Hang Glider Cliff loop hike in John Boyd Thacher State Park on the Helderberg Escarpment is quite easy as hikes go to outstanding vistas. Along the way, you’ll have a nice (3.4-miles) jaunt in the woods. Being away from the main section of the park, this area tends to be more secluded. Thus, people looking for some quiet at this park may be well served to head out away from the campgrounds and southern trails and venture to the north.
Hike Length: 3.4 miles
Route Type: Loop
Total Ascent: 150'
How Hard: Easy
Video of View from Hang Glider Cliff
The hike as we describe it starts from the trailhead at the end of Ryan Road. The parking area seems like it can accommodate about 10 cars and there is no fee for parking (unlike the main section of the park).
From the trailhead box with maps (no register) head right into the woods. You’ll hike mostly on the level following the yellow marked Perimeter Trail. About .2-miles the trail will swing left and you’ll cross and footbridge.
As you hike, notice the diversity of flora. Pine and hardwoods including White Pine, Red Cedar, Basswood, Canadian yew, Dogwood, Rock elm, and much more. Wildlife is abundant in this remote section of the park, especially 171 species of bird. On this day we found fresh debris from a woodpecker making new roosting holes above.
After the bridge, you will quickly reach a junction with the Long Path. At the junction, coming in from your right is the Long Path from the south, you’ll continue straight going north on the Long Path with its aqua blazes.
The next .75-miles will wind gradually up to a height of land gaining about 100’ in elevation. There are decades of varied Long Path blazing. The standard blaze for the Long Path is a 2×4 inch painted blaze. However, in locations such as the Catskill Park plastic disks are used. As one hikes on this section of trail observe how many different ways and sized blazes have been made.
During this section, hemlock and white birch will begin to line the trail. As the trail reaches a height of land and swings left you will soon reach a junction where the Long Path will drop off the ridge (.60 miles to cliffs) into a pretty glen and meet with the Hang Glider Road Trail. From this junction, you’ll now follow the magenta blazed path .4-miles to the overlook.
The view from the cliff is outstanding. This place also a common place for hang gliders to launch from is a sight to behold. Watch out the cliff slopes downward to the drop. One slip and it will be your last.
Unlike other areas in the park, there are no warning signs alerting the visitor of danger. Maybe that perfect Instagram photo peering over the edge is not a good idea here.
In fact, there is a plaque with some mystery about it at the cliff slope. You can read a bit more about it here.
From the main ledge, you can follow an unmarked herd path north to another, but a more limited view.
The return to the trailhead starts with you heading back on the Hand Glider Road Trail to the junction at the bottom of the hill. Don’t climb back up the ridge but stay on the Hand Glider Raod Trail which now is also part of the Long Path for a bit.
Walking up the glen is pretty and you will pass a few trails with one leading to High Point Cliff.
You can take that or continue straight to the yellow marked Perimeter Trail. On this day we continued to the parking area. From the cliff, it is about .70-miles to the yellow trail.
When reaching the Perimeter Trail you’ll make a left turn and start your final walk back to the parking area on Ryan Road. It is about 1.1-miles back to the parking area.
About halfway back you’ll come upon a pretty pond with a small bench. A good place to take one more stop and absorb this fine hike.
Map of Hang Glider Cliff Hike
|Thacher State Park Hiking|
830 Thacher Park Road
Voorheesville, NY 12186
Phone: (518) 872-1237
Nature Center: (518) 872-0800
Campground: (518) 872-1674
In Case of Emergency: 911 OR
State Park Police: (518) 584-2004
|Trail Maps/hours:||Park Homepage
Picnic Tables (Accessible)
Backwoods wanderer with a passion for backpacking, hiking, and exploring the wilds of the Catskills and Adirondacks in New York. A Catskill 3500 Club Member and Adirondack Forty-Sixer. Climbed Mount Rainier. Professionally an Exercise Physiologist.