We are all indebted to the Friends of the Rail Trail volunteers, the staff and volunteers in the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, and the Albany County leadership and staff for the design and construction of Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail.
Here is a nice ride one can take that uses the entire paved portion of the trail. Starting in the Pine Hills area it’s, about 3.5 miles to the trailhead on South Pearl Street at Old South Pearl Street. The ride to the trailhead will always be tedious until the South End Bikeway Link is completed. However, in the meantime, using the BikeAlbanyMap – an interactive device that lets you plan your trips through the city of Albany on low-traffic low-stress roadways – you can get most of the way to the trailhead with only a minimum of hassle.
Once on the rail trail, the smooth surface takes you through the beautiful Normanskill Gorge in an idyllic setting. The only traffic noise is while going under Route 9 and the New York State Thruway. Trail is far enough below them that the noise can easily be ignored. Then it is up the gentle but uniform grade across the Normanskill until eventually one ends up cruising past the backyards of suburban Bethlehem. Once there, the trail levels off and it has a pleasant hop across Delaware Ave. to the terminus of the paved section is Slingerlands by the old railroad station at 5.75 from the trail head at South Pearl St.
An alternative route back to the City of Albany is to take the trail until just after it crosses Elsmere Ave., take one of the trail exits to Ellsworth Ave., and follow around on Plymouth until Delaware Ave. From there, it is a short hop to Jim’s Tastee-Freez ($3 for a small cone) and then across the Normanskill to Delaware Ave. in Albany. Remember that, just after crossing the Thruway Bridge reentering the city of Albany, to refer to the BikeAlbanyMap to find a pleasant way to avoid the car-centric design of Delaware Ave.
From Pine Hills and return it is about 16 miles – a nice day trip.
Better than reading about the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, just go ride on it!