From Troy NY: Take Rt 7 East (Hoosick St) through the town of Brunswick, past Rt 142, until you reach Rt 278 (Brick Church Road). Turn right onto Rt 278. At next traffic light, turn left onto Route 2 (do not take a hard left onto Tamarac Road). Drive about 6 miles, passing the Main Entrance for the State Park. Go another mile and turn left at the Grafton Store onto Long Pond Road (Winter Entrance for Grafton Lakes. Continue 1/4 mile and park in the lot for Mill Pond.
2,500 acre Grafton Lake State is park is located just east of Troy, NY in the town of Grafton. It sits in the foothills of the Taconic Mountain Range upon the summits of the Petersburgh Mountains between the Taconic and Hudson Valleys on the forested Rensselaer Plateau.
The park is divided into two sections, north and south, by New York State (NYS) Route 2. The terrain is rocky and hilly; the prinicpal peaks in the town range in altitude from 1,000 to 1,200 feet above sea level.
The park is aptly named. There are five lakes (Shaver Pond, Long Pond, Second Pond, Mill Pond and White Lily Pond) located within or adjacent to the northern portion of the park. There is also the (Dunham Reservoir)which is located within the southern portion of the park. Long Pond with it's large sandy beach is a popular park destination. Showers and changing rooms with lockers are available for park patrons in the bathroom facilities located at the main beach. All the lakes and ponds have launch facilities for canoes, sailboats and rowboats. Electric boats are allowed. Kayak, canoe and rowboat rentals are available.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find excellent wildlife watching opportunities. The forest consists primarily of beech-maple mesic, hemlock and spruce northern hardwood forest but also boasts acres of shrublands and wetlands. Look for Wild Turkey, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Swallows, Great Blue Heron, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Beaver and Red Eft. You might even see a Bobcat! The park is also a stopover habitat for migratory songbirds during both spring and fall migration.
The Shaver Pond Nature Center is located on the north side of NY Route 2. The center provides outdoor recreation and environmental educational programs and is handicap accessible. It provides access to many of the parks trailheads. Besides scheduled programs, the facility may be rented for club meetings.
Mountain Biking The Grafton Lakes State Park Trails
There are over 25 miles of trails running through Grafton Lakes State Park. Trails range from old fire and woods roads to singletrack trails to 8-12 foot wide trails that accommodate snowmobiles and other winter uses.
The interconnecting trail system provides access to many areas of scenic, historic, cultural and natural significance as well as connections between the lakes, beaches and picnic pavilions. Every trail offers a unique experience and a good mix of mountain bike ride options. Trails wind around lakes and through varied habitat ranging from open meadow and fields to wooded upland forest. Trails users will enjoy expansive lake views, vistas of rolling hills and valleys typical of the Rensselaer Plateau.
The Snowmobile trails in Grafton Lakes State Park are part of the larger statewide snowmobile trail system which connects to Cherry Plains State Park and also extends through Pittstown State Forest. The Dyken Pond Environmental Center is located within a few miles of the park and offers miles of hiking only trails. An on-road connection can be made between Grafton and Dyken Pond trails.
Grafton Lakes State Park trails are also used for other group events such as the XTerra Triathlon and weekly bike rides led by the Capital MTB, a group advocating and promoting mountain biking in the New York State Capital Region and beyond.The following list provides suggested multi-use trails and routes for mountain biking.
GRAFTON LAKES TRAILS - NORTH
Xterra Sky High Bike Route: 12.4 miles
Every year, Sky High Triathlon competitors earn points at Grafton and across the US in an attempt to qualify, and head west to the XTERRA National and World Championships.
The mountain bike course has a nice mix of technical and fast sections and is truly a course that will challenge everyone, from beginners to advanced riders. It follows dirt / gravel roads and more challenging singletrack around the perimeter of the park.
The bike route starts out on North Long Pond Road, a fast gravel fire road followed by a grueling climb up Fire Tower Road. Then it's through the woods on the Chet Bell Trail as it curves around the northern tip of Long Pond, onto Little Johnny's Trail. It gets more challenging with some relatively technical single track, lots of ups and downs, plenty of rocks, rock gardens and roots as you travel around Shaver Pond on a combination of the Shaver Pond Trail, Shaver Pond Nature Trail, Wildwood Trailand, Woodland Nature Trail and Fishing Access. The final stretch takes you on the Grafton Lakes State Parkway back to the beach.
North Long Pond Road
This route travels on a fast gravel fire road. This is a great bike ride for beginners. It's also a very scenic ride with fabulous views of Long Pond. In the fall, the treeline along the opposite side of the lake is ablaze with color which adds a spectacular backdrop to your bike ride. Ride out to where it meets the Fire Tower Trail. If you are feeling adventurous, try pedaling up to the top of the Fire Tower Trail for 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside and a picnic lunch.
Trail Access: From the Mill Pond parking lot
Long Pond Trail (LP) Orange Blazes 2.53 miles
The Long Pond Trail is one of the most challenging trails in the park. It makes a complete circle around Long Pond, the largest lake at Grafton State Park. Beautiful views of the lake, rocks, roots and boulders make this a classic mountain biking experience.
This is also one of the most popular areas of the park and a favorite hiking trail, so use caution.
Fire Tower Trail: (FT) White Blazes: 0.9 miles
The Fire Tower Trail is a wide gravel fire road thats leads to the newly restored Dickson Hill Fire Tower. It sits at an elevation of 1,760 ft, so it's a steady 200 feet uphill climb to the top. There are some tricky, steep rocky sections along the way.
This trail provides the best views in the park. At the top you are rewarded with incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. Climb the towers' 80 steps for a birds eye perspective of the Rensselaer Plateau and the Adirondack, Catskill, Green, Helderberg and Taconic Mountain ranges. The view also encompasses parts of three states – New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.
A picnic table is available at the site. Bring lunch along for this ride.
Spruce Bog Trail (SB) Orange Blazes: 1.44 miles
The Spruce Bog Trail is wide with plenty of roots, rocks and some muddy sections. It takes you past the Mill Pond and one of the park's four historic cemeteries. The terrain gets hilly before it climbs to the top of the plateau though thick hardwood forest. The trail ends at the junction with the Fire Tower Trail.
Actually, there are several trail junctions along the way before you reach the Fire Tower Trail that allow for creative loop rides or pleasant out and back side spurs. These include two brand new trails: the White Lily Trail which leads to White Lily Pond area and the Beechnut Trail.
Beechnut Trail (BT) currently about 1.5 miles
The Beechnut trail, a fun winding singletrack trail through northern hardwoods and eastern hemlocks, was designed by mountain biker Chris Roe. It provides a connection from the White Lily Trail area back to the Spruce Bog Trail.
Chet Bell Trail (CB) Yellow Blazes: 0.59 miles
This trail provides a short, lovely bike ride along streams through the forest. If you are looking for a respite from the busier areas of the park, this is for you. Wildflowers are abundant and old stone walls that once delineated property and/or and tenant parcels of the Stephen Van Rensselaer's Rensselaerswyck estate line the route.
Shaver Pond Trail (SP) Red Blazes: 2 miles
Shaver Pond Road is off Route 2, just west of the main park entrance. This less accessible Pond circles Shaver Pond and offers some fun, technical stretches with rock gardens. Some sections of the trail become muddy after heavy rain. You can circumvent these wet spots by using the Shaver Pond Nature Trail, Wildwood Trail and Fishing Access.
GRAFTON LAKES TRAILS - SOUTH
Gartlers Trail (GA) Yellow Blazes: 1.40 miles
This wide, gently rolling, doubletrack trail connects Johnson Road at the Northeast end of the Dunham Reservoir to Route 2, just west of the Grafton State Park entrance.
This connection at Johnson Road is the only trail connection between Route 2 and the trails around Dunham Reservoir. The northern section of trail provides access to a large blueberry field and connects to Route 2 at the jug handle.
A short spur trail located about halfway along the trail provides a connection to the Grafton Trail Riders (horse club) adjacent land parcel. This spur trail runs through a wetland area and across the Mill Pond Stream at the park boundary.
From Route 2 an infrequently used dirt road leads through a meadow to a telephone pole barrier. Shortly after entering the woods the trails leads along the western edge of a large blueberry meadow. The trail turns east at the end of this first meadow and continues besides an old stone wall that bisects the blueberry meadow and exits through a gap in the stone wall to the east.
Double Bit Path (DB) Red Blazes: 1.62 miles
The Double Bit trail follows the western contour of Dunham Reservoir and crosses the outflow structure of the reservoir. The trail officially ends at the crossing from either direction. Use caution as the crossing is currently covered with flowing water which makes getting across difficult. You wil encounter several technical sections along the path.
South Dunham Trail (SD) Orange Blazes: 1.44 miles
Out and back trail connecting Johnson Road to Dunham Road. The southern trailhead is located about two-tenths of a mile southeast of the small parking area/boat launch at the southern tip of the Dunham Reservoir.
There are several muddy, rutted and eroded sections along the route, especially at the southern end of the trail.
Other Area Mountain Biking Opportunities
Other state lands within 20 miles of Grafton Lakes State Park that provide multi-use trail opportunities include: Cherry Plain and Schodack Island State Parks, Pittstown, Tibbits, Taconic Ridge, and Berlin State Forests and the Capital District Wildlife Management Area.
Across the border in Vermont, the Green Mountain National Forest provides multi-use trails while Mount Greylock in Massachusetts provides hiking only trails.
Dickson Hill Fire Tower
The Dickinson Hill Fire Tower, was constructed in 1924 by the State of New York. In March, 2011 the tower was placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places. It was also accepted for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
The tower has an illustrious history. Besides it's use as a fire observation tower, it was used by the Aircraft Warning Service during World War II. For most of the 1970s, it was the site of communication experiments by the U.S. Navy. In 1979, the site came under the jurisdiction of the New York State Police, who erected their own tower to support two-way radio equipment. Since then, the structure of the tower was neglected.
In 2010 control of the Dickson Fire Tower was transferred to Grafton Lakes State Park. Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park, a non-profit organization that fosters educational and environmental projects in the park, began a restoration project. The tower was largely rehabbed with volunteer labor and donated materials. Volunteer crews replaced all the wood steps and flooring in the cab as well as the tower X-bracing. When all the major repairs were finished, the entire structure was painted.
Today, the tower is a permanent and publicly accessible feature of the park. This valuable asset in the history of the area can be accessed via the Fire Tower Trail.
Manor of Rensselaerswyck
The town of Grafton was originally a part of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck. At that time, the town was known as Roxborough.
The Manor of Rensselaerswyck was the name of a colonial estate which included most of what is today, Rensselaer County. The land was granted to Killiaen Van Rensselaer, a Dutch jeweler and merchant, in 1629 and was subsequently "owned" by his descendants for the next 200+ years.
Killian Van Rensselaer established a plantation or "patroonship" in the upper Hudson Valley to cultivate the land and mine the wilderness for farm and forest products for export to Europe. Before his death in 1643, the "first patroon" engaged and sent hundreds of talented, willing settlers from across Europe to Rensselaerswyck to be his tenants. These tenants paid an annual rent of seven to twenty-two bushels of wheat per hundred acres.
While most of these American pioneers were primarily farmers, there were also were artisans, tradesmen and others who supported what became the most successful settlement initiative of the New Netherland era. Technically, everyone living within the boundaries of the Manor was a Van Rensselaer tenant.
You can not miss signs of these previous park dwellers. You'll see old stone walls that once delineated property and farm boundaries along the Grafton Lakes State Park trails and old roads.
Former Granville Hicks Residence
Granville Hicks (September 9, 1901 - June 18, 1982) was a highly influential intellectual who wrote many articles, reviews, books and literary critical works. He is most well known for his Marxist literary critic work during the 1930s, and for his involvement in a number of celebrated causes (including his well-publicized resignation from the Communist Party in 1939).
He established his reputation with the 1933 publication of The Great Tradition: An Interpretation of American Literature since the Civil War, a systematic history of American literature from a Marxist perspective.
Hicks purchased a house (that still stands) at the end of Shaver Pond Road in the Town of Grafton in 1932 while serving as an assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Most of Granville Hicks' property was purchased by New York State and today is an integral part of Grafton State Park. There is Plaque on the Hicks Trail (east of the end of Shaver Pond Rd. near his former house).
There are four inactive family cemeteries in the park. All have been assessed by the OPRHP bureau of historic sites. These sites are one of the few remaining features of this region’s early post-colonial occupation.
For more information:
100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way