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Getting to this hike is fairly easy-- just go toward Barlow Mountain and Scotland Elementary Schools (which are side by side). In Ridgefield, if you're coming from North St, turn right onto Barlow Mtn Rd. The turn-in is easy to miss! It is immediately on your right. If you've passed the lake, you've gone too far & can U-turn at the elementary schools. There are no facilities at this trailhead, though I did see a porta-potty across the street. I didn't check to see if it's permanently there for hikers. So I would make sure you've pottied first! There is decent parking here, and I've never seen it full. Immediately, you will get gorgeous views of Lake Naraneka. When I hiked it this most recent time, the leaves were in full color. In the summer, sometimes fishers will be here in their boats. It's utterly picturesque at any season!
You'll find the trailhead close to the water's edge, with a pretty hill on your right. The trail begins with a nice stroll around the right half of the lake. Look for families of ducks, even swans! In late fall, the trail is drenched in leaves. Pick up your feet as you walk & be mindful of hidden tree roots!
At .42, you hit the marsh grass & top of the lake. Here, you'll see a downed tree. The kids & I like to balance on it for a picture :) You'll continue, with the marsh on your left & a beautiful hill on the right. Now is the time to mention, if it's at all cold, you'll wish you had gloves & warm boots at this point! At least I did ;)
At .5, you'll reach a sign with trail maps. Your goal for this hike is the spot with the binoculars, which means scenic bliss awaits you!! Make sure you get on the orange-white then left to get on the blue. If it's leafy & you can't see the trail, veer to the right & look for a white marked tree to find the trail. Let me be honest and confess-- I totally lost the trail with all the leaves! And this was my third time hiking this trail, so I thought I knew what I was doing. Lesson learned-- the trail changes every time and with every season. Be humble, and be smart. Luckily, the moment I stood there absolutely confused, a friendly dog bounded toward me. I looked to her humans, two kind women who directed me back to the trail. So yes, this trail is dog friendly. I've even seen them off leash. But I digress . . .
Of course, you won't lose the trail, because you will have my very explicit instructions ;) On the white trail, step over the down tree around .7. Shortly you will hop on the orange-white trail. What have I said before?? Every good hike includes a wooden bridge. So here ya go- a short narrow wooden bridge about .85. This is a short stretch that takes you to the blue trail.
Once you hit the blue trail, the scenic lookout isn't far, but it can be pretty steep and precarious! This is the exciting portion of the hike-- hold onto those little ones! And only go as high as you are comfortable going. But if you can go all the way to the big rock-- no, not that first one, go farther to the next rock-- drum roll, choirs of angels, you've arrived!
One of the best views around!! And it only took about 1.2 miles to get there! This is a nice spot to picnic, hydrate, and take a lot of photos! Just be sure your kiddos don't get too close to the edge. This area at the top is breathtaking. Take some time to look around behind you as well, in the opposite direction-- in the fall, it is golden and red and simply splendid.
Now, prepare yourself for the descent. What goes up must come down, and it can be tricky navigating a few spots on the downhill. There's also one spot that comes awfully close to the edge, so make sure your kiddos stay to your left and take the trail seriously. I always give my kids three tips for tackling steep descents: 1.) Take side steps. This ensures you can't fall face first. 2.) Run fast. This is just you surrendering to gravity. Quick, short strides is the key. Or if all else fails, 3.) Get on your bum and scoot down. Trees also make good handholds, but be careful of bugs and spiders on the bark! It's a very short stretch that is steep and what they call "technical", so don't stress too much but do be careful.
You'll move faster hiking out than in. Once you get back to the wooden bridge, go right to stay on the orange-white trail! I missed this & ended up heading toward a street! Then at the sign, veer right to hop on the white. This trail isn't as well-marked as others I've hiked, so pay attention to landmarks-- you can even make it a game for the kids. Now that I think of it, that's probably why I kept getting lost this time around-- because I didn't have my kids! They are much more attentive to landmarks than I am-- I am easily distracted by a vibrant woodpecker or an intricate vine and miss the vital sights, like where to turn! But sometimes a solo hike where I literally lose myself is exactly what I need.
As always, share your own experiences in the comments! Happy hiking! I'm off to write a guest post all about late fall-early winter hiking tips for the fabulous website Macaroni Kids-- I LOVE this site and look forward to their weekly newsletters. Meghan the editor does an incredible job helping us parents solve the age-old question: What are we doing this weekend? And will the kids like it? I have somewhat older kids (ages 15, 13, and 10), and I still find this website wonderfully useful-- maybe because I'm such a kid at heart, too ;) It's awesome to live in an area with so much going on and available and to have one resource where I can see it all. Sign up for the newsletters if you have kids, or you're a kid at heart, and you live in the Danbury-Ridgefield area!
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.