The Shaupeneak and Black Creek Trails

The geologic undulation running north and south on the west side of the Hudson in Esopus is called the Marlboro Mountains. I call it seclusion with a view. In fact, two quite spectacular views within a short walk—to the east the Hudson River and Dutchess County, and to the west, the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains. Thanks to the 570-acre Shaupeneak Ridge Cooperative Recreational Area, you can enjoy those views and more. In addition to the panoramic wonders in thedistance,you can skirt the glacially carved Louisa Pond and its surrounding wetland bog, an area attractive to osprey and other raptors. The pond offers car-top boating (no motors) and fishing, with occasional sightings of beaver, muskrat, and heron. The entire Preserve is perfect for bird watching. Other wildlife, such as wild turkey, coyote, and fox leave their marks on the land as well.

Shaupeneak Ridge is tree heaven with dense stands of hundred-year-old hemlocks, huge hardwoods including several varieties of oak, maple, and birch, and a rare swamp cottonwood cluster. The trails are good for mountain bikes, snow shoes, hiking, and cross country skiing. In all, there are about 3.5 miles of trails, and some are pretty challenging. Did I mention the water fall?

Two trailheads/parking lots provide access to the Shaupeneak Preserve, one from Route 9W—9.2 miles north of the Mid Hudson Bridge to Old Post Road on the left. Parking is 0.2 miles on the right just after the railroad tracks. This entrance requires a steep climb to enjoy the views. The terrain goes from about 150′ above sea level to over 800′. The other entrance is found by continuing on Old Post to Poppletown Road which splits off to the right. Sign says “dead end.” Take it. Parking is on the left. You can pick up maps and literature at both trailheads.

The Black Creek Forest Preserve is a 130-acre nature park featuring a 120′ suspension bridge spanning the Black Creek. The creek is an important spawning ground for trout and American Blue herring. Fishing is permitted. The preserve has more than two miles of trail wending through forest and down to the Hudson River where you can sit along the shore and picnic or just watch the birds and the ships. The preserv’s dramatic hemlock and hardwood forest are cut by stone walls, dappled with small ponds, and all are interspersed with moss, sedges and grasses. The small pools are rich with amphibian life during the other seasons, and are important breeding habitats for frogs and salamanders.

An often overlooked and threatened lifeform in the Hudson Valley, yet quite evident on Shaupeneak and Black Creek lands, is the lowly lichen. You will see these scaly, crusty, or leaf-like growths on rocks, logs, and tree trunks. They add subtle color and texture to our visual world and are used in dyes (Harris Tweeds), medicine, litmus paper, and perfumes. A symbiotic grouping of fungus and algae, and sometimes even bacteria, lichens are often delicate and very dependent on their specific locations. They are good sentinels of pollution—disappearing in areas of high sulphur dioxide and fluorine, but rebounding quickly with improved air quality. They etch rock with powerful acids helping to break it down into soil. Take the time to look and you’ll be amazed and fascinated. Mosses and ferns are also plentiful.

Esopus has more parks to explore including Esopus Meadows and Sleightsburgh Spit. Maybe next time…


We thank the following for these Preserves : Town of Esopus, Scenic Hudson, West Esopus Landowners’ Assoc, & NYS DEC. Lichen information: Hudsonia. Text: Vivian Wadlin