Thacher State Park is situated along the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. Even as it safeguards six miles of limestone cliff-face, rock-strewn slopes, woodland and open fields, the park provides a marvelous panorama of the Hudson-Mohawk Valleys and the Adirondack and Green Mountains. The park has volleyball courts, playgrounds, ball fields and numerous picnic areas with nine reservable shelters. Interpretive programs are offered year-round, including guided tours of the famous Indian Ladder Trail. There are over 25 additional miles of trails for summer hiking and mountain biking, and winter cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and snowmobiling.
Camping is available at this park at Thompson's Lake Campground, which features 140 campsites with options of private wooded sites and open, adjacent sites. Sites can accommodate tents or RVs and are all close to restroom and shower facilities.
Take the virtual tour!
The Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center is located two miles from the Overlook on Thompson's Lake. The center offers exhibits, interactive displays, trails for hiking and skiing, and educational programs.
Learn more, watch WMHT's documentary: 'The Great Ledge: Exploring Thacher'
Household pets only; caged or on a leash not more than 6 feet, rabies vaccination and proof of same required. Not permitted in buildings or bathing areas.
Nature Center: Tuesdays - Sundays, 9am-5pm, year round.
Interpretive Programs: Year-round. Call for details.
Most New York State Parks charge a vehicle use fee to enter the facility. Fees vary by location and season. A list of entry fees and other park use fees is available below. For fees not listed or to verify information, please contact the park directly.
Your key to all season enjoyment of state parks is our season's pass. For $65, the Empire Passport provides you unlimited day use vehicle entry into most of our parks. Apply on-line or call your favorite park for more information.
Hailes Cave (Fits 150) - $150
Horseshoe I (Fits 75) - $150
Horseshoe II (Fits 100) - $150
Pear Orchard (Fits 150) - $150
Paint Mine (Fits 150) - $150
Knowles Flat (Fits 75) -$250
Glen Doone (Fits 75) - $250
Yellow Rock (Fits 75) - $250
Greenhouse (Fits 75) - $250
Hailes Cave Tent (Fits 40) - $75
Indian Ladder Tent (Fits 40) - $75
Highlights of Thacher State Park:
What will you see? Plan your visit today!
Listen for these birds at our Park:
Everyone is a Steward: Be a Thacher State Park Hero!
For more information, please read our Trail Tips!
Ask a Naturalist!
Q: Can we explore the cliff above and below the Indian Ladder Trail?
A: Please stay on the trail! The slopes can be dangerous with loose rocks and slippery mud. Climbing up the steep banks destroys vegetation and creates erosion problems. Many of the mosses take decades to establish and minutes to destroy. The trail is narrow and the steep slopes are difficult to stabilize. Please stay on the trail to preserve this fragile environment.
Q: Where can we go to see fossils?
A: Much of the rock in the park is limestone and contains fossils of shelled marine animals. They are easiest to find on rocks in streambeds, in the stone wall at the Overlook, and in bare rock exposed along the Cliff Top Trail. Enjoy hunting for fossils, but please remember that collecting is prohibited in state parks.
Q: When and where can we see waterfalls in the park?
A: There are two waterfalls that cascade over the Indian Ladder Trail, one at Hop Field, and at Paint Mine picnic areas. Early spring is best, and after heavy rains in summer and fall. During much the summer, the waterfalls can be completely dry.
Did You Know?
- DID YOU KNOW? In the late 1800s, the Helderbergs became a popular tourist destination and city dwellers hired buggies to bring them up to the resort hotels near the Helderberg Lakes.
- CHECK IT OUT! On a hot summer day, the narrow cave along the Indian Ladder Trail's cliff wall provides cool relief.
- DID YOU KNOW? The Indian Ladder Trail got its name from the felled trees that Native Americans used to climb over the Helderberg Escarpment on their journey between the western hills of the Schoharie Valley and the Hudson River Valley.
"Cliffs Higher Than the Palisades" was just one of the superlatives used to describe John Boyd Thacher State Park after its acquisition in 1914. Learn more about the history of Thacher State Park.
Key BCA Criteria:
- Migratory concentration site
- Diverse species concentration site
- Species at risk site
The John Boyd Thacher/Thompson's Lake BCA consists of portions of two nearly contiguous State Parks in Albany County. John Boyd Thacher sits atop the Helderberg escarpment, a 100 foot high calcareous cliff. The BCA is especially important because its diverse habitats support a wide variety of birds of prey. Thacher is dominated by forested uplands. The Thompson's Lake area consists of additional upland forest, old fields and a bur oak-black ash swamp adjacent to the lake. The lake itself is not owned by OPRHP.
There are 171 species of birds that have been identified within the J.B. Thacher and Thompson's Lake BCA, of which 102 are confirmed or probable breeders, including: Sharp-shinned hawk (Special Concern), Cooper's Hawk (Special Concern), Northern Goshawk (Special Concern) and Golden-winged Warbler (Special Concern). The forests support some of the area's highest densities of breeding songbirds such as Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Canada and Worm-eating Warblers and Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes. J. B. Thacher supported the first recent regional nesting of Common Ravens and is now the nucleus for the population in the area.
All persons hunting within the boundaries of the permitted hunting area of Thacher State Park must have a valid NYS hunting license, archery license, muzzle loading license and/or turkey permit as required by Environmental Conservation Law. A special permit, issued by Thacher State Park, is also required. Permits can be obtained at the park office at no charge.
Rifles of any caliber or handgun of any type is strictly prohibited. Muzzle loader or shotgun only. Bow hunting in designated areas. With the exception that all hunting ends on March 31st of each year, the hunting schedule follows the hunting season as outlined by New York State DEC for NYSDEC wildlife management unit (WMU) 4H; this is considered the "Southern Zone." All NYSDEC regulations and provisions pertaining to WMU 4H apply. Hunting within 500 feet of any building or road is strictly prohibited. No structures of any kind. Tree stands must be climber style or lock on. All tree stands must be removed daily.
Hunters must display the park issued parking registration form on the dashboard whenever parked in one of the designated hunting parking areas. Hunters must carry the park issued hunting permit on their person at all times when hunting in the park. The permit must be displayed upon request to any park employee or officer. Sign in/sign out sheets will be placed on the map boxes in the three designated parking areas. Hunters are required to sign in and out each day they hunt.
Hunting permits include a report; the report must be completed and returned to the park office by March 31st.
Hunting is permitted from sunrise to sunset.
*Please note: Hunting is not permitted within 500 feet of any building, road, playground, or parking lot, and all trails are considered safety zones where hunting is not allowed.
Thacher Park is a natural treasure in the capital region, picturesque and historical. This is a day to show your appreciation for our beautiful park by helping out on some park improvement projects. There are a variety of projects for different ages and abilities. Lunch will be provided for volunteers by the Friends of Thacher Park.
Enjoy the lovely spring ephemerals during their short blooming season. The earliest woodland blooms are already disappearing and others have just emerged. We'll look for Baneberry, Solomon's seal, Bellflower, Canada Mayflower, Gaywings, and Pink Ladyslippers in bloom. Meet at Hop Field picnic area. Please call 872-0800 to register.
Want to attract butterflies and birds to your backyard and support threatened pollinators? Provide food and habitat for birds and insects by adding ‘Biodiversity All-stars' to your garden! These choice native plants are easy to grow and highly valuable to wildlife. We have a selection of species adaptable to a full range of garden conditions, and some cold tolerant, drought tolerant, and deer resistant. Our preselected kits make planning easy, and make thoughtful and unique gifts. Call 872-0800 for more information.
Migrant bird species are back and birdsong is in the air. Join expert birder Denise Hackett-Stoner on a walk through field, forest, and lakeshore habitats. Bring binoculars or borrow a pair of ours. Call 872-0800 to register or to confirm program in the event of extreme weather.
Descend the cliff and learn about the geologic and cultural history of the Helderbergs on this scenic and historic trail. See underground streams, look for fossils and step inside the crevice cave along the trail. Trail is moderately rugged with stairclimbing and a couple of steep slopes. Wear sturdy shoes and meet at the Indian Ladder picnic area. Walk lasts about 1.5 hours. Call 872-0800 to register.