Half-day hike: The Andes Rail Trail and Bullet Hole Spur

The trailhead for beautiful Andes Rail Trail hike is located on County Road 2 (also known as 266 Depot Street) at the edge of the Delaware County hamlet of Andes. The attractive Andes Rail Trail and Train Depot sign surrounded by gorgeous flowers herald its location. The trail begins at a register found immediately beyond the restored train station.

Above: A view of beaver dams from the railbed trail. 

Catskill Mountain Club members, cooperative landowners and the local community organization Andes Works! designed a great walking trail right out of “downtown” Andes, a stretch of shops and houses that runs along Route 28. The trail opened in 2012 and added a two-mile extension known as the Bullet Hole Spur in 2013

Other than the very beginning of the trail and a portion belonging to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the balance of the hike, including the Bullet Hole Spur, came about through the generous permission of local landowners, some of whom graciously assist with trail maintenance.

Above: Wildflowers near the railbed. 

At its beginning, the grassy trail bed is lined with ferns and wildflowers. For almost a mile, the trail follows the old railroad bed where walkers and hikers enjoy views of Grays Mountain, Fords Hill and Dingle Hill across sunny meadows.

To add to the trail's attractiveness, the Catskill Mountain Club and landowners have extended the trail up along the side of Hemlock Knoll and beyond to a loop called the Bullet Hole Spur.

Above: The trail planners know that the trail can get muddy--and planned accordingly. 

Where the rail bed ends, the yellow marked hiking trail begins with a gradual switchbacking ascent through a shady forest up the side of Hemlock Knoll. The trail passes through a forest under interesting rock ledges, crosses the southern end of the knoll and reaches the beginning of the Bullet Hole loop about 1.6 miles from the trailhead with a wonderful view of the surrounding hills across a meadow.

Above: One of the fern glades between Hemlock Knoll and Bullet Hole Loop.

You can turn around here, but I suggest that you enjoy the loop by turning left and hiking through the edge of a mature red pine plantation. The trail climbs negligibly, then descends, passing through a spectacular section of hemlocks.

Above: A large sandstone rock on Hemlock Knoll section of trail.

As the trail continues along the loop, you can get a look at the private Bullet Hole Creek before the trail starts a 230-foot climb back to the beginning of the loop on the other side of the red pines.

Above: A red pine plantation section of trail at beginning of Bullet Hole Loop. 

Once back at the start of the Bullet Hole Loop, you descend along Hemlock Knoll to where the trail rejoins the rail bed and then stroll back to the trailhead.

The hike can take as long as you'd like, but this well-designed and scenic trail is usually a half-day outing or less with a 3.6-mile roundtrip and 575 fee­t of total ascent.

Alan Via is the author of “The Catskill 67: A Hiker’s Guide To The Catskill 100 Highest Peaks Under 3,500” and many articles on the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. He is working on two new hiking guides.