Wreckage! Abandoned Estates! Caves! 5 Hikes to Modern Ruins

March 25, 2020
modern ruins
Doug Shick via Creative Commons on FlickrWreckage from a World War II-era B-24J bomber near the summit of Camel’s Hump in Vermont is among the hikes to modern ruins across the Northeast.


Reaching the summit of a mountain isn’t the only reason to head out on a hike. For the Indiana Jones in all of us, several Northeast hikes lead to or pass by “modern ruins”: tokens and hidden gems from recent American history, from old monuments to wreckage sites to abandoned estates. Grab a camera and maybe an Indie-approved fedora and set out on one of these hikes that are sure to pique your imagination and sense of adventure from a bygone era.



Enjoy picturesque coastal views of Fort Williams Park’s Cliff Walk on a hike to the ruins of Goddard Mansion, the 1858 home of businessman and Civil War colonel John Goddard. You can access the Cliff Walk from one of three parking lots, but we recommend starting at the southernmost one off Humphreys Road. Follow the road to the cul-de-sac near Fort Williams, stopping to admire the former U.S. Army fort and the nearby Portland Head Lighthouse, made famous by artist Edward Hopper in 1927. (view his painting in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) From there, head north along the gravel Cliff Walk trail until you reach Ship Cove. Spend some time admiring the views of the cove, then cross the parking lot to Shore Road to the ruins of Goddard Mansion. Follow the same route back to your car.

DISTANCE: 2 miles, out and back
INFO: FortWilliams.org


2. MOUNT STARR KING | Jefferson, N.H.

This moderate hike takes you to the 3,907-foot summit of Mount Starr King, which looks out over the Presidential Range and the remains of an old shelter. Named after Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King, who was influential in California politics during the Civil War, Mount Starr King is the stopping point for many peak-baggers looking to tag the nearby summit of Mount Waumbeck (4,006 feet). Here, hikers will rest along the lone stone fireplace of the shelter, originally built in the 1940s.

Start your hike at the parking area off Starr King Road, a short distance from Route 2 in Jefferson, N.H. Follow Starr King Trail for a total of 2.6 miles to the peak. If you are feeling energized, continue on Starr King Trail past the fireplace for another mile to the wooded peak of Mount Waumbeck, then turn around and head back the way you came.

DISTANCE: 5.2 miles, out and back (7.2 to Mount Waumbeck)


3. CAMEL’S HUMP | Burlington, Vt.

Hike to the wreckage of a World War II B-24J Bomber fighter plane while also tagging one of Vermont’s five 4,000-foot peaks. At 4,083 feet, Camel’s Hump is home to the Alpine Trail, which passes the crash site, just 0.4 mile from the summit. This crash occurred in October 1944 during a routine training session, and while most of the wreck has been removed, parts of the wing are still visible from the trail.

Start the hike at the parking area near the Burrow’s Trail trailhead. Hike for 2.2 miles until you reach a junction with Long Trail. Turn right onto Long Trail and continue for another 0.3 mile, where you will reach the summit of Camel’s Hump. To reach the plane crash site, continue on Long Trail over the summit for another 0.2 mile and turn left at the Alpine Trail junction. The crash site is 0.2 mile from there. Turn around and retrace your steps, over the summit again and follow the Burrow’s Trail back to your car.

DISTANCE: 5.8 miles, out and back


4. JUDGE’S ROCK | New Haven, Conn.

Take this quick hike to historic Judge’s Rock, where two British judges hid in exile after sentencing King Charles I to death in 1649. Judges Edward Whalley and William Goffe fled to North America after their act of treason, first hiding in New Haven, but later fleeing to the woods of what is now West Rock Ridge State Park. They hid in the crack of a large rock for an unknown amount of time, surviving on food scraps brought to them from sympathizers, until they eventually moved to Hadley, Mass.

From the parking area, turn left after crossing a bridge onto the blue-yellow-blazed trail. Be careful to stay on this trail—which continues for 0.6 mile—as there are multiple, unmarked spur trails along the way. The trail ends at a junction; turn left to encounter Judge’s Cave. To the right of the cave is a detour to the south overlook, with views of New Haven. Return the way you came.

DISTANCE: 1.2 miles, out and back
INFO: CT.gov


5. MOUNT TAURUS | Cold Spring, N.Y.

Along this loop connecting several trails are the ruins of Cornish Estate, once home to Edward Joel Cornish, president of the National Lead Company, and his wife Selina Bliss Carter Cornish. Built in 1917 about one hour into the Hudson Valley, the estate featured a swimming pool, greenhouse, and multiple gardens. When the couple died two weeks apart from each other, in 1938, the estate became inhabited. In 1958, the home burned down. Today, you can explore the remains of this luxury mansion while you hike to the 1,421-foot Mount Taurus (also called Bull Hill).

From New York City’s Grand Central Station, take the Metro North Hudson Line to Cold Spring. The trailhead is a 1.1-mile walk through town; enter the white-blazed Washburn Trail, following that for 0.6 mile, past an old quarry, until you encounter a junction to the yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail. Do not take the junction and continue following the white-blazes. At 1.2 miles, you will reach Mount Taurus, a flat and grassy summit. Continue on Washburn for 0.7 mile until you reach the blue-blazed Notch Trail and turn left. This brings you through the valley between Bull Hill and Breakneck Ridge, then onto the blue-blazed Brook Trail. Follow that for 1 mile, then bear left onto the blue-blazed Cornish Trail, where you will encounter the Cornish estate. From here, you will follow the former driveway from the ruins until you reach Cornish Trail again, and head back to Cold Spring.

DISTANCE: 5.5 miles, round trip



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Nastassja Chan

Nastassja Chan is the editorial intern at AMC Outdoors.

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