People travel from all over to visit these two state parks, which are admittedly fantastic. However, they are – especially in the case of the High Peaks region – getting a little over-loved.
This is a problem that people have long been debating and seeking answers for when it comes to the ‘dacks, with the possibility of more parking restrictions in the not-too-distant future, something we’ve already seen to some degree.
There’s also talk of instituting a permit system, much like some of the more popular national parks have already adopted to try to manage overuse.
Permits are already required at the Blue Hole, the Peekamoose area swimming hole in the Catskills that was drawing thousands of visitors on a busy weekend, thanks to attention (no doubt well intended) it had received in online and print publications. These permits are free and required on weekends and holidays between May 15th and October 15th.
Here’s the thing: New York has a LOT of really amazing trails the deserve your attention, some of which are a heck of a lot closer to home, less crowded and also perhaps more accessible for people who have young kids and/or dogs (not to say that members of either of these groups can’t be amazing hikers: Consider this, for example).
CivMix contributor Laura Cardwell compiled a review of four local or nearby hikes that are all a reasonable driving distance from the Capital Region. So, lace up those hiking boots, throw some water and snacks and bug spray in your backpack, and get out there!
1) Bozen Kill Preserve
Family friendly and squeaky clean.
The Bozen Kill Preserve in Altamont is one of many beautiful properties throughout the region donated to and maintained by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. The primary feature of this 214 acre parcel is its namesake, the Bozen Kill (stream), which depending on the time of year ranges from a lethargic trickle to turbid snow melt mayhem.
The modest trail system at the Bozen Kill Preserve is suitable for little ones and older people who can handle some elevation gain. The wooded trails are extremely well maintained and marked, a real treat for visitors who are used to seeing litter and dog doo everywhere. The White to Red trail offers a gentle 2.5 mile out-and-back through young forest that passes stone walls, some rusted out farm equipment, and several points to stop and admire the creek. The Blue trail is very short (less than 0.2 miles) but is straight to the point, leading right to a series of clear pools and aesthetically pleasing walls of Helderberg layered shale.
During our visit this past Saturday, my 73 year old mother and I saw several species of reptiles and amphibians including garter snakes, green frog, and American toad.
Address: Head to the corner of Westfall Road and Bozenkill Road in Altamont, NY 12009. Google Maps link to parking area.
Kid Friendly? Yes.
Dog Friendly? Yes. They can swim, too!
Difficulty Rating: Easy. Mostly flat, elevation gain is gentle.
Beer: If you’re thirsty, Indian Ladder Farms Cidery & Brewery is close by.
2) Mount Alander
Moderate hike for rewarding views and a cool cabin. Watch out for rattlesnakes!
If you’ve visited Bash Bish Falls in Massachusetts’ Mt. Washington State Forest recently, you know the spot has been blown up by word of mouth and social media. There is now at least one Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) officer permanently stationed for crowd control near the falls, and both large parking lots are overflowing by 9 AM.
For a more peaceful experience just around the corner, head to Mount Alander instead and enjoy a very nice 6 mile out-and-back hike to an open rocky summit covered in wild blueberries. The trail to the summit begins at the Mount Washington State Forest Headquarters and passes through open fields and a soft, gradual incline through thick red oak hardwood forest. Toward the end, you’ll exert more energy climbing over rocks and roots. Just below the summit, stop and see the open cabin with two beds that serves as a shelter for thru-hikers and backpackers.
Once you’ve explored the cabin, climb over a final section of rocks to the 2,250 foot peak, where you will be treated to views across New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut and the Catskills to the west. There isn’t really a bad spot up here to stop and have lunch, and in the summer you can find wild blueberries.
Particularly if you’re hiking with children or dogs, keep a watchful eye out for timber rattlesnakes. On our last visit there, we were warned ahead of time by other hikers that a timber rattlesnake was curled up right on the trail!
Address: 162 East Street, Mt. Washington, MA 01258. Google Maps link to parking area.
Kid Friendly? Suitable for older kids who won’t sit down and demand to be carried.
Dog Friendly? Yes. According to DCR rules, dogs must be leashed or kept under direct control.
Difficulty Rating: Moderate to somewhat challenging, depending on fitness level and hiking experience.
Beer: Great Barrington is close, but we elected to visit Sloop Brewing @ The Barn in Elizaville at Vosburgh Orchards. There’s a playground for the kids, fantastic beers that come in pints and cans, and you can bring the dog!
3) Snowy Mountain
High Peaks views and challenge without 46er crowds, plus a fire tower!
The recent rise in popularity of hiking and the 46er challenge have resulted in congestion, parking restrictions and overuse in the Adirondack High Peaks, particularly those in the Keene/Lake Placid area. If you’re not the “getting up before dawn and driving 3 hours north hoping you will find somewhere to park” type, Snowy Mountain in Hamilton County is a wonderful day hike that brings you very close to 4,000 feet (3,899 to be exact) and offers fantastic views.
Snowy Mountain has a small parking area that fits ~10 cars off the side of NY-30, but if you arrive at a reasonable hour there won’t be an issue, and you can park on the side of the road if needed. To access the trail, cross the street and follow the clearly marked trail (red markers). The first couple miles of the trail are very gentle, with a couple of stream crossings and a lot of wooden planks that probably float during mud season. Once you’ve warmed up, the trail abruptly switches to the terrain we associate with High Peaks hikes: all-fours climbing steep fields of boulders and slippery roots.
Near the summit is a rocky overlook and a flat meadow full of dragonflies. You’ll be tempted to rest and have a picnic here, but I recommend continuing to follow the red trail markers until you reach the Snowy Mountain fire tower. If you aren’t petrified of heights, climb the fire tower and take in panoramic views over the High Peaks to the north, Indian Lake to the east, and numerous other Southern Adirondack destinations – Sacandaga Lake, Piseco Lake, Siamese Ponds, and the West Canada Lake Wilderness. Take some pictures and treat yourself to a summit beer once you’re safely off the steps!
Address: Park off of NY-30 in the designated parking area. Google Maps link.
Kid Friendly? Suitable for older kids who are fit and not afraid of climbing.
Dog Friendly? Not recommended unless your dog is trail savvy and can be carried if needed.
Difficulty Rating: Difficult, but you don’t need to be an experienced mountaineer or anything.
Beer: BYOB. There’s a Stewart’s in Indian Lake.
4) The Pinnacle, Bolton Landing: Maximum reward for minimal effort.
If you’re in Bolton Landing and only have an hour to hike, The Pinnacle is a wonderful short excursion that offers fantastic views over Lake George. Initially acquired by the Lake George Land Conservancy and sold to the Town of Bolton in 2015, this small but scenic preserve is just 5 minutes outside the main strip in Bolton Landing.
Clocking in at just about one mile from the parking lot off Edgecomb Pond Road to the top, the Red trail to the Pinnacle summit is true to Adirondack nature and is fairly rocky and steep in parts. People who are afraid of falls or are less steady on their feet may wish to use a hiking stick.
On your way up, you will pass through a series of switchbacks and a fork in the path where you can continue to Edgecomb Pond and Cat Mountain via a Yellow trail. Since the Pinnacle trail is close to the pond, mosquitoes are quite active in the wooded sections, and during black fly season you will want to consider covering up. From the summit, you’ll be treated to a magnificent view of Lake George, the Tongue Mountain Range, Sleeping Beauty, the Narrows and many other local landmarks.
Address: 141 Edgecomb Pond Rd, Bolton Landing, NY, 12814. Google Maps link.
Kid Friendly? Yes, but you might have to carry really little ones.
Dog Friendly? Yes. Dogs must be kept on leash.
Difficulty Rating: Moderate. Steep but short.
Beer: Head to Bolton Landing Brewing Company for some excellent craft beer and tasty snacks. It’s always busy.