Real Fit for Real Life
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I've hiked Seth Low quite a few times from the main entrance by Lake Naraneka, so I wanted to explore this state park reserve from a new angle. If you use the hiking map from the website, you'll notice there's a northwest parking spot. That's where I set my sights this morning for a little solo hike without the kiddos, who have the misfortune of having to be in school on such a beautiful fall day!
You'll drive right past the usual entrance and go to Twixt Hill Road. You will soon arrive at a teeny parking lot at the junction of Twixt Hill & Knollwood, 1-2 car capacity, so park politely! Despite the miniscule size of the parking lot, there is a large sign for the park, & you will immediately see a tree with white markings on the right side, red on the left, designating the trail heads. This hike is the white trail, possibly to the blue if you're up for it, short & sweet out & back to a nice clearing with a view or to the official lookout point. I came on a November day, trail covered in leaves, so I had to really watch for trail markings!
This hike begins with a field of marshgrass on your right and nice little downslope with rocky terrain that leads to a little wooden bridge. (So giddy when I get my wooden bridge right off the bat!) I was gifted right away with the biggest bluejay I've ever seen, sending it's call through the leafless trees. I love when the wildlife comes to welcome you :)
Now, before the bridge, stop and look to your left. You will see a very interesting man-made cave. I decided to wander off trail to check it out-- inside were a couple old folding beach chairs! Brilliant spot for kids to have a magical picnic! Obviously it's always wise for parents to scope out sights like this first, to make sure it isn't littered with anything, ahem, distasteful. Or dead. Or alive. Or gross. But today, it passed inspection, and I know had my daughters been with me, we would've spent quite some time playing and imagining all sorts of cave-set scenarios.
After enjoying a little playtime at the cave, return to the trail to take a picture of the wooden bridge. Follow the white trail markings. It's a gentle climb that will give you enough of a workout but is doable for the kids! Somehow I lost the trail & ended up on yellow. Leaves get me every time! My mileage was off because of backtracking to relocate the white trail! I realized my mistake-- white veers off to the left, & I had stayed straight. So here's a tip for you late-fall hikers: watch for the tree with 3 white marks. Go left there! You will know if you've lost the trail when you find yourself in the middle of the woods and cannot find any more marked trees! Also if you're standing in the middle of thorny bushes, you have lost the trail! But do not freak out. Always backtrack to where you came from to the last marked tree you remember. Then you will be able to find the trail again!
If you were smart, followed my tips, and did not get lost, you will come to an intersection at .14 for the yellow, red, & white (note: your mileage will be off if you spent time off-trail playing at the cave). A well-marked trail will have three stripes rather than just one anytime you have reached a crossroads. So look around and see what your options are, and check your map to be sure you choose the trail you intend to hike. I love this Choose Your Own Adventure aspect to hiking-- there is no wrong. But if you've set out with a plan, you want to follow it, simply because you have estimated mileage, difficulty of terrain, time it will take, etc.-- all vital details when hiking with kids!
So for this hike, stay on white for now! You will get some good incline the closer you get towards the top of the hill. On the day I went, a large chunk of tree had fallen across the white trail so I had to work my way around it. It was easy to get over, but on the return trip, I noticed an off-shoot trail that would've helped me bypass it altogether! Oops ;) Going to be honest, once it starts getting steep and the trail is covered in leave,s it can be tricky to navigate especially with young kids. So if you begin to lose confidence, just go back and play in the cave a little longer :-) But if you continue, you'll be rewarded with some cool sights.
The white markers can be tricky to locate up the hill, but follow the rocky path & you'll be okay. You'll see a sort of lean to on your left at the top of the hill at .4 mile. This is a fun spot for a water break. Soon the white trail turns sharp right. Follow it but first take some pics at this high view area. The white will take you straight to blue, or you could turn right again to follow white at this clearing. But stay on blue another .3 to get to the lookout. The blue is a more challenging stretch, dropping down a ravine before climbing back up to the lookout. Only venture this with older kids and consider using hiking poles. For a shorter hike, stop in this clearing at the top of the ravine to picnic & watch airplanes.
With how leafy and precarious it was going down the ravine alone, and because I had to pee and hadn't brought toilet paper (bad hiker preparation!), I opted to rest for a bit, take photos, talk to a chipmunk, then head back the white trail. Solo hiking requires erring on the side of caution! It was a gorgeous morning, so it was nice to just sit in the sunshine and take it all in.
The return trip is always faster, but with stopping to enjoy the cave, the lean-to, and the wildlife, this hike can easily take over an hour, despite its somewhat short total distance. I say this every week, but this may be my new favorite hike for kids ;)
As always, let me know if you do this hike and how it goes!
Mother of 3. Fit-philosopher. Showing my kids how to be fit via living life to the max. Newbie photographer. Simplistic cook who shares easy, healthy meals. Lover of kid-friendly hikes & getting outdoors & unplugged.