The Hamlet of Highland is the picturesque heart of the Town of Lloyd, a haven for hikers, bikers, boaters, paddlers, and anyone who just wants to soak up the scenery of the Hudson Valley from river’s edge to mountain ledge. When you hear the name Highland, it frequently refers to the whole town, an area of about 33 square miles, dotted with parks.
The town’s most famous attraction, Walkway Over the Hudson, soars across the Hudson River drawing visitors from all over the world. Once the first railroad bridge to cross the Hudson, Walkway is now a state park and the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. While crossing it is sometimes described as “walking on air” because of its height, it is equally enjoyed by bicyclists, on two-wheels, unicyclists, helmeted kids with training wheels, toddlers in strollers, and visitors in wheelchairs.
On the Highland side of the bridge, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail (a part of the Empire State Trail system) beckons guests to keep going another few miles, pausing first during the summer and early fall at the new Caboose Gallery, a repurposed red caboose with exhibits on the railroad that once ran along the trail and over the bridge. Moving west along the Rail Trail visitors can enjoy a wide, groomed trail whose paved surface makes it perfect for families with children on foot, bikes, or in strollers. In a couple of miles, they’ll pass another red caboose and a pavilion with picnic tables under a roof. A little farther along a stairway can take them down to the Black Creek to cool their toes in the sparkling stream. The trail passes through at a town park with playing fields, where a baseball game might be in progress, luring travelers onto the bleachers for a break. the trail continues to the edge of Lloyd and goes into New Paltz where eventually it connects to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.
Rising high over the hamlet and the town is Illinois Mountain, the highest point along the Hudson River, where Scenic Hudson created a park of orchards, forest and rocky slopes. More ambitious hikers and mountain bikers can branch off the Rail Trail to tackle its rugged trails. Alternatively, they can leave the Rail Trail at the parking lot by the Caboose and visit Franny Reese Park, whose easy and moderate trails boast fabulous Hudson views and wind past stone ruins that tantalize the imagination.
On the Hudson River’s shore, where a river settlement called Highland Landing once thrived with factories, warehouses, ferries, and homes, lies the town’s newest park. The Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park welcomes townspeople and visitors alike to launch their boats at no cost, put their canoes and kayaks into the River in the shelter of the mouth of a creek, picnic at one of the park’s handicapped-accessible tables, throw a Frisbee, fly a kite, or just stare at the river as it flows past the park. It a photo-worthy view framed by two contrasting bridges, Walkway, the old railroad bridge, and the modern Mid-Hudson Bridge for today highway traffic.
For kayakers and canoeists’ of another sort, Black Creek winds through the town and welcomes paddlers to put in at a town-built launch site on Route 299 and follow the creek’s twisting path to Chodikee Lake (with one portage for the hardy). From Chodikee the water trail travels north into the Town of Esopus.
For visitors seeking a less adventurous way to enjoy Highland, the town offers fine dining in the hamlet and within easy reach by car in other parts of town. American, continental, Italian, German, and Chinese food is first rate. Friendly delis and specialty shops offer mouth-watering sandwiches and zesty Mexican fare. Pizza is everywhere. Taverns provide pub food, good beer, wine, and spirts, as well as friendly conversation.
For shoppers, the choices are special to the town. Where else can you browse an antique shop in a building that spans a gurgling stream, get measured for a kilt in a place called Highland, or try out musical instruments in a corner shop in a rural hamlet?
For any visitor who has indulged in all those activities and wants more, Highland’s friendly B&Bs are great places to stay a while longer to explore the region’s orchards and farm markets, climb and hike in Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park on the ridge of the Shawangunk Mountains to the west, and experience all the rest the county has to offer. Highland is only a short trip from New York City by train, bus or car, yet it offers endless possibilities for enjoying all that nature and a vibrant community have to offer.