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2018 Update: The Indian Ladder Trail is currently closed due to falling rocks that caused a hiker injury. Thacher State Park is still open, and still a gorgeous spot to hike!
It’s less than a day trip for us, and we never knew it existed. We were so lucky to be invited to an event at Thacher State Park over the weekend. If we hadn’t, we would still be clueless about this incredible natural wonder in our own backyard. Thacher State Park is just a short drive from Albany, New York and it’s a magical place too explore. It’s not a world-class destination like the Catskills or the Adirondacks, but it doesn’t have to be a mountainous playground to be totally special. In fact, you could be lame and stay in your car, and you would still have the opportunity to fall in love and take great photos (not that I’m advocating that folly of a move).
The Indian Ladder Trail
The most popular attraction in the park, besides the drive-in overlooks, is the Indian Ladder Trail, so that’s where we chose to do most of our exploring. Long before Europeans arrived on the scene, American Indians were using this as a thoroughfare to get back and forth from the Hudson River Valley to the Schoharie Valley. When they reached the massive Helderberg Escarpment, they felled the tallest trees against the side of the cliffs so they could easily climb to the top. Settlers called these Indian Ladders.
Before the forests, caves, cliffs, and pristine waterfalls starting attracting settlers, adventurers, and tourists, this land was covered by an vast sea. Fossils of ancient corals and marine animals still play hide and seek with careful observers. I was busy managing my fear of heights and training a puppy, but I can’t wait to go back.
For those of you planning a trip to this magical destination, here are a few tips.
- You’ll find cliffs and drop-offs everywhere. It’s a little disconcerting, depending on your relationship with heights. I might not bring small children on the Indian Ladder Trail, but I did see lots of youngins running around, so maybe it’s just me.
- Thompson’s Lake is a great little swimming lake with an awesome campground so you can extend your stay indefinitely if you’ve got the urge.
- Bring your trekking poles and your camera – there are 25 miles of incredible trails with vistas that will entice you to into posing for dangerous, but awe-inspiring selfies. I did not embrace this trend, but we saw lots of it.
- Picnic areas invite casual relaxers and hard core barbecuers. They’re plentiful and pretty busy in the summer, but the trails? Peaceful, shaded, and totally enchanting.
- Albany is just fifteen minutes from the park, but you’d never know it. You can spend the day hiking, and the evening living it up in the city, if that’s your thing.
Daytrippers, history buffs, wanderlusters – don’t pass this place by. Come for the day, the weekend, or the summer, but put Thacher State Park on your adventure to-do list.
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