You're New Here: Hiking

youre new here week hiking composite

By Jen Masa

As You're New Here Week continues, we head outside. Jen has some suggestions to get you started hiking here.

One of my favorite things about living in the Capital Region is our close vicinity to so many outdoor recreation areas. With many state parks and areas like the Adirondacks and Catskills, there is a little something for everyone to enjoy.

Here are a few of my favorites.

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Thacher State Park Hang Glider Trail, Albany County

Jen Masa hiking Thacher Hang Glider Trail

Located about 15 minutes outside of Albany in Berne, Thacher State Park is one of my favorite local spots. There are many different trails in the park to choose from. And you can always walk the well-known Indian Ladder Trail, but on nice days it can get crowded.

An alternative: The lesser-known Hang Glider Trail is a great place for those seeking solitude. The trailhead is at a parking lot on Carrick Road on the north side of the park. There are great views from two lookout points along this trail. The trail itself is mostly flat with a few inclines and is generally easy. (trail map)

Hadley Mountain, Adirondacks

Jen Masa hiking Hadley Mountain

I can't make a hiking list without including the Adirondacks. These mountains are my favorite place to hike and there are many hikes to choose from for all levels and abilities.

The southern Adirondacks area near Lake George is only about an hour north of the Capital Region. Hadley Mountain was one of my first Adirondack hikes and it's a great hike for anyone, about 3.5 miles roundtrip. It offers great views from the summit and has a fire tower to climb. (trail info)

Plotter Kill Preserve, Schenectady County

plotterkill falls in autumn

With large waterfalls and various trails with different levels of difficulty, the Plotter Kill Preserve is a great place to hike if you want to stay close to home. The waterfalls are dramatic -- one is 60-feet high, and the others are 40 feet. And in the winter, when the falls often aren't running, the preserve is a pretty spot. (trail description)

One note about the Plotter Kill: It includes some steep slopes and ledges, so be sure to stay on the trails and exercise caution.

Grafton Lake State Park, Rensselaer County

Jen Masa hiking Grafton Lakes

Grafton Lakes State Park is my new favorite place to visit. Located about 30 minutes outside of Troy in Cropseyville, it offers a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, swimming, kayaking, and mountain biking. There is a great trail that runs around one of the lakes that is flat and offers some gorgeous views of the water. (trail map)

Overlook Mountain, Catskills

Jen Masa hiking Overlook Mountain

Just about an hour south of Albany, Overlook Mountain is a great hike. Ruins of an hold mountain hotel are located near the summit, which is always cool to see. The hike itself follows a wide fire road to the summit, but can get steep at times. The view at the top is worth it, though!

After the hike, check out the shops in the village of Woodstock, not far from the trail head. (trail information)

Five Rivers, Delmar

Jen Masa hiking Five Rivers

The Five Rivers Environmental Education Center is one of my favorite spots. I came here as a kid to walk the trails with my grandma. It is a great spot for hiking or trail running and offers a wide variety of great trails. Some even run along streams and near ponds. It is also great for snowshoeing in the winter. My favorite time to come is early evening and you might even spot a deer under one of the apple trees. (trail map)

As always when you go hiking, make sure you have a map of the area and good hiking shoes before you head out. And as they say, take only pictures and leave only footprints and enjoy all the outdoors have to offer.

Jen Masa is an aspiring Adirondack 46er and writes about her outdoor adventures at

More You're New Here:
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+ You're New Here: Kid-friendly destinations

You're New Here Week on AOA is sponsored by Linium, CDPHP, Columbia County Tourism Department, Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District.


Great article for people who might not know about the local treasures in Capital Region area. People who don't utilize these assets are really hurting themselves in terms of making the best of their time here. I'd also like to add the Kaaterskill Falls located about an hour or so south of Albany as an amazing place to check out.

The Mount Hope Iron Furnace, a Civil war era iron blast furnace, is located on the grounds of Camp Little Notch in Fort Ann, NY.

The camp has plenty of Sunday Open Houses so you can tour the camp and take the very easy hike - great for small children - to see this wonderfully preserved bit of history.

The Mount Hope Iron Furnace was also a landmark on the Underground Railroad, its smoke and noise pointing North. for directions and other Open House dates. There is an Open House this Sunday from noon to 5pm.

And you can visit the wonderful Exit 20 Outlet stores on the way!

Thanks for sharing this! There are lots of great spots that you mentioned. And I've never been to Five Rivers, I will have to check that out.

Recently I discovered few lesser known but spectacular short hikes in Columbia County.

Begin by heading down Route 9J out of the city of Rensselaer.

Lewis A. Swyer Preserve
1599 State Highway 9J, Stuyvesant, NY 12173
A half-mile boardwalk meanders through a freshwater tidal swamp, a freshwater tidal marsh and freshwater intertidal mudflats. It’s a gorgeously green and shady walk.

Olana State Historic Site
5720 NY-9G, Hudson, NY 12534
A 3.5 mile loop walk through the trails surrounding Frederick Church’s Persian-style castle.
The view from the veranda displays the mighty Hudson with the Catskills lurking in the distance.

High Falls Conservation Area  
540 Roxbury Rd, Hudson, NY 12534
1.5 miles with a spectacular waterfall.

These “hikes” offer a bit of exploration and enough exercise to offset a stop in Hudson for lunch. On the way back a stop at Art OMI offers more walking (or if you get there early you can grab one of their free bicycles), neat outdoor sculptures on 150 acres of winding trails though woods and over fields.

1405 Co Rte 22, Ghent, NY 12075

The Wilson Powell Sanctuary in Chatham is one of my favorites. Woodland trails, a pond with an observation blind, and a stunning view from Dorson's Rock. It's a bit steep in spots, but that just means you can slow down and enjoy your peaceful surroundings.

Great list hitting all corners of the region!! FYI: For those with dogs, sadly Five Rivers is a no-go; but I highly recommend a trip without your fur-friend especially in the fall (typically hold maple syrup making demos and the like, perfect for kids and adults alike).

Regarding Five Rivers... I picked a tick there back in 2011 and developed a rash similar to one that comes with Lyme disease. I was treated with antibiotics and kinda-OK now. I will never know if that was Lyme or something else but consider yourself warned.

I would like to hike Overlook Mountain with my family but I am afraid of rattlesnakes.

Don't let that stop you, Ron. There are some timber rattlers in a few spots around here, but even if they're nearby you'll probably never know they're there when you're hiking. The ones on Overlook are reportedly near the summit, but not near the trail, just just stick to the trail and obvious use areas at the summit and you're not likely to see them.

I ran into my first rattler last year on the Tongue range near Lake George (just about the only area outside the Catskills you're likely to see them). Was a few steps away and it gave a warning rattle. Just had to give it some space and all was well. They don't want to strike you, and most bites correlate with young males and alcohol consumption. You can figure out the rest.

The fire road approach to Overlook (there's also a great trail from Platte Clove Road that goes past Echo Lake, nice spot to camp) is also busy enough to keep them away generally. Go on a nice weekend day and the amount of foot traffic will almost guarantee that any snakes will stay far away.

We did finally hit Overlook Mountain on Labor Day. There was a timber rattler on top! It wasn't all that interested in us, but it made for an exciting hike!

There's lot's of stuff in the woods to be leery of...bears, spiders, snakes, ticks, big cats, mosquitos, the height of fire towers, other people...

I'd rather take my chances in the woods than sitting inside.

This year alone I conquered my fear of heights by climbing 5 (so far) fire towers. Can't wait to do more!

Also, there's no bugs, snakes or bears in the winter and way less people. They have snow in Petersburgh and Western Mass, bring snowshoes and have a blast!

The 350-acre Community Forest near East Poestenkill in Rensselaer County has recently had a network of hiking trails constructed. There are streams, small hills, rock ledges and bogs to investigate. Moose have been photographed there too. Trail map at

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