Exploring Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs

We hit the road recently to go spend some time in two states we had never been to before: Connecticut and Rhode Island. But on the way there, we decided to stop to stretch our legs at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, NY.

I was really looking forward to visiting Saratoga Spa State Park because it combines two of my interests: history and nature. I love hiking in a place that not only protects unique nature features but also has some historical significance. Saratoga Spa State Park is one of those places, as it showcases an important part of the town of Saratoga Springs’ history: its mineral springs.

Bridge over Geyser Creek in Saratoga Spa State Park
Exploring another state park

A bit of history

The springs of Saratoga Springs are the only naturally carbonated mineral springs east of the Rocky Mountains. They were discovered by the Mohawk, who attributed medicinal properties to them and considered the place sacred.


European settlers arrived in the area in the 18th century, also attracted by the mineral springs. Over the following decades, Saratoga Springs would grow around these springs, whose water was then very much in vogue as a health treatment. Several bathhouses opened and the town became a popular destination for the rich and famous of the time.

Karista Spring in Saratoga Spa State Park
Karista Spring is one of the mineral springs that still exists today

Around the 1880s, gas companies began to take an interest in water sources beyond their medicinal value, and thousands of gallons of water were pumped in order to extract carbonic acid gas (which was then used to carbonate fountain sodas). As some springs began to deplete due to overuse, New York State passed anti-pumping legislation and formed a state reservation to protect the springs.

Saratoga Spa officially became a state park in 1962 and in 1987 the area was designated a National Historic Landmark.


The trails and the springs

There are more than 10 kilometres (7 miles) of trails at Saratoga Spa State Park. One of the most popular is arguably the Geyser Trail, a roughly 5-kilometre (3-mile) loop that passes near each of the park’s 12 mineral springs (this trail is marked with red markers).

Geyser Trail in the forest of Saratoga Spa State Park

I hiked most of the trail, and I especially enjoyed the part that goes along Geyser Creek (a portion sometimes called the Vale of Springs Trail). The name “geyser” comes from a popular spouter that shoots water high up into the sky near the creek. But the word “geyser” is a bit misleading, since geysers are usually caused by magma heating the water, whereas in this case the spouter is caused by the natural carbonization of the water. It is still an amazing natural phenomenon to observe. I saw some geysers in Iceland, but I think it was my first time seeing a spouter.

Spouter along the creek in Saratoga Spa State Park
The famous spouter along the Geyser Creek

A little further, the trail winds itself around a huge mineral tufa, created by Orenda Spring. Looking closer, it is possible to see that water continues to flow over the mineral surface. Proof that the mineral water springs have greatly shaped the landscape of the park, and continue to do so.

Mineral tufa along the trail in Saratoga Springs State Park
A strange sight along the trail

There are several interpretive panels along the trail that allow you to learn more about the history of the park and each of its springs. It is also possible to sample water from these springs. But beware: as the water is carbonized and contains a lot of minerals, it apparently has a very particular taste (and no, I didn’t dare to test it – but many people were filing jugs of water at some springs).


The spas

The Geyser Trail also passes by the old administrative buildings of the Saratoga Spa. Because even though the springs were protected, there was still a great demand for the spring water’s potential medical benefits. The construction of a spa was a project close to President Roosevelt’s heart (as it would create jobs during the Great Depression), and in the 1930s the “New Spa”, modeled after the spas of Europe, opened its doors.

Buildings in Saratoga Spa State Park
The New Spa, inspired by European spa towns

The mineral water baths, the spas, as well as two swimming pools, are still in operation today. The Saratoga Spa complex also includes the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, two museums, and a golf course.

In short, it was definitely an interesting visit, and there was so much to do and explore that I could have spent the whole day there. But we eventually had to get back on the road, as Connecticut was waiting for us!

Archways of old buildings
Saratoga Spa State Park, you were definitely worth the stop!


  1. This will definitely be another wish-list item for when we eventually get to New York. What a gorgeous park with so much history – and the trail looks amazing. Thanks for sharing this great place, Vanessa!

    1. Yes, I think you would definitely enjoy it! Such an interesting history, and the trails were really enjoyable too!

    1. Saratoga Springs is well-known for its horse racing, but I didn’t know much about its history and it was my first time stopping there. It was a really interesting visit! Thanks for reading Allan!

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