Hunters Ridge Loop (2 Miles)
The Hunters Ridge Loop is a Hartley staff favorite. This loop takes you up to Gazebo Point, traverses Hunters Hill on the Superior Hiking Trail, and takes you through some of the most pristine forested landscapes in Hartley Park. Along the route hikers are treated to fantastic views and long stretches of quiet trail. The trail to Gazebo Point is steep and rocky, and the Superior Hiking Trail is a bit rugged in spots, but many will find the route fairly easy overall. Note that the majority of this hike is foot traffic only.
The Hunters Ridge Loop begins on Old Hartley Road (look for the yellow gates on the south side of the Hartley Nature Center parking lot). Hop on Old Hartley Road and take the first left onto the Fairmont multi-use trail. The Fairmont multi-use trail winds it’s way through an old pine plantation that now serves as an outdoor classroom and play space for Hartley Nature Center programming. Here your likely to see stick “forts” and other evidence of nature-based play. A short walk down the Fairmont multi-use trail will bring you to a fork in the trail. There is no wrong way here, as both trails meet back up in a few hundred feet. After the trail merge, it is a short walk through a forested landscape before arriving at the Fairmont Street parking lot. Here you’ll see another set of yellow gates at the start of the Hartley Ski Trails. Our hike passes through the gates, but immediately takes a left. An old trail used to go straight up the hill in front of you, but heavy erosion forced its closure, and a new more sustainable trail was built in its place. This trail cuts off to the left and parallels Fairmont Street as it travels through a beautiful maple basswood forest before switch backs take you up the steep rock face on the far east side of the park. This area used to be home to a bluestone quarry, and evidence of it remains today. At the top of the switchbacks, you’ll reach a 4-way intersection. Going left brings you to the Gazebo Point overlook, which offers one of the best views in Hartley Park. Going right brings you to the Superior Hiking Trail, and along the way you’ll pass by another beautiful overlook. Our recommendation is to first go left to Gazebo Point to take in the view. When you had your fill, turn around and go back to the 4-way intersection. Now the SHT and overlooks will be straight ahead. Continue past the overlook on the right and to the intersection with the SHT. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the blue blazes marking the trail. At the intersection with the SHT, stay to the left. This takes you through a beautiful section of trail that follows Hunters Hill and is one of our favorite sections of trail in all of Hartley Park. For the next half mile or so, the trail travels up and down the ridgeline and through beautiful hardwood forest. It’s especially wonderful this time of year. Along the way, you’ll cross the Hartley Park ski trails several times. Make sure to stay on the SHT at each intersection, although the ski trails are a beautiful hike this time of year as well. Just note, hiking is prohibited when the trails have snow on them. As you near the end of this section the trail descends from the ridge and will flatten a bit before coming out of the forest at Old Hartley Road. This is the same Old Hartley Road our hike began on. Take OHR to the right and continue until you’ve reached the yellow gates, and the end of your hike. This trail can also be done in a counter-clockwise direction, finishing with Fairmont forest.