The picture at the top shows the view from near the highpoint to the south and east. The hills on the left (in the background) are Bear Mountain and Round Mountain. The lake on the right is Mount Riga Lake. The slope to its right is the beginning of Brace Mountain. On top is a picture of our golden retriever Lila turning her back on the green stake and the cairn. The bottom picture is the latest Tri-State marker for NY-MA-CT dating from 1898. Another marker is toppled. Note that Connecticut had to be scratched on the sign (it was invovled in a border dispute when this sign was erected). To see a 360 panorama of the summit click here. To see more pictures of Lila click here. To see more pictures of Frissell click here.
c/o Burr Pond State Park
385 Burr Mountain Rd
Torrington, CT 06790
Bureau of Outdoor Recreation
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
TEL: (860) 424-3200
Taconic Mountains, Litchfield County (northwest corner on Massachussets state line near New York border) 3.5 miles north of Salisbury
Mount Frissell -- South Slope, Connecticut, 2,380 Feet
Frissell - South Slope and Boundary Peak, Nevada are the only states with highpoints on the slopes of mountains in that summit in other states. Both states are not thrilled about the distinction and do everything to minimize this fact and both highpoints are among the least visited in the country.
Connecticut keeps the sign up on Bear Mountain (less than five miles east) saying Bear is the highest. Local hikers disdainfully refer to the Connecticut highpoint on the Massachusetts peak as "the green stake."
Bear (2,316 feet) remains the highest mountain totally within the state and is visited much more often Frissell-South Slope (2,380 feet). Bear Mountain boasts a handsome rock tower. Frissell-South Slope has the green stake.
However, I thought enough of Frissell to visit it twice in less than 9 days in October. Appreciation of this peak really depends on how you approach it and you willingness to accept that the most attractive aspects of the hike are either in New York or Massachusetts.
The conventional approach is to park on Mount Washington Road at the Massachusetts line and walk north slightly into Massachusetts before heading west following fluorescent red painted trail blazes over Round Mountain and on to Frissell. I did that on December 2, 1995, and found it to be a very boring.
I had better luck a mile south of this trailhead on Oct. 7. This spot is an obvious parking spot (on the west) by a metal gate 2.1 miles north of Mount Riga Lake on Mount Washington Road. Conventional approaches involve turning west onto Library Road just south of the Town Hall in Salisbury and following it as it turns into Mount Riga Road and eventually to Mount Washington Road. Mount Washington Road can also be accessed by following the signs Mount Everett State Reservation/Bish Bash Falls at South Egremont in Massachusetts. The north approach is said to be clearer in the winter (Connecticut does not plow the road to its highpoint).
On the deserted Monday hike, we were delighted to see a bobcat run across the road.
A jeep trail (which is inaccessible for 4WD's because of gate) shot in straight line from the trailhead. In the late 1700's and 1800's these mountains were cris crossed with trails as trees were cut down to provide charcoal for numerous iron foundaries. The canons for the "old Ironsides" -- the USS Constitution -- were cast here according to legend. Even though most of trees in this section of Connecticut were cut down, the oldest tree stand in Massachusetts is a hemlock grove just across the border in Mount Washington State Park (dating to the Mayflower in 1620).
One other note: this trail is the only one that appears on topo maps.
The trail started uphill and then descended a little crossing a babbling mountain brook (Monument Creek) and then began an ascent (crossing a tributary). Just past the second creek small cairns indicated the short cut to the Mount Frissell trail. You could see Frissell rising up behind you. I followed the route indicated on the excellent New York-New Jersey Trail Council South Taconic Trails Map and followed the trail on up to Brace Ridge.
At the ridge there were spectacular views particularly to the west across the Hudson Valley to the Catskills (50+ miles away).
Shortly after reaching the ridge, I ran into the only trail signs of the route -- an extensive sign system pointing out that it was 2.3 miles back to the trailhead and if I took a hard right on the red blazed it was only 0.5 miles to the Tri-State marker for Connecticut-Massachusetts-New York and one mile to the Frissell summit.
The trail followed the ridge between Brace Mountain and Frissell. Near the lowest point on the ridge was the concrete Tri-State marker. A white marker lay broken on the ground. Curiously, the square marker with its inscription of "1898" only had "Mass" and "New York" carved on it. "Conn" was handwritten. Even Connecticut doesn't rate a place on its own Tri-State marker!
From here the trail followed a straight line through the woods along the Connecticut-Massachusetts border and rises steeply including a wonderful (granite?) boulder field in which you may have to climb on all fours. My dogs were so delighted that they jumped on me trying to push me down the mountain and my girl golden grabbed my glasses.
Although Frissell is well below the 4,000 alpine level in these parts, it was surprisingly windy and the trees on top were actually low rising oaks giving it a near alpine feel. It even had a nice view to the south as I looked out over Mount Riga Lake and to the southwest across Brace Mountain to the Catskills in New York.
I shortly arrived at the "green stake." There's no commemoration as Connecticut's highest. Rather it was just a marker indicating one side was Massachusetts and the other Connecticut and there was a line dividing them. Next to it was a rock cairn.
I followed the trail on for about 150 yards as it worked its way up the hill. As I curved around the mountain I could see Bear Mountain rising up above Round Mountain to the east. To the north was the lookout tower on Mount Everett. Supposedly, you can see Greylock but I did not see it.
The trail went up the hill. At the highest point on the trail was a red "frown" painted on the rocks. You might be tempted to think the frown reflects the lack of view from the Frissell summit. But it merely indicates the trail curves downhill in both directions (one towards the South Slope marker and the other direction back to Round Hill).
The registry was just up slightly from the frown and was hanging in a box in a tree. Hikers who approach the summit from Round Hill may mistake this spot for the Connecticut highpoint. It is actually in Massachusetts. The book apparently is intended to celebrate climbing the 2,453 foot Mount Frissell summit (73 feet higher than the Connecticut highpoint) but nobody cares. Everybody that signs in is celebrating Connecticut's highest.
Judging from the registry there are approximately 10 people a week visit Frissell. Hardly anybody does it on a week day. There were that many people visiting on the Columbus Day weekend alone thanks to the gorgeous weather and peak fall color.
Now the whole reason I came back a week later on October 16 was because the battery on my camera was dead on the October 7 visit (note to self: check the camera is working before arriving at trailhead). On the October 16 visit (which was a Monday) there were no cars and encountered nobody on the trail or signing in on the summit.
Our October 16 visit found the summit engulfed in clouds and the view obscured.
On the October 7 visit we drove on through Massachusetts to Bish Bash Falls by Copake, New York. Bish Bash (which has its requisite tragic Mohawk Indian maiden legend) is the most handsome of numerous waterfalls in the area.
On October 16 we drove on to Salisbury. The hike had taken 3 hours (you can do a Round Mountain-Tr-State-Brace Ridge loop in about the same). If you had another couple hours you can hike up a jeep trail to the Bear Mountain summit from the Connecticut-Massachusetts trailhead on Mount Washington Road. The traditional approach to Bear Mountain is a longer hike from the eastern side off of Highway 41.
In Salisbury there was only one restaurant open for lunch and it was in a bed and breakfast. Our hiking outfits which were rain soaked didn't seem to fit the bill for ***very*** upscale Litchfield County.
"It's a terrible here. There's no restaurants open for lunch here on weekdays. There's a deli in Salisbury and just a diner in Millerton [10 miles away in New York]," an elegant older woman said as she got out of her Mercedes.
Frissell is in the toniest area of any highpoint. This was not to be my only strange encounter with the well to do. When I first climbed the mountain on December 2, 1995, the Mount Washington Road was snow covered (signs warn you that you travel at your own risk). A Mercedes sped by me in my rented Ford Taurus and then proceeded spin around as the road climbed up from Mount Riga Lake. A man in a J. Crew outfit and matching female companion screamed, "Get out of the way, I need space."
Litchfield County has done everything in its power to eradicate its blast furnace iron foundary heritage. There are lots of bed and breakfasts and the thing to do is go antiquing. What would Ethan Allen who was born in Salisbury think?