Since it is the end of November (meaning the semester is winding down but it is still a very busy time for most) and we are experiencing our first snows of the season, I felt compelled to write about a way we can continue to enjoy the outdoors in Upstate New York: winter sports and hiking. I recently bought a pair of snowshoes, and I am looking forward to re-exploring some of the local trails (30 minutes or less from Saint Rose) I discovered during the warmer months.
CAUTION: exercise not only your body but the rules of hiking safety when heading out on local adventures.
1. Albany Pine Bush Preserve – You wouldn’t be able to guess that just 1.4 miles from Crossgates Mall lies one of just 20 inland pine barrens in existence. This pine barren formed when a glacier melted into a lake, which later drained, leaving sandy deposits that blew into rolling dunes. You’ll likely see many animal footprints pressed into the sandy ground around you as you explore. There are about 18 functional trails that are easy to travel and navigate; however, hunting is permitted, so explore with extreme caution.
2. Peebles Island State Park– I only walked the Peebles Island trail for the first time a month ago after hearing about it through a friend and reading about it here. This 2-mile trail located only 12 miles from Saint Rose loops a small island located at the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. What’s different about this trail is the juxtaposition of industrial sights, such as a historic textile factory building and views of the surrounding city of Waterford. Definitely worth a look; winter walking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing would be perfect activities for this location!
3. Schodack Island State Park – I discovered Schodack Island State Park before any other trail location upon moving to the area. While it’s a little farther of a drive (about 13 miles or 25 minutes from Saint Rose), this state park offers a couple of miles of easy to moderate trails, picnic areas, and boat launches (might be more of a warm-weather place, but the trails are still a draw). There is also a Bird Conservation Area, so who knows, maybe you’ll even see a bald eagle!
4. Thacher State Park – While Thacher is located about 15 miles from Saint Rose, the unique natural land characteristics (cliffs, waterfalls, fossil formations) and picturesque views of the surrounding region make it highly worth the drive. The Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center, offering events and exhibits year-round, even rents out snowshoes according to the brochure. You can check out the trail map here.
Lastly, if you don’t own snowshoes or cross-country skis, there are local establishments that rent out winter gear – check the online yellow pages. If you would prefer to keep that cash in your wallet, a pair of warm winter boots and woolly socks will probably do just fine for an afternoon winter walk.
If you have any other suggestions for nearby trails and parks to explore, feel free to leave a comment below!
Additional Resources for first-time hikers: