While it may be best known for world-class boating and fishing, the Thousand Islands region of State Parks also offers miles of hiking trails along shorelines and through forests, stretching from Lake Ontario north along the St. Lawrence River and finally to the shores of Lake Champlain.
Covering Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Clinton counties, the region includes 26 state parks, two golf courses and a historic site that cover a stunning mixture of woodlands, islands and water.
Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Thousand Islands Region, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app. The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available.
As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.
Hiking poles are also useful and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.
Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Be sure to download maps ahead of time or carry a paper copy as a back up
In addition to the name and distance of each designated trail in a park, the maps include facilities such as parking, comfort stations, park offices, nature centers, campsites, and boat launches. To learn more about NYS Parks trails CLICK HERE.
Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.
Parks facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.
Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.
Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained. To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, CLICK HERE.
Point Au Roche State Park, 19 Camp Red Cloud Road, Plattsburgh, NY 12901 (518) 563-0369: The park’s Long Point Trail is a must-see, with its panoramic views of historic Lake Champlain, vistas of Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east, and New York’s own High Peaks visible to the west. The two-mile out and back trail features hardwood forests, steep cliff edges, diverse bird viewing, opportunities for world-class fishing, and much more. This state park is rich in history from the iconic Camp Red Cloud boys’ and girls’ summer camp to the famous ‘Fantasy Kingdom’ amusement park. Hikers will find a memorial to those who attended Camp Red Cloud, marked with a plaque on a rock at an outdoor amphitheater and lecture area. This area was used for chapel service around 1950 and today is used for outdoor seminars, college lecturing, actor performances, a music venue, and more.
Find a trail map here…
Black River Trail, 25534 Ridge Road, Watertown, NY 13601 (315) 938-5083: There are three parking lots to access this trail _ Brookfield Power parking lot: 253W + 84 Black River, Rutland NY; the Ridge Road parking lot at 25534 Ridge Road in Watertown; and the Walker Avenue parking lot at the end of Walker Avenue in Watertown. This 4.5-mile, fully accessible paved multi-use trail is suitable for hikers of all abilities, as well as as perfect for running, walking, biking, and cross-country skiing. A converted railroad bed, the trail winds through a mix of forests, agricultural lands, and quiet neighborhoods. Along it are many small bridges and other concrete features that will remind you of the trail’s past as part of the New York Central Railroad. Several illuminated crosswalks allow safe transition between the multiple access points and parking lots. A newly completed extension allows connectivity to the city of Watertown’s network of trails.
Find a trail map here…
Robert G. Wehle State Park, 5182 State Park Road, Henderson, NY 13650 (315) 938-5302: The former estate of businessman Robert G. Wehle, whose family owned and operated the Genesee Brewing Company, this park boasts 1,100 acres and more than 17,000 feet of spectacular Lake Ontario shoreline. The park’s Snake Foot Trail is a moderate 4.9-mile multi-use loop trail. And no worries _ this yellow marked trail is not named for reptiles underfoot, but after Wehle’s prize-winning English Pointer named Elhew Snakefoot. Wehle was a recognized as a top breeder of pointers.
This spectacular trail runs along the scenic cliff faces of Lake Ontario and is truly meant for all seasons. The shoreline picnic area is equipped with a shelter, tables, and grills that are perfect for a summer BBQ. Fall is ablaze with turning leaves illuminated by the setting sunlight. The trail is among several groomed snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, however the dynamic crystalline waterfront of the Snakefoot is an amazing winter experience that should be enjoyed by all. And in spring the calls of Long-Tailed ducks and other migratory waterfowl can be heard from the rocky outcroppings. Caution!! The Snakefoot Trail parallels the natural coastline and its steep cliffs, and there is very little obstructing the view _ or the fall hazards that come with outdoor exploration. Watch your step and pay attention especially when taking pictures!!!
Find a trail map here…
Whetstone Gulf State Park, 6065 West Road, Lowville, NY 13367 (315) 376-6630: The park’s North Rim and South Rim gorge trails are a 5.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall and spectacular scenic vistas. The trail is rated as moderate and highlights a park that is built in and around a stunning three-mile gorge cut into the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau. Primarily used for hiking, nature trips, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, the trail is best used from March until November. Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be kept on leash. The gorge is steep, so be sure of your footing and stay on the trail at all times.
Find a trail map here…
St. Lawrence County
Jacques Cartier State Park, Route 12, Morristown, NY 13664 (315) 375-6371: This park on the St. Lawrence River might be best known for its excellent fishing, but it also features several short trails through the forest that crisscross the park entrance road into the park. The Krooked Kreek Trail can be accessed on either end from the entrance road trail head or the trail head located on the park office road. This easy-to-walk trail is slightly more than a half-mile long, and meanders along several winding streams through an open hardwood forest. The streams are rock filled with several drop off ledges making for small water falls at high water. The openness of the forest makes for great plant and wildlife viewing along the way. Come spring, hikers can spot a large assortment of forest flowers including Trillium, Jack In The Pulpit, Carnal Flower and Solomon Seal to name a few. White tail deer, mink, owls and hawks are common sighting along the streams. A rare treat is a glimpse at an elusive fisher (a member of the weasel family) prowling the shores along the trail. Two bridge crossings offer wonderful location to pause and reflect as the stream passes beneath and on down through the forest on its way down to the river. In the winter months, the main park entrance road is closed and not plowed. This adds plenty of great opportunities for cross country skiing and snow shoeing with side excursions down the trails looping around and back to the road.
Cover Shot- Sunset on Lake Champlain at Point Au Roche State Park. All photographs by New York State Parks.
And learn about hikes in other State Parks regions in previous posts in the “Get Out and Explore…” series. See you out there!
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