Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley

February 10, 2016

The following day hikes come from AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley. For more information, check out the book.

1. POETS’ WALK ROMANTIC LANDSCAPE PARK

Poet's Walk

A fun family river walk among open fields and stone walls with rustic gazebos provides unforgettable views of the Catskills.

  • Location: Red Hook, NY
  • Rating: Easy
  • Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
  • Features: Family-friendly, dogs allowed, X-C skiing, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: USGS Kingston East; Scenic Hudson, Poets’ Walk Romantic, Landscape Park Map (available on-site and online)

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
This scenic park, located within a few minutes’ drive of Tivoli, Red Hook, and Rhinebeck villages, offers one of the prettiest, easiest walks in the valley. It is regarded by many as the crown jewel of Scenic Hudson’s open-space preservation efforts. At just over 2 miles round-trip, the walk can be done in an easy hour by almost anybody. Plan to stay longer if you can, to ponder what Scenic Hudson rightly calls the “breathtaking, unparalleled vistas” of the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains. The park has proven to be very popular with locals, who visit the grounds and its rustic pavilions to cavort, picnic, walk, write, paint, or simply relax and do nothing.

Orient yourself at the information kiosk at the trailhead and get onto the path, heading west into open fields that are cloistered by mature hardwood forests. At the next rustic kiosk (the Arbor), there are interpretive notes and a box containing maps. Help yourself to a trail map and a copy of Scenic Hudson’s Adventure Guide to Parks, Preserves, and Trails. Don’t worry if the trail maps are gone; the trail is self-guiding and well posted (you can also print out a map from Scenic Hudson’s website ahead of time).

 

2. ACRA POINT

Acra Point

This short hike to an isolated lookout above the Black Dome Valley provides intimate views of the Blackhead Range.

  • Location: Maplecrest, NY
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet
  • Estimated Time: 3 hours
  • Features: Family-friendly, dogs allowed, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: USGS Freehold; AMC Catskill Mountains; NY–NJTC Northeast Catskills

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
The route to Acra Point uses the northern portion of the Black Dome Range Trail, located at the eastern end of Big Hollow Road in Maplecrest. Don’t be concerned if the road is washed out along the boisterous Batavia Kill—it often is in early spring. Since this is a dead end, you can park almost anywhere. The red-marked Black Dome Range Trail begins on the left (north) side of the road. It’s the first trailhead you see; the next one, a few hundred feet ahead, is the Batavia Kill trailhead (yellow markers). You can also use the Batavia Kill and Escarpment trails to reach Acra Point (or to return from it), more than doubling this hike’s distance.

Acra Point is an ideal hike for days when you want a scenic outing that’s not an overwhelming workout. This part of the Escarpment Trail is also less traveled than the North Lake area trails and the neighboring Windham High Peak or Blackhead Range trails, so you’re likely to see fewer hikers. You may encounter thru-hikers, however. I enjoy meeting these hikers “going the distance” on the Escarpment Trail (also shared by the Long Path); in their floppy hats and rumpled bandanas, they come plodding along with their hiking staffs, blending in with the environment. If you meet one here during summer, chances are they may try to yogi your food, especially your water, in exchange for tales of their adventures—this part of the Catskills is notoriously dry.

 

3. PLATEAU MOUNTAIN FROM STONY CLOVE

Plateau Mountain

A very steep rise out of Stony Clove Notch leads to a long, level plateau with isolated views.

  • Location: Hunter, NY
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Distance: 6.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,840 feet
  • Estimated Time: 6 hours
  • Features: Dogs allowed
  • Maps: USGS Hunter; AMC Catskill Mountains; NY–NJTC Catskill Trails 41

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills and Hudson Valley)
Stony Clove Notch is a narrow mountain pass with rugged visual appeal. It is formed by the long ridge of Plateau meeting with that of Hunter and holds at its apex the teardrop of Notch Lake and the Devil’s Tombstone State Campground, where the Devil’s Path Trail crosses NY 214. This major Catskill landmark can be seen from 50 miles away. Take a look at Plateau’s western slope, and you’ll have an idea of the ascent you’re about to make.

Cross the road to the east where you’ll see trail signs and the red markers of the Devil’s Path. Plateau Mountain Lookout (a.k.a. Orchid or Orchard Point) is indicated at 1.2 miles, but the mountain’s true summit is on the east end of the ridge at 3,840 feet, 2.5 miles from the trailhead. What you will witness from the lookout will please you more than the boreal, viewless summit. Plateau Mountain Lookout is an outstanding viewpoint at 3,600 feet—one that is grossly underrated in the hierarchy of Catskill vistas.

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Peter W. Kick

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.