The Blue Ledges is a wonderful spot on the Upper Hudson River. We often dream about a visit, but only occasionally follow through with plans. It’s not a tough hike by any measure, and the destination is really nice. The drive to the trailhead is several miles on a banged-up dirt road, so maybe that slows us down.
This past Saturday was one of those times that we went. At the trailhead on Northwoods Club Road at 11:30 am, on mid-summers day. It’s a good start time, for reasons I’ll explain.
After a half sandwich and a chug of water, we headed into the relatively new (2014) Hudson Gorge Wilderness. Mileage estimates for this hike vary from 2.1 to 2.5 miles, depending on the source. The DEC sign at the trailhead calls it 2.3.
The walk starts along the edge of Huntley Pond. From the trail, you don’t get a full on view of the pond — and because it’s so close to the start of the hike — we pushed ahead content with glimpses of the water, through the trees.
After you skirt the pond the trail rises up and over the shoulder of a relatively low and unnamed mountain. The forest is a bit unremarkable, but still quite nice, mostly deciduous, with some good size trees.
Soon enough you can hear the river down to your right; it’s a good time to point it out to little children. After passing some huge evergreens close to the trail, you come to a knob of sorts, exposed bedrock in the trail, which marks the beginning of the final descent to the river.
As it worked out our timing was perfect. The Blue Ledges is the spot for rafting outfitters to serve lunch to guests. If you arrive when that is happening, be prepared for some joyous commotion. If you are looking for a more low key visit, arrive just after the rafters have departed, and you can still take advantage of the midday sun. Even during the summer the window for direct sun down in the gorge is somewhat limited.
The only downside to this timing plan is a modest one. The Ledges themselves are probably best photographed in the early morning. In the afternoon they are in shadows and it’s harder to get a great photo.
We nailed it as best we could; the last of the rafters were shoving off just as we arrived. We took our time, climbing on the rocks, eating lunch, taking pictures and eventually diving in water to cool off. The dip may have washed off our bug repellent, and after we dried off, we beat a hasty retreat up the trail to return to our car.
One big difference between this trip and our previous visit to the Blue Ledge was that our daughter, is now fourteen years old. While it is a joy to show little kids the natural world, it’s also cool to have another member of your tribe, quietly banging out trail miles like it’s just a normal part of a natural life.