The Helderberg hill towns are fortunate to have a large number of natural areas and outdoor recreation opportunities to give reasons for folks to come visit and enjoy.
- Knox Cave, one of dozens of caves in the Helderbergs, was open commercially from 1933 to 1958. It is now owned by the Northeastern Cave Conservancy and a permit is required to visit it. The cave is closed when bats are hibernating to protect them. The cave has features that fascinate experienced cavers, but Knox Cave is extremely dangerous for inexperienced "adventurers."
- Helderberg Mountains - The Helderberg Escarpment is a limestone escarpment in the highlands of western Albany County, New York. They are in the towns of Berne, Knox, Guilderland, and New Scotland. The escarpment is an abrupt limestone cliff, running north-south dividing Albany County into the Hudson Valley to the east, and the uplands of the Helderberg Plateau to the west.
- Wolf Creek Falls Preserve has 135 gorgeous acres open for public hiking, contains streams and waterfalls, a wetland, and numerous, old stone walls.
- Hudson and Nancy Winn Preserve is along the Helderberg Escarpment and is geologically significant. It is partly in the Knox Land Conservation District #2; the southern boundary of the District is Truax Road, an old farm-to-market road that is extensively used by hikers, hunters, horseback riders and snowmobiles.
- Limestone Rise Preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. There are no caves on the property, but some fine karst including solutionally-enlarged joints and sinkholes. Great birding site. Helder-hiking blogspot has a map and description of hiking trails and scenery.
- Thompsons Lake -
- Thompsons Lake State Park offers a beach, a playground and playing fields, picnic tables, recreation programs, a nature trail, fishing and ice fishing, a boat launch, a dump station, campground for tents and trailers, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The park is adjacent to the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center, which park users also have access to.
- The Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center opened in July 2001 and is located near the shore of Thompsons Lake between Thompsons Lake State Park and John Boyd Thacher State Park. Exhibits and displays include a geologic model of the Helderberg Escarpment, a live honeybee observation hive, bird viewing area, fossils, furs and other hands-on collections. Trails for hiking and skiing lead from the nature center to the lake, through woodlands and fields. The center offers educational programs for school groups, youth organizations, clubs and the general public. Restored one-room Knox School No. 5 is reached by a short trail from near the entrance.
- Burke Wildlife Management Area has 246 acres, upland, parking lot, birdwatching, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting and trapping. It has easy hiking trails.
- Helderberg Bird Conservation Area consists of 6,594 acres of Partridge Run WMA and State Forest, Burke Wildlife Management Area, and Cole Hill State Forest. It is an upland complex that includes hardwood and conifer (plantation) forests, young regenerating forests, old fields, shrub lands, reverting farmland, wooded swamp, shrub wetlands, and numerous ponds and wetlands.
- Camp Lovejoy, operated by Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady, is located in the Town of Knox in the Helderberg Mountains. The former Cassidy Castle was acquired in 1957 with a generous contribution from Jesse R. Lovejoy. The grounds include a swimming pool, ponds, hiking trails, an outdoor amphitheatre, arts and crafts building, picnic pavilions, playing fields and an adventure ropes course.
- Knox Town Park has a small boardwalk going into a marshy area for bird watching.
- Long Path - north end of this trail is a short distance from Knox.
- Berne Town Park - On the Foxenkill a mile west of the Berne hamlet has playing fields, a pavilion, picnic tables, toilets, and access to the creek.
- Cole Hill State Forest, accessed from County Routes 2 and 3, has been improved with hiking trails, and parking lots and is available for birdwatching, cross-county skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing and trapping.
- Fox Creek Park is a small, pocket park below the Berne Falls in the Berne hamlet. It is reached by a short access road on the west side of Helderberg Trail just south of the bridge across Fox Creek in the hamlet of Berne.
- Helderberg Bird Conservation Area consists of 6,594 acres of Partridge Run WMA and State Forest, Knox (Burke) WMA, and Cole Hill State Forest. It is an upland complex that includes hardwood and conifer (plantation) forests, young regenerating forests, old fields, shrub lands, reverting farmland, wooded swamp, shrub wetlands, and numerous ponds and wetlands.
- John Boyd Thacher State Park is on the eastern town line partly in Berne but mainly in the Town of New Scotland. It has campgrounds. Here is a link to old photos of Thacher Park.
- The Long Path crosses the Town of Berne, going from Cotton Hill and Cannady State Forests in Schoharie County to the west, across the Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area, through Cole Hill State Forest where it has 270-degree views of both the Catskills and Adirondacks from Roemer's High Point along the Helderberg Escarpment, and continues north to John Boyd Thacher State Park, the Indian Ladder and finally its current end at NY 146.
- Partridge Run New York State Wildlife Management Area is on West Mountain in the town of Berne. It consists of 4,594 acres of former abandoned upland farms that has been improved with hiking trails, and parking lots and is available for birdwatching, cross-county skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing and trapping. Partridge Run and Cole Hill State Forest are units in the Helderbergs Management Area of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
- Thompsons Lake State Park at the north end of Thompsons Lake offers a beach, a playground and playing fields, picnic tables, recreation programs, a nature trail, fishing and ice fishing, a boat launch, a dump station, campground for tents and trailers, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Switzkill Natural Area located on Sickle Hill Road in Berne has a walking trail which passes through a variety of habitats. It is a work in progress but is available to enjoy right now.
- Snow Mobile Trails connect Berne and Knox with area to the the west and north.
- Tenzin Gyatso Institute - 350 acres of unspoiled hills and meadows in the town of Berne. The land boasts a stunning expanse of forests and meadows, and commanding views of the southern Catskills and the surrounding state forest and small farms.
- Rensselaerville State Forest - Also known as the Cheese Hill area, this location near the hamlet of Rensselaerville is outstanding for its extensive pine forest glades that are sufficiently open so that one can ski through them with no need for a trail. These glades generally parallel the Department truck trail that traverses the area. There are about 4 miles of Nordic skiing opportunities in this area.
- Catskill Creek is a waterway with tributaries; Scrub Creek, Ten Mile Creek, Eight Mile Creek and Willow Brook in Rensselaerville.
- The Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station's mission is to protect the natural beauty of the Rensselaerville Falls, the watershed of Lake Myosotis and surrounding lands, to conduct long-term research on natural systems as part of a global effort to understand and preserve the Earth's biodiversity, and to increase appreciation of this effort through innovative, field-based educational programs for students, teachers and the community. It has an extensive trail network. Over the next two fall seasons a new six-mile foot trail will be created in the northern 1,200 acres of the Huyck Preserve, Rensselaerville. This trail will connect the current trail system with the State’s Long Path in Partridge Run NYS Wildlife Management Area, Berne.
- Bear Swamp was designated a Registered National Natural Landmark by the Department of Interior in 1973. Bear Swamp itself dates from 13,000 years ago, with the retreat of the last glacier. The rhododendron at Bear Swamp are a relic stand, the northernmost in New York State.
"Helderberg Landscapes" has a series of images taken by various photographers showing the beauty of the Albany hill towns.
Ideas for enhancing hill town trails
Trails outside the hill towns
- Albany County Rail Trail] - A project to convert a nine-mile stretch of the old Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Railroad between the Port of Albany and Voorheesville to a public recreational trail.
Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy
Preserves and protected areas of the the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy:
- Ashford Glen Preserve on Vly Creek, a tributary of the Mohawk River, is a beautiful 11.5 acre glen.
- Bennett Hill Preserve towers over Clarksville, and stands only a short distance from the base of the Helderberg Escarpment. Although the top of the hill is only 400 feet above the surrounding land, it offers striking views of the Helderbergs to the north and west, and Albany to the east.
- Bozenkill Protected Area in the Town of Guilderland on the Bozenkill, a beautiful creek in the northwestern corner of Albany County and about three miles downstream from the Christman Sanctuary.
- Winifred Matthews Holt Preserve is a 148-acre property on the western face of Copeland Hill in the Town of New Scotland.
- Normanskill Preserve includes over a half-mile of frontage on the Normanskill in an area directly across from City of Albany's Stevens Farm.
- Onesquethaw Cave is about 5500 feet long making it the second longest cave in Albany County, New York and the eleventh longest in New York State.
- Phillipinkill Preserve ess than a mile west of Bethlehem High School, includes an attractive mix of upland, floodplain, and wetland.
- Schoharie Creek Preserve is located in Montgomery County on the west bank of the Schoharie Creek, about a mile north of Burtonsville.
- Swift Wetland is in Delmar, directly across Delaware Avenue from the Bethlehem High School sports field.
- Vly Creek Marsh is directly across from Voorheesville High School.
- Hudson and Nancy Winn Preserve in Knox!
Anticipating that the Albany County Rail Trail] will eventually be extended to Delanson, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has acquired two preserves on the railroad in the Town of Knox. One of those preserves, Wolf Creek Falls Preserve on Bozenkill Road, is open to the public.
- Wolf Creek Falls Preserve in Knox!
Hiking blogs and sites
- Andy Arthur from Delmar, loves hiking and photography.
Blue Sky, Cole Hill State Forest
by Andy Arthur, Mar 6, 2009
Sunset woods, Partridge Run WMA