Israel Wittman Sanctuary Trails Guide (Updated)

Three beautiful, contemplative nature walks: quiet woods, easy stream crossings, delightful footbridges, quarries, glacial erratics.

Hike Length: 4.4 miles (7.08 km)

Total Ascent: 180ft (55m)

Intensity: Easy Catskills Hike

Route Type: Lollipop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

Parent Overlook

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Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York

Israel Wittman Sanctuary yellow blaze

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 Easy-peasy lollipop loops. No dogs allowed.

Hiking Trail Description

Israel Wittman Sanctuary’s three serene loops have so much to recommend them: lovely quiet mixed forest, delightful footbridges, dozens of stone fences built by early settlers, abandoned quarries, a gorge, exposed rock faces, even a field of glacial erratics.

Located in the Zena Highwoods area where the towns of Woodstock, Saugerties, and Ulster meet, the sanctuary offers 4.4 miles of beautiful, walkable, bikeable trails.

The sanctuary’s three loops — A, B, and now C — are generally quite level; the total elevation gain of all three combined is just 180 feet, so all walkers can enjoy these trails.

However, note: dogs are not allowed on the property.

The land is managed by Woodstock Land Conservancy who were donated the parcel by Elaine Chaback; the sanctuary is named in honor of her father.

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Israel Wittman Sanctuary Trails

The Israel Wittman Sanctuary trail system includes…

  • Newly enlarged parking area
  • Three loops totaling 4.4 miles
  • Very easy woods walking
  • Quarries
  • A gorge
  • Footbridges
  • Vernal ponds
  • Trails suitable for walking, hiking, trail running, biking

Allow 1-2 hours for this hike.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary Notes & Gallery

The previous parking area was tiny. Enlarged in 2023 through grant funding awarded by The New York State Conservation Partnership Program, the new lot provides, finally, a fitting space for this locally beloved sanctuary.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Enlarged Parking Area

Walk past the information kiosk and through the stand of hemlock trees, following the yellow blazes. Although there are homes in the area, the sanctuary quickly feels remote and peaceful.

trail beginning
The trail starts here.

At the back of this initial area, you’ll come to the first junction, can choose between Loops A & B to your right, or Loop C straight ahead.

 Warning! This sanctuary has a NO DOGS policy.

Loops A & B

The trail to Loops A & B descends and passes through an open area with many stone fences

stone fence, catskills
Stone fence built by early settlers

catskills trail
Easy pine-bed trail through hemlock and white pine

Descend through fairly open woods with a lot of white pine saplings and arrive at this delightful water crossing.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York

This is a really wonderful spot.

catskills stream
Gurgling stream

The trail continues through some tall pines…

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
The Tall Pines

…beautiful in every season…

Israel Wittman pine trees
The Tall Pines in winter


Choose your own adventure. Loop A is longer and stays above the gorge. Loop B is shorter and descends into the gorge.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York

Loop A

Descend into a hollow where a second footbridge passes over a gently burbling pool drainage.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
Second footbridge

A little uphill, you’ll come to a junction. Loop A starts and ends here. It doesn’t matter which side you take, you’ll end up back at this spot.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
Loop A junction

It’s very peaceful…

Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens

This is partridgeberry (Mitchella repens). According to Wikipedia: “American Indian women made a tea from the leaves and berries that was consumed during childbirth. The scarlet berries are edible but rather tasteless, with a faint flavor of wintergreen, resembling cranberries (to which they are not closely related).”

catskill sactuary
Delightful forest walk

This side of the loop is mostly riparian in nature, passing alongside a stream that flows north.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
Near the gorge

Lots to see on either side of the trail. This rock formation is on the left…

rock cleavage
Naturally occurring rock cleavage

On the right, down below, are mossy and swampy areas along the banks of the stream…

The stream below

The trail turns to the left, passes through another stand of trees before turning left/north again and heading uphill toward the erratics.

Glacial Erratics

This side of the loop is very mellow. Soon, you’ll pass by a field of glacial “erratics” on the left — “erratics” is in quotes because these boulders are composed of the same sedimentary stone as is found in the immediate area, so they are not true erratics.

catskills glacial erratic
Glacial erratic

Yet they were dropped here by a glacier 13,000 years ago, and have been here a lot longer than our modern stone fences.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
Glacial boulder

There are some modest cliffs on the right side of the trail, nothing dramatic.

The trail winds north, heading back toward the junction at the start of the loop.

Return to the A/B junction and you can now do loop B…

Loop B

After a short connecting trail you’ll arrive at the the start of Loop B. I tend to turn right at loop junctions, taking them counter-clockwise, and that’s what I did here too.

The trail passes through a lovely hemlock stand before descending past a vernal pool…

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York

…then down through some ferns into the gorge…

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
The Gorge

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York
The Gorge

It’s very beautiful down here, a mix of ferns and moss, and dramatic rock outcroppings.

After returning to the very first junction, back near the parking area, you can explore Loop C.

Loop C

Turn right and head downhill quickly to enjoy an extended walk through an old quarry…

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York

There are two quarries on this loop. Both are enormous, and walking through them reminded me of previous mega mounds.

Israel Wittman Sanctuary, Woodstock, New York

The trail eventually takes a hairpin turn back toward the parking area. After a short ascent, the walk out is flat and easy.

Over the years, I’ve been back to this sanctuary many, many times. It’s only 20 minutes from Kingston and is just so lovely and peaceful.

Similar Hikes

This sanctuary is one of my favorite Catskills nature trails.

It’s short and kid-friendly and beautiful.

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The parent mountain for this hike is Overlook.

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Trailhead Info for this Hike

Enlarged lot now allows for maybe a dozen cars.

Google Maps Location: 42.029147, -74.040656

The map below shows the exact topographic location of the trailhead

Cell Service

Patchy throughout. My network is Verizon. YMMV.