Winter Hikes

Skip the Winter Blues by soaking up sun and staying active year-round. New Yorkers may not be able to jog outside in shorts and a tank during December like West Coast-ers can, but Southern Ulster County is abundant in hiking trails and nature preserves. Winter hiking lovers will argue that the best time of year to lace up your boots is once the leaves have all fallen—trails are easier to follow and see, trees don’t block gorgeous views, the ground is more stable and there are no bugs to badger you.

The Shawangunks are home to three major hiking and climbing spots in Southern Ulster County: Mohonk Preserve, Minnewaska State Park Preserve and the 5,000-acre Sam’s Point Preserve. Take the Shawangunk Ridge Trail to connect to the Appalachian Trail. The trails at Sam’s Point lead to Verkeerderkill Falls, High Point, Indian Rock and ice caves.

New Paltz’s Bonticou Crag, in the Northern Shawangunks, is a mix of both open fields and hardwood forests. Serious winter hikers can use their ice cleats to help them cross the steep talus field— those who want to play it safe can bypass the boulders by way of the Northeast Trail that connects to the Bonticou Ascent Path. Families will love Vernooy Kill Falls in New Paltz thanks to its super-safe path that’s free of cliffs, deep water and adjoining trails.

The 130-acre Black Creek Forest Preserve in Esopus is accessible via a 120-foot suspension footbridge over Black Creek and two miles of trails lead hikers to views of the Hudson River. The 93-acre Esopus Meadows Preserve takes you above the Klyne Esopus Kill and has another two miles of woodland trails plus a view of the 1871 Esopus Lighthouse.

Highland’s 250-acre Franny Reese State Park offers beautiful views of the Mid-Hudson Bridge and connects to the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park.

Hikers will need a set of heavier clothing for cold-weather hiking. Waterproof boots with thick insulate; liners and bulky socks; a headband that will cover your ears; and lightweight wool gloves with grips are necessities. For extreme conditions, winter hikers will want to invest in long johns, wool pants and mittens, and a face mask with eye slits. When possible, opt for clothing and accessories made from breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX®, and avoid anything made from 100% cotton, which will hold in too much heat (even in cold conditions). Top off your winter hiking ensemble with a hooded fleece coat and a waterproof shell, but avoid a coat that’s too thick and bulky unless temperatures are going to be in the single digits. Instead, wear layers that you can easily peel off and carry as you warm up. Sunglasses, hiking poles with hand loops, charcoal hand and feet warmers, a thermos of hot coffee or tea, crampons, microspikes and gaiters are also winter hiking must-haves. Keep a water bottle tucked into your shirt so that it doesn’t freeze and make sure to use your poles if the snow is deep. Ward off frostbite by only taking a quick moment to enjoy the scenery from a summit – you need to keep moving in order to stay warm. Top off your hiking gear with an orange hat or vest if you’ll be out during hunting season. Man’s best friend tagging along with you? Keep your pup safe by giving him his own orange vest, too.


Contact Lindsay Pietroluongo, Freelance Writer
(845) 380-2277,


trail marker at Burroughs Sanctuary and Slabsides

One of the trail markers at Burroughs Sanctuary and Slabsides in Esopus. Easy hikes. Look for signs on Floyd Ackert Road west of West Park PO. Great hikes.