Hudson River Valley
A simple walk in the woods reveals the Hudson's history as a source of natural riches. Mianus River Gorge and Pawling Nature Preserve trails traverse wooded land never again to be farmed or logged. Trails at both places go through second-growth hardwoods and hemlock"cathedrals." But the scarred earth on the Bull Hill hike, the result of quarrying, reminds the hiker that rocks don't grow back. Osborne Preserve offers river views, lush forests and plant life diverse enough to include cactus. The western Hudson Valley is another great epicenter for hiking: hikers throng to Harriman State Park and Surebridge Mountain.
All of the numerous state parks have trails, and several long-distance paths go through the region: the Appalachian Trail, the Highlands Trail and the Long Path. Each of these intersects with several park or preserve trail systems, allowing hikers to create endless combinations of routes. All of the Hudson's trails are often excellent places for wildlife- and bird-watching.
The Long Path is especially significant for anyone interested in the Hudson Valley because it runs the Valley's length, from the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge (which connects to Manhattan) to John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany, a distance of 326 miles. Future plans include extending the trail to the Mohawk River and into the Adirondacks. Much of the trail runs through forests, but some of it follows roads and streets, leading the hiker through towns.
To the cognoscenti, the Shawangunks, the"Gunks" is THE place to go for climbing in the east. However, the Gunks also offer some of the best hiking in the entire Hudson Valley.
Walk the Bull Hill trail. Like many footpaths in the Hudson Valley, it reveals much more than "nature." It takes the hiker to the ruins of a once-prosperous estate. The crumbling stones tell the story of a family so rich even its cow barns had fireplaces.
At Mills-Norrie State Park, another estate vacated by its owners tells a tale of wealth and good name. This time, however, the house is a restored and securely preserved Beaux Arts masterpiece, Mills Mansion.
The grounds surrounding both the FDR National Historic Site and the Vanderbilt Mansion feature trails that lead to some wild beauty suprisingly close to such well-groomed seats of civilized living. On FDR's grounds you will find 188 acres that include a marvelous old-growth hemlock stand; follow the 3.3-mile trail from the former President's retreat to the Vanderbilt property for views of the Hudson that make it clear why one of America's wealthiest families chose this land for its "country cottage."
Just a Metro North ride away from Grand Central Station, that epitome of commuter chaos, lies Harriman State Park, a vast wooded preserve with over two hundred miles of hiking trails. Lost among its granite shelves and woodland bogs, the City couldn't seem farther away. For some hiking ideas to get you started exploring this untapped treasure, see "New York's Playground."
We must stretch our own definition of Hudson Valley to recommend a little paradise of a campground in the western Catskills. Take a side trip to Little Pond. A springtime hike around the Little Pond Loop will yield an explosion of wildflowers. The charming and aptly named Little Pond, 14 miles northwest of Livingston Manor, is encircled with beautifully situated campsites, making a perfect base for hiking the nearby trails.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication