2016 Marathon Hike #3: Oak Valley Trail

SUMMARY:  Oak Valley Trail is an easy 2.1 mile "lollipop loop" with a stem, a loop, and then a walk back along the stem.  It begins at the Hope Lake picnic area on Nells Rock Road and starts with a shoreline walk. The hike is pretty level, although it's a hiking trail and footing can be uneven.

PARKING: Hope Lake Picnic Area, across the street from #225 Nells Rock Road, 0.4 mile south of Shelton Avenue and the Dog Park. See Map. There will be picnic tables and a sign kiosk if you are in the right spot.

BLAZE COLOR: White rectangular blazes are painted on the trees. When there are two offset blazes of the same color, the higher blaze indicates the direction of a turn.

HIKE DESCRIPTION: From the sign kiosk at Hope Lake, follow the white blazes painted on the trees. ***BE SURE TO KEEP FOLLOWING THESE WHITE BLAZES***. As you approach the island you should see blue blazes for the Paugussett Trail coming in from the left as it joins up with Oak Valley Trail. For a short time the trees will have two blazes, one blue and one white. At the far end of the lake, you will cross a bridge over a stream and come to a "T" with white blazes going left and blue blazes going right. Go left to stay on white.

When you come to the powerlines stop for a moment to notice the white-blazed trail coming down the hill on the right. This is where the loop starts and ends, so remember it for your return.  For now, head straight across the powerline corridor and enter a thick patch of mountain laurel before descending to an old woods road near a big green gate. This road is the original Oak Valley Road, now closed to traffic, but it was a major road back in the day. Today it's a hiking trail, and you are going to turn right onto the old road following the white blazes. This is also the Rec Path for a short ways, but as you continue on you'll see the gravel Rec Path turn right while the white blazes veer left to stay on the old road.

Follow the old roadbed across the pipeline clearing and continuing on until the white blazes take you off of the old road to the right, going through old stone walls. Go down the hill and around a huge wooded swamp the colonists called Cranberry Swamp. No cranberries there now. You may notice Waymarker #5 as your round the bend with an access trail coming in from the left. The trail is now bordered between the swamp on the right and Shelton Avenue on the left for quite a ways, eventually coming to a wooden bridge and then the powerlines. Go straight across the powerline corridor (which can get overgrown in May or June) and back into the trees.

The white blazes will direct you along a right curve where a blue/white blazed trail comes in from the left (the blaze is blue on top and white on the bottom, signifying a connector trail between the blue trail and the white trail). Keep following the white blazes and you will join up with the big wide gravel Rec Path. 

Heads Up! Oak Valley trail turns left off of the Rec Path under the powerlines. Look for those white blazes - they are mostly on rocks as the trail goes up the powerline road and down the other side to complete the loop. Turn left back on to the lollipop stem, following the white blazes as they turn right to cross the wooden bridge over the stream, then back along the shore of Hope Lake to the picnic area.

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