When we went to Upstate New York for a long weekend in January, we passed by signs saying “Ashokan Rail Trail” near Shokan. My boyfriend asked me how I felt about
hiking taking a walk. We then went there on our last morning, once the sun had come out and the fresh snow was glistening. We parked the car on the plowed parking area and just followed the trail. Despite the cold we enjoyed our almost one and a half hour walk a lot.
What is Ashokan Rail Trail?
Ashokan Rail Trail is a 11.5 mile long way that was just opened last fall. It goes along the northern rim of Ashokan Reservoir and follows actually an old, scenic railway route that had long been abandoned. Ashokan Reservoir itself is close to the Catskills. It was created between 1907 and 1915 to provide fresh water to New York City. The Rail Trail is open to everyone from sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash.
What did we like about Ashokan Rail Trail?
It was not only beautiful to see the reservoir with a few mountains in the background, but there were also many information boards. We learned about the creation of the reservoir, its rules (swimming is absolutely forbidden as are almost all other popular water activities), the original railway … My boyfriend also pointed out a whole area with funny shaped tree stumps – there had to be beavers living close by.
We also liked that nature comes in all facets there. There are single trees, forests, bushes, the water, mountains … We watched ducks swimming on the reservoir. In some parts the reservoir water was frozen. Even better was that there were several overlooks that were clearly marked. Some even had benches. These might be a little more useful in all other seasons though.
Even though the trail was covered with snow, we didn’t have any issues walking it. Some people passed us on cross-country skis. There were several people there with their dogs and seemed like both humans and animals enjoyed the rather powdery snow.
What else is there to do?
To be honest, at least in winter the trail is a little bit in the middle of nowhere. We only came across it because we stayed in Shokan – and Shokan is such a small little place that there is exactly one cafe and only residential houses. A little further away (about half an hour by car) there is the ski region the Catskills. The famous town of Woodstock is also about half an hour drive into the other direction.
We had the impression that Ashokan Rail Trail is already pretty in winter, but maybe even better during the warmer seasons. It was so cold on that day that we kind of soon had to turn around because our faces felt frozen. But on warmer days we could imagine to walk much farther and enjoy the views even more and longer. It would be a great place for a picnic, too. As bicycles are allowed on the trail, even I would cycle the whole trail. Even though I am not a fan of hiking at all, I think that I might actually like walking(!) the trail to the end. The trail is flat and I love being at big bodies of water. So maybe we’ll find the time and go there again in a few months!