Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ice Caves and Verkeerder Falls

Sam's Point Preserve
Ulster County,
New York

Hiking Trails:

Sam's Point Trail: Unblazed
Loop Road: Unblazed
Ice Caves Trail: White blaze
Long Path (Verkerdeer Falls Trail): Blue blaze

Total Time: 2:45 hours
Estimated Distance: 6.3 miles
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Level of Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Points Of Interest: Sam's Point, Ice Caves, and Verkeerder Falls 
Pros: Excellent views, Ice Caves Scramble, and large waterfall
Cons: Too much exposed sun, not enough single-track trails

Google Map of Parking:

View 2013 Hiking Locations in a larger map

This is one of the most beautiful areas in the region. With dramatic views, tight scrambles, and sheer cliffs, it is one of my most highly recommended hikes. But first, the downside: The Sam's Point Preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy. This Preserve would be much better off as a state park with more trails and exploration points. There are only few trails in the area when there could be far more, and many of them are exposed carriage roads not conducive for enjoyable hiking. Also, I got there in the morning when there was plenty of parking, but when I finished the hike and was leaving, there were no spots and they were turning people away. There was plenty of room on the side of the road coming in to Sam's Point, but they don't allow parking here and are up tight about this. It irked me very much to see people who traveled from far distances to get here and being turned away. This to me is not acceptable. They should provide alternative overflow parking on the road side outside of the entrance during busy weekends!

I parked at the main entrance, and took the Sam's Point Trail up, going through the important shortcut which cuts out much of the carriage loop. I then cut across again at Sam's Point at that small scramble directly below the Sam's Point view. From Sam's Point I headed along the Loop Road and veered off to the road to the Ice Caves. I then went through the half-mile Ice Caves trail which goes through caves, crevices, and under overhangs. Upon emerging and climbing the ladder up, instead of going back to the Ice Cave Entrance, I bushwacked west to the Long Path. Some parts of this bushwack are through thick Huckleberry groves, but its only a short way to the Long Path.

I went on the Long Path north a little under two miles to Verkeerder Falls. The falls are usually pretty dried up in August, but it still had a good flow to it due to the recent rains. I turned around at the falls and went back up the Long Path, and continued along back towards Sam's Point and then the entrance parking area. This last stretch was exposed without any shade, and was not comfortable.

Map of the Route. Shawangunk Trails Southern Map (104)

Cliffs Below Sam's Point

Sam's Point

Sam's Point - Facing West Towards the  Catskills

View from Sam's Point - Facing South Towards the Hudson Valley

Loop Road/Long Path.
As you can see this route is very exposed to the sun with little shade.

Road Approaching the Ice Caves,
with Minnewaska State Park in the Distance

Ice Caves Trailhead Sign

View at the Beginning of the Ice Caves Descent

Looking Behind Descending into the Ice Caves

Trail Going Thru Deep Crevice in the Ice Caves

Ladders Ascending Rocks in Ice Caves

Bridge Going Thru the Ice Caves

Me at the Ice  Caves Exit

Low Tree Cover, while Bushwacking Towards the Long Path from the Ice Caves

Verkeerder Kill Before its Plunge Into the Waterfall

Verkeerder Falls

Verkerdeer Falls

Me in front of Verkeerder Falls

Me in front of Verkeerder Falls

View From Verkeerder Falls.
The Ice Caves are straight ahead at the angle point.

Sheer Cliff at Verkeerder Falls