Hudson River Valley

Outdoor Adventures between the Big Apple and Albany
  |  Gorp.com
Hudson Valley

In 1609, Captain Henry Hudson sailed his ship the Half Moon up a river between banks rich with thick, dense foliage. Today, lush woods still blanket the hills, just as they did 400 years ago. Steep banks continue to forbid easy access inland, and the notorious winds in the Highlands region continue to play fierce games with boats.

The Hudson Valley is a cliffy region. High, rocky faces give it much of its character and help create superb hiking and climbing destinations. Trails to lofty elevations with good views criss-cross the region, mainly in state parks and preserves. Also, several long-distance paths traverse the Valley or run its length. The series of cliffs known as the Shawangunks (pronounced"shawngums") is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the eastern United States.

The numerous 19th-century carriage roads in the Valley make fine biking, hiking and cross country skiing trails. The roads date from the Hudson Valley's days as a premier resort district for the well-to-do. Horse-drawn vehicles still use the roads, and hikers and bikers must yield the right of way. Mountain bikers also ride old logging and mining roads, vestiges of one of the Hudson Valley's other histories — as a rich source of raw materials for building the new republic. Such roads penetrate the forests of Harriman State Park, just 30 miles or so north of New York City.

The most illustrious and celebrated names in 19th- and early 20th-century art, finance, and politics built summer estates on the Hudson's east side along what came to be known as "Millionaires' Row." The grand manors stand in eloquent homage to Gilded Age wealth and materialism. Their tribute is ironic, though, for many now belong to the State of New York, the National Trust, or the National Park Service. Many of the estates, including the Mills Mansion and and the Vanderbilt Mansion, feature hiking trails and are also popular destinations for road cyclists and scenic drivers.

Other cultural attractions are the villages of Rhinebeck, Tivoli, and Hudson. Road bikers and scenic drivers touring the mansions and countryside often stop at the numerous cafes, galleries, and shops in these towns — Hudson boasts more than 60 antique shops within five blocks. Groovy shopping and hanging-out meccas are nearby Woodstock and Saugerties. Further south, drivers and bikers take in the United States Military Academy at West Point, and just a few minutes away by car, Storm King Arts Center in Mountainville (not to be confused with Storm King State Park) brings high culture to the Hudson Valley. What a contrast there is between the 19th-century style gray uniforms of the West Point Cadets among fortress-like stone structures and the late-20th-century outdoor sculptures at Storm King. Works of art the size of buildings are set in open, sunny fields, where visitors wander freely among them.

The Hudson is not simply a river. In its southern reaches, it is not in fact a river at all, but a tidal estuary. Wide and deep, its ocean-like qualities summon challenge-loving sea kayakers. The river is home to abundant wildlife, birds, and fish and the river valley is a important migratory flyway. The river's tributaries have long been highly respected fly-fishing rivers; they also attract quiet-water paddlers. Quiet paddling is also good on many area lakes and ponds.

When Captain Hudson sailed the river, hopes were high that here, at last, was the Northwest Passage — a short cut from Europe to the Far East. The Hudson proved to be no path to Asia, but it is a modern passageway to fun and adventure.


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