People have been recommending Cranberry Lake Preserve in North White Plains as a beautiful hiking spot to us for years, but it wasn’t until last month that we finally made the visit. And it is gorgeous — but not in the way I expected. The trails at Cranberry Lake are indeed scenic, but it was the points of interest along the way, which are kind of quirky and historical and lend a sense of adventure, that made it a perfect hike to do with the kids.
To get to Cranberry Lake, follow the signs along Route 22 in the Kensico area and you’ll reach a small parking lot, right by the nature lodge. There are many ways to tour the preserve (here’s a great map with trail routes clearly marked), but we chose to do the blue loop around Cranberry Lake and South Pond, with a detour to the Quarry (purple loop). In addition to giving us great views of the water, that route took us to all the major points of interest, including the Bent Bridge, Stone Chamber, Cascade, Bird Observation Tower and Abandoned Tennis Court. Hiking the whole blue loop — with the Quarry detour — took just under two hours, including a break for snack at the Bird Observation Tower. Along the way, we encountered many boardwalks and wooden planks to balance on.
My favorite of this list of sights was the Abandoned Tennis Court, which is an actual tennis court (the preserve was once the site of a country club) that has since been reclaimed by nature and looks a little eerie, like a scene from the Will Smith movie, I Am Legend.
The Quarry is worth the extra half hour to visit if you feel comfortable with your kids climbing up a rock face — or don’t mind lifting them up the rock steps. My 5-year-old was able to do it with minimal help. In the early 1900s, this was the site of a major stone-mining operation — the Kensico Dam was built from the stone found here, and after all that was needed was removed, the gaping quarry was left.
To reach the rock wall that leads to fantastic views of the Quarry, follow the purple loop until you reach the remnants of an old railroad track. (Back when the stone mining was going on, this area contained a network of railroad tracks, a rock-crushing plant and even a dynamite storage building.) Look to the left and you’ll see a rock wall with purple trail markers painted on the steps to show you the way up. The view from the top is breathtaking, but do make sure you hold onto your kids! A boy fell into the Quarry just a couple of years ago, but thankfully he was ok.
If you’re planning on hiking at Cranberry Lake, bring your sense of adventure, along with plenty of snacks and water. We went in late September, when the leaves were just starting to turn. The preserve must be blazing with striking autumn colors right now.
Cranberry Lake Preserve, 1609 Old Orchard St., North White Plains; (914) 428-1005. The preserve is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm.