It’s easy to get lost in the hot summer haze of concrete and car exhaust in the city, but the truth is there’s a lot of green in the Northeast corner of the country—much of it only a short drive or train trip away. In fact, we thought this New York Times article on that very topic was a great idea, and we couldn’t help but notice that several sites OSI has helped conserve were included in the Times’ Top 25 Northeast Getaways.
So, hot off our own presses, here’s OSI’s supplement, with a little more detail on what to see at some of our favorite protected lands—all of which are close enough for an easy day or weekend trip from New York City!
Into the Wilds of the Adirondacks (NYT No. 10)
After you visit Fort Ticonderoga (NYT No.7), grab your binoculars and wander down to Carillon Point, a 28-acre peninsula in the Fort’s southern viewshed acquired by OSI in 2002. The marsh surrounding the peninsula is scenic on its own, but for bird lovers it’s a fantastic find, as it provides habitat for more than a dozen species of nesting and migratory birds. Come see for yourself why the area has been touted by the National Audubon Society as one of the best bird-watching spots in the Adirondacks.
Henderson Lake, Tahawus photo by Carl Heilman II/Wild Visions
The more than 12,000 OSI-protected acres of the Tahawus region are steeped in history and landscapes. Known as the southern gateway to the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and including the headwaters of the Hudson River, Tahawus is a rock-climbing and hiking mecca. There’s something for everyone here, from scenic hikes to the rich history of the deserted small mining village of Adirondac. It was in Tahawus in 1901 that Vice President Teddy Roosevelt vacationed at MacNaughton Cottage in Adirondac. He was rushed by horse and carriage away from the village upon learning that President William McKinley had been shot. OSI is now in the process of restoring MacNaughton Cottage, an 1854 blast furnace on the property, and the abandoned fire tower at the top of the property’s highest peak, Mt. Adams. View Photo Gallery of Tahawus.
Going Around the Capital District (NYT No. 8 Albany)
View of Albany from Thacher State Park
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 also to many rare species of birds and a great variety of plant life. In 2006, OSI helped add 188 acres to the park, which wows visitors with breathtaking views of the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys. You can hike, bike and explore more than 12 miles of nature trails. In the winter, come back and get your cross-country ski or snowshoe on!
Not far away, just 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. In 1998, 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 just 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.
Map of Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park
History in the Hudson River Valley (NYT No. 9)
For a day trip back into U.S. history, the Hudson River Valley offers boundless choices, including Top Cottage, the retreat President Franklin D. Roosevelt designed himself while in office. OSI acquired the cottage in 1996, and restoration efforts began shortly thereafter. Top Cottage, a one-story stone building designed to accommodate Roosevelt’s wheelchair, was much like today’s Camp David, allowing the president to recharge and entertain visitors away from the public eye.
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, Thursdays through Mondays.
Speaking of history, there’s plenty more of it to be had at the Glenclyffe property, a 93-acre parcel on the Hudson River that OSI conserved in 2001. Traverse the same woods that Benedict Arnold did on the 1.8-mile Glenclyffe Loop, a new addition to the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail that follows the same path Arnold took when he rode through Glenclyffe trying to escape to the British.
A short trek further down the Hudson will lead you to Manitou Point, a 137-acre preserve perhaps best known for its views of the Hudson River and Highlands. Visitors will see a variety of waterfowl and songbirds as they negotiate four miles of lush public trails. Although not open to the public, there’s also a mansion on the property that was built by the Livingstons—a prominent 19th-century Hudson Valley family—that OSI restored and now leases to Outward Bound, a nonprofit educational organization that teaches young people core values through outdoor education and team-building exercises.
Schunnemunk Mountain and Fahnestock State Parks
Just an hour north of New York City, west of the Hudson, 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 (see above) 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 (which now stands at over 14,000 acres) since the early 1990s. At this park, you 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 your way over to a secluded beach—complete with authentic New York sand trucked in from Long Island—in the park’s northeast quadrant. Fahnestock Map
Rocking in the Shawangunks (NYT No. 11)
The 50-mile Shawangunk Ridge, which passes through Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties, encompasses 250,000 pristine acres and a number of protected preserves, perhaps the most well-known of which is Sam’s Point Preserve. To date, OSI has conserved upwards of 26,000 acres along the Ridge. 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—among many other shrubs and mosses—on your way to a picnic lunch at the stunning Verkeederkill waterfalls.
Also part of the Shawangunk Ridge (and remember that these mountains are just two hours from New York City) are the Minnewaska and Mohonk Preserves, additional “Gunks” lands OSI has steadily worked to preserve over the past 30 years. Both are excellent for family outings, with hiking and biking to accommodate everyone from the beginner to the experienced.
On your way to the Ridge, stop at an Ulster County farmer’s market and remind the whole family that food comes from the land, not a grocery store.