Post-COVID Hiking Trail: Rules of the Trail for 2021 | Exterior | Hudson Valley

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  • Roger hannigan gilson
  • The Catskills of West Blackhead Mountain in Greene County.

Last summer, as the threat of COVID-19 loomed and New Yorkers were advised not to congregate indoors, unprecedented numbers of hikers took to the Hudson Valley trails and of the Catskills. In addition to seasoned outdoor adventurers, there were many newbies coming from the south, and some trails were strained under impact. Mount Beacon was closed in late spring due to the impossibility of social distancing among the crowds, and the roads around Kaaterskill Falls in Greene County were lined with illegally parked cars.

Scenic Hudson, a non-profit conservation group, has experienced one of the highest uses on record in its 45 parks along the Hudson Valley, according to the Director of Parks and Community Engagement, Rita Shaheen, an influx the organization adheres to. “We are delighted that people have learned that parks are essential and that they play an important role in how we cope and recover from this crisis,” she said. Scenic Hudson has seen many first-time hikers from New York City, Shaheen continues, “making it clearer than ever that access to the outdoors is everyone’s right.”

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Scenic Hudson actively manages 16 parks and has helped create or improve over 65 in the Hudson Valley region. Free and open to the public all year round, these parks are a great resource. Here are three Scenic Hudson parks to explore.

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A delicate balance

But the influx has brought some changes to the trail networks in the region, as public and private partners seek to balance the needs of hikers with the capacity of nature and local infrastructure to absorb them.

The biggest change is yet to come. In October 2020, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the state agency with jurisdiction over most public land in the Adirondacks and Catskills, appointed a Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG) to advise the agency on the sustainable use of the Catskills. The group, made up of stakeholders from the region and representatives of state agencies, is expected to release its interim report later this year. In the meantime, DEC is working with the Catskills towns of Hunter and Jewett on how to address concerns about parking, pedestrians on the roads, sanitation and waste. DEC rangers are also increasing patrols in popular hiking areas to educate visitors on sustainable use and Leave No Trace principles.

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The Hudson River looking south from Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring.  - ROGER HANNIGAN GILSON

  • Roger hannigan gilson
  • The Hudson River looking south from Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring.

Fleet changes

There are also a few specific changes that hikers should be aware of when setting out on their last expedition.

• As of May 15, permits will be required seven days a week to visit Peekamoose Blue Hole in the Sundown Wilderness Forest in the town of Denning, an extension of a permit program already in place. The $ 10 permits, available through Reserve America, will be associated with a particular vehicle and must include the names of everyone planning to visit. Permits are now also required for camping; public address systems, portable generators, glass containers and fires are not permitted.

• Reservations are now required for parking on Highway 73 in Keene, the gateway to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Reservations can be made online through the Adirondack Mountains Preserve, which maintains this area in partnership with DEC.

• The Graham and Doubletop mountains in the Catskills are now permanently closed to the public. Both peaks are on private land and were accessible by polite phone call to owners until the end of last year, but intrusion and over-exploitation led to owners closing access. The mountains were two of 35 Catskills peaks over 3,500 feet, and those who climbed all 35 joined the Catskills 3500 Club. The club is working to replace the two mountains on its list.

• A plethora of relaxed hiking and biking options are now available after the completion of the Empire State Trail, which begins in New York City before parting north of Albany, with a branch ending in Buffalo and the other at the Canadian border. The path connects rail tracks to roads and includes the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail, which connects the Town of Hudson to Rensselaer. In Kingston, the trail passes through old brick and cement factories along the Hudson River in an area once slated for development.

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A view of the 508 acres of Kingston waterfront acquired by Scenic Hudson in 2019, viewed from the south.

Scenic Hudson saves 500-acre land on Kingston’s waterfront from development

With Scenic Hudson Land Trust’s acquisition of 508 acres on the Hudson River just north of Hutton Brickyards, Kingston may well have a new state park.

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Shuffle Off to Buffalo: Empire State Trail is now over

Maybrook Trail to the Ice Pond

Shuffle Off to Buffalo: Empire State Trail is now over

With the completion of the 750-mile Empire State Trail in December, New York City can now claim the longest multi-use state trail in the United States. EST connects 20 regional trails to create a continuous route from New York to Canada and Albany to Buffalo and is expected to attract 8.6 million residents and tourists each year.

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• Starting Monday, May 24, Scenic Hudson’s outdoor guidelines will align with those of the CDC and the state. This includes those vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask in most settings; however, we recommend wearing masks in large public groups. Unvaccinated people, under CDC and state guidelines, must wear masks in all public places.

As always, hikers are reminded to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace Behind: Plan Ahead and Prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; properly dispose of waste; leave what you find; minimize the impact of campfires; respect wildlife; and watch out for other hikers.

Hikers should also wear bug spray and check for ticks at the end of each hike. Most importantly, have fun and respect each other, because in nature we are all visitors.


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