We hiked here on a warm day in late December. The trail was traversable but there were a few difficult icy spots. An adult could easily identify these areas but small children who are still grasping the how-tos of hiking may not. The scenery was quiet, quaint and beautiful. It would be an easier hike in seasons without snow or after a considerable warm period where the snow has time to melt more.
We came to hike right around Thanksgiving before the snow came. It's a very easy flat trail and is traversable with a jogging or all-terrain stroller. Perfect for budding hiking aficionados (toddlers/small children). The loop was well maintained and the markings were clear. The only negative was that the interpretive plaques/displays must be seasonal as the boards were all covered.
My GF and I hiked the Southern and Northern loop yesterday and had a great time, beautiful area. Be ready for some up and down walking littered with a lot of roots and downed trees. Our only complaint, like some on here, is the lack of markings. We went off trail numerous times as the diamonds simply weren't there. Most of the time you know you are on the trail but at a few tricky junctions you were left guessing as to which way to go. When you get deep in the woods you like a little reassurance you are going the right way. Based on the conditions it took us nearly 4 hrs. to finish, so make sure you leave yourself enough time when starting. Other than the markings I highly recommend this hike, it is gorgeous.
This trail starts out easy and grows more challenging where it combines with the North Country Trail along the Alleghany Resevoir. I didn't do the loop described but chose a variation that I hiked to Hopewell Campsite. Reaching the campsite added an additional 5 miles to hike. There were considerable hills, and the trail often narrows dangerously on steep terrain at points throughout. Bring your trekking poles. Views were pretty non existent throughout this hike, except when you make it the NCT and have views of the Resevoir. The trails were hard to determine at times because proper blazing for trail turns were not often used. Especially heading to Hopewell campsite, so be careful.
I hiked in mid October and was surprised to find little water sources which force me to fill my 2L Bladder, and 1L water bottle at a drizzling creek bed. I did this just in case there wasn't water at Hopewell Campsite. This added an additional 6.6lbs to my pack which was an additional challenge when climbing and descending hills. I found that I did well to top off the water because the only water source that I did have access to was the Resevoir itself. Believe me I wasn't a fan of drinking water from it even though I had a filter.
The Hopewell Campsites were great, clean, and well situated. They even had picnic tables. There is a $12 fee per site per night on the honor system. Be honorable ;o). There was a privy nearby as well which was an added bonus no matter how bad it smelled.
I left camp early because my return trip was primarily an 8 mile trek back to the trail head. The beginning of which was a 4 mile ascent which added additional challenges because I learned that I should have worn my trail runners instead of hiking boots the day before so my toes were angry at me.
My only gripes are 1) the blazes and signage need to be revisited and executed so that there is little chance of missing crucial directions while on trial. 2) The trail has a lot of over growth in areas so be prepared for that.
Overall it was a very good area to hike. I'd recommend heading to one of the campsites along the Tracy Ridge system via North Country Trail heading North To South for an added challenge!