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Sloan Gorge Preserve

A super-short but super-fun hike through hemlock woods that descends into a rocky gorge with dramatic cliffs and a wonderful chimney/rock-passage to climb through.

Hike Length: 1.6 miles (2.57 km)

Total Ascent: 62ft (19m)

Intensity: Easy Hike

Route Type: Loop

Includes: Blazed Trail, Stream Crossing

Parent Overlook

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

forest cliff face

Wear red in nature, you’ll look awesome.

 Two connected loops, one very short to the quarry, the longer one runs through the gorge.

Hiking Trail Description

If these coronoa-virus days have had any positive side at all, maybe it’s this: the virus has forced mountain hikers to explore their lowlands, where the Catskills are still so rewarding and have so much to offer. I might never have visited Sloan Gorge otherwise, and what an oversight that would have been. The Preserve offers an absolutely delightful, short, and family-friendly nature walk.

The parking lot here is tiny. It fits only 3-4 cars. When it’s full, people park along the side of the road, close to the trailhead and away from the homes close by.

The preserve is managed by the Woodstock Land Conservancy who describe it as a treasure trove of mixed hardwood and coniferous forests, vernal pools, a seasonal stream, and bluestone quarries, and has the first interpretive “geology trail” in the area. It is home to bear, fox, deer, raccoon, possum, porcupines, and a wide variety of birds and woodland flora.

The iron gateway below — made of two trusses that come from what is reputed to be one of the oldest wrought-iron bridges in New York State — marks the start of the walk.

iron entrance
Preserve Entrance

Not far from the gate, you come to the first intersection. The Quarry trail is very short and makes for a nice bonus at the end of the gorge hike.

For now, turn right and head down the Gorge Loop Trail.

trail signs
Turn right for the main loop through the gorge

Hemlock Woods

Follow the yellow blazes. The first half of the gorge loop passes through an almost pure hemlock stand.

trail blaze on tree
Hemlock woods, yellow blazes

There are many old stone fences, too.

stone fence in woods
Stone fence

On the left side of the trail, you’ll be walking below plenty of rock drama.

rock outcrop
Rock overhang

The trail rises up a little way via this scramble, and an incline, into a long winding section through peaceful hemlock woods…

rock scramble
Scramble up this rock scramble
cliff face
Easy incline by a small cliff

Before descending into the gorge, you‘ll pass a slightly sketchy section with large rock outcropppings on the right and a steep slope on the left.

rocky pass
Rock drama

The Gorge

The trail descends into a gorge proper via a short switchback. Follow the yellow blazes along the right side of the water’s edge, passing along the base of these ragged cliffs.

cliffs
Dramatic cliffs
stream and rock
The Gorge

One note here for warmer months: bring your bug spray. With all this standing water, there are plenty of mosquitos even in April.

The Chimney

Less than half way along the gorge, you’ll come to The Chimney. This is a spur so you can either visit The Chimney and then return to the yellow trail, which carries on along the water’s edge, or you can climb through two short passages as a mini-bushwhack before returning to the yellow trail on the other side.

chimney
The Chimney (approach)
chimney
The Chimney (entrance)
chimney
The Chimney (looking back out)
chimney interior
The Chimney (interior)
chimney
The Chimney (interior, looking backwards again)

In the above photo, the view is looking back toward the entrance. But to the left and behind this vantage point, is a low lemon-squeeze. Carefully climb down through it, watching your head, to enter the second passage.

The view below (from inside the second passage) is again looking backwards from the far end. (So when you enter the passage, the tumble of roots you see on the right below will be on your left.)

chimney
The Chimney (second passage)

Climb up through the back of the second passage and down to the left to return to the yellow trail.

forest cliff face
Wear red in nature, you’ll look awesome

From here, the trail winds back and forth across the gorge, parts of which are wide and open, parts of which are narrower. Lots of variety, never boring.

Eventually, the trail winds back up out of the gorge, into the woods, and you will arrive at a well-marked junction. The parking area is to the left.

Bluestone Quarry

You can start the bluestone quarry loop by either walking straight ahead or by turning right, past a small plaque that reads: “This property has been donated to the Woodstock Land Conservancy by Allan Edward Sloan, a Woodstock artist (1902-1999) to preserve a piece of this beautiful mountainside in its natural state for the enjoyment of all natural creatures. Dedicated September 8, 2001.“

The quarry loop is super short, taking only 4-5 minutes to complete but it’s pretty dramatic, and a completely different landscape from the gorge and the hemlock woods.

quarry wall
Quarry face
quarry interior
Quarry trail

Whichever direction you walk, you’ll come back to the second junction. The walk to the parking area from here takes only two or three minutes.

hemlock woods
Trail back to the parking area

This is a short hike — but, really, it’s more of a nature walk. It’s not a scenic hike but it’s so varied and entertaining I’ve added it to the list of best Catskills hikes.

Trailhead Info for this Hike

Description: Very small lot with enough space for only 4 cars. When it’s full, people park by the side of the road, which is pretty quiet. Park away from homes.

Address: 487 Stoll Road, Woodstock, NY 12477
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

Spotty in the gorge and quarry but okay signal higher up and at the trailhead. My network is Verizon. YMMV.

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