Slabsides – Highland, New York - Atlas Obscura

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Highland, New York

The rustic think-space of famed naturalist John Burroughs stands exactly as he left it. 


John Burroughs, one of the great 19th century conservationists, wrote about his cabin in the woods, “Life has a different flavor here… It is reduced to simpler terms; its complex equations all disappear.”

“Slabsides” is a log cabin built in 1895 by the famed conservationist and his son, in the Marlborough Mountains of West Park, New York. The small cottage is in a thick forest, and was named for the rough-hewed bark strips that clad its log frame. It’s a mile or so from “Riverby,” Burroughs’ forlorn former estate on the Hudson, which, unlike Slabsides, has fallen into some neglect and disrepair.

The snug little cabin is maintained by the John Burroughs Association, originally a place for Burroughs to write and think. Over the years he received all kinds of visitors and dignitaries here, from nearby Vassar College students, to Teddy Roosevelt and Henry Ford.

The cabin is on the west side of a hill in what is now the John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary. The downstairs is an open floor plan with a partitioned bedroom, and there are steep stairs that lead to a second floor sleeping area. If you visit today, it’s all exactly as Burroughs left it—as though he just stepped out for a walk and will be back soon.

After Burroughs died in 1921, the property was deeded to the John Burroughs Association, a non-profit that serves to preserve the naturalist’s legacy, as well encourage all to appreciate nature as Burroughs did. Slabsides received National Historic Landmark status in 1968, and is part of the 170-acre reserve of pristine forest, ponds, streams and waterfalls.

Know Before You Go

Slabsides is part of the the John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary, about 90 miles north of Manhattan. The park is open year-round, and there are trails to explore the woods from dawn to dusk. There is no admission fee, but donations are always welcome. To get to the cabin a bike (in good weather) or car is recommended, as well as good hiking shoes (some of the trails can be rough in places). It is open for public tours only occasionally, in the spring and in the fall. You can also try to arrange a special or group tour by calling the John Burroughs Association at (845) 384-6320. To get to the cabin and see the outside (and steal a peek into the windows), contact the Association for the best directions for the time of year you are visiting.

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