Rockland County High Point Trip Report

Jackie Jones Mtn (1,280+ ft)

Date: November 4, 2000
Author: Dan Case

Invaluable to doing this is Map #3 of the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference Harriman/Bear Mountain State Park map set.

Differing from Mike Schwartz's approach, I came from the west, taking Exit 14 off Palisades Interstate Parkway and following Willow Grove Road a couple of miles into Harriman State Park, climbing steadily as I did. You will be able to see the microwave towers near the mountain's summit from several points.

Shortly after the park entrance, there is a parking area on the left just before a bridge over a creek where the yellow-blazed Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail (SBM) crosses the road, one of several trunk trails that offer an overnight backpacking trip across the park from SW to NE. Immediately past the bridge, as Mike reports, the SBM goes up a paved road, gated with a sign saying "American Towers." There are also park signs warning that access is restricted to authorized vehicles and the gate can be locked at any time. However, it was wide open. So I decided to see what it led to. It can be followed up to the microwave tower lot, which is not the actual summit of the mountain, as Mike notes. I saw a ranger's truck near the fire tower.

The trail at first follows the road, then detours onto an older, brushed-out road through a hemlock/pine grove and some mountain laurel stands to the impressive ruins of the ORAK mansion. (It had been built by the founder of the Karo syrup company, who decided in naming his retreat to spell the name of his product backwards.) After that it follows the old road around to another old road near the junction with the paved road, then up some tricky switchbacks to a section of trail along the ridge top that leads out to open rock and the trip's finest natural view out over the county to Hook Mountain and Haverstraw Bay (denoted on the TC map with a star).

The fire tower is about 200 feet beyond. The highest natural point is the rock next to its SW pillar. From a few flights up in the tower, I looked to the NW, expecting to see Rockhouse loom. Instead, it looked as if over the lake I was on the highest mountain around. I really couldn't tell Rockhouse from any of the higher peaks behind it in Orange County.

And, assuming the 1,280' contour on the map is accurately drawn, it easily takes in an area of rock that supports the fire tower and has to rise more than three feet above it.

So, I would visit Jackie Jones first when doing these two. The SBM Trail continues southwest from here, meeting up with the Long Path in a mile or so and making a loop up to Rockhouse and back down County Road 106 possible, though it would take a while.

Going down, we took the road instead as one time seeing the mansion was fine by me. The gate turned out to be locked as I had expected. However, I bent down and saw that the gate was secured with a simple bolt that anyone can remove, not a padlock. So, you may be able to let yourself in and shorten the trip.