Goose Pond Road and Trail
Please note: A small segment of Trail parallels the Skytop Shooting Range. Please use caution.
Skytop’s wildest and most isolated, undisturbed area is Goose Pond – actually not one habitat but a combined system of tree-covered swamps, shrubby bogs, open waters and oak-pitch pine forest, all drained by the stream called Goose Pond Run. Remnants of old gardens and overgrown foundations dating back to a former private estate are also there.
To reach Goose Pond, the hiker has two choices. Goose Pond Road is a level, wide dirt road that also services a few adjoining private hunting clubs but is closed to public car traffic by a locked gate. It travels directly to Goose Pond, about 4 miles from Skytop Lodge (including the ¾ mile distance from the Lodge down to Route 390 and north to the Goose Pond Road entrance on the right). To see Goose Pond, the hiker must leave the road near the site of the old building foundations (just before the outlet of Goose Pond, which flows through a culvert under the road) and walk a short distance through the shrubby clearing and along the low ridge on the left. The reward is a spectacular view straight from the Canadian wilderness – a forest of northern spruces and tamaracks and a thicket of Highbush blueberry that open up to the placid waters of Goose Pond and the dramatic hills of Skytop Mountain in the background. In the autumn, the blueberry bushes turn flaming red and the tamaracks is a golden yellow – one of Skytop’s most photogenic scenes.
The second choice for the hiker is to park near Lizzy’s Bridge at the top of Route 390 and walk Skytop Mountain Road to its junction with Goose Pond Trail on the left, about .75 miles from the parking area. The trail then descends for about 2.5 miles down the mountain to Goose Pond Road, about a half-mile north of the old foundation mentioned above. At this point, before continuing down the road to view the Pond, the hiker can take a short detour to the right and see the marshes, blueberry swamps and open, boggy areas where a peat-mining operation existed many years ago – the old rusted machinery and peat mounds are still there. The mounds are good vantage points from which to look for wood ducks, mallards, great blue herons, snipe, marsh hawks and rare bald eagles in the wetlands, and there are usually signs of river otters (droppings and slides through the shrubs lining the shores) and beavers there. If the hiker goes back to Goose Pond Road, walks out to Route 390 and back to the lodge (see first choice above) the total distance is 7.5 miles. A second vehicle is then required to go back for the car at Lizzy’s Bridge.
To fully enjoy the beauty and serenity of the Goose Pond experience, at least a half day, or, more realistically, a full day is required for the hiker, and the Activities Staff should be notified beforehand. Highbush blueberry bushes are full of delicious fruits from late July into September. Colorful wildflowers like purple milkwort, sneezeweed, Deptford pink and pearly everlasting bloom in summer, and in the boggy areas grow leatherleaf and insect-eating plants like pitcher plant, sundew and bladderwort. Black bear, porcupine, coyote, otter, beaver, snowshoe hare and bobcat all inhabit the area, and both ruffed grouse and woodcock are abundant.
Beneath loose rock there are harmless garter, ribbon, smooth green, ring-necked, red-bellied and milk snakes. Venomous timber rattlesnakes are occasionally encountered there and along Goose Pond Trail. American toads, gray tree frogs, bullfrogs, green frogs, marbled salamanders, 4-toed salamanders and other amphibians breed in the wetlands. Barred owls, great horned owls and whippoorwills call at night and a great variety of smaller birds like willow flycatcher, hermit thrush, cedar waxwing, yellow, golden-winged, magnolia, pine, chestnut sided and Canada warblers, red-winged blackbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager, goldfinch, white-throated sparrow and ruby-throated hummingbird can be observed in the warmer months.