Slabsides / John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary

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Slabsides / John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary

Six short trails — five of which are connected — add up to 4.5 miles of wooded terrain that loops through 200 acres of dramatic rock outcroppings, hemlock-rich woods, lakes, waterfalls, fern valleys, and lots of wildlife.

Hike Length: 4.5 miles (7.24 km)

Total Ascent: 200ft (61m)

Intensity: Easy Hike

Route Type: Loop

Includes: Blazed Trail

Similar Entries In: Catskills, Easy Hikes, , , .

wooden cabin, two stories

Exterior of Slabsides

 This is only a partial track. There are 4.5 miles of interconnected trails.

Hiking Trail Description

Slabsides is the rustic two-story cabin hand-built by famous naturalist John Burroughs at the end of the 1800’s. It is preserved just as he left it, including its personal contents. It’s situated in West Park, NY, on 200 acres of rugged nature preserve named in his honor.

A series of short interconnected trails wind through hemlock-heavy woods, a swamp, past dramatic rock outcroppings and magical waterfalls, and alongside peaceful lakes. The terrain is rugged but the trails are appropriate for well-managed children.

“I was offered a tract of land, barely a mile from my home, that contained a seculuded nook and a few acres of level, fertile land, shut off from the vain, and noisey world of railraods, steamboats, and yachts by a wooded, precipitous mountain, I quickly closed the bargain, and built me a rustic house there, which I called “Slabsides” because its outer walls are covered with slabs.”
John Burroughs


Park right on Burroughs Drive, in or near the T-junction.

Hop over the chain barrier and begin walking uphill on the road. Very soon, you’ll come to the main loop junction.

To the right, the yellow trails leads downhill toward the pond. To your left, you’ll see Slabsides through the trees.

Burroughs quote on a wooden plaque
Some wisdom from John Burroughs


Herein, Burroughs regularly entertained guests like John Muir, and the Roosevelts.

wooden cabin, two stories
Exterior of Slabsides
cabin interior
John B’s Crib (shot through window)

In 1895, naturalist John Burroughs built this rustic cabin sheathed in slabs, the bark-covered outer pieces of logs, as a retreat away from his Hudson River-fronted house a mile and a half away. It was here that the pioneering nature writer created some of his best-known essays, which eventually filled 25 books and had a profound impact on both literature and the nascent environmental movement. After his death in 1921, the cabin and surrounding land were conveyed to the non-profit John Burroughs Association. Over four miles of hiking trails wind throughout the dramatic rocky cliffs and pristine woods. The one-room cabin, which includes Adirondack-style furniture Burroughs crafted from wood he found nearby and his personal possessions, appears as it did when he welcomed such guests as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison.
National Park Service

Trail System

Follow the white trail down past the Celery Swamp. Burroughs grew a celery crop here, in the black mud, for sale in New York City markets.

swamp, trees
Celery Swamp

Just before the trail turns right and crosses the swamp via a boardwalk, a short spur-trail heads uphill to the left to Julian’s Rock.

Trail leading up to Julian’s Rock

Meanwhile, the white trail crosses the swamp via a super-sweet boardwalk…

Celery swamp boardwalk

…before winding past some large, dramatic cliff bands and rock outcroppings.

rock band
Dramatic rock bands


rock exposed
Dramatic rock bands and outcroppings

From here, the white trail passes though a very hemlock-rich section of woods. It eventually connects, via the orange Ladder Trail, with the red Chodikee Trail which leads back to the yellow South Pond Trail, which itself leads back up to Slabsides.

There’s also the option along the way for a short out-and-back along the green spur trail which leads out along the peninsula in the pond.

On this day, one of our party wasn’t feeling well so we cut our hike short. But I can’t wait to go back and explore the full trail system. I’ll update this report with more info and pics in good time.

For now, I’d definitely keep this sanctuary in my family’s rotation for these Coronavirus months.

This is an easy Catskill hike and is a great kid-friendly hike. If you’d prefer more scenery check out the list of scenic Catskills hikes. On the other hand, if you’re up for a challenge, check out the list of hardest hikes.

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

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Small lot. Basically, you end up parking on the side of the road.

Address: 261 Floyd Ackert Road, West Park, NY 12493
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

Decent throughout the sections we looked at. (My network is Verizon. YMMV.)

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