Category Archives: Hiking

Get out And Explore … The Saratoga/Capital Region of New York State Parks

Centered on the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, between the Adirondacks and the Catskills, the Saratoga/Capital Region of New York State Parks offers opportunities for both hikers and paddlers.

Covering Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga Washington, Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties, the region includes a dozen state parks, as well as eight historic sites that reflect a history dating back to the Colonial era.

Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Saratoga/Capital 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.

Albany County


John Boyd Thacher State Park, 830 Thacher Park Road, Voorheesville, NY 12186 (518) 872-1237: This popular park protects more than 2,000 acres and includes more than 20 miles of trails. In the heart of the park’s South Zone, the iconic Indian Ladder Trail is both scenic and historic, originating as a Native American footpath and offering sweeping views of the Hudson-Mohawk Valley. The trail descends the Helderberg Escarpment, a 100-foot tall limestone cliff rich with fossils.  There is a staircase at both ends of the trail and a walk between the two along the Clifftop Trail will make a loop hike of about 1.25 miles. Trail heads are at the LaGrange parking lot and the Visitor Center. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols, this trail is one-way only, and must be started at the LaGrange lot. After climbing down the stairs, the trail runs along the base of the cliff,  passing under seasonal waterfalls and over an underground stream. Interpretive signs along the way tell of the geologic and cultural history of the area. This is a rocky trail with steep drop-offs. Wear sturdy shoes and please stay on the trail. 

Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher State Park

In the park’s lesser-traveled North Zone, which has no picnic area or restrooms, try the Fred Schroeder Memorial Trail. This three-mile loop leads to a scenic view from the cliff at High Point. The red-blazed trail is fairly level with an easy slope at the beginning and end of the loop. The trail begins at an old quarry on Carrick Road, off Old Stage Road. A kiosk in the parking area offers information about the interesting geology of the area and the Long Path. The aqua-blazed Long Path joins the trail briefly on its journey from New Jersey to the north. The Fred Schroeder Memorial Trail leads through mixed forests and across small fields, reaching the cliff edge at the midpoint. The limestone bedrock is full of marine fossils and karst features such as sinkholes, caves, and crevices. At the cliff edge enjoy sweeping views of the Hudson Mohawk Valley from High Point, where the Helderberg Escarpment reaches 1,300 feet in elevation.

The view from the Helderberg Escarpment on the Fred Schroeder Memorial Trail at Thacher State Park.

Find trail maps here for the North Zone and the South Zone to plan your own adventure in this amazing park.

Peebles Island State Park, 1 Delaware Avenue North, Cohoes NY 12047 (518) 268-2188: Set at where the Mohawk River joins the Hudson River, this island park features a scenic 1.85-mile trail loop that offers wonderful views of the water. Take in sights including Cohoes dam, Horseshoe Falls and the Old Mohawk Paper mill. There are plenty of deer on the island, but kindly do not feed them! This is very shaded, intermediate trail. No bicycles are allowed, but there are picnic tables along the loop to rest and enjoy a snack.

Find a trail map here…

Waterfalls on the Mohawk River at Peebles Island State Park. Be safe and stay off the falls, as the rocks are slippery.

Rensselaer County


Grafton Lakes State Park, 254 Grafton Lakes State Park Way, Grafton, NY 12082 (518) 279-1155: Covering more than 2,300 acres, this popular park has more than 25 miles of trails. A favorite is the Shaver Pond Trail, a moderate two-mile loop that circles the lake. Much of the trial is rolling terrain with some roots and rocky sections. Look for beaver chews along the lake’s edge as well as barred owls. With many sections of hemlock forest, Shaver Pond is a cool choice for hot summer days as well as an excellent spot for winter animal tracking in the snow.

For a map of the park’s North Zone, which includes the Shaver Pond Trail as well as the 2.5-mile Long Pond Trail, click here… Kayaks and canoes can be launched at Mill Pond, Second Pond or Long Pond.

Shaver Pond Trail at Grafton Lakes State Park.

For a map of the park’s lesser-used South Zone around the Dunham Reservoir, a former water supply for the city of Troy, which has seven miles of trails, click here… The reservoir also is a good place to launch a kayak or canoe.

Schodack Island State Park, 1 Schodack Island Way, Schodack Landing, NY 12156 (518) 732-0187: Hike Schodack Island’s Orange Trail for a shaded walk along the scenic Hudson River. This trail starts at the main parking lot and runs approximately 4.3 miles for a round trip. The hike is well worth it. The path is wide and flat perfect for any experience level. Hikers will pass the Historic Ice House Chimney _ a remnant of when ice was commercially harvested from the Hudson River _ as well as the park’s new wetland area filled with migratory bird species, and two pond blinds. Birdwatchers will find it perfect for viewing great blue herons, eagles, ducks, snowy egrets, kingfishers and a variety of turtles.

Find a trail map here…


Cherry Plain State Park, 10 State Park Road, Petersburgh, NY 12138: Nestled in the heart of the Capital District Wildlife Management Area, Cherry Plain State Park is part of the Rensselaer Plateau, one of the largest and most ecologically intact native habitats in New York State. Cherry Plain has more than seven miles of tails, but a popular favorite is the Waterfall Trail. This two-mile, out-and-back trail is mostly moderate with several steep sections, as well as some rocks and roots. The waterfall trail winds through the woods overlooking small streams with the waterfall located towards the end of the trail. A fun hike for older kids, but be prepared to cross the steam a couple of times. Hiking poles or walking sticks and waterproof shoes are recommended during spring and after heavy rains. Looks for red efts on the trail and broad-winged hawks soaring above the trees in the summer.

Kayaks and canoes can be launched in the park’s Black River Pond. Find a trail map here…

Waterfalls at Cherry Plain State Park.

Saratoga County


Moreau Lake State Park, 605 Old Saratoga Road, Gansevoort, NY 12831 (518) 793-0511: Covering more than 5,300 acres, this park has more than 30 miles of hiking trails for all abilities. For experienced hikers, check out the trail to the Spring Overlook, which involves a challenging short one 1.25-mile climb up to a spectacular view of the Hudson River. Indicated by yellow trail markers, the trail begins at the Spier Falls Road trailhead.  The trail beginning is wide open and takes you under some power lines but narrows as you make your way into the woods through white pines, black birches and hemlock trees. You will pass a trail marked in yellow and blue, which is the waterfall trail, this in not the same as the all yellow trail.  Continue to follow the yellow trail markers while you cross under an old power line and walk along some steep rocks and tall grasses. While you are climbing you will see another trail junction marked with a 13 for the blue Eastern Ridge trail. At the intersection, continue left on the yellow trail to reach the rocky overlook for a scenic view of the river. This is a out-and-back hike, so when you have had your fill of the nice breeze and beautiful view head back down the way you came.  

Spring Overlook Trail at Moreau Lake State Park, with the same view in the fall (below).

For experienced hikers, consider the short but advanced hike to the Moreau Overlook Trail. This one-mile hike starts at the back parking lot behind the park kiosk. Follow the blue trail markers up a moderate but challenging climb. At the intersection labeled number 1, stay right to remain on the blue trial and pay some extra attention you will also see red and white markers indicating other trails. The climb gets steep and rocky before you reach the top of this trail overlooking Moreau Lake. Sometimes even from the top if you listen hard you can hear the beach goers enjoying themselves.  If you reach the intersection marked number 2, that is too far turn around. This is also an in-and-out hike.  

For those seeking a gentler hike, try the 1.7-mile Lake Bonita Trail. The trailhead starts in the parking area off Wilton Mountain Road.

Find a trail map here…

Schoharie County


Mine Kill State Park, 161 Minekill Road, North Blenheim NY (518) 827-6111: Kayaks and canoes can be launched into the Blenheim-Gilboa Reservoir near the parking lot. At that lot, the Yellow Trail splits to the north and south for hikes along the reservoir where bald eagles, belted kingfishers, and families of ducks are often spotted. Take the Yellow Trail to the south, then left on the Red Trail, and then left on the Orange Trail, for a hike along the Mine Kill Creek. This joins up with the Long Path. Take a left at that intersection to reach a waterfall near Route 30.

The Bluebird Trail is an easy, beginner mile-long loop that goes around the pool complex, the park office, and disc golf course. The trail is a good place to spot eastern bluebirds, tree swallows, American Goldfinches, butterflies, and other forms of wildlife.

Find a trail map here…

A bald eagle takes flight (upper right) over the water at Mine Kill State Park.
A bluebird takes a break along the namesake Bluebird Trail at Mine Kill State Park.

Cover Picture: Shaver Pond in Grafton State Park All photos from NYS Parks

Post by NYS Parks Staff

Explore New York State Parks On The Go

Now, information and tips on your New York State Parks and Historic Sites are as close as your mobile device.

Help plan your visits this summer using the free, new New York State parks Explorer App, developed by staff at State Parks and the Office of Information Technology Services.

Information is tabbed by favorites by both visitors and staff, golf courses, state historic sites with a military heritage, some lesser-know parks that some treasurer as “hidden gems, and parks that feature historic lighthouses.

The app can help guide visitors to top destinations and new must-see locations with rotating curated content. It offers quick access to park information, including directions, hours, amenities, fees and rates, trail maps, helpful know-before-you-go details, and the ability to receive important updates and alerts.

Visitors can also link directly to online camping reservations and easily access select State Parks’ social media channels to share their experiences.

The appl can be dowloaded by visiting for Android devices by visiting Google Play Store, NY State Parks Explorer App and for iOS devices by visiting Apple Store, NY State Parks Explorer App.

“This season more than ever, people are looking to spend time in the outdoors whether taking nature breaks, day trips or overnight getaways,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid, “and this new Parks Explorer App is a helpful tool for families on the go to plan the perfect adventure with ease.  To stay in the know and make the most of your park visit, I encourage New Yorkers to download the app today.”

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “With an unparalleled collection of parks, historic sites and recreation trails across the state, exploring New York’s State Parks system is a perfect complement to any Empire State vacation. The new State Parks Explorer App will offer information and suggestions that help keep New York a top travel destination for residents and visitors alike.”

Interim New York State Chief Information Officer Jeremy Goldberg, “The Office of Information Technology Services is proud to partner with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to share technology that makes it easier for residents to visit parks across New York State. The Parks Explorer App allows residents to plan new outdoor adventures prior to visiting parks and demonstrates how NYS is harnessing the power of technology to bring New Yorkers closer to nature.”

Get Out And Explore … The Central Region of New York State Parks

With summer now in full swing, hiking trails are calling from the Central Region of State Parks, which stretches from Lake Ontario to the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania border.

The region includes glacial lakes, sandy beaches, segments of the historic Erie Canal, and dramatic waterfalls.

Covering Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Otsego counties, the Central Region is home to  22 parks, seven historic sites and three golf courses.

Overview of State Parks and Historic Sites in the Central Region.

Maps and a variety of other useful information on NY State Parks, including those in the Central 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. 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 available on the new Parks Explorer app, as well as 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 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.

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.

Chenango County


Oquaga Creek State Park, 5995 County Route 20
Bainbridge, NY 13733, (607) 467-4160:
Take a scenic hike around beautiful 55-acre Artic Lake on a trail perfect for all ages, including beginning hikers. Afterward, cool off by taking a swim or having a picnic at the beach. The trail starts at the right side of the beach area, where the main Oquaga Creek is tucked in the woods. After coming out of the woods, take the blue trail to the left to start a 1.2-mile journey around the lake. There are plenty of spots to stop and fish and even a cemetery dating back to the Civil War. The park has more than ten miles of wooded and open trails.

Find a trail map here…

The lake trail at Oquaga Creek State Park.

Chenango Valley State Park153 State Park Road, Chenango Forks, (607) 648-5251: The two-mile Chenango Lake Trail circles the park’s namesake lake. The trail on the eastern side is open, accessible, and suitable for wheelchairs, while the western side is more robust single-track style path. There are several ways to start the trail – at the newly renovated beach area, located at the south end of the lake, or after parking in the new ADA compliant parking lot at the north end of the lake that connect to the Bog Trail, which then connects to the lake trail.. This multi-use trail also attracts dog walkers, hikers, cyclists, and bird watchers.  And keep an eye out for one of the park’s resident bald eagles, gliding above the lake searching for a meal. This park has more than 14 miles of trails.

To explore the park’s 14 miles of trails, find a trail map here…

The ADA-accessible trail at Chenango Valley State Park.

Onondaga County


Green Lakes State Park, 7900 Green Lakes Road, Fayetteville, (315) 637-6111: This 2,200-acre park has a nearly 20 miles of trails, with access starting at the main parking lot at Green Lake, a rare meromictic lake with an unique aqua color. (Meromictic lakes have water layers that do not annually intermix, as in in the case with nearly all other lakes. There are only three dozen meromictic lakes in the U.S. Green Lakes has two, with Round Lake being the second.) Trails around both Green Lake and Round Lake run about three miles, while doing just the Green Lake trail covers two miles. The park offers a variety of recreation including mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, and birdwatching. 

Find a trail map here…

Oneida County


Delta Lake State Park, 8797 State Route 46, Rome, (315) 337-4670: This park is located on a peninsula that juts into the Delta Lake Reservoir. The Fox Run Trail starts in the northwest corner of the Fox Run Parking lot.  At about a half-mile long, this wide level trail is perfect for beginners. With benches along the way to rest and take in the surroundings, hikers can see a variety of ducks, the occasional eagle, a rare owl and maybe even a fox. The Fox Run trail ends at the Yellow trail, where you can keep exploring the shoreline forest or head back.

Find a trail map here…  

A red fox surveys from atop a downed tree stump at Delta Lake State Park.

Pixley Falls State Park, 11430 State Route 46, Boonville, (315) 337-4670:  A highlight of the Nature Trail, which is just three-quarters of a mile long, is the 50-foot waterfall that the park is named for. The trail can be steep, and slippery in wet weather, so proper footwear is definitely recommended. The trail includes many other smaller falls, and on its lower half follows the course of the Lansing Kill, which is well known for its trout fishing.

Find a trail map here…

The namesake falls at Pixley Falls State Park

Other falls at Pixley Falls State Park.

Otsego County


Glimmerglass State Park, 1527 County Highway 31, Cooperstown, NY 13326, (607) 547-8662: Overlooking Otsego Lake, the famed “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, this park offers five miles of hiking trails and a beach for swimming afterward.

The rolling, partially wooded terrain is host to a wide variety of wildlife. If you bring your four-legged friend, remember to keep dogs on a six-foot leash at all times.

An uphill trail through Mount Wellington offers the Sleeping Lion Trail that varies terrain and offers two miles of varying terrain for a moderate hike. Along the service road that leads to the trail head offers an scenic overlook of the lake to the south toward Cooperstown.  

Find a trail map here

The overlook of Otsego Lake at the Sleeping Lion Trail.

The Beaver Pond trail offers a half-mile ADA -accessible trail surface around the “Beaver Trail”. Along this route you will discover “Eco Boxes” that describe the animals that might been seen during a hike.

The Covered Bridge Trail leads to the oldest wooden covered bridge in the United States. This one-mile, partially wooded trail runs along along Shadow Brook that feeds Otsego Lake.

The bridge was built in 1825 on then-private property of Hyde Hall, a country mansion that is now the Hyde Hall State Historic Site.

The wooden covered bridge at Glimmerglass State Park.

Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park, 133 Davis Road, Westford, NY 12197, (607) 547-8662: Perched atop of a hill, this 223-acre park offers spectacular views and vistas to the south and west for some amazing sunsets.

This park has 2.7 miles of trails, with gentle meadows, wooded areas, and two catch and release ponds. Birdwatchers, remember to bring your binoculars.

Find a trail map here

A bench along the trail at Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park

Cover Photo of Green Lakes State Park. Photo credit to Carina Scalise. All other photos from New York State Parks.

Post by Brian Nearing, deputy public information officer at NYS Parks

“Big Day” Birding Adventure in State Parks of Western New York

Planning for a New York State Parks birding “big day” started before the COVID-19 pandemic changed our world and lives. Originally, it called for a team of three to four birders to see how many species could be tallied in one day while visiting only State Parks during the height of spring migration in May.

Besides being a fun adventure, I wanted to highlight the fabulous birding opportunities for visitors to the State Parks in Western New York, and bring attention to habitat restoration projects in several parks that have enhanced the birding in the parks. The third week of May is the best time to see the most bird species in Western New York and it was perfect that my kids and wife were scheduled to be away for a trip to Boston.  

While the school trip and the team approach didn’t work out due to COVID, my original target date of May 20th held up and I embarked on a solo, New York State Parks only, birding big day. Of course, this was done while wearing a mask and maintaining social distance from other Parks visitors as spelled out in these guidelines.

And the day started early…

Sunrise at Golden Hill State Park.

* 4:40 a.m., Golden Hill State Park, Niagara County. While listening in the darkness for any vocalizing nocturnal birds, an Eastern Whip-poor-will sounded off like an emphatic alarm clock– “whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will!” This uncommon migrant to this region was the first great addition to my big day list. Two more heard vocalizing shortly thereafter in another part of the park to add to the excitement.

Many bird species started singing as sunrise approached and then after sunrise, I quickly realized that it was going to be a great day because there were warblers and other migrant birds all throughout the park.


Cerulean Warbler at Golden Hill State Park

I departed Golden Hill around 8:45 a.m. with 93 species, including 22 warbler species. I also realized that luck was working in my favor, as evidenced by one notable example. While scanning Lake Ontario with my spotting scope, I heard a Cerulean Warbler sing from some trees behind me. I turned away from the lake to go find this rare migrant and watched a pair of Sandhill Cranes fly by as I walked. Had I not turned when the warbler sang, I would have missed the cranes!

* Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, Four Mile Creek State Park, and Fort Niagara State Park, Niagara County, through 1 p.m.  The lakeshore parks were all filled with migrant birds and it was tough to leave them even though I was well behind schedule at this point. With 109 species already, it was time to head south along the Niagara River for some species I had “staked out” in the weeks beforehand.


Red-tailed Hawk at Fort Niagara State Park
Swainson’s Thrush at Four Mile Creek State Park
Bay-breasted Warbler at Four Mile Creek State Park
Red-eyed Vireo at Fort Niagara State Park

* 1:10 p.m. Joseph Davis State Park, Niagara County. Not only was the Pied-billed Grebe still present as I was hoping, but I found another sitting on a nest. After some quick photos to document the breeding activity of this State-listed threatened species for the New York Breeding Bird Atlas III project, I hiked the trails to find a few other likely breeding species that were present a week earlier. It’s rewarding to see that the vegetative habitat in the eastern part of the park is still in good shape after an invasive species removal and bird habitat restoration project was completed in 2013. I was involved in that project design through my employer Ecology and Environment Inc (E&E)., a WSP company, as part of grant funded project with Buffalo Audubon Society and Audubon New York.


Pied-billed Grebe at Joseph Davis State Park
Baltimore Oriole at Joseph Davis State Park

*2 p.m. Artpark State Park, Niagara County. Even among local birders, not too many people think of Artpark as a birding destination; however, an upland grassland habitat was created on the Lewiston Plateau as part of a 2003 project involving E&E and the Village of Lewiston with funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and Niagara County. This grassland has hosted Grasshopper Sparrows for years, and this year I discovered rare Clay-colored Sparrows there as well.


Grasshopper Sparrow
Orchard Oriole

While I expected to get these two “staked out” species, I also picked up two nice bonus species with Black Vulture and Merlin, both seen flying from the expansive view looking toward the Niagara Gorge. My list was up to 120 species.

* 2:45 to 4 p.m., Reservoir State Park and Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara County. A quick check of the Lewiston Reservoir provided an Osprey but not any hoped-for shorebird species. While Niagara Falls State Park is one of my favorite local places to go birding, I didn’t spend a lot of time there beyond picking up a few expected species in the afternoon on this warm day. Falling more behind schedule, I had to drop one of the planned stops and reluctantly passed by Buckhorn Island State Park, which is a great place to go birding. However, I felt that I had better chances of adding new species at other parks with less hiking time. I likely missed out on a few species there.

* 4:15 p.m. Beaver Island State Park, Erie County. This spring, the local birders have regularly visited the recently restored marsh habitat along the Niagara River in East River Marsh. Marsh birds have really taken to this location and I added a handful of species including Sora and Marsh Wren to my list. It’s been delightful to see such a rapid response from birds to this restored habitat. New York State Parks took on the design and construction project efforts with funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This serves as a great predecessor to some upcoming similar projects at Buckhorn Island State Park.

*5:50 p.m. Amherst State Park, Erie County. This is the park where the warmest day of the spring caught up with me through more than fatigue. I’m a regular visitor to the park in spring and fall for birding and family hikes but I’m always there in the early morning. I had never seen so many people in the park as on this visit and I knew right away that birding would be a challenge, as well as trying to maintain social distancing even though most in the park did not share that concern. I picked up two staked out species plus an obliging White-breasted Nuthatch, a common species that I was in danger of missing out on for the day.

*6:50 p.m. Woodlawn Beach State Park, Erie County. A walk on the beach on a beautiful evening with the sun starting to set over Lake Erie was picturesque but without any new shorebird or gull species that I was hoping to add. A Cooper’s Hawk seen from the parking lot kept up the streak of adding at least one new species at each park on the day.

*8 p.m. Knox Farm State Park, Erie County. The last stop was good to get Eastern Meadowlark and American Kestrel in the extensive grasslands and then the last addition for the day was a Wood Duck that I saw fly into the woods. With sunset nearly on hand, I called it a day and headed home.

And what a birding adventure it was. The final count was 138 species, which was much better than I was expecting. Other notable numbers were 185 miles by car, over 30,000 steps on foot, and 11 State Parks visited.

While I have known of the tremendous birding in these parks for many years, it was great to get out and experience so many of them in one big day. It only reinforced to me how important these parks are for providing bird habitat, and how habitat restoration projects I’ve been involved with professionally have improved bird habitat even more at several of the parks.

Birding has been one of the best ways for me and many others to get outside during these pandemic times. A big day is at the more extreme end of the birding hobby, and not the way for someone to start into birding. Visiting your local State Park is a great place to go and start out.  For the more experienced birders, the bar has been set at 138 species for a New York State Parks (only!) big day. I’ll be interested to read about the efforts of others who try a similar adventure.


Cover Photo- Baltimore Oriole at Joseph Davis State Park. All photos by Mike Morgante.

By Mike Morgante, Senior Group Leader, Ecology and Environment Inc.


Resources

  1. The New York Breeding Bird Atlas III has something for everyone from beginner birders to the most experienced.
  2. Find background information and recordings of bird calls at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  3. Review the 23 separate Bird Conservation Areas to be found in New York State Parks across the state.

Keep Your Nature Break Local at State Parks …

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep in mind that we should be recreating locally, meaning as close to home as possible. That does not mean long drives to well-known State Parks that might draw crowds, something that has been happening recently in some popular sites.

Parks facilities are spread across 11 regions that span the state, so many people need not travel far to find a trail. To learn more about your region and its facilities, click here.





And there are also other ways to reduce stress while sheltering in place at home. New York has partnered with Headspace to offer some helpful techniques that can be done at home. Learn more here about this collection of meditation, sleep and movement exercises .

To help keep parks open and safe, consider taking this online pledge from Parks & Trails New York:

I pledge to:

☑ Avoid crowded areas: if a park or trail is crowded, be ready to change plans. Also, steer clear of places people tend to congregate: parking lots, playgrounds, picnic areas, overlooks.

☑ Practice social distancing: stay 6 feet away from individuals outside of immediate household members

☑ Stay local: recreate close to home and keep visits short

And, of course, if you’re not feeling well or have any COVID-19 symptoms, please STAY HOME.

If you must go out, heed this advice from State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation :

·       Stay local and keep visits short. Visit in small groups limited to immediate household members;

·       Maintain distance from others while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads, and scenic overlooks;

·       Avoid games and activities that require close contact, such as basketball, football, or soccer;

·       Avoid playground equipment like slides and swings and other frequently touched surfaces;

·       Do not share equipment, such as bicycles, helmets, balls, or Frisbees;

·       If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail, or return another time/day to visit; and

·       If parking lots are full, please do not park along roadsides or other undesignated areas. To protect your safety and that of others, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.

As with all hikes, there are few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Wear sturdy yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera, to capture what you see. Be mindful of hikes on steep terrain or that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are useful, and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back. And use a trail map, which is available park website at https://parks.ny.gov/ Check the park’s individual website to see if its maps can be downloaded to your iOS Apple or Android device.

For some facilities, data is available as a Google Earth KML file or a map is available to download to your iOS Apple and Android mobile devices in the free PDF-Maps app. Learn more

It is important to 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 staffers are stretched thin during the pandemic and this is not an ideal time to be in need of a nighttime rescue.

COVID-19 UPDATE

State Parks encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice social distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Getting outdoors to walk, jog, hike, ride a bike, or visit a park or state lands is a healthy way to stay active, spend time with your immediate household family members, and reduce stress and anxiety while practicing social distancing. While indoor spaces and restrooms at State Park facilities may be closed to prevent community spread of COVID-19, parks, grounds, forests and trails are open during daylight hours, seven days a week.

For the safety of all visitors, all State Park playgrounds, athletic courts and sport fields are closed. Visitors are asked to #recreatelocal, choose parks that are close to their home and follow CDC/NYSDOH’s guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu and COVID-19. We appreciate your support and patience as we navigate this public health crisis together. Learn more about COVID-19 and its impact on NY State Parks. Visit: COVID-19 UPDATE

Parking Limitations in Effect:To encourage physical social distancing at popular parks, trailheads and scenic areas, State Parks may reduce the number of available parking spaces on high visitation days. Have a plan ready to visit a different park or another park area. 

Early Season Camping and Pavilion/Shelters: Due to the global health crisis, all campgrounds, cabins, cottages, and pavilions/shelters are CLOSED to visitation through April 30. All visitors with reservations will be issued a full refund. We ask for your patience as refunds are processed. 

Camping Reservations & Pavilion/Shelter Reservations: New York State has suspended all new camping, cabin and cottage and pavilion/shelter reservations for the 2020 season until further notice. We are assessing campground and pavilion status on a daily basis. If you’ve made a reservation for the season beginning May 1, and we determine your facility is safe to open, your reservation will be honored. However, visitors who wish to cancel an existing reservation may do so and receive a full refund. Thank you for your patience as we work to protect the safety of our visitors and staff.


Cover shot: Otsego Lake at Glimmerglass State Park.

By Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks