July 7, 2019 – Ancram, NY
Length: Approximately 5.4 miles
Max elevation: 716 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 258 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Fee: $10.00 per vehicle Day Use (in season) – Empire Pass Accepted
Trailhead parking: 1528 New York 82, Ancram, NY 12502
Lake Taghkanic State Park is located in the southern part of Columbia County, New York. The park is on the town line between the towns of Gallatin and Taghkanic, and is adjacent to the Taconic State Parkway. The park encompasses 1,569 acres of pristine wilderness in New York State’s Hudson Valley Region. Here you will find many species of flora and fauna that are indigenous to this climate. Elevations within the park range from 500 feet to 930 feet at some of the higher northern ridges.
Nestled next to Lake Taghkanic in the rolling hills and lush forests of Columbia County, the park offers a wonderful variety of recreational activities, including tent and trailer campsites along with cabin and cottage lodging facilities.
Lake Taghkanic itself covers 168 acres, is 1.5-mile-long and has a maximum depth of 42 feet with an average depth of 19 feet.
Lake Taghkanic picnic areas are located on both sides of the lake and are open to visitors all year round. The day use area is equipped with picnic tables and charcoal grills. There is a rental pavilion with electricity available. After paying the day use charges you can park your vehicle in the picnic area parking lot and enjoy lunch with your family in the grassy fields.
In total, the park comprises of over 10 miles of trails. Six miles of which are multi-use trails open for biking, skiing, snowmobiling, and skating. If you need time to rest during hiking or a place to relax there are benches fixed at different intervals. To get the best views of Lake Taghkanic the five-mile Lakeview trail will take you around the lake. There are other shorter trails which are well interconnected with each other and lead to various points of interest.
For general use the park is open daily, year round, from sunrise to sunset, except from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when it is open daily from 8am to sunset. Campers must stay within the campground, cabin & cottage areas outside of general use hours. A daily vehicle use fee is charged seasonally.
The park is managed and maintained by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Mahican Indians, the first settlers along the shores of Lake Taghkanic, gave the lake its name, meaning “water enough.” Later it was called Cobies Pond, by the Palatine Jacobi family that settled there. Still later, it was named Lake Charlotte, supposedly after the housekeeper of the Livingston family, who made their home there. By the end of the 19th century, it had become a major resort.
Dr. McRae Livingston donated the lake and some surrounding land (150 acres in all) to New York State in 1929, with the provision that the name be changed to Lake Taghkanic. The State subsequently acquired additional land through purchase and the power of eminent domain in order to create the present Lake Taghkanic State Park of 1569 acres, mostly in Gallatin, but partly in the Town of Taghkanic. In 1933, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal public works project, cleaned up the 500 acre eastern section and constructed a beach, a bathhouse, cabins and a camping ground.
By 1954 the Taconic State Parkway had been extended as far north as Taghkanic and Route 82, giving easy access to the Park and making it a prime tourist attraction.
Always on the lookout for new places to explore, I came across several photographs on social media of Lake Taghkanic State Park and decided to pay it a visit. This is a wonderful place to spend a warm sunny day. Depending on your preference, you can set up for the day at the western section of the park, which covers the beach, boat rentals and cottages. This area is more populated, but is closer to most of the recreational activities and the park office.
Rowboats, kayaks, paddleboats and canoes are available for rent from May through October.
The Bath House is located at the West Beach. It has showers, restrooms, changing areas and first aid room. It houses the Park Office & Concession.
Cottages are located at the west end of the park along the lake shore. Each unit has a kitchen, hot & cold water, and a bathroom with shower. These units have a drywall interior and some have electric heat or a fireplace.
Full–Service Vacation Cottages: Four cottages (C-157, 158, 167 & 171) have the luxuries of home. Additional amenities include: Eating/cooking utensils, pots & pans, glassware, microwave, deluxe furniture, electric heat, coffee maker, toaster, radio/clock, carpeted or hardwood floors, sofa, and bed linens. Access Passes are not valid for renting these units. A $100 condition deposit is due upon check-in.
We opted for the eastern section of the park which is much more secluded, but not as well maintained. The picnic tables are a bit worn down, but nothing a table cloth can’t fix.
Each picnic area has its own parking lot along with a very clean restroom with flush toilets and running water. It’s a longer walk from the car to a choice spot in this section, but if you’re looking for solitude, it’s a small price to pay.
Arriving early guarantees a prime picnic location, and as always, we arrived shortly after the park opened. With a 1.5 hour drive north, up the Taconic State Parkway, we had to get up early on this Sunday morning. The payoff was cooking up some breakfast lakeside.
After breakfast we relaxed for a bit enjoying the beauty of our surroundings. This is such a tranquil spot to bask in the great outdoors and well worth the trip. We then decided it was time for a hike.
The brochure and website boasts “well marked trails.” I didn’t find that to be the case nor did I find the trails too interesting. We decided to do a loop around the lake on the white-blazed Lakeview Trail. This trail passes just feet from where we set up for the day, so it was convenient and like the name implies, we’d have views of the lake. I referenced the Avenza Maps app frequently to determine that we were actually on the trail.
The Lakeview Trail runs mostly on a gravel park service road and in my opinion, a little boring.
We walked primarily along the grass near the lake’s edge which at times intersects with the actual trail. The northern perimeter of the lake which is mostly open grassy areas dotted with picnic tables and grills, provides panoramic views of Lake Taghkanic.
There are rock outcrops along the way where you can stop and take in the lovely surroundings and watch the boats on the lake.
The trail soon passes through the West Beach area on a paved walkway. This area is more heavily populated, a vast difference from the East Beach area, where we set up for the day.
After passing West Beach, the trail proceeds southwest along the shoreline through where the cottages are located. There are several clearings along this stretch with views of the lake. In hindsight, I would have turned back here and retraced my steps. To this point we had hiked close to 1.5 miles. Turning back here would make it a 3 mile out and back hike.
Once past the cottages, the trail once again joins the park service road and veers away from the lake, passes a swampy area and comes to a fork. We stayed left at the fork.
A short distance later, the Lakeview Trail turns left and leaves the gravel road and continues on a woods road. The sign and the white blaze attached to it were the first indicators that we were on the Lakeview Trail since we began the hike.
From here the trail is fairly well blazed, but overgrown in many spots. Just off trail, there is a bench with a nice view from the southern end of the lake. In the distance, West Beach is visible.
The trail then veers away from the lake and reaches one fork then another a short distance later. The left forks are shown on the trail map as LS and LN (Lookout Trail South and North). We ventured down the LS Trail to an obstructed view of the lake and didn’t bother on the next one. Both are short out and back spur trails, but at this point, between the overgrown trail and bugs, I just wanted to finish the hike.
After a prolonged overgrown section on a narrow footpath along a swamp, that included high grass, low hanging branches and large blowdowns across the trail, we passed a small boat launch and then arrived at East Beach. East Beach and the East Bathhouse were built around 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and are no longer used.
We then walked along the grassy picnic areas along the lake until we made it back to our picnic area, where the hike began. As I stated earlier, in hindsight, I would have retraced my steps from the cottages and avoided the overgrown and buggy swamp sections of this trail as there was nothing to really see in that area except woods.
There is a stone water tower up the hill where the rustic cabins are located, at the east end of the park, just beyond the camping area. We decided to drive up there to check it out. The Campground Loop Trail leads to the aforementioned stone tower, but as it turns out, that trail is actually the dirt road that runs through the campground. I believe that the tower is located right behind Cabin 11, but I am not certain. We drove around a little looking for it, but like most water towers, it is located on high ground and I spotted it through the trees, pulled over and took a short footpath uphill to it. Once there I saw the cabin that was right behind the tower and later pulled into the driveway of the cabin so that my friends could check out the tower as well. The cabin was vacant on our visit and I made sure of that before we entered the driveway
The stone water tower was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). A CCC camp was established at the park in 1933. C.C.C. projects in the park included construction of the East Bathhouse, the East Beach, the camping and cabin areas and the water tower.
Review of Trails:
The trails at Lake Taghkanic State Park leave a lot to be desired. Although I only hiked the Lakeview Trail and several of its spurs, I also drove on the Campground Loop. It appears to me that the park roads here also double as trails. The average hiker, looking for views and/or a deep woods experience, will be disappointed. The stone tower is a must if visiting the park, but it is easier to drive to than walk through all the populated campsites to get to. The area along the abandoned East Beach is worth a visit as well. The loop around the lake is not that enjoyable due to it not being maintained regularly. If you are looking to do some hiking, you are better off elsewhere.
We got back to our picnic spot and relaxed for a bit and enjoyed the cool breeze coming off the lake. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best spot in the park. Away from everyone and as secluded as one could get to have an all day cookout. We spent the rest of the afternoon at this spot and it was quite a drag to have to get up and lug all of our stuff back to the vehicle.
I then lit the grill and we had some grilled marinated pork kabobs. They were very tasty if I do say so myself. Later, before the coals cooled off, we had some s’mores. All in all, it was a very good day.
Although Lake Taghkanic State Park is about 1.5 hours north from where I live, it was worth the trip. The area around the lake is very tranquil and extremely scenic. As a matter of fact, we made reservations to stay there in one of the full service cottages as soon as we got back. Maybe we’ll try some kayaking or a row boat on our return visit. It will make a nice home base as we explore some trails elsewhere close by.
Pros: Lake Taghkanic, stone tower, historical features, scenic landscape, quiet and peaceful.
Cons: Poorly marked and maintained trails, park roads that double as trails.