If you live in the Capital Region, chances are, if it’s not you, you know someone who loves to hike. With so many trails around the area, it’s impossible to not want to get hooked.
But as you probably already guessed, not all trails are the same. Some are flat and easy that anyone can do, while others require excellent physique (like the type that can easily boulder rocks) not to mention expensive gear to be able to scale all the way up to the top.
So before you begin to pursue the dream of becoming an Adirondack 46er, you can test the waters and/or develop your love for hiking by trying out these 10 nature walks and beginner trails around the Capital Region first:
The Crossings of Colonie
Address: 580 Albany Shaker Road, Loudonville, NY 12211 – Map it
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8:00AM – 8:00PM
The Crossings of Colonie is a 130-acre “passive” park which features “a pond, acres of meadows, marshy, wetlands and extensive wooded and wildflower areas” in Colonie, NY. This is a great spot to begin your hiking journey because it has 6.5 miles of trails that is almost all flat with a few small hills that loop through and back around the key features of the park.
If you decide that this isn’t for you, no harm done–you can just jump back into your car, head on home, and go about your ways. But if you decide that you love this stuff, then use this park as a place to work on building your strength, stamina, and more importantly, love for being outdoors. Start(and end) at the parking lot or at the gazebo/courtyard area, and take a walk as far and as often as your heart desires.
Indian Ladder Trail
Once you feel like you’re strong enough and are ready to go somewhere that has a little more wilderness, head on up to Thacher State Park in Voorheesville, NY, and do the Indian Ladder Trail. This is an easy trail that gives you a scenic view of the Capital Region. It’s 3.7 miles total (out and back) and, depending on the season, you get to walk under a beautiful and refreshing waterfall. The best time to visit is May thru October, and since it’s an easy trail and good for all levels, you can bring along the kids! Oh, and dogs are allowed, too (as long as they are leashed).
Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Albany Pine Bush Preserve is 3,200 acres of nature preserve with 18-miles of officially marked trails throughout the Guilderland area of Albany County. This national natural landmark, known for its for its extraordinary sand dunes, is also home to more than 1,500 plants and animal species, so you will have a lot to see while there.
Most trails are considered to be easy to moderate, and vary from wide open sandy trails to narrow, grassy woodland passages, with topography that is generally flat with gradual slopes up and down the natural sand dunes, making it a perfect place for beginner hikers and families who want to go a longer distance. Before or after exploring the Preserve, stop by the Discovery Center to learn a little bit more about what makes the Preserve a great place to explore.
Vroman’s Nose Trail
Address: 264 Mill Valley Road, Middelburgh, NY – Map it
Level: Easy – Moderate
Ready for something a little bit more challenging but attainable for a beginner hiker? Take a quick ride over to Fulton, NY, and hike the Vroman’s Nose Trail. Situated on a private property in the Schoharie Creek Valley, this 1.3 mile trail is considered “moderate level” that is kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
The path begins on a climb until you get to the “Dance Floor” where you have spectacular views of the Schoharie countryside, making the hike totally worth it. This trail is originally a loop, but the other half of the trail that has eroded and become too steep so it may not be safe for you to hike. So, unless they’ve recently done maintenance, you’re better off returning on the same path the way you came in.
Christman Bird & Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Duanesburg, NY, Christman Bird & Wildlife Sanctuary is a 120-acre nature preserve known for its 30-foot waterfalland plantations of locust, cedar, spruce and pine. Named after its owner W.W. Christman and his wife, Catherine Brandt, this 2.2 mile loop trail follows a creek with small waterfalls and cascades, and leads you so deep into the woods that you briefly forget that civilization exists outside of this area. There is some incline, but overall an easy-to-moderate trail great for all levels.
Bash Bish Falls
Address: Falls Road, Mt. Washington, MA – Map it
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
You will have to drive out of state for this one, which is about an hour southeast of Albany, right on the border of New York and Massachusetts. Depending on which border you decide to start, this trail is 2/3 mile gradual uphill or 1/3 mile steep downhill through the wilderness to the base of the waterfall.
]Bash Bish Falls is the highest single drop waterfall in Massachusetts. You can have a picnic on the rocks, or explore the wilderness of Taconic State Park and Mt. Washington State Park. Trail is open from sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset.s
Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is located in Ulster County, about 1.5 hours drive south of Albany. It’s worth the drive as it “features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, incising sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys, 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths on which to bike, walk, hike and simply enjoy”. It will cost you $10 per car to enter though.
Once you get over the cost of entering, make your way on the road that loops around Minnewaska Lake. This is about 2 miles long and gives you a scenic view of the lake from all angles. Definitely worth the drive to see.
Address: Route 23A, Haines Falls, NY – Map it
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Level: Easy – Moderate
Kaaterskill Falls is one of the Catskills gems. It is260 feet in height, the tallest waterfalls in New York State. You can access it from below or above– both views are spectacular. thought this article via UncoveringNewYork.com best captured the details of how to get there and what to expect.
Sleeping Beauty Mountain
Address: Fort Ann, NY – Map it
If you are ready to do something more challenging but one that you are able to complete, Sleeping Beauty Mountain is your safest best. It is a moderate level trail located on the east side of Lake George. To get there from Albany will take you about 1.5 hours via I-87.
The trail contains a few steeper switchbacks which is what makes it challenging but attainable. Length depends on where you start, Hog Town Trailhead or Dacy Clearing Trailhead, and can vary between 5-7.5 miles roundtrip. Here are detailed directions on how to get there (and photos to help you get inspired to go).
Address: 335 Meads Mountain Road, Woodstock, NY – Map it
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Back in the Catskills near Woodstock, the trail on Overlook Mountain is about 4.5 miles of steep climb all the way from the beginning to the top. While it’s still a family-friendly hike, you have to be on somewhat of a good shape to reach the summit. At the top, you have an amazing view of the Catskill Mountain, and on a clear day, the Hudson River and Ashokan Reservoir.
Once you’ve checked all of these off your list and decide hiking is for you, you can begin to explore the intermediate and more advanced trails around the area. AllTrails is an awesome FREE app that helps you find them. Download it now on Google Play or the Apple App Store.