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Byrdcliffe Trail, Woodstock

A short, steep Nature Walk through peaceful woods to two views of the Ashokan Reservoir and surrounding peaks.

Hike Length: 2.4 miles (3.86 km)

Total Ascent: 866ft (264m)

Intensity: Moderate Hike

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Includes: Blazed Trail, Unmarked Trail

Parent Mount Guardian

Similar Entries In: Catskills, Moderate Hikes, Nature Walks, , , , .

open view of mountains

View from Scenic Spot

 Blazing is excellent until it’s not, but the trail is always clear.

Hiking Trail Description

This very short hike leads through peaceful woods to two views of the Ashokan Reservoir and surrounding Catskills peaks. Unlike other Catskills Nature Walks, this one is quite steep so it may not be for everyone. But the first section is relatively level, and I noticed alternate routes in the woods that lead back down before things got too tough.

Dave Holden designed and built the Byrdcliffe Trail in 2012, which winds up the slopes and ledges of Mt. Guardian above Byrdcliffe, connecting with the pre-existing Mt. Guardian Trail. The trail is dominated by oak and mountain laurel.

Byrdcliffe itself is the site of the oldest operating arts and crafts colony in America. Founded in 1902, it was created as an experiment in utopian living inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement.

The trailhead is in Woodstock. If you’ve ever driven up to Overlook or KTD, you’ve passed the left turn onto Glasco Turnpike to get to Upper Byrdcliffe Road.

Park at the Byrdcliffe Theater lot, where you’ll see the sign below, and head directly into the woods.

sign and walking sticks leaning against tree
Trailhead with helpful walking sticks

The trail crosses two quiet roads before settling into the woody climb up Mount Guardian.

The blazing on the trail is a mix of three types: directional painted triangles (yellow), round NY State Nature Trail blazes (also yellow), and… non-existent — there are one or two patches where, oddly, there are no blazes. But the trail is easy to follow.

triangular yellow blaze on tree trunk
Directional blazing

This route is pretty gentle and flat at first. It winds easily through mostly deciduous forest that, after dawn, is bursting with birdsong.

forest trail
Beautiful forest

This tree must bring all the girls to the Woodpecker yard…

woodpecker-damaged tree trunk
Woodpecker noticeboardThis

Mushroom Season

I passed this Eastern Jack O’Lantern on the way up. Jack O’Lantern is toxic. It will make you poop for three days straight. It’s differentiated from Chicken of the Woods (which looks similar and is edible) by two main characteristics:

  1. it has gills underneath the caps (whereas Chicken does not)
  2. it has fairly uniform rich orange color top and bottom (whereas Chicken is much lighter under the cap)

Jack O’Lantern is also bioluminescent. It’s gills glow green, an effect that’s visible to us in low light conditions. I haven’t seen this yet IRL, but now I’m keen to.

fungus on tree trunk
Jack O Lantern (toxic)

The deeper you head into this trail, the denser and more lush becomes the forest…

morning forest light
Morning forest light on the trail
morning forest light
Morning forest light on the trail
morning forest light and boulder
Morning forest light on the trail

The trail alternates between steep sections where it shoots straight up and flatter sections, where it follows an elevation contour. Eventually, though, after about ¾ of a mile you begin the very steep last ½ mile to the two view points.

At around 1600 ft (just bellow 500m), you’ll pass a small bluestone quarry. The trail then takes a sharp left along a switchback.

Upper Junction 1

Soon, above the quarry, you’ll arrive at this boulder on your right…

boulder marker
First junction, boulder


The trail forks here. Ignore the herd path heading left. Instead, turn right, heading up around the back of the boulder…

boudler marker at fork in trail
Head up here

The trail above here is steep…

steep dirt trail
Final climb

Upper Junction 2

This junction is obvious, with trails heading in opposite directions. I turned right first to check out the eastern view point, which was a good choice; the second/western lookout is better.

Eastern View

Make your way through thick grown-in stands of mountain laurel to this small rock ledge…

small rock ledge
Eastern view ledge

The view from the rock is mostly screened by trees, but you can clearly see the eastern side of the Ashokan Reservoir.

ashokan view
View from eastern ledge

The trail continues into the woods toward the summit of Mount Guardian. I was running out of time, so I didn’t poke around higher than the flat rock.

Head back down to the junction where you’ll turn right to head up to the second lookout.

Western View

Climb over this first set of boulders…

Climb past these

A short distance later, after pushing through some very grown-in trail, you’ll come to this boulder…

boulder ledge
Western lookout

This is the lookout. Climb up on top of it. The view is pretty good, looking toward the western side of the Ashokan Reservoir, Tonshi, Little Tonshi, Ticetonyk, and Ashokan High Point.

scenic view
Tonshi & Ashokan High Point
mountain summits in distance
Little Tonshi & Ticetonyk

Not a bad view for such a short hike.

Similar Hikes

Not everyone has hours to spend hiking a mountain. Short hikes and nature walks are a great way to squeeze some outdoor goodness into your day. This hike is also steep which hill runners may enjoy.

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Medium sized parking area beside Byrdcliffe Theater.

GPS Location: 42.055698, -74.139288

Location: The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead.

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