- Sports and Recreation
Hiking in the Wilton Wildlife Preserve
Wilton Wildlife Preserve: The Blue Trail (part one: features)
The Wilton Wildlife Preserve in Saratoga Springs is probably my favorite place to hike in the area. Consisting of five parcels, totaling over 2,400 acres, there is a trail to suit just about everyone.
The main parcel is Camp Saratoga, which was a former boy scout camp from 1930 to 2001 and there are a lot of former buildings still used today for different functions, including a mess hall, barbecue pit and winter lodge. The winter lodge is used by cross country skiers and snow shoe enthusiasts, looking to warm up after a day of recreation on the same trails that are groomed for the winter.
The Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park is part of the geologically significant Saratoga Sandplains. The trails consist of ancient sand dunes, wetlands and diverse ecological communities and is home to the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. Recent efforts have included adapting more of the landscape to fields of blue lupine, the main food for the butterflies.
For today's hike, I wanted to hike the Blue Trail, which is the most popular trail in Camp Saratoga. It is 2.7 miles long and features several different terrains, as well as views of some of the former boy scout buildings.
Part of the reason the trail is so popular is that although on the long side, the terrain is easily walked. Although there are hills, they are pretty manageable.
The different terrains include meadows, forest and wetlands. The floor of the trail is well-maintained and switches between the previously mentioned sandy soil and dirt. One drawback of the trail is the presence of some kind of berry bush that I can't find the name of that will shoot trailers onto the trail that will trip you up unexpectedly if you are not paying attention.
Photos of trail
Wilton Wildlife Trail: Blue Trail (Part Two: Walking the Trail
It is still early spring (at least weather wise) here in upstate New York, but today was an especially beautiful day, even though the trees and bushes were just budding.
What I really like about the preserve is the incredible variety of birds, and of course the butterflies. Although the butterflies have not hatched yet, there was an abundance of birds and should be a big draw for birdwatchers as well. Some of the birds I heard today were woodpeckers, prairie warblers, and chipping sparrows.
It should be noted that part of the trail is a wildlife management area which means parts are used for hunting in the fall. You can still hike the trails, but care should be taken to use bright clothing.
The trail starts at an area where the winter lodge is. It then goes up a shallow hill before leveling off into a blue lupine meadow that still holds the remains of the archery range the boy scouts used. The trail at this point is mostly sandy.
You soon enter the forest, and the floor of the trail is mostly dirt, with a blanket of fallen leaves and the occasional tree root, but they are pretty easy to see and avoid.
About a third of the way on the trail you come upon the Delegan Stream, and is my favorite part of the trail. A pretty little foot bridge has been built over the stream and you can pause to look for trout. Delegan Pond, which Delegan Stream runs off of, is stocked every season and sometimes the trout make their way down the stream.
This area also consists of a lot of wetlands, and ducks can be seen. I saw a pair of Bald Eagles the other day and have seen Blue Herons in the past as well in this area.
Once you cross the bridge, you go the steepest hill on the trail, but it is still manageable for most people.
At the halfway point, you will come across the only remaining lean-to on the trail. It is tucked off the trail and partially hidden by trees, but is well worth the stop. It is interesting to see how lean-tos were built by the boy scouts, and there are some rough benches still present.
The draw back to this trail is that it is intersected by the road that leads to Camp Saratoga, so you have to be careful when crossing the road.
Once on the other side, you might see turtles sunning themselves on the trail, but you also might see harmless snakes, so watch yourselves. Besides the animals I have mentioned, I have seen deer and once saw a fox, so the trail is also great for animal watchers.
The trail continues to wander through the forest and crosses several wetland areas before coming out to an overlook of Delgan Pond. At this point you wind your way down the hill to the pond. Through the trees on your left right before you cross a foot bridge, you can see Corning Tower, an old fire tower that was rescued by the Wilton Preserve before it was torn down.There are visiting hours where people can climb it.
You will also pass by several boy scout cabins that are still in use by various organizations, before passing by a picnic area and fishing dock. The trail finishes at the old mess hall, where you can peek through the windows.
Well, that's about it. I hope you found my information helpful. Stay tuned for more trails!