Cliff Edge Overlook and Indian Ladder via the Long Path and Escarpment Trails

Overview

Outstanding views, impressive rock formations and seasonal waterfalls are reached with minimal effort on this relatively flat and highly scenic hike in the popular southern section of John Boyd Thacher State Park.

Details
Time:
4 hours
Difficulty:
Easy
Length:
5.7 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Waterfall, Historic feature, Woods, Cliffs
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Albany
State:
NY
Publication
First Published:
07/23/2012
Submitter:
Daniela Wagstaff
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
42.638692, -74.015090
Driving Directions
NY State Thruway I-87 North to exit 21B.  Turn right on US-9W North towards Ravena.  Continue on US-9W North for 6.9 miles then turn left on CR-101.  In 3.6 miles turn left on Bridge Street.   Proceed another 6.4 miles then turn right on Tarrytown Road.  In 1.4 miles turn left on Delaware Turnpike then in 1.9 miles turn right on Highway 85.  In 2.2 miles turn left on NY-157/Thacher Park Road.  In .9 mile turn left on Beaver Dam Road and proceed 3.3 miles to gravel pullout parking on right. Although the park charges a seasonal parking fee, pullout parking on Beaver Dam Road is free.
Description

From the pullout parking on Beaver Dam Road, look for the aqua blazes of the Long Path heading north into the woods opposite the wooden gate on the south side of the road.  Enter the woods and after a short distance turn right as the aqua-blazed Long Path turns left.  You will be on a blue-blazed trail although no markers are visible early on.  You will see some black circular markers before blue markers come into view, but it’s the only trail, a wide path running parallel to Beaver Dam Road through the woods.

In .35 mile arrive at an intersection.  The marker with W6 on the tree to the left denotes a white-blazed connector trail, numbered at intersections throughout the park. Turn left here on the white W6 trail, a woods road heading away from Beaver Dam Road.

In another .2 mile, white connector trail W6 ends at the blue trail.  Turn left on the blue-blazed trail, also a woods road, and proceed downhill.  In .15 mile keep straight on blue when yellow joins in from the right.  After a few steps, follow yellow to the right as it leaves the blue trail.  Come to an intersection with the orange-blazed trail a short distance ahead.  Turn left on orange when yellow/orange continues straight.  In .15 mile keep right with orange as an unnumbered white trail goes left.  Enter a clearing with a park maintenance building straight ahead.  Before the building at a post with directional arrows, turn left and immediately cross a footbridge on white connector trail W5.  Turn right on a woods road immediately after crossing the bridge.  Come up on a gravel park access road crossing over at an angle but keep with the woods road, following the “Overlook” sign just beyond where the gravel road crosses over.  You are now 1 mile into the hike.

Long Path and Escarpment Trail Along Cliff Edge OverlookIn a quarter of a mile, cross paved Thacher Park Road.  Look for the 15 mph speed limit sign where you will find an aqua blaze of the Long Path, the blazes you will now be following in conjunction with the unblazed Escarpment Trail.  Proceed to the parking lot and veer right to the viewing area at Cliff Edge Overlook.  Here at the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment you will find spectacular panoramic views of the city of Albany, the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys, the Adirondack Mountains and the Green Mountains of Vermont.  Continue along the viewing area and descend the steps at the far end, still following the aqua blazes.  Several trails will split off to the left but stay with the path along the fence.

Indian Ladder TrailHalf of a mile from the Cliff Edge Overlook area when the aqua blazes leave to the left, turn right and descend wide stone steps to the gates of the Indian Ladder Trail.  (The Indian Ladder Trail is open from May 1 through November 15 only.  If hiking when the trail is closed, turn left and follow the Long Path to the other end of the Indian Ladder Trail.)  Go through the gates and proceed down a series of metal steps then under a low rock overhang where you will need to duck to pass under.  Continue following the Indian Ladder Trail along interesting talus slopes and rock formations on the left and panoramic views on the right.  If water is flowing, you will be passing behind two waterfalls and over an underground stream but in the dry summer months you may only find a few small trickles under the rock overhangs.  Even without crashing waterfalls, this is a spectacular hike and the views make up for the lack of water.  After .4 mile, the ascent on metal steps marks the end of the Indian Ladder Trail.  Exit through the gate, ascend wide stone steps and turn right at the picnic area to the fence.  You will now be following the Escarpment Trail with is not blazed but is clearly identifiable by the fence that runs along its entire length.   From this point forward, you will be leaving the crowds behind and should find this to be a much quieter section.

Picnic Table Overlook Along Escarpment TrailIn about a quarter of a mile a picnic table on the Escarpment Trail provides a nice break spot with more views.  Just after this picnic table, the trail comes out into a large picnic area but stay right following the fence.  The trail descends briefly then ascends again in ravine of the Horseshoe area 2.85 miles into the hike.

At the 3-mile point come out into the Hailes Cave Picnic Area and continue on the mowed grass path along the Escarpment Trail fence where you will come up on yet more open views.  When the fence makes an abrupt left turn at picnic tables, the Escarpment Trail has come to an end.  Turn left and head towards a water fountain in the clearing.  Continue beyond the water fountain, cross the gravel circle towards a picnic table and stone pillar, keeping the stone pillar on your right.  A few steps after the stone pillar, turn left on a woods road and then left again into the woods on a footpath at the double aqua blazes of the Long Path.   You will now be following the Long Path again as it winds through the pretty woods along the other side of the Hailes Cave picnic area.

At the 3.7-mile point, emerge from the woods into a clearing with a park road straight ahead.  Turn right before the park road and continue through the field.  Keep to the right of a group of trees along the park road.  There are no blazes in this area but as you pass that group of trees, turn around to see the aqua blazes in the opposite direction which will confirm you are on the right path.  At the end of the field, the Long Path reenters the woods at a double aqua turn blaze.

Tory CaveIn .2-mile come out at another clearing which is the entrance to the Hailes Cave picnic area.  Proceed straight across the field keeping the brown park building on your right, walking parallel to Route 157.  Cross the park road and continue straight towards the Indian Ladder parking lot.  There are few blazes in this area.  Once in the parking lot, head towards the restroom building and turn left at the Indian Ladder sign just the other side of the restrooms.  This path will bring you to the Tory Cave sign.  Continue straight towards the fence and turn right to follow along the fence at the double aqua turn blazes.  You will now be following the combined Long Path/Escarpment Trail over the top of the Indian Ladder Trail and crossing the tops of the waterfalls that crash down over Indian Ladder in season.

IWaterfalls in Creek at Paint Minemmediately after crossing the second waterfall bridge, turn right on an unmarked paved footpath leaving the Long Path/Escarpment Trail.  Stay with this paved path towards the restroom building and cross Thacher Park Road at the crosswalk to the right of the restrooms.  Proceed beyond the Paint Mine picnic shelter, cross the bridge to the Paint Main parking lot, turn left and proceed through the parking lot to the kiosk and trail.  After a short distance the trail splits at 3 picnic tables with the right fork crossing a bridge.  Turn left here on an unmarked trail, which follows along a scenic creek with cascades, waterfalls and fossils.  This short trail ends at a paved road.  Turn left briefly, keep left at the fork, then continue straight when you meet up with the aqua-blazed Long Path once more.  The lime-blazed Nature Trail will also share this route along with a red-blazed trail as it parallels the right side of the creek.  Stay with the aqua blazes as the lime and red trails leave to the left separately.

Keep left at a fork following the Beaver Dam Road sign then watch for an unmarked side trail to a scenic swamp in another .15 mile.  The unmarked swamp trail forks left for a view from above the swamp and right for a view at ground level.  Retrace and continue right on the aqua-blazed Long Path.  Very soon the blue trail will join in from the left.  Just before a gate, the Long Path turns left then after a short distance turns right back to the pullout parking on Beaver Dam Road.

Click here for more pictures and a longer version of this hike.

Turn by turn description
[ 0.00]  From pullout parking at Beaver Dam Road, take aqua Long Path north briefly, turn right on blue (no blaze) at T-intersection when aqua turns left[ 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 paved 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/aqua blazes[ 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 on Escarpment Trail along fence[ 2.45]  Picnic table with open view[ 2.85]  Escarpment Trail descends and ascends again at Horseshoe[ 3.00]  Come out at Hailes Cave picnic area clearing, continue along fence[ 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]  Proceed straight to the left of the stone pillar, make the first left, then left again into the woods on footpath at double aqua turn blaze[ 3.40]  Cross gravel road, continue on aqua[ 3.70]  Come out at clearing and keep right staying to the right of park road (blazes scarce in this area - turn around to see blazes in opposite direction)[ 3.75]  Long Path leaves clearing and enters woods (double turn blaze visible)[ 3.90]  Come out at clearing at Hailes Cave park entrance, keep straight, cross park road to parking lot parallel to Route 157 (almost no blazing here)[ 4.05]  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[ 4.25]  Top of waterfalls, cross on bridge to the right[ 4.45]  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[ 4.55]  After picnic shelter cross bridge to parking lot, turn left through parking lot to path at kiosk[ 4.65]  At fork with 3 picnic tables where right crosses a bridge, turn left and follow unmarked trail along bank of creek with waterfalls[ 4.70]  At paved road turn left to fork then keep left, then straight on aqua Long Path/lime Nature Trail/occasional red marker when same goes left over bridge[ 5.05]  Keep straight when red leaves to the left [ 5.15]  Keep left at fork following sign to Beaver Dam Road; keep straight when white goes left[ 5.20]  Keep right at fork[ 5.25]  Turn right on unmarked short trail to swamp; left fork for view above swamp, right fork for view at ground level; retrace and continue right on aqua[ 5.35]  Keep straight when blue joins in from the left[ 5.55]  Turn left just before gate at picnic table[ 5.65]  Turn right at double aqua turn blaze[ 5.70]  Back at Beaver Dam Road pullout parking