by Barbara Peduzzi


Harvey Mountain. Photo contributed


We’ve heard it in various connotations since before staying home became the thing to do and even more since that began: “Go take a hike!” Fortunately, there are many places to do that throughout our area. There are trails suitable for any age or ability, from short flat paths and kid-friendly routes to ones that challenge the more daring. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

I love waterfalls. Again fortunately, there are several of those nearby. Two are superlative: Bash Bish Falls is the highest in Massachusetts and Kaaterskill the tallest cascading two-tier falls in New York.

The 1.5 mile round-trip trail to Bash Bish Falls starts in Copake, NY’s Taconic Park, but a short way up the trail along a rock-strewn creek you walk into Massachusetts. With the first look at the falls, an “Oh, Wow!” reaction is guaranteed. The water divides around a huge heart-shaped rock (which goes along with the legend of the falls’ name) and plunges to a boulder-surrounded pool. Steps lead close to that (NO Swimming!) and you can ease even closer, but be careful, almost every year a rescue or recovery has to take place.

The large clearing offers varied views and a picnic table, where I had a delightful chat with another hiker. Trails lead up the steep hill or you can drive up the mountain to scramble around rocks to the top of the falls, where you catch a striking view west to the Catskills.
Add to your visit by parking at the Copake Iron Works, checking out the old forge and diorama exhibits and then walking about one-half mile through the woods to the trailhead.  

The Kaaterskill Falls parking area looks down Kaaterskill Clove—from there you walk along the road past Bastion Falls (no slouch itself in scenic size) to the trailhead. This trail is about 2.5 miles round trip and is somewhat rugged with lots of roots and rocks, hiking stick recommended (Where was mine? In the car). The trail ends in a bowl, where your first look at the narrow, 231-foot-high falls is another “Oh, Wow!” moment. There are steps to go up to the bottom of the first drop and some space to walk around for different views. Drive further up the mountain to the top of the falls where there are more trails and a viewing platform.

A friendly thought: Both Bash Bish and Kaaterskill are popular and heavily trafficked, so go during the week if you can.


Kinderhook Creek Preserve. Photo by Barbara Peduzzi

I’ve enjoyed smaller and far less-noted waterfalls on several other hikes. One is along the trail through the Wilson Powell Wildlife Sanctuary in Old Chatham, NY, an easy mile-long walk in the woods. Take the side trip to Dorson’s Rock, a large formation where kids can rock-scramble and you can enjoy a view across farmlands to the Catskill Mountains. About halfway through the walk, after you pass an old laid-up stone foundation, a small stream sprawls over a hillside. The property belongs to the Alan J. Devoe Bird Club and as such is a great place for birders.

A series of tiny falls burble along the Stony Kill next to the trail at Crellin Park, Chatham’s community park.  It’s about one-half mile end-to-end; you’ll add a little depending on where you enter and what side trips down to the creek you take. If that’s not enough of a workout, they have installed a series of “Advanced Timber Challenge Course” stops on which you can do chin-ups, sit-ups, monkey bars and other exercises.

Another very popular hike is to the Beebe Hill Fire Tower in Austerlitz, NY. No waterfalls, but there is a scenic pond and an old cemetery by the parking area, a smaller pond, lean-to and some neat rock formations along the trail, and of course the fire tower at the top. It’s about two miles round trip and steep enough in spots to give this senior citizen’s legs a good workout. A large clearing on top offers space to sit for a picnic and there’s an old ranger cabin to explore around. I confess I have not climbed the fire tower—I started to the last time up there but strong winds discouraged me. Views from it are awesome, I understand; you can get a taste of those from parts of the clearing.

A short way from there the climb up Harvey Mountain will lead you to great views and, in the right season, fresh wild blueberries. Step into the woods at the far side of the large open area and you can walk to Massachusetts—a stone marker shows the state line. It’s about 3½ miles round trip; I went up the trail and back down on an old road that brought me out on another side of the mountain. For a while I wasn’t sure I’d ever find my car! Camping is permitted, but make sure your campfire is all the way out or you’ll start a brush fire and lose all your camping equipment, as recently occurred.


Lindenwald Wayside Trail. Photo by Barbara Peduzzi

Add art or history to your walk with the larger-than-life sculptures at Art Omi Sculpture and Architectural Park in Ghent, NY, or the Wayside Trail at Lindenwald, the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, NY. Art Omi offers 120 acres of fields and woods strewn with sculptures that range from a 20-foot tall deer to a waterfall from a roof that you can sit underneath. At Lindenwald, you stroll the grounds to read about the eighth president and his estate—part of the walk is on one of the last dirt portions of the Post Road that ran from New York City to Albany, NY.
Across the highway, the Friends of Lindenwald created a nature preserve with a total of 3.7 miles of trails. The outer loop is about 1.5 miles of an easy walk mostly through old growth forest. There is also the Dutch Heritage Trail, connecting the Lindenwald parking lot with the Van Alen Homestead historic site 1.7 miles north. That’s on my do-it list.

In East Nassau, NY, in southern Rensselaer County, several miles of trails at the Kinderhook Creek Preserve trails go along the creek and through the woods, with places to fish or picnic along the way.

Columbia Land Conservancy sites offer all the variety you could ever ask for. Speaking of waterfalls, there are two at the High Falls Public Conservation Area in Philmont, NY; a lovely lake and stream at Hand Hollow Public Conservation Area in East Chatham, NY; a charming pool in the woods at Harris Public Conservation Area in Austerlitz; ponds and striking views at the Schor Public Conservation Area in Red Rock, NY: or Ooms Public Conservation Area in Old Chatham, NY; a fishing creek at Siegel-Kline Kill Public Conservation Area in Ghent; and views of the Harlem Valley at Drowned Lands Swamp Public Conservation Area in Ancram, and Overmountain Public Conservation Area in Ancram.   
All of these are just a few of the multitude of places to get out and stretch your legs throughout our area. Check for trails, land conservancy or state land locations near you—guaranteed there’s a hike you’ll enjoy. ¶