Typically we seek nature to get away from human development. But in the case of the Northeast’s abandoned stone quarries, a past industrial age has left us with especially dramatic landscapes: sheer cliffs, jagged rock piles, deep pools. Not all quarries are open to the public, so before exploring one, make sure that it’s legal to do so. And as on all steep, rocky terrain, hike with extreme care. Here are seven old quarries where hikers are welcomed.
Settlement Quarry | Stonington, Maine
A small network of trails and old roads provides access to Settlement Quarry, situated on the rocky Maine Coast, in Penobscot Bay. Granite from this site was shipped to New York for construction of many of Manhattan’s bridges, to Boston for the Museum of Fine Arts, and to many other prominent sites down the East Coast. Follow the orange-blazed Glacial Erratic Trail, then take the quarry road to the Overlook Trail and enjoy the view over Webb Cove. Return via the Overlook or Grout Pile trails and the quarry road. Stop at the nearby Deer Isle Granite Museum to learn more about the region’s rich geological and industrial history.
Distance: 1.5 miles
Info: Island Heritage Trust of Deer Isle and Stonington, Maine
Sugarloaf Trail | Bethlehem, N.H.
This two-peak hike summits the modest North (2,310 ft.) and Middle (2,539 ft.) Sugarloaf mountains from a trailhead on Zealand Road, in the White Mountain National Forest. Large boulders, dropped by the glaciers that shaped these mountains, dot the Sugarloaf Trail. Go left at the T-intersection (0.9 miles) to summit Middle Sugarloaf, then return and go the other way to reach North Sugarloaf. About 0.2 mile beyond the T, partway up North Sugarloaf, is an abandoned quarry. It’s no deep hole in the ground, but rather a pile of loose rock—including smoky quartz. Enjoy looking for samples, but leave what you find for the next hikers to enjoy.
Distance: 3.4 miles round-trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains, 2nd Edition (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online
Becket Land Trust Historic Quarry and Forest | Becket, Mass.
An industrial past and a naturally wild present overlap in Becket, Mass. A hardwood forest and vibrant wildflowers highlight a 3-mile hike that leads to a view over western Massachusetts. Several relics of this property’s past life remain, including evidence of the railways that carried giant stone blocks away. Interpretive signage tells their story. You can follow these numbered posts for the duration of the hike—there are 14 in all. Some of the trails skirt the edge of the old quarry pit, with its 65-foot walls. Hike with care here.
Distance: 3 miles
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Berkshires (AMC Books); Becket Land Trust
Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary | Sheffield, Mass.
To explore the fields and forests of this property, follow the blue blazes from the Silver Street parking area and then the yellow blazes on your return trip. Your route will follow the Quarry, Ovenbird, and Taconic Vista trails before you finish your hike on the Lime Kiln Loop. Several abandoned quarry pits highlight this hike—one of them, often filled with water, may be evolving into a vernal pool. Views of the distant Taconic Mountains are another highlight of this hike.
Distance: 1.75 miles
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Berkshires (AMC Books); Mass Audubon
Sleeping Giant State Park | Hamden, Conn.
The “sleeping giant”-shaped profile of this mountain gives this state park its name. While 32 miles of trails weave through the park, a 3.2-mile figure-eight hike will quickly take you to one of the area’s most dramatic spots. Follow the Blue/Quinnipiac Trail up and along Sleeping Giant to a tower then return to the parking area via the Tower Road. Between the giant’s elbow and head, the trail passes above an old quarry located at the base of a 300-foot cliff to the left (this section can be particularly dangerous when wet). Though this hike only gains 620 vertical feet, the terrain is challenging. Many views highlight this route, which climbs and descends steeply across the rocky terrain.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut, 2nd ed. (AMC Books); Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Twin Mountain | Elka Park, N.Y.
The two peaks of Twin Mountain provide views across the Catskills’ Indian Head Wilderness. Follow the Pecoy Notch Trail to Dibble’s Quarry, a prime example of a Catskills bluestone quarry—and the site of some of the hike’s best views. Visitors have stacked some of the loose stone into giant thrones. Continue up to the Long Path and go left. From the first summit of Twin Mountain, the view extends south over many of the Catskills’ high peaks. The second summit is another 0.5-mile away and provides views to the east. Catskills bluestone was once used to pave streets across the country, including those of New York City.
Distance: 4.4 miles out-and-back
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, 2nd ed. (AMC Books); Catskill Mountain Guide, 3rd ed. (AMC Books); Catskill Forest Preserve
Alapocas Run State Park | Wilmington, Del.
Alapocas Run offers several miles of easy hiking within Wilmington’s city limits. From the Blue Ball Barn parking area, follow the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail and connect to the Alapocas Woods Trail near the bank of Brandywine Creek. Meander along this rolling, wooded trail and the connecting Pawpaw Loop Trail. You can reconnect with the Greenway Trail along the creek, where you’ll find an old quarry. Gneiss cliffs rise above, evidence of the stone removed from the site during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Distance: 4.5 miles
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia (AMC Books); Delaware State Parks
CONTRIBUTORS: Robert N. Buchsbaum, Susan Charkes, Peter W. Kick, Carey Kish, René Laubach, Susan Rose, Charles W. G. Smith