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.
Park at the Byrdcliffe Theater lot, where you’ll see the sign below, and head directly into the woods.
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.
This route is pretty gentle and flat at first. It winds easily through mostly deciduous forest that, after dawn, is bursting with birdsong.
This tree must bring all the girls to the Woodpecker yard…
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:
- it has gills underneath the caps (whereas Chicken does not)
- 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.
The deeper you head into this trail, the denser and more lush becomes the forest…
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…
The trail forks here. Ignore the herd path heading left. Instead, turn right, heading up around the back of the boulder…
The trail above here is steep…
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.
Make your way through thick grown-in stands of mountain laurel to this small rock ledge…
The view from the rock is mostly screened by trees, but you can clearly see the eastern side of the Ashokan Reservoir.
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.
Climb over this first set of boulders…
A short distance later, after pushing through some very grown-in trail, you’ll come to this boulder…
Not a bad view for such a short hike.
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.