Hiking to Launch

Getting to launch requires hiking. (Surprise!) There are two main routes, ‘Backside’ and ‘Frontside’ (aka, The Waterfall Trail). This map shows both routes: Gaia GPS map

Thanks to Shani for making this trail map! If you think you’ll want to consult the map while you’re hiking, be prepared by installing the Gaia GPS app, downloading the trail, and  scrolling through the map on your phone prior to setting out. If you’ve scrolled around in the map beforehand, you’ll still be able to consult the map even if you lose cell signal. Shani also points out that if you have the Gaia app you can just search for Brace Mountain in the app and the trails will show up.

(Before heading to any trail be sure you have signed in at the LZ, completed your waiver and payment, and alerted the park ranger that flying will be taking place.)

The ‘Backside’ hike starts at a location about 35 minutes’ driving distance (15mi) from the LZ where there is a parking area behind a locked gate that we have access to courtesy of the Mt. Riga Association. From that point it is 1⅔ mi to launch. The first mile of the hike is flat and even slightly downhill. The last section goes moderately uphill. The total elevation gain is only about 250’. The trail is wide and unmistakable but is often wet. Most people take 30-50 minutes for this hike and arrive at launch a bit tired but not knackered. It sounds simple enough until you realize that after you’ve landed (congratulations!) you still need to retrieve your car, which is 35 minutes/15mi away. In winter the last mile of the drive up is closed to vehicles from ~November-April so at those times of year add another mile and a few hundred feet more elevation.

The ‘Frontside/Waterfall’ route starts at a point about 5 minutes’ driving or 12 minutes’ biking distance (1¾ mi) from the LZ where there is a very small parking area. From that point it is about 2mi to launch. The first section of the trail is marked by yellow blazes. The trail starts deceptively easy but soon you’re going up steadily and before you know it the grade gets quite steep with some rocky scrambles and tricky footing on bare rock faces. After a brutal ¾ mi the yellow trail meets the Taconic trail, marked in white. For the second mile the terrain levels out somewhat and the trail is easier to hike but continues—sometimes relentlessly—uphill. The total elevation gain is about 1300’. Most mortals require 60-90 minutes for this hike. Some need longer, even without getting lost. (And a lot of people get lost; though well-marked, the trail is not always easy to follow.) It can be tiring so you may need to plan some recovery time before flying. Most front hike regulars decide pretty quickly to lighten their loads. But, at the end of the day, it’s easy to retrieve your car or bike after landing, so the overall turnaround time is substantially shorter than going the back route. In winter be sure you know the trail well (the trail markers are often covered by snow) and have some microspikes or similar for gripping the ice.

If you’re lucky you will see bears, deer, snakes, coyotes, bobcats, turkeys, grouse, hawks, vultures, and lots of small birds and mammals. In early July there are blueberries to feast on. In the warmer months keep your ears open for the endangered but locally abundant and impressively large timber rattlesnakes. They can be hard to see but they reliably warn you off with their rattle (if you’re playing music you may not hear them). Leave nothing but footprints and pick up trash you find if you can. Check yourself for ticks.

Here are some additional links for trail info:
AllTrails Brace Mountain Trail guide

Outdoor Project Brace Mountain