OCT 2015 - HIKING & WALKING
Hike the Huyck
By Alan Via
The Huyck Preserve is located in southwest Albany County, northeast of Rensselaerville, and features a Visitor Center and 12 miles of trails. You can also paddle or walk around its scenic Lake Myosotis – the botanical name for the ‘forget-me-not wildflower’ – where power boats aren’t allowed.
The three interconnected Partridge Path loops in the remote, northern part of the preserve are the most attractive due to the lack of foot traffic and solitude not available in other parts of Huyck. Depending on how much time you have available, it’s possible to cover 5.6 miles of the three loops as a hike, snowshoe, trail run or cross-country ski. Leashed dogs are allowed on all of the preserve trails but you’re least likely to encounter dogs or people on the northern trails.
Though most people access the Huyck Preserve through Rensselaerville, it’s a bit of a drive on some sketchy sections of road from the Visitor Center onto Wood Road, to the trailhead in the northern section of the preserve. For an easier drive, turn east onto Peasley Road where it intersects County Route 6 – the intersection is about 2.5 miles north of Rensselaerville. Drive a little under 2.0 miles, then south on Wood Road. At the turn, there is an old cemetery worth a few minutes to explore. From the intersection it’s a quick 0.2-mile downhill on a rougher but drivable Wood Road to the trailhead (N42 32.898 W74 10.738).
For winter access you may need to park at the intersection and ski or snowshoe to the trailhead as much of Wood Road is not maintained in winter. The trail and kiosk are well camouflaged, tucked a few feet into the woods on the east (left) side of Wood Road, just beyond a marshy area drained by a large culvert. Because there’s no formal parking lot, pull over onto the side of the road.
The 1,800 foot trailhead is located 20 feet from the culvert. Before stepping into the woods, study the map to decide how many of the Partridge Path loops you intend to hike. With three connecting loops and lots of turns, it’s easier and less confusing if you look at the map rather than follow step by step directions. The Huyck Preserve markers are large yellow and red diamonds, hard to miss in any season. Notice that the loops resemble three links of a chain, each touching at one point. Because most people hike in the southern end of the preserve, Loop Three, the farthest north, is the starting point from the Wood Road trailhead.
For simplicity sake, turn LEFT on Loop Three from the trailhead where you’ll soon be impressed with how well marked, maintained, and designed the Huyck trails are. In a few minutes the trail takes you through a section of hemlocks and stone fences along scenic Ten Mile Creek. Have your camera handy as the creek is photogenic, particularly at high water. You’ll want to stop where the creek widens into a large waterfall fed pool. As the trail leads away from the creek, it turns south and passes a marsh, and then ascends the northeast shoulder of North Hill. As you descend, you’ll see a beaver pond and a section of large shady maples crisscrossed by stone fences.
Next (N42 32.542 W74 09.950), the trail reaches the easternmost edge of Loop Three at a trail junction. You can continue along Loop Three back to the trailhead or take the uphill switchbacking 0.25-mile spur trail that leads to Loop Two. This section would make a nice woodland glide on skis. As you proceed you’ll quickly notice that the trail sign stating 0.1-mile to Loop Two is incorrect; it’s actually 0.25-mile to the beginning of Loop Two.
Loop Two is a shorter hike with sections of mixed forest, where silver birch provide a forest contrast to the surrounding maple, beech and black cherry. The trail sections cushioned by pine needles are delightful. Next (N42 32.518 W74 09.489), you’ll pass through a show stopper section of stone fences that border and cross a mature maple pole stand. This is one of the most attractive sections of forest in the preserve. Nearby is a hemlock grove and a short distance beyond, the trail junction (N42 32.377 W74 09.472) to Loop One.
Turn left onto Loop One, descending 200 feet where cut branches herald a beaver pond visible from the trail. Walk quietly and a flat-tailed Castor canadensis (American beaver) resident might be close enough to see. Beyond the pond the trail passes the edge of a large meadow, an excellent vantage point for autumn leaf peeping at the hills on its other side. The trail starts to climb, leaving the meadow behind, attaining the high point of Loop Three. As the trail gives back the elevation you gained, there is another intersection (N42 32.160 W74 09.169), the beginning of the 0.5-mile connector trail that leads south toward Lake Myosotis. If you parked a car at the Visitor Center, or would like to add more miles and check out the lake, this is the place to turn. Otherwise turn right, north, at the intersection, picking up the part of Loop Two you haven’t yet hiked.
An elderly white pine resides on this portion of the loop, a twin-trunked old timer that has seen better days, as it stands guard over a flock of younger progeny.
Next (N42 32.377 W74 09.472), you’re back at the intersection with Loop Two. Turning left the trail heads east, then north undulating a 0.5-mile to the spur trail, which leads to Loop Three. Make another left turn to hike the west side of Loop Three and the last portion of the hike back to the trailhead. On this leg, walk through yet another series of stone fences, a last reminder of the others you’ve seen throughout all three loops of the hike.
If you’ve hiked all three, the total miles are 2.7 miles for Loop Three, 1.2 miles for Loop Two, and 1.5mi for Loop One. Adding the 0.25-mile spur trail equals a 5.7-mile tour of the northern end of the preserve.
Autumn is a spectacular time to ‘hike the Huyck’ with the leaves showing off their best. If you leave a car at the preserve visitor center you can turn this into a point-to-point hike, and even take in an afternoon paddle, or take a hike along the shore of Lake Myosotis.
Alan Via of Slingerlands has written hiking-related articles in a number of publications. He is the author of “The Catskill 67: A Hiker’s Guide to the Catskill 100 Highest Peaks under 3,500-Feet” by ADK. He’s working on two new hiking guides, set in the Adirondacks and Catskills.