Columbia County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: July 12, 2008
Author: Micah Schneider

We summited Alander Mountain on our way to the highpoint of Columbia County, NY. Alander Mountain is worth visiting for its own sake, as its summit provides some of the best views available in the southern Berkshires.

We parked at the Mt. Washington State Forest HQ and took the Alander Mountain Trail the entire way. Previous trip reports on the website are more than adequate to direct you there. According to information we found online, the eastern approach is the easiest and we are certainly prepared to believe that assessment. This hike seemed deceptively easy. The total elevation gain to the summit is only about 600 feet (the trail drops slightly on the way to the final ascent) but most of it comes at the end, so you do have to work for it a little. The rangers and signs claim that this hike is 3.5 miles one way but our GPS read 5.5 miles round-trip.

The trail to the summit of Alander is right next to the shelter, well marked. At the top of a short rise, on a seemingly overgrown trail, there is a sign that directs you along the Taconic Trail. Take the left trail, directly to the summit. The foundations of an old fire tower are evident, as is the benchmark and reference marker. The highpoint of Columbia County is about 1500 feet further down the trail to the southwest. The trail here is slightly overgrown but easy enough to follow. We reached several points where we thought we had the right knoll, until suddenly we practically tripped over the state line marker. A few steps past that is the knoll in previous reports but calling it a knoll seems too grandiose for it. We stepped all over the area to ensure we hit the right spot and made our way back to the shelter.

A few other points. There are multiple spots along this trail for camping, one of which has to be the best stocked trail shelter I've ever seen. If you got trapped out here in a snowstorm, you could survive for a day or two on the supplies. Since most of my hiking experience is limited to day hikes, this could simply be a factor of not having seen enough trail shelters! Finally, we had the great fortune to visit this peak at the height of blueberry season. We highly recommend that future visitors plan their trip in July as well. We were on the summit for more than an hour, eating our way across the trail one berry at a time. June would also be nice, when the numerous mountain laurels would be in bloom and, of course, anytime in autumn.

Hike statistics: Total duration 3.5 hours, which includes blueberry foraging, lunch and obligatory photos. Distance 5.5 miles, elevation gain 800 feet (best estimate, which includes elevation loss between the parking lot and the shelter and the trip back up to the summit from the highpoint).