Two premier hiking seasons in the Catskills—fall and winter—will be rolling out their orange, yellow and white carpets for you over the next few months. These off-road pathways beckon you …
Two premier hiking seasons in the Catskills—fall and winter—will be rolling out their orange, yellow and white carpets for you over the next few months. These off-road pathways beckon you to slow down, exhale and notice changes in colors, sounds, smells and views.
Whether you’re walking on a bed of autumn leaves, on fresh snow with snowshoes, or on crunchy ice wearing sturdy spikes, you can savor breathing in the fresh mountain air and exhaling your worries and stress. A simple walk along a woodland trail can provide just the break you need from stressors in your life while getting exercise, sensory stimulation and maybe even renewing your sense of wonder.
During the period when I was laid off from work and quarantining, the time spent on a trail in the woods was a huge calming influence. I started reconnecting with natural rhythms—from the blossoming of wildflowers to the arrival of hummingbirds—and began to feel more in tune with my surroundings. Now, when life keeps me inside for days, I feel a part of a bigger natural world and can’t wait to get outside and tune in. I hope you will read on and consider exploring one or more of the beautiful woodland trails in our area this fall and winter and make some reconnections of your own.
Here are three trail suggestions that offer a nice variety of Upper Delaware treasures. They will introduce you to different landscapes and hiking difficulty levels: a beginner hike through the forest in the headwaters where the Delaware River begins, a moderate local history hike close to a town center, and an uphill hike right along the Delaware River (where all headwaters flow into one). Let me tell you a little bit about each of them. Before you go, be sure to read our fall and winter hiking tips below so your adventure is a safe and happy one!
Willowemoc Wild Forest,
Beech Mountain Road, Livingston Manor, NY:
2.2-mile loop, beginner-level trail
Located at the northern crown of Sullivan County, this much-loved, scenic loop trail is fairly level with some loose rock and wet patches when temps are above freezing. It is part of NY state’s Catskill Park trail system where you will find 40 miles of interconnected trails fanning out from Frick Pond’s parking area. There are more connections to learn about here. The stream that flows out of Frick Pond is one of the many tributaries that travel from the hills into river valleys and eventually into the Delaware River. There’s a curvy boardwalk through the hemlock trees and beautiful views across the pond. White pine, maple and yellow birch are just a few of the tree species that add color and habitat to this forested place. You can find a trail map at Trailkeeper.org. A free hand-drawn trail map is available at Morgan Outdoors.
Walnut Mountain Park,
Walnut Mountain Road, Liberty, NY:
1.5-mile round trip, beginner/moderate uphill trail
Liberty’s 265-acre public park has Walnut Mountain as its centerpiece. Beyond the baseball, soccer and disc golf fields is an incredible network of trails.
The route to the site of Walnut Mountain House starts behind the large pavilion near the parking area (see link to trail map below). Named Mountain Overlook (MO), this trail is a wide red shale and dirt carriage road dating back to the 1890s when horse-drawn carriages transported guests to the Walnut Mountain House at the summit. Though it’s tough to find a walnut tree on Walnut Mountain nowadays, there are abundant oaks that retain their leaves well into winter. Several oaks along the MO trail were surely around when the Walnut Mountain House was in its heyday; just look for the biggest trees with the widest trunks! The MO trail leads you to an open area with a great view and a new interpretive sign with historical details about the Mountain House (MH). From there, follow the map to the MH trail which ascends another 2/10 of a mile to the Walnut Mountain House foundation.
In recent years, the Renegades Mountain Bike Club has added 10 miles of single track trails for mountain biking, hiking and snowshoeing. There is a trail map and park description provided by the Town of Liberty Parks and Recreation Department.
Crawford Road, Narrowsburg NY
Three-mile, moderate uphill trail
This loop trail has sections that are wide, fairly level woodland roads as well as some narrow footpaths. It begins with a moderately challenging uphill that is rewarded by beautiful views of the Delaware from an overlook at the summit. It’s hard to pass by historic remains of the Tusten Settlement and evidence of quarrying without stopping to admire the bluestone and imagine days gone by. Tusten Mountain trail is a partnership between the NPS and Greater NY Council of the Boy Scouts, who own the property. “It is a wonderful trail to hike year-round with something new to see each season,” said Ingrid Peterec, Chief of Interpretation at Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River National Park Service. “The trail is a great way to enjoy the outdoors but please remember to recreate responsibly including social distancing and wearing a mask when within six feet of other hikers.”
In addition to the Tusten Mountain trail, five other trails in the Upper Delaware River region are detailed on the handy “Take a Hike!” brochure, available at the trailhead and at www.nps.gov/upde/planyourvisit/take-a-hike.html.
If you’re able to fit in all three hikes this fall and winter, you will surely see how this area’s natural assets and human history are so beautifully intertwined. And, hopefully, it will whet your appetite to make hiking a regular part of your life.
Lisa Lyons is the owner of Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor, NY.