Top 10 Hiking & Biking Trails in the Capital District

Written By: James Kline

The Albany region is known for its excellent commuter biking program. Due to the endless number of trails in the area, recreational cyclists are also welcome to enjoy the great outdoors. The Capital District offers a wide variety of hiking and biking trails. From mountainous terrain to suburban neighborhoods, hikers and cyclists alike can experience the beauty of the region as they travel along its many trails.

Saratoga Battlefield Park

Saratoga Battlefield Park
Image Source: Pixabay

Saratoga Battlefield Park is one of the more popular trails in the area, utilized heavily by cyclists and walkers alike. It’s an excellent choice if you’re looking to relax and enjoy the view from the hills. This trail is closed to vehicle traffic and runs 9 miles in its entirety. The road is paved, making it an excellent choice for cyclists. There is also the 4.2 Wilkinson Trail (dirt and grass) which is ideal for hikers.

Albany Pine Bush Trail

Albany Pine Bush Trail
Image Source: Pixabay

This trail will introduce cyclists and hikers to twenty miles of lush scenery. Located in the heart of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, the landscape of this trail changes as you travel further along. Some areas are sandy while others are filled with marshland and woodland. You will find that the trail is wide in most areas, but narrow in others. Don’t be surprised if you find cyclists riding side by side with horseback riders!

Zim Smith Trail

Zim Smith Trail
Image Source: Pixabay

The Zim Smith Trail is a multi-use trail that winds 9 miles in Saratoga County. Designated as a national recreation trail, the Zim Smith trail is mostly paved. It connects Ballston Spa to Halfmoon, running through a few communities along the way. Be mindful that there are a few sections of the trail that are dominated by crushed stone and dirt. Cyclists should still be able to enjoy a comfortable ride. The trail experiences natural shade throughout much of its length, so it’s a great trail to explore on a hot day.

Grafton Lakes State Park

Grafton Lakes State Park
Image Source:
Pixabay

If you’re looking for a scenic view, an endless path and a popular location to visit, look no further than the Grafton Lakes State Park. Located in Rensselaer County, this trail runs for 25 miles. Notably, it is used for both hiking and biking. Throughout the the trail, gorgeous views are plentiful. One of the best features of this park is its five ponds. The largest, Long Pond, is known to have tricky paths due to rocks and roots. Cyclists should take extra care while traveling through this particular area. Overall, this trail is best for mountain bikes and experienced cyclists.

Thacher Park Trail

Thacher Park Trail
Image Source: Pixabay

This trail sits 15 miles southwest of Albany. The Thacher Park trail is part of the Thacher State Park and stretches 25 miles in length. One of the best features of this trail is its unique view of three mountain ranges – Green, Catskills, and Adirondacks. As you travel along, you’ll find terrain that can range from easy to moderately challenging. It’s also worth mentioning that your travels will take you over gorgeous waterfalls. Also, if you’re looking for more than just hiking or cycling, visit the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center.

Erie Canalway Trail

Erie Canalway Trail

Image Source:
Pixabay

This trail starts off flat, but once you reach the Capital Region, things start to get interesting with numerous hills and inclines. This trail runs a monstrous 39 miles long. You can decide to trek the entire trail or pick a short section. Whatever you choose, the Erie Canalway Trail is versatile in its offerings. You can opt to take a short trip with the kids or plan to take a multi-day adventure. Whatever you decide, there are many places to visit and explore along the trail.

Mohawk Hudson Hike-Bike Trail

Mohawk Hudson Hike-Bike Trail
Image Source: Pixabay

If you thought the previous trails would prove challenging, wait until you visit the Mohawk Hudson Hike-Bike Trail. It’s the most popular bike trail in the region and stretches 86 miles long (from the Rotterdam to the Hudson in Albany). It has 50 access points, 21 of which have parking lots. Most of the trail follows an old railroad bed. Though the trail is long and most of the sections are paved.

Christman Sanctuary, Duanesburg

Christman Sanctuary, Duanesburg
Image Source:
Pixabay

Described by some as dramatic, this trail provides a picturesque view as it leads you on an adventure. You’ll travel through split rocks, along streams, and down small ravines. If you’re up for it, you can have a picnic under a 30-foot waterfall.

Peebles Island Perimeter Trail

Peebles Island Perimeter Trail
Image Source: Pixabay

This trail is perfect for those who share a love for nature. The Perimeter Trail runs through open meadows, cliff tops, hardwood forests, and river rapids. Compared to the other trails on this list, Perimeter Trail is relatively short at 2 miles. Wildlife is plentiful along the trail. Don’t be surprised if you spot owls, hawks, skunks, deer, and beaver along your travels. Fishing is allowed, but only if you have a permit. Though the Perimeter Trail is located relatively close to nearby cities, the sounds of the rapids drown out all sounds of human activity, allowing visitors to enjoy the serene outdoors.

Plotter Kill Preserve

Plotter Kill Preserve
Image Source: Pixabay

The Plotter Kill is a tributary of the Mohawk River that flows through a harsh gorge. The surrounding forest is comprised of conifers and hardwoods. This trail contains three stunning waterfalls – the Upper Falls (60 feet in length), the Lower Falls and the Rynex Creek Fall (both 40 feet in length). Trails will lead you to lookouts that overlook the upper and lower falls. The view from such heights will afford visitors a stunning panorama of the surrounding scenery.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of excellent hiking and biking trails in the Capital District. If you ever find yourself in the area, take the time to visit a trail or two.  It can be an experience that you can enjoy with the entire family.