Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area

After dropping the little one off at his first day of preschool, we drove over to Patterson, NY to the Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area. This hike has popped up on my AllTrails app periodically, and we have passed it when driving to Connecticut. On AllTrails, it is rated as hard and a 5.4 mile loop. Seems promising, huh?

Parking at the lot on Haviland Hollow Rd, we were the only car there at about 10AM. There’s a sign welcoming you to the area, with various warnings about ticks, hunting, etc. The trail map holder was empty, and it said to take a picture of the trails on the board. I started up the AllTrails app to start recording and we began.

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We started by following the red blazes, and only about 5 minutes in we got “lost”. Suddenly, we came upon green blazes. Not sure where they led, we started following them, and about another couple of minutes we realized that this wasn’t right, and turned around. Between AllTrails and the picture of the trails, we concluded we weren’t on the right trails at all. It turns out we ventured into the Great Hollow Preserve. But hey! I found a cool stone marking the NY/CT border. OK, let’s go back and find where the correct trail is.

Finally,  we found the red trail blazes off to the side. They were not clearly marked on the main trail. And they weren’t just red blazes, but red with white triangles, which was totally different then the solid red blazes we started following. This was just the beginning of the confusing times we had during the hike. After going on the trail for a bit, you come to an old campsite. A little shelter and an open area with a fire pit in the center lead you to the highlight of this hike. The gorge and waterfall are really nice, and makes for an excellent relaxing spot. Moving along, you follow the stream and come to a very sketchy bridge that takes you over the stream. After not falling to our deaths we continued along to the orange trail, or maybe red, or yellow, I’m not really sure, because there was so many different colors going all over the place we were confused. We just followed what AllTrails was telling us to do, and even that didn’t seem to sync up right with the actual trails.

After crossing the stream, you head up the hill to the top. This is the hardest part, but still not all that hard. It isn’t steep, just a steady incline. Once at the top, you have a nice view. Moving along, you follow the trail to another color trail for a bit, and then maybe another color. Eventually, you are on the orange trail, which is named the George C Cain Trail in honor of a local New York City firefighter who perished in the September 11 attacks. When you reach the summit of this hill, there’s a clearing with two tree stumps made into chairs, which I did take a picture of, but Jackie was sitting down on one and looked like she was going to the bathroom so she made me delete it. There is also a memorial for George Cain that you can look at while gazing upon the views behind it. Working your way back down, there’s more multicolored trail markers going in different directions and we still weren’t sure which was the right way to go, but we eventually made it back to the sketchy bridge, traveled back to the waterfalls and gorge, and then finally back to the parking lot, which had about 5 cars total in it.

This was not one of our favorite hikes. The confusing trail markers and trail map designed by a 10-year-old weren’t much help. If we were to do this again, it would be just to take the 20 minutes to walk to the waterfalls and gorge and then turn around. In my opinion, there are too many trails in a small area, with too many offshoots and connectors, it felt like we were just passing the same trail markers over and over. If I didn’t have AllTrails, I would have thought we were walking in circles. I’d only recommend this hike to others to see if they share the same thoughts as us. Maybe we are just stupid. Oh well, we’re ready to take our next hike!

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