The following directions take you to two of the more popular trailheads.
From I-90 (NY Thruway): Take I-90 to I-87 (Northway) North and follow directions for I-87.
From I-87 (Northway): Exit 2W (Rt. 5 West). Travel west about 2 miles and turn left onto Rt. 155 South (New Karner Rd.). Go 1 mile to the second traffic light. Trailhead #1 (Karner Barrens East) is on the left just past the light. To access Trailhead #7 (Madison Ave. Pinelands) travel another .25 mile to the third light, turn right and go to the end of the Madison Avenue Extension.
Situated on the western edge of Albany, the nearly 3,000 acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve protects one of the best remaining examples of an inland pine barrens ecosystem in the world. The Albany Pine Barrens are primarily the result of glacial activity. Over 20,000 years ago, much of North America was covered by ice. When the glaciers melted 15,000 years ago a lake was formed that covered the entire Capital Region of New York State. Rivers deposited large amounts of sand into the lake. After the lake drained, winds swept the sand into dunes that were later stabilized by the unique plants of the Pine Bush. Less than 20% of the original Albany Pine Bush ecosystem survives today.
Important natural communities of the Albany Pine Bush include pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, and the system of streams, ravines, wetlands and vernal ponds. Among the most vulnerable species of the Pine Bush is the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. All stages of its life cycle take place in the blue lupine patches. For nectar the butterflies also depend on butterfly weed, horse mint, New Jersey Tea, dewberry, and wild strawberry. Rare and endangered species of animals also include the eastern hognose snake, eastern spadefoot toad, blue spotted salamander, inland barrens buckmoth and frosted elfin.
More common species include the great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, spotted turtle, white tailed deer, eastern coyote, porcupine, fisher, prairie warbler, tiger swallowtail, American copper and dragonfly. Plant species include pitch pine, scrub oak, huckleberry, blueberry, skunk cabbage, blue flag iris, wood lily, marsh marigold, pink lady’s slipper, indian pipes, bracken fern, sweet fern, indian grass, big & little bluestem, bullrush and the common mushroom.
Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center
Opened in 2007, the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center promotes environmental education and management. It features interactive and interpretive exhibits, accessible nature trails, a greenhouse, classrooms and butterfly garden.
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Trails:
There is a maze of about 20 miles of marked, multi-use trails in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve making it an interesting outdoor destination for hikers, mountain bikers, cross country skiers and showshoers. Most of the Albany Pine Bush trails are configured as loops and rated easy to moderate. They vary from wide sandy trails to narrow, grassy woodland trails. The terrain is generally flat, with some gradual climbs over the dunes. Stay off any unmarked paths and firebreaks and please respect the private property bordering the Preserve.
1. Karner Barrens East (seasonal parking):
Red Trail: 1.1 miles, Blue Trail: 0.8 miles, Yellow Trail: 1.2 miles
This popular area provides a great introduction to the Pine Bush with several miles of loop trails that take you through dunes and the best pitch pine-scrub oak barrens in the Preserve. From the Blue Trail’s “overlook” dune are great views of the Heiderberg mountains (west) and the Berkshires (east).
Karner Barrens West (seasonal parking):
Red Trail: 6 miles, Blue Trail 0.8 miles
Take the White Connector Trail under Rt.155 to the Karner Barrens West. Sections of the trails are abandoned historical roads that take you through pitch pine-scrub oak habitat.
2. Rapp Barrens (seasonal parking):
Red Trail: 1.2 miles
This loop trail crosses Patroon Creek into a marshland and stream habitat, with plants such as the skunk cabbage, false hellibore and marsh marigold. The trail eventually passes through hardwood forest and barrens with views of Rensselaer Lake.
3. Renssalaer Lake Preserve and Park (year-round parking):
White Connector Trail: 0.4 miles
The lake area has developed picnic and fishing facilities. There is a short trail through pine and hardwood forest and along the lake. The White Connector Trail takes you to the Rapp Barrens Red Trail.
4. Blueberry Hill East (year-round parking):
Blue Trail: 0.8 miles, Yellow Trail: 0.9 miles
Originally slated for commercial development, the area is now protected. Trails here take you through sites that will be restored to a pine barrens habitat.
5. Blueberry Hill West (year-round parking):
Red Trail: 1.1 miles
The trail takes you through diverse plant habitats, with dune top views to the south and west. Inland barrens buckmoths can be seen in late September.
6. Kaikout Kill Barrens (seasonal parking):
Blue Trail: 1.2 miles
This loop trail is accessed from the western end of the frontage road or via Connector Trail from the Blueberry West trails. It travels through dense pine barrens, rolling dunes and a steep portion of the Kaikout Kill ravine.
7. Madison Avenue Pinelands (year-round parking):
Red Trail: 1.2 miles
This easy wide, sandy loop trail travels through both dense pitch pine forest and open pine barrens. The blue lupine wildflowers provide food for the endangered Karner blue butterfly larvae and bloom here from May-June.
8. Great Dune (seasonal parking):
Blue Trail: 1.4 miles, Yellow Trail: 1.3 miles
Ride through both forest and pine barrens, including the “Great Dune”, over a mile long and up to fifty feet tall. The red loop crosses a southern portion of the Kaikout Kill. Dense masses of ferns and moisture loving plants live on the damp floor.
9. Kings Highway (seasonal parking):
Red Trail: 1.0 miles
This loop trail takes you through forests and past rare vernal ponds. Historic Kings Highway, linking Albany and Schenectady, runs along the edge of the preserve.
Unfortunate Note: The Rapp Road Landfill is located in an area adjacent to Exit 24. The odor near this area is quite unpleasant especially during the summer months.
For more information:
Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission: