Israel Wittman Sanctuary

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Israel Wittman Sanctuary

A beautiful and contemplative nature walk. Quiet woods, easy stream crossings, delightful footbridges, and field of glacial erratics. Close to Woodstock.

Hike Length: 2.3 miles (3.62 km)

Total Ascent: 65ft (20m)

Intensity: Easy Hike

Route Type: Lollipop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

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

hemlock and white pine trees, sunset

Sundown in the woods

 Easy-peasy lollipop loop. No dogs allowed.

Hiking Trail Description

This beautiful, serene and contemplative nature walk has so much to recommend it: lovely quiet woods of mixed evergreen and deciduous trees, easy stream crossings over delightful footbridges, dozens of stone fences built by settlers, small quarries and exposed rock faces, as well as fine field of glacial erratics. The trail is mostly very level and covered soft pine needles and moss, so almost anyone can walk here.

The 123-acre forest is managed by Woodstock Land Conservancy who were donated the land by Elaine Chaback. It’s called the Israel Wittman Sanctuary in honor of Chaback’s father.

The parking lot is quite small, with space for 5-6 cars at the most. If it’s full, come back another time; don’t park on the road, which is a narrow dirt road with many homes nearby.

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

trail beginning
The trail starts here.

 Warning! This sanctuary has a No Dogs policy.

The trail descends and passes through an open area with many stone fences, before re-entering mixed woods.

stone fence, catskills
Stone fence built by early settlers
catskills trail
Easy pine-bed trail through hemlock and white pine

Two Footbridges

catskills footbridge
The first footbridge

The trail descends through fairly open woods with a lot of white pine saplings and comes to the first of two water crossings. This is a really wonderful spot.

catskills stream
Gurgling stream

The trail continues…

trail through woods
White pine and hemlock

…until you descend into a hollow where there’s a small lake, and a second footbridge passes over the gently burbling drainage.

catskills footbridge
The second footbridge

It’s very peaceful here, too…

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 flavour of wintergreen, resembling cranberries (to which they are not closely related).”

Loop A

Just after the second footbridge, the trail rises gently and you’ll see the sign for Loop A Trail. You can choose either direction and end up back at this junction in half an hour or so.

Trail Sign
Turn right here, unless you want to turn left.
catskill sactuary
Delightful forest walk
rock fragments and tree
Rock fragments beside the trail
rock cleavage
Naturally occurring rock cleavage

This side of the loop is mostly riparian in nature, passing alongside a stream that flows north. Lots to see on either side of the trail. This very cool rock formation is on the left. On the right, down below, are mossy and swampy areas along the banks of the stream.

The stream below

Not long after the rock cleavage, the trail turns to the left, passes through another stand of trees before turning left/north again and heading uphill a little.

Glacial Erratics


This side of the loop is very mellow. Soon, you’ll pass by a field of glacial “erratics” on the left — “erratics” because they’re composed of the same sedimentary stone as the sedimentary stone in the immediate area, so they are not true erratics. But they were dropped by a glacier 13,000 years ago in this location and have been around a lot longer than the stone fences built by settlers 200 years ago.

catskills glacial erratic
Glacial erratic
catskills glacial erratic
Glacial erratic
catskills glacial erratic
Glacial erratic

There are some cliffs on the right side of the trail, nothing too dramatic. The trail winds north, heading back down toward the start of the loop.

On the way out, enjoy these beautiful woods one more time.

hemlock and white pine trees, sunset
Sundown in the woods

I’ve been back to this sanctuary several times, it’s just so lovely. Here are two links so you can learn more…

This sanctuary is one of my favorite nature walks. It’s short, kid-friendly and beautiful.

If you do this hike, let me know how it goes in the comments below…

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Small lot. 5-6 cars tops. If full, do not park on road; come back another time.

Address: Old Sawmill Road, Woodstock, New York
Due to the nature of rural addresses, this address is an approximation; it’s the “close enough address” I use to get driving directions from my phone. Click to launch Google Maps in a new window/tab.

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

Cell Service

Pretty good throughout. (It’s close to Woodstock.) (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)

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