October 2016 - HIKING & BACKPACKING
Great Autumn Hikes
By Alan Via
With cool days, no bugs or humidity, plus foliage fireworks, many hikers feel autumn may be the best time of the year to be in the woods. There are many fall favorites but here are some classics, with a few you may not have yet discovered.
Berlin Mountain is in the Capital Region’s backyard, the highest point in Rensselaer County. The trail has a few steeper sections but at 5.25 miles roundtrip and 1,300-foot ascent, it offers an easily-enjoyable nearby hike. The summit is bare and often windy and features a nice view of Mount Greylock and surrounding peaks and hills. The long drive up to Petersburg Pass is a leaf-peeper’s delight.
Getting There: Follow NY Route 2 through Rensselaer County past Petersburg, climbing the long hill to Petersburg Pass, and the large trailhead. (N42 43.399 W73 16.675)
Huckleberry Point is a great foliage hike and shares its trailhead (N42 07.989 W74 04.951) with Kaaterskill High Peak. Begin on the woods road and then turn RIGHT, following the trail sign where it branches off the KHP trail to the spectacular ledge. Look for a small herd path on the left, just before the point. It leads to a dwarf pitch pine forest. 4.5 miles and 1,175-foot ascent.
Getting There: The drive from West Saugerties up the spectacular Platte Clove Road is not to be missed, but go before the town closes it Nov. 1st for winter. Otherwise, follow County Route 16 from Tannersville to the trailhead.
Rochester Hollow might be one of the finest, non-summit hikes in the group. The trail is a well-maintained forest road and the hike includes the 1921 John Burroughs monument, remnants of the old Rochester estate, a series of small waterfalls and much more. There are two new DEC spur trails originating near the pass, one of which leads through one of the most spectacular sections of stone fences you’ve ever seen. Bring a lunch to a leanto just beyond the old ruins. It is 6.7 miles round trip with a 1,200-foot ascent with the side trails.
Getting There: Near Big Indian on NY Route 28. Turn onto Matyas Road (N42 06.860 W74 27.305) and follow it to the trailhead.
Pine Mountain is the site of the small Hickory Ski Center, three miles west of Warrensburg. Go before ski season and enjoy the views back over your shoulder from the ski trail/summit access road. The summit is mostly bare, with views of nearby small peaks and distant views of taller ones. There’s a lot of scenery in this three-mile, 1,200-foot ascent.
Getting There: Take NY Route 418 out of Warrensburg, turning onto Hickory Hill Road to the ski center (N43 28.616 W73 49.124).
Moxham Mountain has a fairly new trail and is now on many ‘favorites’ lists. Enjoy the changing leaves along the well laid-out trail to the bare, rocky summit. The views from Moxham are spectacular and offer vistas of the High Peaks in the middle distance. It’s five miles roundtrip with just under 1,400-foot ascent.
Getting There: Turn off of NY Route 28N onto County Route 37 just east of Minerva. Follow County Route 37 until it becomes 14th Road and follow to the trailhead (N43 46.217 W74 00.721).
Owl’s Head Lookout – not the one near Cascade Mountain – is the bare, rocky knob, 2.3 miles along on the north trail to Giant Mountain. There is a short, steep spur trail to one of the most spectacular knobs in the Adirondacks. This big payoff on this small gem is the spectacular view of the rock slides on the back side of Giant Mountain. Be sure to go early in foliage season to catch the yellow leaves on the white birches along the trail. It is five miles roundtrip and a 1,250-foot ascent.
Getting There: Turn east onto NY Route 9N from Elizabethtown, turning into the trailhead (N44 12.772 W73 40.755) this hike shares with the north trail to Giant Mountain.
Belleayre Mountain offers more than skiing along the summit access ski trail/road to the summit. Enjoy continual views the surrounding Catskill peaks as along the way to the top. The summit ridge is grassy and open with views of high and low peaks every step of the way. Don’t pay attention to old topo maps that show a fire tower, it was removed years ago. It is 3.5 miles roundtrip and 900-foot ascent.
Getting There: Turn onto County Route 49A from NY Route 28 in Pine Hill (N42 08.663 W74 29.539). Pass entrance to the main ski center, turning into the road leading to Overlook Lodge, and Deer Run ski trail/access road to the summit.
Alan Via of Delmar is the author of The Catskill 67: A Hiker’s Guide to the Catskill 100 Highest Peaks under 3,500’. He is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Sports, Adirondac, and The Watershed Post.