Fresh air and challenging terrain for a wide range of sports are two primary factors that draw visitors to the more remote parts of the Hudson River Valley. Whether you choose to hike, bike, or ski, you’ll have plenty of choices for a memorable outdoor adventure.
[pullquote align=right]Minnewaska State Park Preserve has rare dwarf pines and peregrine falcons to see.[/pullquote]Some 200 miles of trails traverse the Catskill Forest Preserve. High above the Hudson River Valley are Kaaterskill Falls and the Escarpment Trail, a magical wilderness setting where the Hudson River School of painters found inspiration and the Catskill Mountain House entertained prominent guests. The rugged 23-mile trail connects the towns of Haines Falls and Windham, changing 10,000 feet in elevation along the way. The highest peak along the trail is 3,940-foot Blackhead Mountain. Allow two days for a challenging overnight hike, or three days for side trips at either end of the hike.
Near New Paltz in Ulster County, Minnewaska State Park Preserve has rare dwarf pines and peregrine falcons to see, plus gorgeous vistas at every bend in the trail.
Swimming and Boating
The Hudson and its tributaries lure water sports enthusiasts for fishing, sailing, tubing, kayaking, and more. Tubing on the Esopus in Ulster County is especially popular in summer. Sailing school is an option out of Kingston. Greenwood Lake in Orange County, Lake Taghkanic in Columbia County, and several lakes near Saratoga Springs have beaches for swimming and facilities for boats.
Kayakers can paddle lakes, ponds, creeks, and of course the Hudson River in Dutchess County. Several shops in the region rent gear and offer guided trips.
Cyclists enjoy endless miles of rolling hills on quiet country roads, and several counties have converted long stretches of abandoned train tracks into paths for walking, jogging, or biking. Piermont and New Paltz are popular cycling towns, and many local clubs plan group rides on summer weekends. You might tour one county at a time, or attempt the 180-mile multiday ride from New York City to Albany. Include as many bridge crossings as possible, and allow time to take in some of the sights along the way. Several companies offer guided bike tours of the area; an amateur bike race is another way to discover many of the back roads.
Falling temperatures mean one thing to winter sports enthusiasts: the possibility of powder. Ski resorts in the Catskills and Adirondacks start making snow as soon as it will freeze, and then hope for a little help from Mother Nature as the season progresses. Whether you prefer the thrill of downhill or the serenity of the open trail, the greater Hudson River Valley has much to offer December-March.
For downhill thrills, head to Windham, Hunter, or Belleayre in the northern Catskill Mountains, where snow guns cover nearly 100 percent of the terrain. For more solitude on Nordic trails, choose the Capital-Saratoga region: John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany and Lapland Lake near Saratoga Springs are good bets.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Hudson Valley & the Catskills.