March 2019 - GREAT WALKS & DAY HIKES
A Hidden Gem to Start Your Spring
By Tom O’Grady
Spring is right around the corner and with it comes nicer weather and longer days. Many families look forward to the opportunity that warmer weather and longer days allows for getting outside and on the trails. A perfect hiking trail to shake off the dust is Vroman’s Nose, near Middleburgh, in Schoharie County.
As a native of the Capital Region, I’m embarrassed to say it was not until the fall of 2017 that I first hiked Vroman’s Nose. Our two boys were in Little League, and we were looking for fun family ways to stay active, as my wife was just starting to exercise after the birth of our third child. After the last game in October, we celebrated with a short team party, that included popsicles and juice boxes. Luckily, we had planned ahead, and the sugar rush from the aftergame treats would be followed by an outdoor adventure! When we got into the car, we told our boys that we were going to make a trip out to local area for a short hike.
From Albany, it’s approximately 30 minutes to the Vroman’s Nose trailhead, primarily on I-90 and I-88. Shortly before reaching Howe Caverns on I-88, you get off exit 23, and take NY Route 30A to 30 for the remainder of the trip. Along the way, you will pass a number of other potential stop offs, should you have the time or interest. One of the more notable ones is Old Stone Fort Museum in Schoharie. By the time you reach Middleburgh, and cross the Schoharie Creek, you will to see Vroman’s Nose off to the west. Be careful to keep an eye out for signs as the turn to the trailhead can take you by surprise.
Once at the trailhead, our sons were excited to see the signs stating that peregrine falcons use the cliffs for their nests, and can occasionally be spotted. Though there was no guarantee of a sighting, the possibility of spotting one of their favorite birds of prey gave us the excitement needed to start the hike off with few complaints. A brief search for perfect hiking sticks, and we had everything needed to keep us busy, while completing the trek to the top.
On this outing, we were met with a collage of colors as the trees were at peak foliage. When hiking up Vroman’s Nose you’ll notice there are several trail options to take. For this hike we chose the easiest path up which is marked with aqua blazes. The aqua blazed trail is never more than a moderate steepness and offers two areas where it levels off. The aqua blazes represent the portion of Vroman’s Nose that lies on the 357-mile Long Path, which extends from the George Washington Bridge to just north of Thacher State Park.
Vroman’s Nose is part of a plateau, and after 0.7-mile of walking, the 600-foot gain to the summit of the plateau is reached. There is a rock overhang here that is perfect for viewing. From this vantage point you get a clear panoramic view of the Schoharie Valley. On this occasion, the checkered green of the farms below was a great contrast to the area highlands that were covered in yellows, oranges, and reds of prime foliage. If you want to carry supplies to the top, we noted that there is a fire pit that makes it possible to start a fire, and have a cookout. We opted to enjoy the scenery and take a few pictures.
From the lookout area, it is approximately 0.2-mile to the actual “nose” of the cliff, which gives Vroman’s Nose its name. At this point, we had completed 0.9 miles and had taken about 45 minutes, including a 15-minute stop to enjoy the view. Vroman’s Nose is named after Adam Vroman, who established the first farm in Schoharie Valley in 1713.
On this outing, we decided to complete a loop, and took the yellow trail down the more eastern side of the cliff. The warnings about the steepness on this section are accurate primarily in the first quarter-mile of a descent. We reached one dicey spot where the shale and limestone were crumbly and there was a descent drop. This required me descending first, and then helping each of the other family members down, as they also held onto nearby trees! We arrived back at the car about 65 minutes after starting out, and completed a nice 1.8-mile loop. On the way home we stopped at Schoharie Valley Farms, home of the Carrot Barn, for cider and donuts. A perfect cap to a fall day and introduction to Vroman’s Nose.
Although our first trip was in autumn, it was instantly noticeable that Vroman’s Nose was a perfect hike for nearly any season. When the Cub Scouts discussed an outing to Vroman’s Nose for their spring hike, we jumped at the opportunity to return in the new season. This trip occurred in May 2018 and we had to be prepared for mud, the sun and flies. Luckily the mud and flies were not very bad. The mixed colors of fall were replaced by the bright green of fresh leaves. The view from the top this time was sunny and green as far as the eye could see.
This scouts trip took a little longer as they inspect rocks, sticks, leaves, and the different bugs they encountered along the way. Upon reaching the top, we enjoyed the views from the overlook and took a few pictures. From here we avoided the trek along the plateau, and steep drop off the other side, by completing an out and back on the aqua blazed trip. The total distance for this outing was approximately 1.4 miles, but the added pit stops to investigate their surroundings made a fun 90-minute outing. On our way home this time, we opted for Stewart’s ice cream!
Vroman’s Nose makes a perfect start to spring for many reasons. The distance is not overly taxing, but at 1.8 miles and 600 feet of climbing, it’s not an easy stroll in the park either. The steepness along the aqua trail is never greater than moderate, and if you’re feeling adventurous, the yellow trail is an option for the descent. Just to be clear – you should always exercise caution along the plateau, on Vroman’s Nose proper, and on the steeper trails. The Cub Scout group noted how much fun they had and that it was a perfect build-up to longer hikes.
In any season, the drive to Vroman’s Nose and back offers great views, as well as opportunities for stop offs to learn about history – and to grab a treat!
Tom O’Grady, PhD, MPH (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Slingerlands is an avid runner, hiker and lover of the outdoors. He is an epidemiologist with NYS Dept. of Health. With a lifetime of racing experience, Tom has his NYS Dept. of Education coaching license, and is USA Track & Field Level 1 and Jack Daniels certified to coach distance runners and endurance athletes.