By: Deanna Fox
While Governor Cuomo has firmly stated the need for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, experts have confirmed the safety of daily walks outside that maintain a safe distance (minimum of six feet) from other individuals you may encounter.
Lucky for us, the Capital Region is flush with amazing outdoor spots that offer wide open green space and interesting walking trails that often lead to curiosities and wonders, like waterfalls, windmills, and so much more. Here’s our list of sixteen beautiful walks in the eight-county Capital Region that will allow you to safely commune with nature, take a deep breath, clear your head, and move your body.
PLEASE NOTE that the same rules apply as anywhere else: do not touch your face, sneeze and cough into your elbow to prevent the spread of water droplets that may contain the virus, and wash your hands thoroughly. (If you have hand sanitizer to use before returning home or entering your car, use it!) Go solo or with members of your household, and avoid meeting with groups.
Great Flats Nature Trail
West Campbell Road, Schenectady, NY 12306
Transport yourself to the marshy lowlands of The Netherlands — windmills included! — just outside of downtown Schenectady. This 1.8-mile loop leads through woods before the trail becomes a boardwalk around a small lake. Look for a small wooden windmill at the trailhead.
Sanders Town Preserve
Sanders Road, Schenectady, NY 12302
Tucked away in Glenville along Washout Creek, follow this short walking trail to find a small cascade of waterfalls that turns into a dry creek bed in the summer. If you wait to try this trail in warmer months, use the lack of water to look for fossils in the river rocks.
Wolf Creek Falls Preserve Trail
776 Bozenkill Road, Altamont, NY 12009
Clocking in at two and a half miles, Wolf Creek Falls Preserve is a short drive from the town of Altamont in nearby Knox. It is part of a 138 acre parcel that is included in the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. The trail abuts many old fieldstone walls, pointing to the history of Albany’s earliest settlers.
West Capitol Park
New York State Capitol Building, State Street, Albany, NY 12210
You don’t have to travel far from our area downtowns to find some green space. West Capitol Park offers stunning views of the Capitol building and is home flowering trees, sweet-sounding birds and rascally (but entertaining) squirrels. Bring your sketchbook for al fresco art time.
Bloomingdale Brook Waterfall Trail
100 Defreest Drive, Troy, NY 12180
Tucked away on the northern side of Rensselaer Technology Park is a set of trails that lead to a surprising waterfall. You will need sturdy shoes for this trail, as there are hills to climb and you may have to cross water to stay on the two mile trail. Park in the loop near WMHT studios, and look for the red discs posted as trail guides.
Papscanee Island Nature Preserve
Staats Island Road, Castleton-On-Hudson, NY 12033
Venture down to the shores of the Hudson River as you explore this well-groomed trail that is great for dogs. Picnic tables are available, and bring your binoculars if you have them, as there are plenty of opportunities for bird watching for various types of waterfowl and smaller migratory birds.
Skidmore North Woods
Falstaff’s Parking Lot off Wait Lane, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Just beyond Downtown Saratoga and the Skidmore campus is a series of woody hiking trails that make the bustle of Saratoga Springs feel like a world away. There are several trails to choose from, none of them longer than two miles. A 200-foot elevation gain means an uphill climb on some trails, but this is still family-friendly.
Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve
Riverview Road, Rexford, NY 12148 (Multiple entrances)
This four mile loop offers an array of interesting sites and vistas, including Eric Canal remnants of towpaths and double locks, Clute’s Dry Dock, Forts Ferry, and a picnic area overlooking the Mohawk River that is nestled within the bird conservation area designated by NYSDEC. Audubon New York has observed more than 200 bird species in this area.
Promenade Hill Park
1 North Front Street, Hudson, NY 12534
Go for a stroll along the well-maintained gardens, dotted by manicured shrubs and historical statues and markers, before grabbing a bench to overlook the Hudson River while the sun sets on the Catskill mountains. This city park has the feel of a hidden European green space.
Ooms Conservation Area
480 Rock City Road, Chatham, NY 12037
This easy hike around Sutherland Pond is maintained by Columbia Land Conservancy. While the views are lovely and the hike takes little exertion, the best part is greeting all the friendly dogs that you’ll encounter at Ooms. This is also a notable place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
Betke Boulevard, Coxsackie, NY 12051
Need a place to lay out in the sun on a blanket (with plenty of distance from others!) or to kick a soccer ball around? Riverside Park, in Coxsackie, is a great place to do just that. The expansive views of the Hudson River and the boats that traverse that waterway are just an added bonus.
Pratt Rock Trail
Trailhead located just south of Prattsville town center on NY-Route 23
Prattsville, NY 12468
Looking for artistic inspiration? Try Pratt Rock Trail, coined “America’s First Mount Rushmore” for the carvings into the rock facade and statues along the way. There are some steep inclines on this trail, which occasionally calls for climbing over large rocks, but the trail is otherwise moderate. Views down the Schoharie River Valley and its fertile farms can be see below.
Carters Pond Nature Trail
County Route 49, Salem, NY 12865
Plan on spending some time with your thoughts as you gaze over Carters Pond, just outside the quaint town of Salem. This super-short and very flat hike leads to an overlook area that allows you keep an eye out for swooping birds (including predatory fowl like eagles and hawks) and breaching fish snatching bugs from the pond’s surface.
Dionondahowa Falls Overlook
Windy Hill Road, Greenwich, NY 12834
This short trail along the Battenkill River is an easy hike at any time of year and leads to a small perch that allows visitors to view the falls below. If you have limited time but want a big impact, keep this gem in mind.
Warren County Bike Trail
Towpath Lane, Fort Edward, NY 12828
This northern section of the Lakes to Locks bike path connects riders, skaters, runners and walkers to Lake George from downtown Fort Edward. It connects through various towns through Warren County and offers views of the Adirondacks, Glen Lake and the Hudson River. The trail is paved for smooth riding.
82 Haviland Avenue, Queensbury, NY 12804
While this trail is is seven miles long and runs from the Feeder Dam to the Old Champlain Canal, you can choose to just explore a portion of it by foot, or use the well-maintained trail for a longer run or a bike ride. A five acre park surrounds the entrance on Haviland Avenue and there is plenty of space for enjoying a meal outside or setting up supplies to do some sketching or writing.