Great Hikes Around Rhinebeck
If you’re looking for a short hike with a great view, then Drayton Grant Park at Burger Hill is worth visiting. Burger Hill, part of the Winnakee Land Trust, is only a mile and a half from our inn, already on the way to the Village of Rhinebeck. Follow our directions to the village and you’ll be at the park entrance in just a couple of minutes, so pull off for a quick treat for the soul and you may wind up with a smile and a bit of an appetite for dinner.
Be warned that despite being an out-and-back walk of less than a mile, there is a climb, and it will definitely get your heart going. But the effort will certainly be worth it! In only a few hundred feet of elevation you will get a panoramic view of the Hudson Valley. Most notable in your view will be the Catskill Mountains and their many peaks. Three monument stones set at the top of Burger Hill are engraved with simple outlines of the peaks and their names. Looking out, one can imagine the Village of Woodstock nestled at the base of Overlook Mountain, and can see the notches and valleys through which the rivers and roads of the Catskills run.
Down low to the west, and just hidden by the land, is the Hudson River, which carved the entire valley in view. Kingston, New York’s first capital, can be gleaned just above the river line where the Rondout Creek cuts the land. Steeples of several of Kingston’s collection of churches reveal the city’s location. The Shaupeneak Ridge to the southwest rises like the back of a giant dinosaur. New Paltz, Minnewaska State Park and the Shawangunk Mountain ridge are just a bit further down the river.
On a good day one might see a hint of the Adirondacks to the north, or, looking closely, can spot the Ferncliff Fire Tower just a few miles away. Stissing Mountain and the Berkshires may be visible to the northeast. And on most any day the surrounding view of the local Rhinebeck lands and scenes is a pleasant payoff to this short hike.
In the spring and summer the birds of Burger Hill are a joy to behold and… behear? The grassland bobolinks hover above the tall hay of the hill, calling with their unique, almost alien-like birdsong. Bluebirds, New York States official bird, are repopulating our area, including in Burger Hill Park birdhouses. Red-winged blackbirds sing, meadowlarks chirp, and others songbirds add to the cacophony. New boxes built by Rhinebeck Boy Scouts Troop 128 are luring in kestrels. If you’re lucky, you might spot a bald eagle commuting overhead; they’ve reestablishing themselves in the valley the past few years.
In the winter, Burger Hill Park is a popular regional sledding destination, sometimes drawing busloads of eager winter adventurers. The smaller hill near the parking area is a big draw for the small crowd, and parents can watch their kids try to reach the hay bales protecting the split rail fence. If you’re brave, try sledding down the big hill, but be warned- experience is speaking now- that gravity will try to take you down the steeper sides and into the heavier snow! So bring your sledding saucer, or you can borrow our two-person plastic toboggan which we keep in the old outhouse out back.
Besides being involved in the Burger Hill Committee and the care of the park, we are also gate stewards one week a year. Stewards open the park gates in the morning and close the park gates after dusk. Stewarding is a nice chance for those who live in the area to get involved in their community, and also gives us a chance to keep the park in good working order. Although the park’s goal is to preserve its natural setting, there’s still plenty of work to keep it in tidy and ready for all of us to enjoy.
All in all a Burger Hill Park walk is a satisfying way to get in a relatively short hike but, with a bit of effort, get magnificent regional views. Try it!
Also nearby is the Staatsburg State Historic Site, the home of not only Mills Mansion, but beautiful grounds, river views and hiking trails. You may gladly notice that on a visit to Staatsburg that there are no railroad tracks separating you from the Hudson River. The site is on a peninsula, and the Hudson rail line runs behind the mansion, so you can walk right down and take in the river views. Or maybe have a little picnic? Carriage, horse, and foot trails wind their way from the mansion through the adjoining Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park, adding to the extensive playground that was created from these old estates for our benefit. Hiking is not difficult, and you can follow a picturesque foot trail along the river all the way to the Norrie campground and marina.
A very popular local hike is Poets’ Walk. Formerly park of the Rokeby estate, Poets’ Walk is now a ”romantic landscape” park whose hike takes you through a rustic pavilion before heading down towards the Hudson River. Hike as little or as much as you like on the scenic and gently rolling trail before heading back to the parking. Gates close on time.
And last but not least, Ferncliff Forest in Rhinebeck offers 200 acres of hiking and mountain bike trails, with the added highlight of an actual fire tower. Which you can climb. If heights are your thing. And if they are, you are rewarded with a superb view out to the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, the Catskill Mountains, and beyond. The fire tower lookout hike is just a mile or more out-and-back, but of course with an uphill walk to the tower. It’s a novel challenge if you’re up for it.
Rhinebeck is at the center of many excellent hiking regions, and there is wealth of resources online with more information. Be sure to check out Hike the Hudson Valley, All Trails and Hudson Valley Magazine’s Top 30 Hiking and Biking Adventures. If you’re looking for an organized hike, check out the Hudson Valley Hikers meetup, Catskill 3500 Club schedule and the Adirondack Mountain Club calendar. There are certainly hikes of great challenge in our area, but no matter! Some of the shorter hikes are excellent ways to get out, get some fresh air, get the blood going, and get rewarded with the natural beauty of Rhinebeck and the Hudson Valley.
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