Trip Information, Policy & Fees
GROUP SIZE on hiking trips averages 10-15 people and is limited to a maximum of 20. On wilderness camping and backpacking trips the maximum is usually 8-10. Some hikes and other trips fill well in advance, so early reservations are highly recommended -- but phone calls and e-mails are welcome as late as the day before each trip (up till 9 pm) to check on space.
HIKING RESERVATIONS are made by sending a check or money order by U.S. mail (sorry, we're unable to take credit cards or other payment through the website). Members who pre-pay for trips may reserve by phone or e-mail. If a hiking or other trip is less than a week away, call or e-mail us before sending your payment to make sure space is still available for the date(s) you're interested in. When your payment is received you'll be sent an e-mail confirmation, which will provide more info about the trip and what to bring. Advance payment isn't required if we have room at the last minute, in which case you may bring cash or a check and pay on the trip.
When you're ready to reserve for one or more trips, please go to the Reserve for a Trip page.
TRANSPORTATION from NYC is arranged in advance for those who live in or near the city, and the cost is included in the trip fee. Participants from other areas -- and our trips attract substantial numbers from upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and elsewhere -- drive directly to the trip destination and meet us there, and some drive along with us from NYC. The New York City group meets at the Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St.) in Manhattan and departs from there.
DEPARTURE TIMES from NYC range from 7 to 8 am for day trips (5:30-6 am for overnight trips), and return times range from 4 to 9 pm, depending on the distance we're traveling, the length and difficulty of the hike, whether swimming is included, weather and temperatures, and other considerations.
For participants who are driving directly and meeting us at the various hiking locations, the time we meet to begin the hike ranges from 8:30 to 10 am, and the time when we're back at the vehicles after completing the hike usually ranges from 3 to 6 pm (sometimes as early as 1-2 pm for easy hikes in the winter, and considerably later for long, strenuous summer hikes in areas like the Catskills).
Be aware that unavoidable delays occasionally occur, resulting in a later-than-expected return. Because we can't guarantee return times, it's best to avoid making evening plans the day of your trip (especially after longer hikes that include lengthy drives and summer swims).
Hiking Trip Fees
HIKING TRIP FEES: The day trip fee for those who have their own transportation and drive directly to our trip destinations is $70 for members and $100 for non-members. The day trip fee for those who ride as passengers with us from New York City is $90 for members and $125 for non-members, which includes transportation costs. For information about memberships see the membership page.
The fee for a driver with a vehicle who can take at least three passengers from our Manhattan departure point is $30 for members and $60 for non-members, and such drivers are also fully reimbursed for gas and toll costs on the trip. Please note that only an average of 1-2 additional drivers (sufficient to carry those needing rides) can be accepted at this reduced fee.
Members who pre-pay for a minimum of 3 trips receive substantial discounts -- and those who pay for 10, 20 or 30 hikes in advance receive even larger discounts -- and dates don't have to be specified until you're ready to. See the "Discounts for Members" section below for details.
Discounts for Members
DISCOUNTS FOR MEMBERS: Members who pay for a minimum of 3 day trips in advance pay lower rates. If you're a member who provides your own transportation, you can pre-pay for 3 day trips for $175 (= $58 per trip). Or you may pre-pay for 10 day for $500 (= $50 per trip), or 20 trips for $900 (= $45 per trip).
If you're a member who rides as a passenger with us from New York City, you can pre-pay for 3 day trips for $210 (= $70 per trip). Or you may pre-pay for 10 day trips for $600 (= $60 per trip), or 20 trips for $1100 (= $55 per trip).
To qualify for these discounted rates, pre-payment must be made in full by check or cash. However, it's not necessary to specify trip dates until you're ready to do so (and then reserving requires only a quick phone call or e-mail). Pre-paid trips and other day trip fees are not refundable, but you'll have up to three years (36 months) to take all of the trips.
CANCELLATION DEADLINES: For hiking and other one-day trips, your cancellation must be phoned in or e-mailed by Monday noon the week of the trip in order to be guaranteed credit for another trip (refunds are not available for day trips, but you may take up to 12 months to use a trip credit).
After Monday noon, credit is available only if your space can be filled. Sorry, credit is not available for no-shows, those who cancel at the last moment, those who cancel after the deadline if we're unable to fill the space, or those who miss the trip by arriving late, regardless of the circumstances. Cancellation deadlines for wilderness camping and backpacking trips are in the trip listings.
WEATHER: Hiking and other trips go rain or shine! Hikes are cancelled only on rare occasions, when there is a high probability of continuous heavy rain, a major snowstorm, freezing rain, or other unusually severe weather. Remember that forecasts are often wrong, especially for the mountain areas we travel to (on some days when rain is forecast we get none; at other times rain arrives unexpectedly).
Precipitation should always be considered a possibility, but with proper clothing and rainwear, a hiking trip can be fun and rewarding -- and nature is beautiful -- in any weather. An attitude of accepting "whatever comes" will serve well.
SMOKING POLICY: Most of our participants on hikes are non-smokers and many are disturbed by cigarette (or other) smoke. Our policy: "No smoking in the presence of the group." Smokers are asked to completely remove themselves from the group, visibly and otherwise, if they need to smoke.
Cell Phone Policy
CELL PHONE POLICY: Many participants find cell phone conversations intrusive, annoying, and out of place on a group hike. Our policy: "No cell phone calls during the hike -- and if you're riding with us from NYC, no cell phone calls in the vehicles." If you carry a cell phone with you, please make sure it's turned off before the start of the hike -- and if you're riding with us from NYC, please turn if off before you get in a vehicle.
Incidentally, cell phone reception is poor to non-existent anyway in many of the mountain areas we visit for our hikes. We usually make a bathroom stop en route to our hikes, as well as on our way home, and those are suitable times to make calls if you need to.
Levels of Difficulty
LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY: Easy hikes are an average of 5-6 miles, and are usually done at a somewhat leisurely pace. Moderate and strenuous hikes range from 8 to 14 miles and are done at a brisker pace, but always with rest breaks. If you're in less than excellent condition, or uncertain of your ability, please choose an easy hiking trip for your first.
It's important to know that even easy hikes involve trails that are hilly and often rocky, requiring GOOD BALANCE and significant effort, exertion, and exercise -- it's physically much more demanding than walking on a sidewalk or flat ground. For easy hikes everyone should be in reasonably good shape and capable of walking significant distances at a steady pace without stopping.
Moderate and strenuous trips involve longer distances, rougher trails, and usually MUCH greater changes in elevation (often totaling 1500-2500 feet or more, versus a maximum of 500 feet on an easy hike), thus requiring considerable strength, stamina, and a high level of fitness.
Anyone signing up for moderate or strenuous hikes should be able to maintain a relatively fast pace at times, including over rocky stretches of trail that may continue for miles. If you're unsure of which level of difficulty is right for you, or whether you're in shape for an easy hike, please call (845)357-3380 or e-mail us for advice.
Recommended Items to Bring on Day Hikes
This list is for the day hikes we offer. You'll find a much more detailed discussion of recommended equipment and clothing for day hiking on the What to Bring page.
1. Day pack. Useful for carrying items on your back, leaving hands and arms completely free. Available in all shapes and sizes from local outdoor and sporting goods stores. Most are made of nylon and should be waterproof or water-repellant.
2. Plastic water bottle or canteen, or hydration system (or thermos) -- filled with water or other liquid before you leave home. It's important to take in fluids during a day of exercise to avoid dehydration. Always bring at least one liter or quart of water, and 2-3 liters or quarts in warm to hot weather, or on long and/or strenuous hikes. Avoid breakable plastic and glass containers.
3. Lunch. It's important to have some food for energy during a day of exercise (skipping lunch is not advisable, and it's wise to eat a good breakfast beforehand). Bring whatever appeals: sandwich, trail mix, salad, or other foods in a plastic container (pack potentially messy foods in double plastic bags in case of possible leakage). Also bring additional snacks, especially on longer hikes.
4. Lightweight nylon rain jacket, parka, or poncho (should include hood or hat). VERY IMPORTANT to bring in case of rain. Get in the habit of ALWAYS bringing, since rain can come in the mountains at any time, regardless of the forecast. Blue-sky mornings are sometimes followed by afternoon showers, and rain can be quite cold. Avoid cheap vinyl or other plastic rainwear, which can easily tear and could leave you soaked. Durable nylon is best.
5. Sweater or light jacket. ALWAYS BRING, even on a hot summer day, especially when we'll be hiking in the Catskills or other high mountain areas. It's easy to forget that temperatures in the mountains are often MUCH cooler than at home, and a cloudy, windy day can be quite chilly, even in the summer. Also, during a storm temperatures can plunge 20-30 degrees or more.
In cool or cold weather, bring PLENTY of warm clothing to be on the safe side, and dress in layers. You may take much of it off while hiking, but during lunch and other breaks you'll probably be glad you brought it. PLEASE NOTE: Especially from fall through spring it's not unusual to have one or more participants on some hikes who don't have enough warm clothing and are uncomfortably cold. During these seasons bring gloves or mittens and a hat, and more clothing than you think you'll need, just in case.
Also, try to avoid wearing cotton in cooler weather, especially next to your skin -- since when cotton gets damp or wet from sweat or rain, it provides little or no warmth, so you can easily get chilled in it. Synthetics, silk, or wool are wiser choices from fall through spring.
6. Hiking boots or other sturdy, rubber-soled boots or shoes -- for ankle support and stability on rough ground. Especially important on MODERATE and STRENUOUS hikes, but recommended for all trips. Sneakers or other light shoes will sometimes pass, especially on EASY hikes (if you're careful on rocky stretches of trail, which can also be wet and muddy). But if you plan to do much hiking, buy boots (feel free to call for advice if you've never purchased hiking boots before). If you're wearing new boots, consider bringing a spare pair of light shoes to change into just in case of blisters or other problems.
Other clothing suggestions (having the right clothing can make it easier to enjoy the hike): wear heavy wool or synthetic socks along with thinner "liner socks", which will reduce the friction on your feet. Loose-fitting pants will be most comfortable. Shorts are appropriate in warm weather, but long pants provide better protection against bugs, poison ivy, and thorny bushes, especially on trails that may have become overgrown.
T-shirts are fine in warm weather, but bring a long-sleeved shirt as well in case of insect problems or unexpectedly cool temperatures. As mentioned above, it's important to have along some non-cotton items (wool or synthetics) in cool weather. If you don't own one, invest in a synthetic (or silk) T-shirt or other garment to wear next to your skin in chilly or wet weather. If cool to cold temps are possible, bring gloves or mitts, knitted cap or hat, and a down or synthetic vest or jacket.
Also recommended to bring:
- A small plastic litter bag to carry out any leftovers or litter (you can also help by picking up any you see along the trail).
- A small amount of toilet paper, in case you have to go in the woods.
- A small whistle. If you should somehow get lost or separated from the group, blowing on it could help us locate you (a series of 3 short blasts is recognized as a call for help). But only blow a whistle if you think you're really lost, since a ranger or policeman hearing a whistle might dial 911. Attempt to summon help first using your voice.
In warmer weather: bring bug repellant, swimsuit (if appropriate for trip), a sun hat, and sunscreen or lotion.
Don't hesitate to pack a camera, binoculars, or any other item you consider important -- but to avoid overloading yourself, "when in doubt, leave it out."
No radios, CD players, or cell phone conversations, please (make sure your cell phone is turned off during the hike) -- including iPods, and other audio devices with earphones, which are often surprisingly audible in the quiet woods and disturbing to others, and would keep you from enjoying the sounds and silence of nature!
Also, we're unable to allow pets on the trips.
Please DO bring: good feelings and positive energy!
Many outdoor supply and sporting goods stores carry hiking gear and clothing. Call for store recommendations or advice regarding what to purchase and bring on hikes.