Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Catskill Scenic Trail - One of Delaware County's Greatest Treasures

The Catskill Scenic Trail (CST) is one of Delaware County’s greatest treasures. This 25-mile linear park follows the old Ulster and Delaware Railroad bed and stretches from Bloomville to Roxbury through some of the most beautiful country in all of New York State. The near-level gradient and unpaved surface make it ideal for hikers, walkers and families, as well as runners, cyclists, cross country skiers and horseback riders. There are numerous places to access the trail which passes through South Kortright, Hobart, Stamford and Grand Gorge. Maps and information are available at www.catskillscenictrail.org.
The Catskill Scenic Trail is 25 miles of old Ulster and Delaware Railroad bed that stretches from Bloomville to Roxbury through some of the most beautiful country in all of New York State.

In Bloomville (eight miles north of Delhi on Route 10) the trail begins about a quarter mile east of the intersection of River Street and NYS Route 10 on the south side of Route 10. There is a pedestrian crossing sign in the eastbound lane, a Catskill Scenic Trail mile marker, and a small parking lot. Before getting started, one can glance across Route 10 and see how this is the point where the railroad diverged from the valley of the Delaware River’s West Branch on its way to Oneonta; however, this Bloomville-Oneonta section of the abandoned railroad is not open to the public.

The first section of the trail is a shady and subtle descent that passes the old Sheffield Farms operation, site of the country’s first milk pasteurization. The traveler will also notice the first in a series of trailside benches installed by the Catskill Revitalization Corporation, who oversees the trail and keeps it in good repair. Occasionally, old stone pillar mile-markers appear, displaying the distance to Kingston. Soon the trail separates from Route 10 and enters the pastoral scenery of the Delaware River’s West Branch Valley. The trail then runs alongside the river and crosses it three times in the next mile. In the spring the wildflowers in these floodplains are brilliant, and wildlife abounds. This section also offers superb mountain vistas as it traverses a series of active farm fields, before reaching South Kortright and the first road junction at 4.5 miles.

The trail skirts behind the hamlet offering an assortment of glimpses into yesteryear, including an old rail depot. It then crosses County Route 18 a second time and bends north with fine views down the valley. At 8.5 miles the trail pulls into Hobart – the Book Village of the Catskills, then it’s a straight shot through mostly farmland to the village of Stamford. Both Stamford and Hobart offer places for the traveler to get refreshments. Stamford marks the halfway point of the trail, which crosses Route 23 on the eastern edge of the downtown area (small octagonal yellow, blue, and white markers are located at all intersections).

Leaving Stamford, the trail also leaves the West Branch Valley and parallels the Mooresville Mountain Range on the eight-mile stretch to Grand Gorge. (Early on there are connecting trails on the left that lead to the Headwaters Trails system.) Along this stretch, the traveler will pass lakes, wetlands, farms, historic barns, and the old South Gilboa Depot. Numerous road crossings serve as convenient access points. A mile or so west of Grand Gorge the trail is bisected by NYS Route 23. On the opposite side of the road the trail continues bends south of the hamlet, and there are some unfinished but easily passable wooded sections. There’s also a unique section that’s cut through a mountain with slopes on both sides. The trail crosses NYS Route 30 just south of the hamlet. At this point (behind Becker’s Tire), the trail can be wet and the traveler may consider the access point just to the south off Route 30.

Now paralleling the headwaters of the East Branch of the Delaware, the scenic trail runs alongside several cliffs and gradually descends as the river widens. The surrounding mountains are generally higher than those along the West Branch, although the valley is narrower and the road is closer at hand. Before culminating just north of the hamlet of Roxbury at Hubbells Corner, the trail ascends a grassy slope next to Route 30. Across the road, the railroad tracks are still in place, and the Delaware and Ulster Railroad is in operation from Roxbury to Arkville, May – October. Summing up, the Catskill Scenic Trail runs 25 miles through two spectacular river valleys, has minimal elevation change throughout its entire course, offers numerous access points, and therefore is a convenient attraction for casual recreationists to enjoy the beauty of Delaware County.