HED: Hiking Safely in the Time of Coronavirus
By Lauren Dishinger
Going stir crazy? Luckily, in the Hudson Valley, there are plenty of outdoorsy haunts to choose from - even though some have been closed due to overcrowding. For instance, almost everything accessible off of Route 9D, including the Camp Smith trail and Anthony’s Nose, is temporarily closed. Breakneck Ridge has been closed, as well as Bull Hill and Mount Beacon. Farther north, the Kaaterskill Falls lookout has been closed. Make sure you do your research on what trails are open since this can change by the week. This is a good place to check out recent trail closures. The best times to avoid crowds would be early morning and late afternoon, before sunset. By midday, there are usually quite a few people trying to get their fresh air in. Here are a few good ones to try while social distancing this summer! PSA: To be respectful of others and stay safe, please remember to still bring a mask and hand sanitizer with you. Other people will inevitably be hiking these mountains and you’ll have to pass them, sometimes on narrow stretches of the trail!
Turkey Mountain Located in Yorktown, this small mountain is great for a quick and easy workout. The family-friendly two-mile loop has a good view at the peak and is short enough for people who don’t want to spend half the day hiking.
Bear Mountain There are quite a few spots to do here on Bear Mountain, but be careful of people. Since it's pretty well known, it would be best to get there very early or try it on a weekday. The four to five-mile loop is definitely worth it and even has some man-made stone stairs built into the incline to help visitors out with the climb. Though some people drive up since there is a big parking lot at the viewpoint. Once you make it up there, you’ll find Perkins Memorial Tower and mountains dotted with rocky bluffs. On a clear day, it’s even possible to see the New York City skyline.
Popolopen Torne Gorge A little over four miles, this loop has a fantastic view at the summit with some challenging hills and rock scrambling. On the way down, you’ll pass the gorge. After heavy rainfall, the gorge can get pretty full - so wait for some rain and take in the peaceful sounds of some mini waterfalls. Make sure not to park in the historic site parking lot (even though the trail begins there), unless you want to risk getting a ticket. Some days, the police swing by to ticket the cars that are parked in front of the closed gate. If you drive farther down, there will be a parking lot for hikers on the right, and alternate parking spots past that.
Sugarloaf Mountain With parking right by the Shell station, this Hudson Highlands trailhead is hard to miss. A long series of planks are built above a swampy marsh - walk the plank and begin your hike! It’s relatively flat with some rolling hills, the one steep ascent being the trip to the summit halfway through. It’s not super spacious at the lookout, so pay attention while navigating any people if you want to sit. Take a look amongst the rocks and you’ll notice that wild cactus grows up here. You may even spot a few lizards.
Appalachian Trail/Three Lakes Trail Loop This one is a figure-eight loop in Fahnestock Park that passes some cool sites, like an old mine railbed and some gorgeous lakes. You can park and enter on Route 301, next to Canopus Lake. This is a long rolling trail, probably about four miles. No summits to sit and soak in a view, but it does have gorgeous mountain laurel, marshes, mossy rocks, and a man-made bridge built into the dirt with old stones.
Minnewaska State Park No place like the gunks! Minnewaska is huge, so using the wider paths is a great idea for social distancing while exercising. The entire loop is almost ten miles, so bring some lunch and prepare to tire yourself out! The ice caves have been closed, but a good amount of the park is open for hiking. If you want to see the famous waterfalls, try to get that in right when the park opens - it gets very crowded later in the day and people will be unavoidable. The parking area opens at 9 AM, so if you want to get a spot with minimal wait times, make sure you get there no later than 8:30 AM to line up. Any longer and you could be waiting over an hour to park the car. Fees have been waived for parking and they have a very organized system, with their staff letting in a certain amount of people at a time.
Storm King Mountain No warmups on this three-mile loop - it begins with a strenuous hill to start you off. There are plenty of overlooks on this hike, so don’t be fooled as you make your way onwards and upwards. The 360 view at the summit is the ultimate reward for some of the steep inclines. Though you do get little surprises on the way, like the remnants of old ruins.
So take it all in and enjoy the fresh air on your trip outdoors. Stay safe, respect others, and wear a mask when passing fellow hikers.