Trails and More in Ulster County

By Kristen Richard

The towns of Ulster County, New York are packed with tiny shops and cafes, all different colors, with wild intricate window displays enticing window shoppers in off the street. The care in just the shops alone represents of the pride and beauty of the area the citizens of the county uphold. However if you are like myself and find yourself more drawn to the outdoors the parks and reserves in the surrounding area offer hikes and races to people of all ages and fitness levels.

Ashokan Reservoir: We were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the Ashokan Reservoir area by Aaron Bennett, the Deputy Coordinator of the Department of the Environment. The reservoir sits in the middle of the Catskill Mountains of New York. This 100-year-old reservoir is unfiltered and was the first created by the city of New York. Bennett says the reservoir provides 35% of the area's water. With a purchase of a special permit and a non-motorized boat, people can enjoy fishing in the reservoir. People are also allowed to hunt, with the purchase of a permit, in designated areas at certain times of the year. The, Jay Waldo Smith Walkway, commonly known as the, “the walkway,” runs the length of the reservoir. People come from all over to walk, bike, and run outdoors in a serene setting of fall colors and mountains.

The Rail Trail: Our next stop was Wallkill Valley Land Trust. When we arrived our group was greeted by Christine DeBoer, the enthusiastic, friendly, and knowledgeable Executive Director of the land trust. The Wallkill trails, which were wide and flat making them accessible to any walker, are lined with birch trees making the road almost invisible. DeBoer was the director of building the bridge on the rail trail which allows access to 22 miles of trails. She talked passionately about the lengths they went through in order to make sure the bridge was environmentally conscious and accessible to everyone. Including the bay horse that came walking across the bridge. DeBoer explained how this particular trail has a lot of equestrian traffic. While constructing the bridge DeBeor and her team held focus groups where equestrians brought their horses and walked over potential footing for the new bridge. DeBoer also helped to build a 97-step walkway from one side of the bridge that allows hikers a safe access to the town of Rosendale. DeBoer continued to talk about the bridge, and how it was a big community project, as we circled back to the car. Every passerby gave us a smile, wave, and DeBoer knew most of them. Her pride in the bridge and her priority of making sure each project was environmentally sustainable is yet another testament to the beauty of the miles of trails that run through Ulster County.

More Trail Walking: Both the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Reserve offer of miles of trails for all levels of hiking. Minnewaska offers 16.5 miles of well-maintained old carriage trails that allow everyone of all different ages and fitness levels to get out in the woods and experience the beauty of the Catskills. The trails are also used for cross-country skiing in the winter time, and in the summer there is a designated swimming area in Lake Minnewaska.

Mohonk The Mohonk Preserve just completed its beautiful new vistor's center. It was created to mimic the natural surroundings making it nearly invisible from the road. Mohonk offers miles of trails that are accessible to anyone walking and biking. Their Undercliff and Overcliff carriage roads for example allow hikers to see much of the forest as well as rock climbers scaling the cliffs that line the trails.

The Food: We enjoyed dinner at the Bywater Bistro. When we walked the narrow streets of Rosendale we were instantly taken in by the quirky architecture. Only a few cars passed by. All the shops and restaurants were decorated so each one was unique. Brick buildings were covered in beautiful street art and shops had creative and hand crafted window displays. Bywater Bistro certainly stood out, with its light blue paint job and dark yellow trimmings. Despite the quirky exterior the interior was all hardwood and refined. The Bistro also offered outside seating on its bright blue porch and additional seating of picnic tables that lined the dirt trail leading to the Rondout Creek. For dinner, options include the Sir William Farm Brown Ale Braised Beef Shank and many types of beer. The restaurant was a wonderful combination of quirky exterior and a refined menu, making it a place that is easy to walk into but one can still expect that the food and drink will be excellent.

Hudson Valley Dessert Co. in Saugerties. Breakfast was found at the Hudson Valley Dessert Co in Saugerties, about a five-minute drive from the hotel. The small shop’s window was hand painted with pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween and packed with cookies. Despite the shop being small the interior was filled with shelves with intricately decorated cookies from fall themed ones to horses for the equestrians in town. Though the company is big in desserts they also have an excellent breakfast menu. I ordered the yogurt parfait which was made fresh as I waited.

The Races While eating breakfast we learned about the different races Ulster County hosts each year. HITS Athletics and the Kiwanis Club of Kingston put on the Kiwanis Kingston Classic. Not sure if you are ready to run in a race? The classic offers everything from a family and friends 1 mile race to a full marathon. Walkers are welcome, making it so competing is something that anyone can partake in. HITS also puts a on a triathlon every year. Not ready for Iron man or woman distances? No problem. The open division is much shorter allowing more people to accomplish their goal of competing in a triathlon.

Accommodation in the Hudson Valley: I stepped on the balcony of my hotel room, there was a soft breeze, while the Esopus Creek cascaded down a waterfall several hundred feet away, vibrant colored trees dotted the water’s edge, and classical music played softly in the background. I had never stayed in a room so nice. Tucked away between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains is the Diamond Mills Hotel in Saugerties, New York. The Hotel was originally created for equestrians competing at horse shows in the area. It's remained a classy place to bed down for the night in this vibrant and artsy, horsey small town. Now the hotel caters to a wide variety of guests, weddings, and athletes. The staff is friendly, accommodating, and eager to go to great lengths to please their guests. The Ulster County area allows travelers and outdoorsmen of any level to get outside and experience the nature the community works so hard to preserve. To view the complete article, with photos, please visit

Kristen Richard writes from Massachusetts. When she is not writing she enjoys photography, running, biking, horseback riding, and finding new places to travel.