Painless peeping: View autumn’s glory from the Ashokan Reservoir Trail

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Leaf-peeper season is now happening in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, so it would be best to lose no more time in planning an excursion. Short on leisure time for a long hike? Need someplace easy to access by car, affording nonstop glorious views of golden mountainsides without a lot of uphill trekking? You can’t beat the Ashokan Reservoir trail for an easy in-and-out affording stunning autumnal panoramas. If you can time it to catch the sun setting behind the Catskills, all the better.

Park your car at the East Parking Lot at 27 B West South Road, just off Route 28A in Olivebridge. The trail follows the Reservoir’s southern shore before terminating at the Reservoir Road crossing, where you can enjoy lengthy vistas of both the east and west basin of the 8,315-acre water body, created in 1915 to serve a thirsty New York City.

The walk is 5.4 miles out and back, and very nearly flat. It’s a paved path, very amenable (if the wind isn’t blowing too hard) to cycling or rollerblading. It’s even friendly to cross-country skiing, when there’s a snowpack deep enough to cushion your pole spike from hitting the blacktop.


Along the way you’ll find informational signs that identify which mountain along the skyline is which – if, indeed, you can take your eyes off those colorful mountains at all. Canada geese are usually plentiful along the path. But the big payoff is the fondness of some of our local bald eagle population for nesting in the groves of tall pines to be found here and there along the shoreline. Bring binoculars if you have them!

“Ashokan” is said to mean “place of fish” in one of the Algonquian languages, so it’s not difficult to figure out why those eagles favor this spot. Fishing is allowed by permit in the Reservoir, which is stocked with brown trout each spring and also home to largemouth bass and state-record-holding walleyes. Trolling with spoons, plugs or live bait is the favored fishing method – from non-motorized craft only. And because this is a major source of drinking water, your rowboat needs to live here year-round to prevent contamination from other water bodies. To find out more about Department of Environmental Protection fishing regulations, visit

Mostly, though, people come here for the stunning views. Make it a point to stop by for a walk before those precious 15 minutes of peak foliage time are up. Find a trail map at