Champlain Area Trails (CATS) announced the route for the 2019 Grand Hike on May 11 which includes revisions to the route sure to please both veteran Grand Hikers and newcomers alike. For the last few years, the final stretch of the 14-mile Grand Hike from Westport to Essex included a three-mile walk on NYS Route 22. While unavoidable, it was understandably not hikers favorite part of the hike.
This year, though, the route leaves the highway for all but 500 feet and instead crosses scenic pastures and forests before connecting with Blockhouse Road into Essex.
“We are so pleased this year to move the last section of the hike off Route 22,” said CATS Executive Director Chris Maron. “We’re grateful to the landowners in the area who are making their land open for this special day. Because of their generosity, we have a revised route off the road at the end of this fabulous event.”
Beginning at the train station in Westport and ending at the Essex Inn, the route meanders through the newly preserved Viall’s Crossing Farm and its exciting new trail loops. Hikers will stroll through the beautiful forests and meadows of the Champlain Valley and enjoy its amazing views. Six oases along the route serve up refreshments, treats and encouragement for hikers on the trail.
Hikers will park their cars in Essex between 10:00 and 10:30 and catch a shuttle bus to the check-in at Westport to begin their walk back to Essex. The shuttle buses will run all day between Westport and Essex and hikers can join or leave the Grand Hike at any of those oases as well.
The Grand Hike finishes with a celebratory Block Party at The Essex Inn, featuring the band Back in Time. The traditional and Americana music of this popular local band will set even tired toes to tapping and inspire some to sing along with and dance to songs they know. A delicious buffet dinner will be available at the Essex Inn for $15, with reservations made with the Grand Hike registration.
The Grand Hike is open to all. Registration is $25 before May 6, and $30 after May 6. There is no cost for hikers under the age of 17. Non-hikers are welcome at the dinner and Block Party. To register, visit www.champlainareatrails.com or call the CATS office at (518) 962-2287.
Now in its sixth year, the Grand Hike has steadily grown bigger and better each year. It has become a highly anticipated event, where friends and families meet up to walk the route together. Last year’s hike attracted over 275 people.
“I can’t think of one thing that could have been done to make the Grand Hike a better experience,” said one hiker after last year’s Grand Hike. “I had been wanting to do it, but wasn’t able to find the time until this year. Greg and I had an amazing time. We met so many nice folks, the way was marked clearly, the volunteers were the best, and the Block Party was fabulous.”