
of other good butterfly attractants (butterfly bush, butterfly
weed, bachelor’s button, etc.)
to form a Rail Trail butterfly garden.
snack at the bench
be supplemented by the treat of dancing,
Copake Falls: This hamlet, originally called Copake Iron
Works, established a post office in 1853. In 1909, it was
briefly known as Berkshire Pass and finally became Copake
Falls in 1910. The Episcopal Church of St. John in the
Wilderness, adjacent to the Taconic State Park entrance,
was built in 1852 by owners of the iron works. Irish workers
built St. Bridget's Catholic Church in 1867. It was demolished
and replaced by a new building in 1959 at the present location
on Route 22.
Copake Falls is also the base of operations for the staff
of Taconic State Park. Bash Bish Brook, which passes under
the bridge just south of here, flows south from legendary
and scenic Bash Bish Falls in nearby Massachusetts. The
brook joins the Roeliff Jansen Kill in nearby Copake.
Taconic State Park was formed in 1925 by a five-man commission,
which included Franklin D. Roosevelt. The park is situated
at a once very active iron foundry, the Copake Iron Works.
The first parcels acquired for the park included the iron
works and the Bash Bish Inn property, formerly the Douglas
estate, located along Bash Bish Brook. An ironworks museum
is currently located at the blast furnace site, about a
half mile east of the rail trail trailhead. There was a
spur off of the Harlem Division rail line to serve the
Copake Iron Works.
Taconic State Park now includes 5,000
acres stretching 15 miles from Catamount
Area south to Rudd
Pond. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail
is a recent (1997) addition
the park. The railroad station in Copake
Falls was originally named "Copake Iron Works," but the name was later
changed to "Copake Falls" when
the iron works closed. The former train
station is located
rail trail trailhead and is currently
occupied by the Depot
There was a milk plant south of the train station which
probably was a shipping plant for raw milk in bulk cans.
The plant was operated by either Borden's Milk or Sheffield
Farms. Most residents of the village worked at the iron
works or on dairy farms that prospered in the rich bottomlands
of the valley. The community also prospered from tourists
and seasonal homeowners who were attracted to the picturesque
mountain scenery and rural countryside dotted with farms.
Until rail service ended in 1976, freight carloads of farm
machinery and lumber were unloaded on to trucks at Copake
Falls for distribution to local dealers.
Under Mountain Road trailhead (Under Mountain Road
is exactly halfway between Millerton and Hillsdale
along Route 22.
From the south: Take
Route 22 north from Millerton for 8.6
miles. At 8.1 miles,
you will pass a blue "parking
area" sign for a scenic pull-off
along Route 22. Exactly one-half mile
Road. There is a bright blue sign just
before Under Mountain Road directing
the trail. Turn
to Under Mountain Road. The trailhead
and parking lot are
three-tenths of a mile on the left.
From the north: Take Route 22 south from Hillsdale 8.6
miles to Under Mountain Road. Under Mountain Road is on
your left, five-tenths of a mile past the Citgo gas station
located at the intersection of Route 22 and Columbia County
Route 3. There is a bright blue sign just before Under
Mountain Road directing motorists to the trail. Turn left
on to Under Mountain Road (if you pass the scenic pull-off
along Route 22, you've missed the turn for Under Mountain
Road). Proceed three-tenths of a mile to the trail parking
lot on your left.
Valley View Road parking lots:
On Route 22, travel 11.4 miles north
from Millerton (or 5.8 miles south
from Hillsdale traffic light) and
for a blue Harlem Valley Rail Trail
sign that marks the intersection
of Valley View Road with Route 22.
lot accommodates only 2-3 vehicles.
Turn east (the only way you can turn)
on to Valley View Road. Proceed six-tenths
of a mile to a triangular
(a red farm building on your left).
Turn left and travel five-tenths
of a mile to the dirt
parking lot on your left.
Halfway from the triangular intersection
to the parking lot, the road becomes dirt and
you might think you are
lost and driving right through someone's
farm. Don't worry. Proceed uphill and the parking
lot is two-tenths of a mile
along the dirt portion of the road
on your left. A small portion of
Section 5 is not
paved. Four-tenths of a mile of it detours
on to the dirt
portion of Valley
View Road (this is because New York
State was unsuccessful in purchasing
a privately owned
parcel of rail bed).
If you proceed north four-tenths of a mile
past the first Valley View Road parking area,
there is a second parking
area (again, limited to 2-3 vehicles).
From this parking area, the trail is then paved
again as it continues northward
for a little more than one-half mile
to the entrance to Taconic State Park in Copake
Taconic State Park parking lot:
From the south: Take Route 22 northward.
At the traffic light in Millerton, proceed
northward 12.5 miles to the
intersection of Routes 22 and 344.
Route 344 intersects Route 22 from the right
past St. Bridget's
Church on your right. There are also
signs at the intersection for Taconic State
Park and the rail trail. Turn right on to
and proceed three-tenths of
a mile to the triangular green in
the center of Copake Falls. Bear to your
proceed about three-tenths
of a mile to the entrance of Taconic
State Park. Please ask the park attendant
where to park.
From the north: Take
Route 22 southward. Travel 4.2 miles to the
intersection of Routes 22 and 344. Route
Route 22 from the left. You'll see
signs on your right at this intersection
for Taconic State Park and the Depot
Deli. Turn left on to Route 344 and proceed four-tenths of
a mile to the triangular green in the center of Copake
Bear to your left AND STOP AT THE STOP SIGN. Proceed
straight and go about three-tenths of a mile to the
Taconic State Park. Please ask the park attendant where
*Note: Many thanks to local railroad historians Heyward Cohen, Jack Shufelt,
and Lou Grogan (The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad, Pawling, NY:
Louis V. Grogan, 1989) for much of the railroad history that appears above.