Category Archives: Hiking

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

Waterfalls Herald Spring’s arrival

So much has changed in recent days as all of us in New York deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, But natural cycles are still continuing to mark the arrival of spring.

One of those cycles is the freshet – a term used to describe a thaw from snow and ice melt that then feeds a surge of fresh water into rivers and streams. Too large a freshet can cause spring flooding.

While much of the snow in New York is now gone, there is still snowpack remaining in the high country from the recent storm that will feed the freshet in the coming days. And while that surge is thankfully too small to cause flooding, it does mean that is a great time to see some of the beautiful waterfalls found in New York State Parks.

Of course, such visits should be made while being mindful to maintain social distancing critical to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Use this map to locate a State Park with a waterfall.

In the eastern North America, annual freshets occur from the Canadian Taiga ranging along both sides of the Great Lakes, continuing through the heavily forested Appalachian mountain chain and St. Lawrence valley from northern Maine into barrier ranges in North Carolina and Tennessee.

In the western part of the continent, freshets occur throughout higher elevations of various west coast mountain ranges that extend southward down from Alaska as far as the northern reaches of Arizona and New Mexico.

This previous post from the NYS Parks Blog describes each waterfall in detail,,,

Fall in Love with New York State Parks’ Waterfalls

Did you know that Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States? Established in 1885 as Niagara Reservation, the breath-taking waterfalls at this park are considered some of America’s greatest natural wonders. Did you also know that the American Falls at Niagara Falls State Park, at around 100 feet tall, … Continue reading Fall in Love with New York State Parks’ Waterfalls

Of course, any visitors to State Parks should keep this COVID-19 guidance in mind:

COVID-19 UPDATE:  New York state parks, trails and grounds of historic sites are open for open air outdoor recreation. Governor Cuomo is urging all New Yorkers to stay home as much as possible. If you do plan on visiting, it should be for a healthy nature break. For the safety of all visitors and to stop the spread of COVID-19, all State Park playgrounds, athletic courts and sporting fields are CLOSED

Please limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact, and avoid activities where you may come in close contact with other people. If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park or trail, or return another time/day to visit. 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

NEW: CAMPING UPDATE

Early Season Camping: Due to the global health crisis, all campgrounds, cabins, and cottages are CLOSED to overnight 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: New York State has suspended all new camping, cabin and cottage reservations for the 2020 season until further notice. We are assessing campground status on a daily basis. If you’ve made a reservation for the season beginning May 1, and we determine your campground 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.


By Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, New York State Parks.

First Day Hikes 2020

Many New Yorkers thrive in winter and are eager for falling temperatures and consistent snowfalls. To these hardy adventurers, a few extra layers of gear combined with the snowy terrain of parklands is a winning recipe for fitness, togetherness and outdoor fun.

Welcome the new decade, enjoy the winter landscapes, and unwind after a hectic holiday season by joining a First Day Hike on January 1, 2020.

First Day Hike

There are more than 75 such hikes planned at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands across the state as part of the 9th annual First Day Hikes program. This map can help find one near you…

Hikes are being offered at more than 50 state parks and historic sites (with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill levels and destinations within the park) and 21 state lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers and partners at many sites, will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions. Remember to dress appropriately and keep this old Scandinavian saying in mind: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

First Day hikers at Taughannock Falls State Park.

A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, walking history tour, snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, fire towers, and more. If weather conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways.

Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted.

Never too young to go out for a hike.

And know that you are part of something that is happening all across America. First Day Hikes, which started in Massachusetts in 1992, are now a national event taking place in all 50 states.

Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes.  Numerous others hiked state park trails throughout the day.

If you’ve never been on a First Day Hike, 2020 is the year!


Cover photo: First Day hikers at a DEC fire tower. These hikers are wearing traction gear on their boots, which is important in steep or icy conditions.

Post by NYS Parks Staff

Ready At The Rope

It was going to take heavy ropes and safety gear to rescue a 75-year-old man who was hurt and bleeding after falling near the rocky summit of Dutchess County’s highest point — 2,316-foot Brace Mountain.

With temperatures above 90 degrees and humidity thick that July 4th weekend afternoon, crews at Taconic State Park faced a half-mile hike up the mountain to reach the victim, who could not walk after injuring his head and extremities in a fall on a steep trail.  Initial reports also indicated the man was on blood thinning medication, which could make his bleeding harder to stop.

Setting out from the trailhead, the crew included myself, members of the local Millerton Volunteer Fire Department, an emergency medical technician, two forest rangers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and members of the Northwest Connecticut Rope Rescue Team. With about 300 pounds of ropes and hardware for the crew to carry, the hike in took about 45 minutes.

Some five grueling hours later, crews had carried and lowered the 125-pound victim hundreds of feet down the mountain, with the help of the stout ropes, a metal basket, and a piece of equipment called a stokes wheel. A stokes wheel is a single ATV tire that clips to the sides of a metal rescue basket, making transportation on rough terrain more comfortable for the patient and easier on rescuers. The victim was then airlifted to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Using a stokes wheel, the rescue crew carries an injured hiker down Brace Mountain.
A helicopter heads to Brace Mountain to extricate an injured hiker.

This is not the first occurrence of this type of injury on this trail. Earlier that year, a hiker had fallen on the icy trail and injured his ribs, requiring rescue crews to carry him out on a stokes wheel. A few years earlier, another visitor fractured his leg while slipping on leaves and was airlifted off the summit of Brace Mountain after being carried by crews for more than a mile to a suitable landing zone.

As park attendance continues to rise, and social media convinces more potential hikers to head for the backcountry, we are seeing an increase in patron injuries and so-called ‘technical’ rescues in our State Parks. Such rescues are becoming more common at places like Taconic State Park and Hudson Highlands State Park in the Taconic Region, Minnewaska and Bear Mountain State Parks in Palisades Region, John Boyd Thatcher in Saratoga Region and Letchworth State Park in Genesee Region.

People fall while taking selfies, slip while wearing improper footwear, or enter hazardous and closed areas of our parks. Some patrons fail to dress for the weather, do not bring flashlights or maps, fail to bring enough water and are generally unprepared to hike some of the terrain our beautiful parks offer. The mighty cell phone has made many of our patrons more confident knowing help is only a call away. This false confidence has started to put a strain on park resources along with surrounding first responders who are constantly being called to parks for injuries, and search and rescues.

In order to work better together and streamline communications between rescue crews, here at Taconic State Park we have started annual rope rescue drills with local fire departments, forest rangers, rope rescue teams, park police and other first responders.

The drills include using Incident Action Plans and the Incident Command Structures we all learn in our classes as park managers. By drilling, we get to practice putting together planning documents and working with Incident Commanders who coordinate with park officials on such emergencies. We gain valuable facetime in a non-emergency atmosphere where we can dissect our pre-planning and offer each other suggestions and advice.

In late October, staff at Taconic State Park held a Joint Rope Rescue drill that brought together over a dozen responding agencies from two states and three counties. The drill was a mock exercise that practiced communication between different departments, navigation and various rope rescue skills and strategies.

Members of the Brace Mountain Joint Rope Rescue Drill in October.
A map of the Brace Mountain region used during the safety drill.

We also review our rescues to learn not only what we did right but more importantly, where we can improve. One lesson from the July 4th incident is that we will now use staging areas for motorized UTV’s that shuttle rope gear to a pre-planned location near the summit of the mountain so that heavy equipment no longer needs to go uphill with rescuers on foot.

By using motorized vehicles to bring heavy gear above where a rescue has to happen, rope crews only have to carry this equipment downhill, which saves more of their energy for when they reach a victim. It takes a few more resources to do this but ultimately increases the efficiency of getting equipment to the injured hiker.

Also, we have established multiple hoist locations in the area, so if available, a helicopter can save us the time and effort of carrying and building lowering devices with ropes and hardware in the field. This will not always be available, but it is another tool that we can use to make rescues faster and safer.

All parks are required to have an All Hazards Emergency Action Plan. However, some emergencies in our parks require more planning than the normal fire drill or patron with heat exhaustion. Some potential emergencies require park managers to meet with local first responders on a regular basis to enhance the speed and efficiency of their response.

No matter what size the park or historic site, it is always essential to have an open line of communication with the local fire chief, rescue squad and Park Police so that the one day they are needed, they know your face and who you are. It just makes things easier – and ultimately safer – for the thousands of visitors who use the trails in the rugged regions of our State.


Post by Chris Rickard, Park Manager, Taconic State Park


Prepare To Help Avoid Accidents

  • For a safe hike, there are things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Wear sturdy yet comfortable shoes or boots, and bring water and snacks for the trail. Wear clothing appropriate for the weather.
  • Be mindful during hikes on steep terrain or that go near cliff tops. Hiking poles can help stabilize yourself against a potential fall, and transfer stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.
  • In the winter, when snow and ice can cover trails, carry and use traction gear on boots, such a webbed spikes or crampons.
  • Carry a small first-aid kit in case of emergency. Hike with a partner, so if something happens, help is present. Hiking alone is risky.
  • Use a trail map, which is available online at each park website at https://parks.ny.gov/ and at the main office at each park, in season. Check the park’s individual website to see if its maps can be downloaded to your iOS Apple or Android device, but a paper map is a good backup in the event of device failure.
  • 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
  • Once you have a map, you can tell how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. As days grow shorter in fall and winter, having a flashlight or headlamp in your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.
  • If issues arise, be prepared to turn around. Don’t fall victim to “summit fever” – the desire to reach the top regardless of the risk.
  • And, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside during spring, summer and fall, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard. Thankfully, ticks are not normally active during the cold of winter.
The Brace Mountain rope drill team nears the summit.

All pictures courtesy of NYS Parks

Get Out and Explore … The Palisades Region

With autumn leaves now turned, hiking in the Palisades region of State Parks offers spectacular views of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills to go with a fascinating history that includes an outlaw’s lair, the state’s early iron industry, and a traitor’s secret meeting place.

Located on the west side of the Hudson River, this region between the Capital Region and New York City stretches through Rockland, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, and contains 23 parks and seven historic sites.

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 online at each park website at https://parks.ny.gov/ and at the main office at each park. Check the park’s individual website to see if its maps can be downloaded to your iOS Apple or Android device, but a paper map is a good backup in the event of device failure.

These maps include Park facilities such as parking, park offices, nature centers, campsites, and boat launches in addition to the location, name and distance of each designated trail in the park. 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

For the Palisades region, more information on hikes is also available online from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and at the bookstore near Exit 17 on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

It’s smart to know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, especially in fall as days grow shorter, 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.

And, as the 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.

Rockland County

Rockland Lake State Park, 299 Rockland Lake Road, Valley Cottage, (845) 268-3020: The Nyack River Trail runs along the western short of the Hudson River between Haverstraw Beach State Park and Nyack Beach State Park. About five miles long, the level trail offers excellent river views. It is lined with crushed stone, and so is easy on the knees for a run, and also makes for an excellent bike ride or walk with a dog (must be leashed per NYS Parks rules). This trail also passes a county historical marker for the infamous “Treason Site,” where during the American Revolution in 1780 American General Benedict Arnold meet secretly with British spy Major John Andre to hand over plans for the capture of the strategic Patriot fortress at West Point. Thankfully, the plot was thwarted, with Arnold becoming one of the fledgling nation’s most despised figures.

Find a trail map here

Strolling along the Nyack River Trail.
A historical marker for the Treason Site erected by the Rockland County Historical Society (Photo from Wikipedia Commons.)

Harriman State Park, Seven Lakes Drive/Bear Mountain Circle, Ramapo, (845) 947-2444: At more than 47,500 acres, the second-largest State Park has more than 200 miles of hiking trails. At its northeastern edge, it borders Bear Mountain State Park as well as the U.S. Military Academy’s forest reserve. To the southwest lies the 18,000-acre Sterling Forest State Park. This vast park includes a large rocky shelter that was the remote hideout for a bandit named Claudius Smith, who led a gang of pro-British marauders during the American Revolution, known at the time by terrified local residents as “Cowboys.” To find it, go to the parking lot at the end of Old Johnstown Road, and look for the Blue Trail. Follow this steep trail to the top of Dater Mountain for its views, and then continue until you reach the rocky den, which had enough room to shelter both the gang and their horses. After taking in the panoramic views, which allowed the gang to see anyone coming, head down on the Tuxedo-Mount Ivy Trail to return to the parking lot. The hike is a five-mile trip, with one very steep section.

Find a trail map here

A vintage photograph of hikers exploring Claudius Smith’s Den.

Ulster County

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, (845) 255-0752: Take in Catskills from atop the Stony Kills Falls at the northwestern edge of the park on this short, but challenging one-mile hike. Start at the parking area at the end of Shaft 2A Road and follow the gravel trail that crosses two wooden bridges on its way to the base of the 78-foot waterfall. Follow a set of stone stairs upward, using iron hand holds and railings for safety, to reach the top of the falls and its sweeping northerly views. You can either backtrack to the parking lot, or connect to the Stony Kill Falls carriage road atop the Shawangunk escarpment to make a longer hike.

Find a trail map here

Taking in the view at Stony Kills Falls.

Orange County

Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades Parkway or Route 9W North, Bear Mountain, (845) 786-2701: Take in the view of four states and even glimpse the Manhattan skyline from the Perkins Memorial Tower atop 1,289-foot Bear Mountain. Take the completely rebuilt Appalachian Trail, which features about 1,000 stone steps along a steep granite face. It took crews, including members of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, seven years of arduous labor to renovate the 1.5 mile trail up to the top. There is a new wooden bench at one of the lookouts for those who might find themselves in need of a breather on the way up.

The view from the top.

Also at Harriman, photographers will enjoy the trail to West Mountain that starts at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area. Start on the Fawn Trail to the Timp-Torn Trail, which takes you to the mountain ridge to the West Mountain Shelter. From there, return using Timp-Torn to the intersection of the Appalachian Trail westbound, which will lead to Beechy Bottom Road that returns to the main parking area. The moderate hike is about five miles.

Find a trail map here

Looking out from the West Mountain Shelter.

Sterling Forest State Park, 116 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo, (845) 351-5907: For larger groups or school trips, there is the Lakeville Ironworks Trail Loop, which takes in the remains of an iron industry that once dominated the area. At about a mile long, the easy loop includes views of Sterling Furnace, the Lake Mine, and other mining remnants. This trail is among more than 30 trails, including the Appalachian Trail, within a 21,935-acre park in the midst of the nation’s most densely populated areas.

Find a trail map here

The former cable house at the ironworks.

Cover Photo of West Mountain summit view by Abigail Leo Parry, manager of Beaver Pond Campground at Harriman State Park.

All photos from NYS Parks unless otherwise credited.


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