Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve!
Welcome to Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve! Cranberry Lake Preserve (CLP), purchased by Westchester County in 1967, contains 190 acres of deciduous woodland, wetlands, an old quarry, several bodies of water and old ruins.
In the early 1900’s the land that was to become CLP was an active quarry utilized for the construction of the nearby Kensico Dam which holds NYC drinking water.
Trails are open dawn to dusk. Trail maps are available at a kiosk outside or you can click here for a digital version.
- CLP features four blazed loop trails. All trails begin and end with blazes featuring the Westchester County Parks logo. Periodic numbers appear on blazes occasionally which correspond to your current location on the trail map. These numbers are found on wooden posts. (Please note the numbers do not appear on the online version of the trail map)
All trails are accessible by either orange or white blaze connector trails.
Many sections of CLP trails display signs which lead back to the Nature Lodge. Click here for a trail map!
At 2.4 miles the red trail is the longest trail featured in CLP. The red trail follows CLP boundaries with the exception of the quarry.
The Blue Trail loops around both Cranberry Lake and South Pond for a total distance of 1 mile.
Cranberry Lake is a natural body of water formed around 18,000 years ago by glacier activity. The lake is fed by an underground spring.
Ground Pine can be found growing along the Blue Trail.
The Yellow trail traverses rocky upland and a section of Cranberry Lake.
Purple (History) Trail
The Purple Blazed History trail is a self guided trail which explores most of the preserve including the quarry. The self guided trailmap can be found by clicking here.
While CLP’s trails are open dusk to dawn, the nature lodge and its parking area are closed most days by 5PM. It is strongly recommended that you park in the designated parking area near Old Orchard Street if you plan on hiking past 5PM.
It is from the Old Orchard Street parking entrance that the below description starts out from on the way to explore CLP. Let’s go!
From the parking area, walk up the road to the nature lodge.
Just to the west of the nature lodge is an interesting wetland with a dock.
It was here that I saw this snake.
Head inside the nature lodge to check out the exhibits and pick up a trail map.
From the nature lodge, head south to take the yellow trail down to an Orange connecting trail.
Here there is a sign advertising Cranberry Lake. The orange blazed connector trail leads to a jointly blazed yellow/blue trail with Cranberry Lake straight ahead.
Follow the Yellow/Blue blazed trail south with Cranberry Lake to your left.
Continuing south, take the Orange Blazed Connector trail which will appear to your left near a wooden boardwalk known as Bent Bridge.
Bent Bridge provides a good opportunity to check out the fen located to the south of Cranberry Lake. In the summer, white water lilies appear on the water.
Leaving Bent Bridge, the Orange blazed connector trail leads to a man-made “cave” known as the Stone Chamber.
The ruins surrounding the stone chamber were the property of a farmer named Thomas Cunningham. The Stone Chamber is a very neat little man-made “cave” of sorts that is fun to explore.
From here, the orange blaze connector trail leads past more stone ruins to the Purple Trail (aka History Trail). The path here follows an old railroad which separates the fen from South Pond.
You are sure to hear splashes in the warmer months of frogs jumping in the water as you walk by.
Head east on the Purple Trail to a bench strategically placed in front of a beautiful cascade.
It’s a good spot to rest and relax in a peaceful setting.
From the cascade, continue east on the Purple Trail following signs for the quarry.
An abandoned tennis court will appear to your right.
The tennis court was part of the Birchwood Swim club which used the Quarry Pond for Swimming.
Nature is slowly reclaiming the tennis court. Birchwood Swim Club was discontinued in 1997.
Once past the quarry pond the purple trail heads past old railroad car wheels which were used to haul granite during the quarry operation.
The Purple Trail continues heading north climbing over the rocky quarry.
The height here is an estimated 450 feet above sea level.
Derrick anchors which once held heavy quarry machinery are still fastened in the rocks along the trail.
From here, the trail starts to descend the quarry and heads west passing an old abandoned car.
Continuing north the Purple Trail comes across the remains of a stone cutting shed.
After exploring this area, follow the Purple Trail south until it meets with the red trail. From here, take the red trail southwest with Cranberry Lake to your right. Continuing south, retrace your steps until you pass the cascade with the bench at an intersection with the Purple Trail that you previously took into the Quarry territory. Continuing south, the red trail passes South Pond to the West.
South Pond is man-made and was created during quarry activities.
A Bird Observation tower appears to your left. This tower provides great views of South Pond.
The red trail passes near the remains of a stone crusher foundation. The stone crusher was capable of crushing up to 1000 cubic yards of gravel per day when the quarry was active.
Signs for NYC Watershed appear to east of the trail.
From here, the red trail turns west and temporarily leaves CLP & enters White Plains watershed land and passes Hush Pond to the south.
From Hush Pond, the red trail passes a couple of connector trails and turns north following an old stone wall delineating NYC watershed property from CLP. According to David Steinberg who wrote a description of Cranberry Lake Preserve in his book “Hiking the Road to Ruins” the lower, crude, sharper-tipped walls are of colonial origin and the larger, cut-stone flat-topped walls are NY DEP watershed boundaries dating from the 1960s.
It was here that I found Indian Pipe growing when I visited in June of 2012. Continue following the red trail north with the wall to your left until you reach your car.
Cranberry Lake Preserve contains diverse habitats within its 190 acres. It is worth checking out yourself!
- 1609 Old Orchard Street, North White Plains, NY
- Park hours: Park open dawn to dusk. Nature Lodge and front gate are open Wednesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Phone: (914) 428-1005
Click here for Directions!
For more information check out David Steinberg’s description of this hike in the book “Hiking the Road to Ruins“
Click here for more information!
Other Useful Resources:
1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State
Click here for more information!
2. Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!
Click here for more information!