Hawk Mountain Sanctuary straddles a notch in Blue Mountain, through which hawks, eagles, and countless other birds fly when they migrate. As late as the 1930s, people would come here to hunt hawks and eagles, killing thousands. The visitor center has old photos with hundreds of dead birds on the forest floor. Such senseless killing motivated people to create the sanctuary, the first of its kind in the world dedicated to the protection of birds of prey.
I first visited Hawk Mountain several years ago and decided it was time to return. This is a private sanctuary, but the public is welcome. It costs six dollars to hike the trails. While paying to hike is not something most people are used to, in this case, the money goes to a good cause.
Crusty snow covered the high ridge as an easy trail took us to a series of vistas. To the south were a series of ridges that ended at the famous Pinnacle and the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail passes to the south of the sanctuary.
The vistas were impressive as we looked over distant farmlands and foothills that culminated with the long, forested ridge on which we hiked.
The trail became more rocky and we entered some historical remains of sand quarrying with ancient culverts and grades. The trail passed through a grotto surrounded by ledges and hemlocks. A series of steps soon brought us to more views, the finest being the North Lookout.
We were treated to superb views across both sides of the mountain. To the north were series of ridges that rose to a distant plateau. To the south were farmlands. In the middle, the lookout offered a view right down the crest of the ridge. A brisk wind swept over the ridge as bright sunshine painted the deep cobalt skies.
Hawk Mountain offers several miles of trails, from easy to difficult. These trails also tie into the Appalachian Trail. At the bottom of the ridge is the River of Rocks, a series of boulder gardens that serve as the source of Kettle Creek. The sanctuary has a visitor’s center and offers many events throughout the year. In the fall, Hawk Mountain becomes very crowded, not only for the foliage, but also for the bird migrations. During the migration season, over a hundred birds of one species can be seen in a single day.
And as luck would have it, just before we began to walk back to the car, I saw a hawk flying over the bare trees.
More information: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary