Saturday, July 21, 2012

John Boyd Thacher State Park, NY

John Boyd Thacher State Park - NY State Parks

GPS Coordinates 42.638692, -74.015090

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The park charges a seasonal parking fee.  Parking at the pullout on Beaver Dam Road at the southern end of the park is free.

It is useful to have both of these maps handy as they differ slightly.
John Boyd Thacher Trail Map North and South - NY State Parks (shows numbered white connector trails, references trails by name)
John Boyd Thacher Trail Map - NY-NJ Trail Conference (free map - does not show connector trail numbers, references trails by color)

Southern and Northern Loops Combined - 11.35 miles
Shorter Loops for New York/New Jersey Trail Conference Hikes:
~ Southern Loop with Cliff Edge Overlook and Indian Ladder - 5.7 miles
~ Northern Loop with Hang Glider and High Point Overlooks - 4.45 miles

The hike starts on the aqua-blazed Long Path for a few steps before turning on to a blue-blazed trail through the woods running parallel to Beaver Dam Road.
White-blazed connector trails are numbered to correspond to the park map.  The NY-NJ Trail Conference map does not reference these numbers.
A sign post in a field just before a park maintenance building shows where to turn to pick up white connector trail W5.
Heading towards Cliff Edge Overlook.

The aqua-blazed Long Path follows between the stone wall and the cars.
First views along the Helderberg Escarpment.
You'll see this sign quite often along this route.
Aqua Long Path blaze on sign.
The unmarked Escarpment Trail follows along a fence the entire way, the Long Path follows the route of the Escarpment Trail up to the Indian Ladder Trail.
Entrance to the Indian Ladder Trail, open May 1 through November 15.
Metal steps descending the Indian Ladder Trail.
You'll need to duck to fit under the rock overhang.
There should have been a waterfall pouring down from above that you walk behind but in mid-July it was bone dry.  Regardless, still a stunningly beautiful area.  To appreciate the enormity of this rock outcrop, note the interpretive sign in the gap to the left - you can easily stand upright in that gap.
A tiny but of water was trickling out from underneath the rock formations.
Looking out from underneath the rock overhang.
Trail behind second waterfall which is also dried up.
Scenic break spot along the Escarpment Trail.
A dragonfly perched out over the escarpment
A drinking fountain at the end of the Escarpment Trail in the Hailes Cave picnic area.
Continue across the gravel circle at the drinking fountain towards the stone pillar above, turn right at the stone pillar to connect back up with the aqua-blazed Long Path.  Blazes come into view a few steps on to the trail.
Leave the Long Path at the intersection with the red-blazed Hang Glider Road and follow to the end...
... for more great views with no crowds.
High Point from the overlook at the end of Hang Glider Road.
From Hang Glider Overlook follow an unmarked but well-defined trail along the edge of the escarpment all the way over to High Point.  There will be no fencing or warning signs along this remote section of the park.
View from High Point Overlook.
Hang Glider overlook from High Point overlook.
Very pretty pond on the yellow-blazed trail with a bench.  If you sit on the bench quietly for a minute...
I know, frog overload, but there were sooooo many watching me, they were so darned cute, and OK, just one more...
... a toddler "frogpole."
Last one, I promise, three for the price of one.
Heading back along the Escarpment Trail/Long Path up over the Indian Ladder Trail.
If there were water, this would be the top of one of the waterfalls that flow down over the Indian Ladder Trail.
A little trickle in the Paint Mine waterfall area.
A pretty swamp off of a short side trail near the end of the hike (not on map).
Love these small farms with self-service produce tables in their front yards on country roads the way home.  This particular farmer was sitting on his front porch and told me he does not use pesticides - yay!

[ 0.00]    From Beaver Dam Road, take aqua-blazed Long Path north briefly, turn right on blue at T-intersection when aqua turns left (no blue blazes at intersection)
[ 0.35]    Left on white connector W6 when blue goes straight
[ 0.55]    Left on blue at end of white when blue goes right also
[ 0.70]    Straight on blue when yellow comes in from right; few steps then right on yellow as it leaves blue
[ 0.75]    Left on orange when yellow/orange goes right
[ 0.90]    Right on orange when white goes left; turn left at directional arrows in field, cross footbridge on white connector W5, turn right after bridge
[ 1.00]    Turn right at intersection then left at fork following "Overlook" sign.
[ 1.25]    Cross Thacher Park Road and pick up the aqua-blazed Long Path at the aqua blaze on speed limit sign; continue through parking lot/overlook area
[ 1.45]    Descend steps at end of parking lot and follow split rail fence
[ 1.75]    When aqua leaves to the left, turn right and descend stone steps to the entrance of the Indian Ladder Trail
[ 2.10]    Ascend metal steps to exit Indian Ladder Trail
[ 2.20]    At top of stone steps, turn right at picnic area and continue along Escarpment Trail along fence
[ 2.45]    Picnic table with open view
[ 2.85]    Escarpment Trail descends and ascends again
[ 3.00]    Come out at Hailes Cave picnic area clearing
[ 3.15]    Open views
[ 3.20]    At 2 picnic tables and end of fence, turn left towards water fountain, cross gravel circle and keep straight towards stone pillar
[ 3.30]    Turn right at stone pillar - no blazes but will see aqua blazes after a few steps and then enter a clearing
[ 3.40]    Turn right into woods at turn blaze almost at the end of the clearing
[ 3.50]    Keep straight on aqua when woods road crosses over
[ 3.60]    Right at T-intersection when unmarked woods road goes left
[ 3.90]    Right on aqua Long Path when the yellow-blazed Perimeter Trail goes left
[ 4.60]    Turn right on aqua Long Path when white connector W1 goes straight
[ 4.70]    At 4-way intersection, keep straight on red-blazed Hang Glider Road when unmarked goes right and aqua Long Path/red goes left
[ 5.00]    Hang Glider clearing with views; left on unmarked footpath into woods - after few steps keep left at fork then turn right at T-intersection
[ 5.30]    Keep right at fork
[ 5.60]    Keep right at fork along edge of escarpment
[ 5.75]    Come out at intersection with Long Path coming in from left; right a few steps to High Point Overlook; retrace on Long Path; few steps ahead keep right on red/aqua when red/aqua also goes left
[ 6.00]    Left on white connector W3 when aqua/red goes straight
[ 6.35]    Straight on red at end of white connector W3 when white W4 goes right and red goes left
[ 6.50]    At cairn with red arrow, turn left on white connector trail W2 (you need to turn around to see the sign)
[ 6.70]    Keep left at unmarked fork
[ 6.80]    Left on yellow at end of white W2
[ 7.10]    Keep left at unmarked fork
[ 7.15]    Keep straght uphill when the red Hang Glider Road goes left
[ 7.30]    Straight on yellow when white connector W1 crosses over
[ 7.55]    "Junction Ahead" sign; junction unmarked, keep right - yellow blazes continue ahead
[ 7.65]    Pond with bench; continue along pond
[ 7.70]    At end of pond keep straight on yellow-blazed woods road then straight when a yellow-blazed footpath (not on map) goes right
[ 7.85]    Keep left at unmarked fork
[ 8.00]    Continue left on yellow through parking on Ryan Road
[ 8.10]    Keep straight on yellow when a woods road crosses over
[ 8.20]    Cross wooden footbridge
[ 8.35]    At end of yellow turn right on aqua Long Path
[ 8.65]    Just before clearing, aqua Long Path leaves woods road to the left as footpath into the woods
[ 8.75]    Cross woods road
[ 8.85]    Come out at clearing and follow aqua left through field on mowed grass
[ 8.95]    Turn right at stone pillar, after a few steps turn left, then left again into woods on footpath at double aqua turn blazes
[ 9.05]    Cross gravel road, continue on aqua
[ 9.35]    Come out at clearing and keep right staying to the right of park road (blazes scarce in this area)
[ 9.40]    Long Path leaves clearing and enters woods (double turn blaze visible)
[ 9.55]    Come out at clearing at Hailes Cave park entrance, keep straight walking parallel to Eoute 15, cross park road and keep straight towards a parking lot (almost no blazing here)
[ 9.70]    Just beyond restroom in parking lot, turn left towards Indian Ladder Trail/Tory Cave; continue straight past Tory Cave sign to fence with aqua blaze, turn right along fence and resume following aqua blazes
[ 9.90]    Top of waterfalls, cross on bridge to the right
[10.10]    Cross bridge over top of second waterfall then turn right on unmarked paved path leaving the aqua Long Path; at restrooms turn right then cross paved park road to the left on crosswalk towards Paint Mine Picnic Shelter
[10.20]    After picnic shelter cross bridge to parking lot, turn left through parking lot to path at kiosk
[10.30]    At fork by 3 picnic tables where right crosses a bridge, turn left on the unmarked trail and follow along bank of creek with waterfalls
[10.35]    At paved road turn left to fork then keep left, then straight on aqua Long Path/lime Nature Trail when same goes left over bridge; red will join in
[10.70]    Keep straight when red goes left
[10.80]    Keep left at fork following sign to Beaver Dam Road; keep straight when white goes left
[10.85]    Keep right at fork
[10.90]    Turn right for short trails to swamp; left fork for view above swamp, right fork for view at ground level; retrace and continue right on aqua
[11.00]    Keep straight when blue joins in from the left
[11.20]    Turn left just before gate at picnic table
[11.30]    Turn right at double aqua turn blaze
[11.35]    Back at Beaver Dam Road parking


  1. Thank you so much for this guided tour of the trails at Thacher. Your photographs were a wonderful way to offer a preview and to showcase the best parts of the trail.

  2. Thank you so much for this guided tour of the trails at Thacher. Your photographs were a wonderful way to offer a preview and to showcase the best parts of the trail.

  3. Hi Daniela,

    We're headed to The new campground at Schodack Island State Park this summer and plan to hit this spot. Do you know of anything else in the area?



    1. No, sorry, not firsthand. I think that is the only hike I have done in that area.


  4. The kids loved the amazing rock formations here. They want to come back in the spring when the waterfalls are more impressive. We camped at Schodack Island State Park about 20 miles away on the East side of the Hudson. There are 8 miles of flat trails/roads. A peaceful spot to sit by the river and look for eagles, I saw two scouting the riverbank early in the morning.

    1. Great! Yes, the waterfalls will probably be much more impressive in the spring. I hiked the trails at Schodack before but it was a long, long time ago.