September 3, 2012 – As the cool days of autumn approach, we are once again drawn to the outdoors. Here are some of OSI’s favorite day trips in the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills and the Capital Region.
Hudson River Valley
Over four decades, OSI has protected more than 27,000 acres along the 50-mile Shawangunk Ridge, most notably at the 5,400-acre Sam’s Point Preserve. A trip to Sam’s Point will take visitors through truly one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. After visiting underground ice caves, you can hike past blueberry bushes and sweet-smelling wintergreen on your way to a picnic lunch at the stunning Verkeederkill waterfalls.
The Shawangunk Ridge is also the home of the spectacular Minnewaska and Mohonk preserves, additional ‘Gunks lands that OSI has helped protect and expand over the past 30 years.
On the eastern edge of the Minnewaska Preserve are the Millbrook Mountain Cliffs, 67 acres of dramatic cliff face that OSI protected in 2010. Accessible via the Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road, the area has cliffs reaching 350 feet in height and massive boulders at its base, making it visible from across the Hudson Valley. These cliffs played an important role in regional rock climbing history, provide key habitat for rare plants and cliff-dwelling animals (such as peregrine falcons and five-lined skink), and are part of an international flyway for raptors and migratory songbirds.
The Trapps Gateway, an OSI-protected landscape, welcomes visitors to the Mohonk Preserve, where they can hike, bike or ride horseback through New York’s largest nonprofit nature preserve. Throughout the preserve, an historic carriage road system that dates back to the late 1800s meanders through rolling, forested hills and streams.
Over the years OSI has added miles and miles of hiking trails throughout the Catskills and the Hudson Valley (for a more complete look at which trails OSI has helped protect, click here), and one in particular worth visiting is the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.
Cutting through the bustling town of New Paltz, bikers or walkers can take the Rail Trail from Gardiner to the historic Rosendale Trestle, which OSI and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust are nearly finished restoring. On the other side of the Trestle, the trail continues on, nearly 24 miles in all, toward the city of Kingston.
Named for Jacob Rutsen, who founded the first settlement in the hamlet of Rosendale, the 119-acre, 495-foot high Joppenbergh Mountain is another landmark sitting along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, near the north end of the Rosendale Trestle. It has numerous cliffs, ravines and crevices, and expansive views of much of the Hudson Valley.
Mined throughout the 19th century for the dolostone that was used in the manufacture of natural cement, in recent years Joppenbergh has been opened to the public, attracting hikers, cross-country skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
For a day trip back into U.S. history, the region offers many choices, including Top Cottage, the retreat President Franklin D. Roosevelt designed himself while in office. OSI’s 1996 acquisition of the cottage helped reunite Roosevelt’s retreat with the Roosevelt National Historic Site on the banks of the Hudson River in Dutchess County. OSI also preserved adjacent parcels connecting Top Cottage with Eleanor Roosevelt’s nearby retreat, Val-Kill. Top Cottage is open for tours from May through October.
Just an hour north of New York City is Schunnemunk Mountain, where OSI has protected more than 2,700 acres since 1996. The acreage has since been conveyed to the state, which opened it to the public as Schunnemunk State Park in 2004. The park contains a 7-mile stretch of the Long Path, a 326-mile trail that bisects a number of New York parks in its trek from the George Washington Bridge to John Boyd Thacher State Park outside Albany. Schunnemunk State Park and its 1,700-foot ridges offer some of the more challenging hikes in the region.
OSI also added over 8,000 acres to the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, more than doubling its acreage since the early 1990s. At this park visitors have the unique opportunity to stroll through a variety of trails fit for easy walking or more strenuous hiking, biking or horseback riding, before making their way over to a secluded beach—complete with authentic New York sand trucked in from Long Island—in the park’s northeast quadrant.
The 4-H Camp Pines property has more than 4,400 feet of frontage along both shores of the upper Neversink River, one of the five primary rivers in the Catskill Region and the source for the Neversink Reservoir. Along with the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, Esopus and Rondout, the Neversink River is linked to the birth of American fly fishing. Theodore Gordon, the legendary fly fishing journalist, developed the dry fly there.
Now, four decades later, the public is able to fish streamside on the only body of water where salmon can be found in the Catskills.
Just 15 miles southwest of Albany, John Boyd Thacher State Park is a gorgeous 2,100-acre-plus park sitting mostly atop the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the most fossil-rich formations in the world. Revel in the abundant history and natural beauty of the park, home to many rare species of bird and a great variety of plant life. In 2006, OSI helped add 188 acres to the park, which features breathtaking views of the Mohawk and Hudson valleys. You can hike, bike and explore more than 12 miles of nature trails.
North of Albany, in the village of Menands, are Schuyler Flatts, originally a Native American meeting place and trade center that was later utilized as a staging area for troops en route to the Revolutionary War Battle of Saratoga. OSI acquired 23 acres of the 100-acre Flatts and helped the town of Colonie develop it into Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park. The park contains tidal and wetland marshes, where you might see a Great Blue Heron. It also connects to the Hudson Mohawk Bikeway, a 41-mile path along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. The park is a great place to bring kids, as it’s filled with history and culture, much of which park officials say coincides nicely with 4th-grade history curriculum in New York State.
Wherever you’re headed this fall, we hope this guide has been helpful. See you out on the land!