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Nick Catania | 12.12.2018

A vast landscape of steep cliffs and rounded mountains flank the sides of the Hudson River for over one hundred miles. These powerful waters wind around these mighty land masses that have been separated by the shifting tectonic plates and shaped by glaciers over millions of years. As the trees become barren and the snow falls, the intricacies of this complex setting become outlined by the contrast of thick brown tree cover defining each peak and ridge. From easy riverside paths to intense mountain climbs, the Hudson Valley offers a magnificent number of rich opportunities to grab your snowshoes and explore. There are fire towers, overlooks, and historic ruins filling this region with an abundance of unique sights and places to adventure! We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite trails to help you get started:

Mount Beacon Fire Tower

Mount Beacon’s summit is the highest peak of the Hudson Highlands, and it maintains a unique historic and recreational value to the local community as well as the country. Atop the southern peak of this two-summit mountain rests a fire tower lookout at 1,610 feet in elevation.  Along the way you will pass the former site of the first electrified incline railway built in 1902 and ridden by more than 3.5 million visitors.  Continuing on, the trail switches back-and-forth up the face of the mountain and passes foundations of the chairlifts built in 1967 for the Dutchess Ski Area. About halfway to the tower you will reach the sole foundation remains of a restaurant, casino, and hotel that once overlooked the valley. Finally at the top, climb the steps of the fire tower for views that can reach all the way south to New York City and north to Albany.

Storm King State Park

North Point is one of several peaks exceeding 1,000 feet in the 1,972-acre Storm King State Park. While Storm King Mountain is typically the most popular in this region, North Point also offers some exceptional views of the Hudson Valley and is accessible via several trail routes. At the top you’ll enjoy a unique perspective of several prominent mountains including Breakneck and Mount Beacon, which shape the surrounding geography. There are many trails throughout the park that provide longer loop options and peak traverses with their own impressive views of the neighboring mountains and valleys.

Bear Mountain and Perkins Tower

Bear Mountain State Park spans 5,205 acres and offers fantastic opportunities for snowshoeing. Conceived by George Perkins as a place of “rest and relaxation” from New York City, this park is located on the west side of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York, and has been enjoyed by millions outdoor enthusiasts since its opening in 1913.  The Major Welch Trail is a steep and rocky ascent to the summit through oak and mountain laurel woods. While it is a difficult path, it is the most scenic of the park’s trails and provides views of the Hudson River Valley and Popolopen Torne as well as Sugarloaf, Taurus, and Storm King Mountains. Perkins Tower greets you at the top and offers 360-degree views of the surrounding Hudson Highlands. On a clear day you can see over 60 miles south to the Manhattan skyline.

Franny Reese State Park

This ridge is located in Highland, New York, and it is known for its steep panoramic views of the Hudson River and its 2.5 miles of former carriageway trails that pass by ruins of a 19th century Victorian mansion. The Blue Trail leads to the main scenic overlook, where there are magnificent views of the bustling Mid-Hudson Bridge, Walkway Over the Hudson Historic Park, and the City of Poughkeepsie that are a reflection of the Hudson Valley’s residents and their lifeblood. These two points are joined by a Yellow Trail almost a mile long that connects to a Blue Trail loop (0.25-mile) as well as a White Trail loop (1.76-miles). There are meticulous stone walls that line your path along the Hudson River until you reach the southern turnaround. (Winter adventurers should use the trailhead on Macks Lane to make the most use of snow-covered paths.)

Shaupeneak Ridge

As part of the Marlboro Mountains, this hogbacked group (a series of slanted hills) extends for 25-miles from Newburgh to Kingston. While this mountain’s summit is 892 feet, this range has several peaks that reach over 1,100 feet and separate the Hudson River Valley to the east from the Wallkill Valley to the west. The park has about 9 miles of trails and 936 acres of land with several activity access points, many trail length and grade options, and various topographies to explore. Shaupeneak Falls is located on the mountain’s eastern slope, and it can be accessed by the White Trail followed by the Purple Trail. The primary viewpoint to the Hudson River is located near the intersection of the White and Red trails.

Mills-Norrie State Park

This park treats visitors to exceptional views of the Hudson River, historic elements of the Gilded Age, and fantastic opportunities for seasonal camping, cabin rentals, and boating. The White and Blue Trails form a loop between the DCC Environmental Site and Mills Mansion that is about 5 miles long and gains approximately 200 feet in elevation. This is an excellent shoreline path that follows the Hudson River for more than 2.5 miles, where you may find many views of thick layers of frozen ice cracking and moving across the river. The center point of the park is Mills Mansion, also known as the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. There is a stone boathouse at Dismore Point where you can look out to the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse and the Catskill Mountains.

Thompson Pond Nature Preserve

This 507-acre area is managed by The Nature Conservatory and protected for its biological importance and for its scientific and educational use.  The surrounding woods include oak, sugar maple, ash, hemlock, and hickory. Over 162 species of birds have been spotted here along with 27 types of mammals.

  • Stissing Fire Tower is 90-feet high with views in all directions. A short and steep 1.5-mile trail climbs almost 1,000-feet to the top. Many fire tower cabs are closed to the public, but this one is accessible. There is a roof on top, but the absence of windows makes this a very windy lookout. Climb up the stairs and gaze out to other nearby mountain ranges like the Shawangunks (southwest), Catskills (west), Taconic Ridge (east), and Mount Washington State Forest (northeast).
  • Thompson Pond is wrapped by a 2.75-mile path that circles the pond and offers exceptional opportunities to view wildlife. A series of raised boardwalks take you over marsh lands and outflows. Around the southeast bend you’ll pass a farm with some cows and cross over Wappingers Creek via a quaint walking bridge. Golden Eagles, threatened by land degradation throughout North America, have lived in the area for many years and have a magnificent wingspan that can sometimes be over 7 feet!

Mohonk Preserve

Skytop Tower is an internationally renowned landmark of the Hudson Valley. This premier destination of the 6,400-acre Monhonk Preserve is located on the Shawangunk Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Mountains, and is surrounded by over 70 miles of carriage roads and 40 miles of trails. Hugeunot Drive and Sky Top Road create an excellent 4-mile round-trip hike from the historic Mohonk Hotel, up the ridge, and to the tower. Proceed through the tower’s gates and up the 100 steps to an open viewing area. The Hudson Valley and the Taconics can be seen to the east, the Trapps, Millbrook Mountain, and Minnewaska State Park to the south, the Hudson Highlands further to the south, Eagle Cliff and Overlook Mountain to the north, more of the Catskill range to the northwest, and Vermont's Green Mountains to the northeast.


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