Trials and Trails at Highland Lakes

There are many trials one must go through before they proceed to thaw out and hit the trails after a long and harsh winter. Some of these trials include: getting back into shape (that is if you, like me, decided not to spend the entire off-season on an indoor trainer), dealing with local trail closures (mud and the subsequent trail destruction from riding mud is not okay, y’all), and making sure your bike is prepared for another season of riding (this includes making necessary repairs, other maintenance tasks, etc.) are just a few issues you may have to deal with. To me, these are less issues and more so preemptive measures that must be taken into consideration before you begin another season of riding. I’m just happy to be riding again.

That being said, I decided to head “south” to my hometown of Middletown, NY from Oneonta to ride Highland Lakes State Park (or Camp Orange as it’s known to the locals). Joining me on this journey was the one and only Chris Berkley. I’ve been riding Camp Orange for quite some time now, and this was Chris’ second time riding there, and we were both shocked to see how dry the trails were this early in the season. It seemed as though there were no signs of the harsh winter that had just passed, and with hardly any rainfall this year (so far), the trails were in prime condition.

Rocky, mossy trails at Camp Orange.

The route we decided to take, which is the same one I’ve been taking since I began riding Camp Orange, starts off with a climb that isn’t exactly lung-bursting, but certainly had Chris and I checking our pace. As I mentioned earlier, getting back into shape isn’t necessarily the most endearing part of starting the new season. However, Chris and I certainly enjoyed getting back into the season full-swing, and Camp Orange is the perfect place to do so.


Characterized by its short, punchy climbs and surprisingly fun descents, Camp Orange is always a blast regardless of the time of year. Despite not having a lot in terms of features, the trails are rocky, rooty, and have plenty of switchbacks, making them not only fun to ride but also essential for getting your technical skills back. There’s approximately one hundred feet of climbing per mile, which is perfect for not only getting back into the flow of riding, but also to maintain fitness during the season. Overall, the trail system is not as well known as other local riding spots such as Stewart State Park or Blue Mountain Reservation, but it does have a strong contingent of local riders who enjoy hitting the trails as often as they can.

Roots on a Switchback at Camp Orange

Between catching our breaths and talking our usual banter, Chris and I managed to get in a 13 mile ride, with about 1200 feet of climbing before sundown. However, I’m sure once the season kicks on and we start to get our legs backs, the mileage and feet climbed can at least be doubled without riding the same trail twice and with minimal gravel doubletrack riding. Camp Orange challenges other premier riding areas in the Hudson Valley, despite being relatively unknown. If you’re in town, it’s absolutely worth checking out, and if you’re out of town (like I generally am) it’s worth a visit.

Rocks at Camp Orange

Chris has an eye for crafty shots.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *