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Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area

Discover, enjoy, spend the day!

Putnam County, Hudson Valley, waterfalls, hiking, family-friendly places to go, kid-friendly, things to do, picnic, conservation area, Patterson, Brewster, swamp, family day trips, travel, places to go
On the border of New York and Connecticut, in Putnam County is a large conservation area that not many people know about, the Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area! The Conservation is over 600 acres and includes the Great Hollow Nature Preserve and Ecological Research Center. There are two parking areas and the trails at both spots lead to a large waterfall and rock ledge area. Perfect for taking in views, splashing around and exploring. My family has been going here for years, even during the winter! The trails are well maintained and are kid-friendly.

There are a few trails to choose from and based on the kind of hike you want this will dictate where you park. If your family wants a short and mostly flat hike I would choose to park at The Great Hollow parking area located on CT-37. This trail is great for very small children or anyone who just wants an easy hike. Past the main house is a carriage road that leads to the red trail, you follow the red trail all the way to the falls. If your family would like a longer hike then you should park at the Michael Ciaiola parking area located on Haviland Hollow Road. There are two trails to choose from at this location, the green trail is mostly flat and takes about 30-35 minutes to reach the falls. The second option is the red trail (a different red trail than the one above) which is steep but shorter and only takes about 20 minutes to reach the falls. I wouldn't recommend this red trail if you have very small children, but my 4 year old has done it with no problems, so its definitely personal preference on what your family is capable of.


All the trails at both locations go in a large loop, so there is no worry about getting lost. We love to bring a picnic with us, there are lots of places to stop and take in views. You can choose to picnic right at the falls overlooking the water or at any of the picnic tables along the route. One of our favorite places to picnic is at the Michael Ciaiola trail head, there is a picnic table overlooking a large swamp and we can watch the red winged blackbirds dart back and forth, and sometimes you even spot beavers working.

There are some "gnome" buildings all along the trail, that are like tiny playhouses, my daughter loves to go inside and explore them.

Once you reach the falls there is plenty of space to sit, spread out and enjoy! We love to strip down to our bare feet and get right in, to cool off! The pool at the bottom of the falls is very shallow and great for kids to splash around in.

This hike has no shortage of things to do and see, there are foot bridges that are fun to cross, rock ledges to climb and explore and there are plants and animals all around. We have seen frogs, salamanders, snakes, woodpeckers, hawks, beavers and lots of wild flowers. We even found a nest that had the remains of hatched robin eggs that had since fled.

Tips for this hike:
  • The trails are often muddy in spots so I recommend waterproof or shoes you don't mind getting wet.
  • This is a carry-in and carry-out facility, there are no garbage cans so please bring all trash out with you.
  • The rocks all around the falls are very slippery, we have learned this the hard way.
The Great Hollow Nature Preserve and Ecological Research Center has a lot of family friendly classes, events and camps, check out their website for more information.

Once you have exhausted yourselves in this nature wonderland there are plenty of places nearby to checkout and grab a bite to eat. Here are some links below for some of my favorite places.

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