Litchfield County High Point Trip Report

On Massachusetts state line 600 ft S of Mt Frissell (2,380+ ft)

Date: July 2000
Author: Dan Case

To reach the rude trailhead along Mt. Washington Road, I chose to come in via MA and NY, not Salisbury, as I've already driven that road once and that was enough, thank you.

Take NY 22 to Copake Falls, then go east on NY 344 past Bashbish Falls State Park, then into Massachusetts (no sign letting you know this; the state line is marked by NY's welcome sign and the pavement becoming much more rugged as it is not a state road in MA. The first actual sign that you're in that state is MA DEM signs at the upper parking lot for the falls).

Follow this along the brook to a three-way intersection with a dirt road going off to the north and an old sign giving miles to the state forest HQ, Mt. Riga and Salisbury. Bear right as the road makes some sharp switchbacks and climbs sharply through some hemlock groves.

After a couple of miles, this meanders past a lot of weekend houses to another three-way intersection, again with (much better) signs to various nearby locations. Obviously you want the right turn, south towards Salisbury etc.

A couple of miles down, it passes the Mt. Washington State Forest headquarters (one of two trail heads for Alander) and shortly afterwards the pavement ends. Keep going.

A couple of miles of dirt and increasingly wilder surroundings ends with the granite state-line marker and associated parking areas. I chose the AMC one, in Connecticut, the largest (the unmarked gated road leading east to the AT in less than a mile or so). There are also spots where the trail begins in MA, on both sides of the road, but they were full.

The Mt. Frissell trail begins on an old wood road that heads off into MA from the west side of the road. It isn't marked well at the beginning, but the red blazes are there if you have patience. About 0.2 miles in, it leaves the road for a trail veering off to the left. This goes back into CT through a dense stand of mountain laurel (if you look carefully off either side of the trail, you can see old tape flags along the trees that mark the state line), and then climbs gently to the west, finally reaching a pair of rocky pitches that ascend more sharply. At the top of the last you start to get to open rock areas with views NE to Mt. Everett and its fire tower, then you emerge onto the 2,296' summit of Round Mountain, whose scrub oak and mountain laurel cover rarely grows higher than waist level, giving it a bald-like feel similar to Brace and South Brace.

Both of which you can see from here (the cairn on the former is pretty obvious) as well as everything else. I really liked this view -- in the immediate 360-degree area of the peak, there were few signs of civilization (although farmland could be seen in the valleys farther to the east and southeast). It's centrally located in the Taconics, and gets a nice sense of dynamics with summits both above and below the view plane.

One of which, of course, is Frissell itself, which really seems to loom to the west. After chatting with a young woman on the summit trying to see if her dog would fit in her pack for the trip down (she eventually decided it wasn't a good idea with all the steep rocky areas), I ate a sandwich and continued on. When I told her I was headed for the highest point in CT, she said she wasn't aware it was further along the trail, up on Frissell, and that she would have to check it out later.

The drop off Round is fairly gentle, which I appreciated as Frissell's face looked steep. In the col, after the trail has reentered MA, there is some chance that you will accidentally leave the trail as it intersects an old road (this is shown on the NYNJTC South Taconic trail map). An old red blaze is still visible on a tree to the north. However the real trail is the slightly overgrown path continuing west, and only after you round a bend is it confirmed with a sharper red blaze.

To my great relief this switchbacks up a steep slope to some rock outcrops, where you expect the climbing to be work, and it is. There are about three of this Class 3 areas to pass before you reach one with an open view back to Round.

After the second, the trail levels out and you are at the summit of Mt. Frissell, 2,453'. A register is in a metal case hanging from a tree on a short spur to the left. Many people seem to have believed this is the CT HP, but as we all know it's not.

I didn't sign this (because I didn't know it was there at the time) until my return trip. Hungry for my objective, I continued along the trail, descending into CT.

I thought I must have missed the bronze stake at the HP. Isn't it supposed to be somewhere along here? These spots look like the pictures I've seen on a few web sites, after all. After reaching a nice overlook to the south, however, the trail began to climb up again. Aha!

It leveled off, though, and I was sure I had missed it and would have to backtrack from the tri-state marker when it suddenly appeared to the left of the trail, marked by a huge cairn that is impossible to miss.

I've heard it once had a more formal marker in the past, but I actually like this. Just the now-green four- inch stake at the highest point of land. I sat down and savored the rest of my lunch, looking to the (apparently cut) view to the south and enjoying the feeling of being on top of Joe Lieberman's home state and everything in it. I decided to leave my pack and poles there for the other objective, the NY/CT/MA tri-state marker, taking along only my camera.

I had thought this to be a few hundred feet further on from the New York Walk Book's description of the trail. But I kept following the state line as it descended over a couple of rock faces.

At the bottom of one, I met a party of three I had seen climbing Frissell from Round, who had been in the parking lot as I had pulled in. I noticed the sneakers and sandals on their feet and commented on them. They asked if I, too, had had to come up some really steep cliff. Of course, I said. They had been under the impression that a) there was a trail which bypassed all that and b) the HP and tri-state marker were only several hundred yards from the parking lot. Fueled by those, they had come 1.7 miles to the tri-state marker, which they told me was not much further ahead.

After we parted, the trail continued its westward course along the state line and in due course there it was, the granite monument smack in the middle of the trail. The "CONN" is only chalked along its southeast face because (according to the summit register) NY and CT were still disputing their boundary up here in 1898 when it was erected. I guess NY won.

I went back to the HP marker (wondering where that herd path to the north of it goes -- after fifty feet I didn't feel like brushing aside more oak although the treadway remains clear. That's why the HP often looks like it's in the middle of the trail in pictures) and went back to the summit, found the register and signed in.

Most of the entries are from people doing state highpoints (Ted Rybak, who maintains the log, carefully notes in his introduction that this is not it but some people seem not to read that part). The rest of the trip was uneventful, and my car was the only one left in the lot when I returned. I went back out the way I came in -- as I said, I do not feel like that drive to Salisbury in the dark. Neat detour on the way back if you go this way -- Bashbish Falls.