Saratoga Spa Park Hiking Trails
This is the second in a series of things to do in Saratoga Springs Spa State Park. The park is known for its mineral springs, history and The Saratoga Performing Arts Center. But what it is not as well known for is its hiking trails. There are over 15 miles of paved and wooded trails and roads throughout the park. When you add in the picnic areas and pavilions, the amount of open space to explore is staggering.
A lot of the trails will take you past the mineral springs I wrote about in my last article, so it is well worth the effort and a lot of fun to try to find them all. It could be a full day hike in itself. Other trails will intersect each other throughout the woods and some will even lead to one of the park’s two swimming pools, which can be such a treat on one of the hot summer days we experience here in Upstate New York.
There are also miles of snow shoeing and cross country skiing trails in the winter, but for this article I will focus on the trails.
The park is home to a significant bird conservation area and some of the trails will lead along the wetlands by Geyser and Kayaderosseras creeks that the birds concentrate in. You will have an up close view of the birds that make their homes there.
There are 75 migratory song bird species in New York and 54 species alone have been seen in the park. In fact, there are reports of more than 170 bird species sighted within the park, although on the day I hiked that trail, I only saw some Red-winged Black Birds. This particular trail offers a very beautiful view of some of the wetlands, and flashes of black and red could be seen through the cattails.
What’s great about hiking in the park is the diversity of the trails. From the easy, paved area of the promenades, to the steep trails that run along the creeks, there is something for everyone. A popular trail is the one that runs past the Island Spouter Mineral Springs. The spring water shoots up almost constantly from a spout in the middle of what appears to be a huge rock, but it is actually the residue of the minerals in the water that have been deposited over the centuries.
Along the way you will also have to navigate over another rock-like formation that was also formed from the deposit of the mineral water. This rock has a constant sheer curtain of water running down its face and those that are adventurous can taste the cool water. I have never wanted to taste it, because I’m told it has a very strong mineral odor along with the rotten egg odor particular to sulphurous water.
The trail ends at a cascading waterfall and an overhead pedestrian bridge that leads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center. On nights when a concert is playing, you can hear the music over the roar of the waterfall and the acoustics are amazing.
My favorite trail
My favorite hike, which is approximately two miles long, wanders through the more popular section of the park and includes a beautiful section that follows a meandering stream. I like to start in the parking lot behind the Saratoga Automobile Museum which used to be the old Saratoga Water Bottling Plant.
There is a path that runs behind Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and I will take that one if the SPAC grounds are closed, although walking the grounds is a lot of fun and can include running up and down the aisles of the amphitheater and listening to the echo of your own voice.
Once I’m past SPAC, I take one of the wooded paths that lead past several picnic pavilions. These paths have pine trees so tall and so close together, it is hard for sunlight to filter through. Emerging onto a steep path that goes downhill, I follow that trail down to the picnic grove area.
The picnic grove area is next to the Geyser Creek, and in the spring, members of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will release hundreds of baby trout. They will give out buckets to kids who can help stock the creek. It is a really fun event for the whole family.
The picnic grove area is also home to one of the few restrooms in the park, which I consider one of the drawbacks of hiking in the park, because it’s not like when you are hiking on a nature trail and you can relieve yourself behind a bush if nature calls. There are far too many people in Saratoga Spa Park to do that and sometimes the bathrooms are locked. With over five miles of hiking trails, the odds are high you may need to use a bathroom, so keep that in mind when planning your hike. Make sure you know where the restrooms are located!
Once I leave the picnic grove, I take that beautiful trail that wanders along the stream. It is probably one of the more peaceful trails I have come across. The trail is well-maintained and strewn with pebbles. The stream bank is lined with rocks and ferns and wildflowers grow everywhere. There is a nice little footbridge you can pause on to take in the views. It is uphill all the way (or downhill if you approach it from the top), but not too strenuous of a hike.
The trail emerges across from one of the two golf courses located in the park, and it can be entertaining watching people trying to hit their ball into that elusive hole.
At this point, you do have to walk along the edge of one of the roads that are throughout the park, but as you round the corner, you see one of the pools and the park’s tennis courts. You can also catch a glimpse of the Gideon Putnam Resort, which is startling as it looks like a huge southern mansion and it is nestled in the trees.
The final leg of the trail will take you past the buildings and promenades that were built during the height of the mineral springs craze at the turn of the century when people believed in the healing powers of the springs. The buildings are in good repair and quite beautiful.
So there you have it, some of my favorite trails in Saratoga Springs Spa Park. Hope you enjoyed the tour!