Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Take a Hike on National Trails Day!

NY Hiking Trails Sign

Saturday, June 2, 2012 is National Trails Day, and with hundreds of miles of trails throughout the Hudson River Valley, there is no shortage of room to stretch your legs.

Over the years, the Open Space Institute has made many contributions to the New York State’s extensive network of trails. Here are a few highlights, along with some remarkable sights to see along the way.

The Long Path is one of the most-traveled trails in the region, meandering northeasterly from the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan up through the Hudson Valley, connecting preserved landscapes in Hudson Highlands and Schunnemunk state parks before reaching the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest in Ulster County. From there, it continues north, bisecting the 5,400-acre Sam’s Point Preserve and Vernooy State Forest, also 5,400 acres, and both protected by OSI.

The Path currently ends at John Boyd Thacher State Park, where OSI added 188 acres in 2006, although it may one day run all the way to the Canadian border.

“The legend is that Vincent Schaefer, who conceived the idea for the trail in 1931, envisioned the Long Path as a swath of wilderness along which one could bushwhack from New York up to Canada,” said Bob Anderberg, OSI’s vice president and general counsel. “It didn’t turn out quite that way, but the Long Path of today is an excellent regional hiking trail with spectacular views of the Hudson Valley and some of the state’s most well-known protected landscapes along the way.”

In 2010, OSI acquired a small but strategic 2.32-acre parcel that filled a gap in the Long Path Trail in the Sullivan County town of Mamakating, connecting Roosa Gap and Wurtsboro Ridge state forests.

Another major OSI initiative has been the restoration and extension of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Ulster County. In August 2009, in an effort to expand the rail trail to the north, OSI and its partners at the Wallkill Valley Land Trust acquired 11.5 miles of railroad bed, doubling its current length to nearly 24 miles. Once it is extended, the trail will run through the towns of Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale and Ulster, and on to Kingston.

One of the highlights along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is the historic railroad trestle that towers 150 feet over Rondout Creek and Route 213 in Rosendale. OSI and WVLT launched the “Track the Trestle” fundraising campaign in 2011 to renovate and repair the 115-year-old bridge.

The organizations are hopeful that the trestle will be completed and reopened to the public this year. Keep track of its progress at www.trackthetrestle.org

The O&W Rail Trail is named for the railroad that carried freight from New York City to northwest sections of upstate New York from the latter part of the 1800s to 1957. The Kingston to Port Jervis branch of the Trail extends for 65 miles, stretching the entire length of the Shawangunk Ridge.

OSI has protected several strips along the Trail, in the towns of Wawarsing and Mamakating, but its major contributions on the O&W are the vast landscapes it has preserved along its path.

Beginning at the north end of the O&W, one passes the Paul and Davis farmlands, both of which OSI preserved. Further south, the O&W intersects the Long Path near the aforementioned

Sam’s Point Preserve and Vernooy State Forest.

Along with the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest, Sam’s Point and Vernooy State Forest contain some of the most striking, dramatic landscapes in New York—gleaming white cliffs, deep rock crevices and cascading waterfalls. Together, the preserves are part of a huge, intact ecosystem that spills out over more than 10,000 acres of back-country wilderness.

As one veers off the main trail onto these unspoiled lands, they will find yet another trail system, a well-preserved series of paths hiding within the forests themselves. 

Finally, the O&W passes the Basherkill Wildlife Management Area—one of OSI’s first conservation projects, a 3,000-acre freshwater wetlands preserve that is the largest in southern New York. The Trail ends, for now, at the city of Port Jervis, just after passing the Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, a 1,510-acre forest located near the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania border.

These are just a few ideas. The great thing about trails is that one invariably leads to another. You never know, the next great view could be right around the corner. With National Trails Day coming up soon, and with so many choices, why not get out on a trail and explore?

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