People love New York’s trails! Did you know that State Parks has more than 2,000 miles of trails across the state? And that merchandise featuring trail markers is among the top sellers at the Parks online store?
More people than ever have been using Parks trails during the past ten years, especially during the recent pandemic, as being outdoors offered safe and healthy recreation when some other venues weren’t available. With so many trails, there is always lots of work to do for our trail crews, staff, and non-profit partners to maintain, improve and expand our network. Let’s take a tour of some of what’s been done recently.
To help find your way on the trail, check out the Parks’ Explorer app for smartphones and mobile devices. Available for both iOS and Android devices, the free app offers a range of useful information, including trail maps and a real-time location function that allows users to easily follow along on the park’s map.
To help support some of its trail work, each year Parks receives funding through the state budget as part of the NY Works capital program. Some of the program’s largest funded trails projects over the past five years include:
- $500,000 for the Backcountry Trails Program to repair and restore trails in the Hudson Highlands of our Taconic and Palisades Regions.
- $400,000 to restore hiking, skiing, equestrian, and snowmobile trails in Allegany State Park in western New York.
- $250,000 to repair stonework and restore the scenic gorge trail of the Finger Lakes Region.
- $200,000 for improvements to park trails across the Saratoga-Capital Region.
- $175,000 for region-wide trail projects in the Thousand Island trails.
Crews working under the Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP) have spent years rehabilitating miles of trail in Hudson Highlands and Sterling Forest State Parks. The program engages AmeriCorps volunteer service members to learn and apply highly skilled trail building techniques from April through October each year.
This past season more than 2,000 feet of trail were rehabilitated and more than 140 stone steps installed on the Washburn and Undercliff Trails in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in the Hudson Valley. In the Palisades Region, miles of trail have been added and improved on the very popular multi-use trail system at Sterling Forest State Park. 2022 will mark the ninth year of the BCTP implementing high-quality trail construction projects in our facilities.
The Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) project has so far assessed 40 trails in State Parks with a goal of identifying those that could be made accessible for persons with disabilities. Funded through a Federal grant, the project completed its third year of field assessments to find trails that meet or have the potential to meet federal standards for accessibility.
Learn more about this project in a previous post on the NYS Parks Blog HERE
On July 1st, the ribbon was cut on the new Nimham Trail in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, which was completed in partnership with the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail organization. Named for the last Mohican chief in the Hudson Valley, this new trail allows for an easier ascent and safer descent to the popular Breakneck Ridge – but it’s still a challenge! This new trail has over 600 stone steps and climbs 600 feet of elevation in less than a mile. Images below of the the Ninham Trail show, left to right, new stairs, a trail information map, and a new bridge.
In Clarence Fahnestock State Park Preserve, the Open Space Institute (OSI) broke ground on a sustainable multi-purpose loop trail suitable for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. More than 5.5 miles of new or rehabilitated trail have been created as well as two bridges, four boardwalks, and two turnpikes. As a complement to this project, West Point engineering cadets designed and built a multi-use arched bridge to traverse a mountain stream. This is the fifth bridge constructed in partnership with OSI and West Point on the Hubbard-Perkins project.
Interns from the Hudson Valley AmeriCorps of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) had their annual Patriot Day of Service project at Sam’s Point in Minnewaska State Park Preserve. This two-day project created a new 72-foot section of bog-bridge on the Verkeerder Kill Falls Footpath. The popular trail passes through the globally rare dwarf pitch pine barrens and has seen increased use in the past five years. Pictured below, the bog bridges will help mitigate user impacts by keeping hikers’ feet out of wet areas and on the designated path.
Parks Regional Trail Crews Deliver
In 2021 at John Boyd Thacher State Park, trail crews repaired trail, replaced timber steps, and build rock crib-wall on the area’s most hiking popular trail, the Indian Ladder Trail. In Peebles Island State Park, trails were upgraded with new surfacing material and drainage improvements, as well as new trail markers and intersection signage added for safety. Trails at John Brown Farm State Historic Site in the Adirondacks were overhauled and signage was installed to improve wayfinding.
Crews at Buttermilk Falls State Park installed a 56-foot prefabricated fiberglass bridge and set up high-line rigging to lift the bridge into place over Buttermilk Creek. The new crossing now connects hikers safely from the parking lot to the trail by eliminating a hazardous road crossing. Click on the slideshow below to observe the project…
At Chimney Bluffs State Park, the Bluff Trail leading to the visually stunning bluff overlooking Lake Ontario was rerouted this year after being closed since May 2018 due to safety concerns. This project established a new sustainable trail route away from the heavily eroded bluff edge and constructed 170 timber stairs, multiple erosion control features, and added a 225-foot wooden boardwalk to raise the trail over the forest floor.
More than 680 stone and timber steps were installed at Stony Brook State Park to rehabilitate heavily eroded trail sections at the north and south entrances to the park’s main trail.
More than 700 feet of boardwalks and foot bridges were installed throughout the trail system at Ganondagan State Historic Site to replace worn out sections.
At Green Lakes State Park, the Green Lake Trail was resurfaced and received drainage improvements over the past three years. Crews also completed a full signage and wayfinding upgrade with a total of 316 new trailhead, intersection, and informational signs, all designed in-house and produced at the regional sign shop.
Thousand Island Region
More than 1.5 miles of new trail were added to Keewaydin State Park. Crews also performed seasonal maintenance on more than 16 miles of trails region-wide and constructed new trail structures including:
- 48-ft aluminum bridge at Whetstone Gulf State Park.
- Timber box steps at Point au Roche State Park.
- New tent platforms at Cedar Island State Park.
- 300 feet of bog bridges at Whetstone Gulf State Park.
Working for the Future
Parks is also keeping an eye on the future for its trails. In our Albany office, planners in the Division of Environmental Stewardship and Planning (DESP) set a roadmap for future trail work through the completion of the Statewide Greenway Trails Plan which was signed for adoption by Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid in April 2021.
With over 2,000 additional miles across New York, these multi-use greenway trails, like the Empire State Trail and others, are a popular amenity and serve as a critical component of both recreation and transportation. The completed Greenway Trails Plan will be a resource for trail managers and advocates to expand the state’s greenway trail network over the next decade.
Whether it’s hiking, snowshoeing, cycling, Nordic skiing, horseback riding, or even snowmobiling, there’s a trail for you in State Parks. See for yourself all the great work done by our trails crews and partners as you get out into nature’s beauty!
Cover Shot: A new bridge built by State Parks trail crews at the Ganondagan State Historic Site. All images by NYS Parks.
Post by Chris Morris, Statewide Trails Program Planner, NYS Parks
Learn more about the many trails in State Parks across New York in our popular “Get Out and Explore” Blog series:
- Allegany Region
- Central Region
- Finger Lakes Region
- Genesee Region
- Long Island Region
- New York City Region
- Niagara Region
- Palisades Region
- Saratoga-Capital Region
- Taconic Region
- Thousand Islands Region
During winter when there is snowcover, State Parks also offer a variety of trails suitable for cross-country skiing. Find out more in this previous post in the NYS Park Blog.
“Can you imagine anything freer and more exciting than when you, swiftly as a bird, zoom down the wood-clad hillsides while country air and spruce twigs whiz by your cheeks and eyes; brain and muscles tense, ready to avoid any unknown obstacle which any moment might be thrown in your path? You are one with…
Trails at more than 30 State Parks are also available for snowmobiling during winter. Click HERE for a listing.