Thacher Park is perched above Altamont on the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. Even as it safeguards six miles of limestone cliff-face, rock-strewn slopes, woodland and open fields, the park provides a marvelous panorama of the Hudson-Mohawk Valleys and the Adirondack and Green Mountains. The park has volleyball courts, playgrounds, ball fields and numerous picnic areas with nine reservable shelters. There are over twenty miles of trails for summer hiking and mountain biking, and winter cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and snowmobiling. Interpretive programs are offered year-round, including guided tours of the famous Indian Ladder Trail.
The Indian Ladder Trail descends the cliff into a place of deep forests, caves, ancient fossils, wildflowers, and spring waterfalls. Along the trail’s cliff wall, a narrow cave provides cool relief on a hot summer day. At the bridge, an underground stream flows from the base of the cliff. In the springtime or after a hard rain, both Outlet and Minelot Falls cascade from the cliff top over the trail, crashing onto the rocks below.
This rocky landscape is steeped in history. Long before Europeans arrived on the continent, Native Americans were traveling from the western hills of the Schoharie Valley to the Hudson River Valley by way of footpaths. When they reached the Helderberg Escarpment, they felled tall trees against the cliff wall and trimmed back the branches for easy climbing. Early settlers called those trees Indian ladders, and later, the trail was called the Indian Ladder Trail. In the early 1800s, when farmers settled in the hills, the trail became a road from the valley to the top of the cliff. In the late 1800s, the Helderbergs became a popular tourist destination. Visitors from the city, eager to escape the summer heat, hired buggies to bring them up to the resort hotels near the Helderberg lakes. Park visitors today still find refuge in this beautiful natural setting just minutes from Albany.
Printable trail maps are available from the New York State Parks Web site here.
From Albany, take I-90 to exit 4 and drive west on Route 85 for about 12 miles. Bear right onto Route 157 and follow it for about 5 miles to the Park Entrance. Route 157 traverses Thacher Park for about 2.5 miles; trail heads and parking lots will be on either side.
Contact and Opening Hours
1 Hailes Cave Road
Voorheesville, NY 12186
Phone: (518) 872-1237
Fax: (518) 872-9133