Explore the High Points of New York State

by Sue Freeman

American hikers are goal driven. It’s evident in the thousands each year who start a trek on the Appalachian Trail with the intent of walking 2,200 miles to a mountaintop in Maine (http://www.atconf.org). It’s evident in the 1,600 people attempting to reach the highest point of each state in the US – members of the Highpointers Club (http://www.highpointers.org). And, in the hundreds of people who have become 46ers by hiking to the 46 highest peaks in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains (http://www.adk46r.org).

If you’re a kindred spirit and enjoy hiking with a goal – become a 62er by hiking to the highest point in each county of New York State. Gary Fallesen, the former outdoor writer for Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, earned his Summit Club patch and wants to recruit others to join his quest. His guidebook “Peak Experience–Hiking the Highest Summits of New York, County by County” (http://www.footprintpress.com or call 1-800-431-1579) shows would-be 62ers how, with detailed maps, descriptions, and an account of what you might see on the way to each summit.

Begin your high point list near home in Monroe County. The highest point is not Pinnacle Hill, as most people guess. It’s a place called Hopper Hills in the southwest corner of the county. At 1,026-feet-high, it ranks as the 51st highest point of all 62 county high points. Another near-by high point that often gets guessed incorrectly is in Ontario County. Most people think it’s the jump-off on Gannett Hill in Ontario County Park. The jump-off is easy to reach and offers a spectacular view of West Hollow valley, but it is not the high point of Ontario County. That distinction belongs to Frost Hill off Gulick Road.

The highest point in New York State is Mt Marcy, towering 5,344 feet in Essex County in Adirondack State Park. Within New York State is New York City, one of the most densely populated and built-up cityscapes in the world. There is a natural high point in each of New York City’s 6 boroughs and even one on Long Island. They’re at street corners, cemeteries, and parks. This is where you’ll find the lowest high point in New York State. At only 220 feet above sea level, in Green-Wood Cemetery, is the high point of the Borough of Kings.

Between these extremes are 60 other high points to explore. You’ll find wilderness areas and mountain peaks with spectacular vistas such as Lyon Mountain in Clinton County, Alander Mountain in Columbia County and Snowy Mountain in Hamilton County. Some high points, such as Bearpen Mountain at the top of Delaware County, require bushwhacking. Or, ride a chairlift to the top of Virgil Mountain, the summit of Cortland County. Enjoy visiting Harris Hill, the glider capital of America and high point of Chemung County.

At the western end of the state you’ll meet “Spotty” the cow, king of Bunker Hill, the high point of Niagara County. Then head east and climb a fire tower atop Hunter Mountain, the high point in Greene County. Each of the 62 county experiences will be different and each will be memorable.

Join the summit-obsessed, traveling trails and back roads in search of one county high point after another. What a great way to discover New York!

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