Some of the most striking autumn scenery in the region can be found at the Bear Hill Nature Preserve in Cragsmoor, not far from the more popular trails at Sam’s Point.
While access to the preserve requires a small fee, the hike itself won’t take a toll—a short but picturesque walk delivers you almost effortlessly to the edge of a quintessential Shawangunk rock face, from which you’ll find panoramic views of the ridge and adjoining Rondout Valley. Huge boulders resting on the cliffs contrast with stocky trees and mounds of blueberry bushes that turn blazing shades of red in October.
The initial vistas are accessible to even the most casual hikers, but navigating to adjacent ledges requires a little more care, as well as proper footwear. Just off the beaten path, a network of rock crevices waits to be explored.
For photographers, sunset this time of year bathes the southwest-facing cliffs of Bear Hill in warm, directional light. At the completion of your hike, consider traveling less than a mile up the road to the Cragsmoor Stone Church, where more views and brilliant foliage await.
The entrance for Bear Hill Preserve is located at 117 Dellenbaugh Road in Cragsmoor. Take route 52 toward the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest and turn onto Cragsmoore Road. Continue for a mile and a half toward the center of town and make a left onto Dellenbaugh Road, just past the Cragsmoor Library. About a half-mile down you will find the Bear Hill Preserve Parking Lot.