Low Impact Bicycle Rides in the New York / Long Island / Hudson Valley Region
1. Bronx River Bikeway
a work in progress, this scenic, well-maintained bikeway keeps getting better
and better. As of Autumn '14, there's only one section of the entire
north-to-south run that is incomplete. Hopefully, there will come a day
when this ride will not have to be broken down into the "northern
section" and the "southern section." For now, I will keep
it this way.
As of September 2014, most of the bikeway is cleanly paved, the southern end having a somewhat superior surface. I will describe this ride beginning at the north end (Kensico Dam Plaza), but you can also begin at the southern end by taking the Bronx River Parkway to Exit 1, then making a left on Paxton Avenue and parking your car on the street. Next, ride a short distance north and cross Palmer Avenue onto the path. Directions using Metro North RR are below.
The instructions below are for riding the path north to south. To drive to the Kensico Dam Plaza, take the Bronx River Parkway northbound to its end, where it feeds into the Taconic State Parkway. This is hard to miss as you will approach a large traffic circle and the dam will be right in front of you There's some parking at the Kensico Dam Plaza, but I'm not promising anything. Take a few moments to ride around and check out the sights. If you arrive at the right time, you might even catch a free concert or some type of festival. This park has clean restrooms, a children's playground, and vending machines with snacks and water. A snack bar may also be open during peak seasons and times.
You will find the bike path entrance right near the entrance to the park. It will be obvious which direction to go once you find it. Don't let the little bit of a hill bother you at the very beginning. This is essentially an easy ride, and, for the most part, you won't have to interact with automobiles, except for some well-signed quiet street crossings. From north to south, including an on-road connection, the ride is about 12 miles.
A couple of miles into the ride, you will reach what appears to be the end of the path. Off to your left, you will see the parking lot for the North White Plains Metro North Station. Make a left here, cross a small steel bridge, and proceed almost to the very narrow tunnel that goes under the train station. Turn right here and carefully make your way through the parking lot until you see a yellow sign with a drawing of a bicycle on it. This will guide you onto the continuation of the path.
Shortly after the North White Plains train station, you will reach the parking lot for the Westchester County Center. The path gets a little confusing here, as there are several ways to proceed through the parking lot. Whichever way you choose, you will ultimately find the continuation of the path at the other end.
If you haven't ridden this path in a long time, you will be happy to know that the path has now been diverted to go beneath Main Street in White Plains, which used to be a very dangerous bike crossing. Use caution, though, as this much-welcomed detour involves a very low bridge!
will reach Hartsdale, signified by a park with several tennis courts that the
path goes right by. When you exit at the end of this park, you will be
across the highway from the Hartsdale train station. If you need anything
at this point, make a right turn and cross over the parkway into downtown Hartsdale, which has a bunch
of restaurants and stores. If you're ready to call it quits, you can turn
around or grab a train home at the Hartsdale station. Otherwise, follow
the directions below to continue to the southern end of the pathway.
To continue from Hartsdale, you'll need to do some easy street riding. At the end of the path in Hartsdale, make a left onto the street in front of you (Greenacres Road, but no sign) and head up a fairly steep hill to the first traffic light, which is Walworth Avenue. Turn right and continue to the next light (Fennimore Road) where Walworth becomes Fox Meadow Road. Go straight ahead through this quiet neighborhood about two miles (sorry, no odometer!) to the end, which is Crane Road. Make a right on Crane and bear left onto East Parkway. East Parkway becomes Scarsdale Avenue. You'll pass through the Scarsdale Train Station parking lot here.
To continue on the path, you will need to get to the other side of the train tracks. Do this by making a right turn on Popham Road, which is the first main street after the train station. Proceed over the train overpass, and make a right turn into the train station parking lot. Look on your right for a small opening in the trees and you will see the path. Make a left to continue south.
The southern section passes through some very nice parks and by some great little waterfalls. Unlike some of the northern sections, it's very easy to follow for its entire length, except for one confusing section where the path seems to merge with a road that is open to auto traffic. The trick here is to bear left and ride the shoulder of this quiet road a short distance until you pass an open field (on your left) in which you will usually see several sunbathers during the warmer months. After a short distance, you will see a re-entrance to the path on the right.
As you approach Bronxville, the path will split in two, with both sides skirting a pond. I prefer to take the right fork here, as it passes another waterfall. At the end of this stretch of path, you will find yourself on Pondfield Road in Bronxville. Unless you plan on taking the train home (or back to Valhalla) you may as well end your ride here, as there is only a very short stretch of pavement between here and Paxton Road, the official end of the bikeway. If you want to grab a sandwich or a slice of pizza, make a right turn on Pondfield and head toward the small downtown, where you'll find a few choices. If you make a left, you'll head into the downtown area of Bronxville, where you'll have more of a selection of restaurants. This will also take you to the Bronxville train station.
Metro North's Harlem
Valley Line will take you to several stations along the Bronx River
Bikeway. My favorite way to do this is to take the train to Valhalla
approximately a 50-minute train ride from Grand Central Station in
Manhattan. When you exit the
train at Valhalla, there are elevators to bring you and your bike across the
tracks and down to the street. The first street you come to on the
opposite side of the tracks is Broadway. (Don't be intimidated. It's not
your typical bustling, congested Broadway.) Make a right on Broadway and ride about
1/4 mile until you see the Kensico Dam Plaza on your left.
aka South County Trailway & North
I discovered the Westchester County Trailways in the summer of 1998, when I first rode the Eastview section. The following summer, I discovered the northern and southern sections and linked them up for one very memorable seventy-mile round trip. In June of 2004, I rode the entire length again and was happy to see that some missing links had been filled in.
Because I don't think a lot of "casual riders" are into such long trips, I'll break this trail into its two distinct sections, The South County Trailway and the North County Trailway, as well as the necessary "link" to connect them.
South County Trailway
Start at the Farragut Avenue (not Farragut Parkway) exit off the Saw Mill Parkway. There's a parking lot right at the trail entrance. From there, it's all straight ahead to Elmsford (approximately 6.5 miles). The entire path runs parallel to the Saw Mill Parkway on the left and to a lot of factories and warehouses on the right. Signs along the way tell the story of the old Putnam Railroad over which this path was built. When you reach Elmsford, you'll be at Rt. 119, which has some stores and restaurants, but isn't exactly what I'd call a "bicycle town."
I'd say either turn around and go back, or follow the steps for connecting the South County Trailway to the North County Trailway. You may also want to head toward Tarrytown and loop back on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The next section tells you how to do that.
Looping Back Via The Old Croton Aqueduct
When you reach the end of the South County Trailway in Elmsford, make a left onto Rt. 119. It's the busy road that intersects the trailhead. You'll need some road-riding skills here, as there may be some traffic to deal with. At about 2.5 miles, you'll cross Rt.9. To the right is a good view of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Also on your right is a shopping center, where you can grab some refreshments. Make a left onto Rt. 9 and ride about 3/4 mile until you see an opening in a brick fence and a narrow dirt path running onto the lawn of what appears to be private property. This is Lyndhurst Mansion and the beginning of the southern portion of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. This trail is covered in more detail in its own section of the website. Please check it out for a few important cues to follow.
The basic idea is to take this about 2.5 miles to Dobbs Ferry, where you leave the trail and take the main street through Dobbs Ferry to Broadway. I'd suggest asking someone for specific directions, as there are some "tricks" you'll have to know. One is to bear left at a fork onto Farragut Parkway ( Rt. 9 continues to the right) and then to make a left off Farragut Parkway onto Ravenswood Road. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS THE SAW MILL PARKWAY ON ANY ROAD EXCEPT RAVENSWOOD! This is dangerous and subject to a hefty fine. Ravenswood will take you safely over the parkway, where you'll make a right at the light, and then another right onto Farragut Avenue, where your car is parked.
Connecting The South County Trailway To The North County Trailway
Westchester County is continually making this connection easier. The first time I connected the south and north sections, it involved a lot of road riding in heavy, fast-moving traffic. Now, you can get from one trailhead to the other with a minimal amount of road riding. Eventually, the two sections should be linked straight through.
At the trailway's end in Elmsford, cross Rt. 119 cautiously and look for Vreeland Road, an industrial-looking street that is almost directly opposite the trailhead. Be careful here, as I would assume this street can be busy during the week. When I rode it on a Saturday, it was fairly quiet. On a Sunday, you might actually feel lonely here.
Continue north on Vreeland and note that its name changes to Hayes at some point. If you look straight ahead, you might think the road is dead-ending at a fence, but it does not. Instead, it curves sharply to the right and becomes North Payne/Raceway Lane. Continue to the end of this road and you'll be at a light for the very busy Rt. 9A. So far, you will have ridden less than a mile from the Elmsford trailhead.
Now you have two choices. You only need to head north on 9A one block, or about 1/10 of a mile, until you turn off onto a fairly quiet side street. If you feel comfortable crossing the road and continuing north with the flow of the traffic, that would be the correct way to go. If not, I'd suggest making a left onto the sidewalk at the end of North Payne/Raceway and walking your bike along Rt. 9A to the next street, which is Warehouse Lane. There's a large Sam's Warehouse Club (hence the name) at the corner, if you need a landmark. Make a left onto Warehouse Lane and follow it approximately 2/10 mile, through the sign that reads "Mack-Cali Elmsford Distribution Center," until you see a trailhead on your right.
From here, you'll have a straight ride all the way to the North County Trailway. You'll know you're there when you cross over a trestle and come to a three-way trail intersection. Go straight ahead for the North County Trail. Make a right and go down the hill if you want to go to the Landmark Industrial Park in Eastview for some reason. Make a sharp left and head uphill to take a side trip to Tarrytown Lakes, which is a short, but scenic ride that also makes a good starting point if you only plan on doing the northern section. To drive to this starting point, take the Saw Mill River Parkway to Exit 23 (Eastview). At the traffic light, turn left and proceed about two miles, around the lakes, to a parking lot on the right. Sunnyside Avenue will be on your left. The trail begins across the street from the parking lot, skirts around the periphery of some nice lakes, and eventually ends up at the spot described right before this note.
The North County Trailway
The first section of this path is built along the old Eastview/Putnam Railroad right-of-way and takes in about 5 miles of wooded area on a slight incline the whole way. Probably the least exciting of the three sections, it's still a quiet ride through the woods, well above street level much of the way, so there's not a lot of activity here. If you're into rock formations, there are some very cool ones to see, but that's about it. Be prepared for a subtle workout, though, because, as I said, this portion is on a slight incline you may start to feel in your knees at some point.
From Rt. 117 in Mount Pleasant to Yorktown Heights, there are a few detours where you have to leave the path and get on the highway shoulder, but it's all pretty clearly marked and pretty safe for a bicycle. Be prepared to climb, though, as the gentle, but steady uphill continues here. Depending on the day of the week and the weather, some sections this far north may get pretty desolate, except for the speeding cars on the main roadway. This section of the trail will either be magical to you or you'll hate me for sending you here.
Eventually, the trail starts to resemble the more "civilized" southern section, staying off the highway and passing some great scenery. If you start to think about turning back at any point, at least try to make it as far as the Croton Reservoir Bridge, which offers a spectacular view and may even convince you to keep going. My recommendation is to end the trip in Yorktown, where there's a nice park, some stores, a Starbucks, a 7-11, etc. The ride between here and Baldwin Place (approximately 5.6 miles) is peaceful, but pretty much the same as everything you've seen so far. There is a shopping center in Baldwin Place, but the hamlet doesn't have the same vibe as Yorktown Heights.
PUTNAM COUNTY TRAILWAY
When I rode the Westchester County Trails in June of 2004, I was pleased to see that a good portion of the Putnam County Bikeway, which picks up in Baldwin Place, directly across the road from the North County trailhead, had been paved and was ready for cycling. I continued north as far as Mahopac, which is pretty much the next place worth stopping after Baldwin Place. I'm not quite sure how much farther the pavement goes from here, but I understand the plan is to eventually continue all the way to Brewster, NY.
However you decide to break the Westchester/Putnam Trailways down, I think they're worth riding at least once. For more info and up-to-date ride reports, please visit www.roberts-1.com/bikehudson.
3. The Old Croton Aqueduct
Southern Section (Tarrytown, NY)
The Croton Aqueduct and the Croton Dam were built in the 1840s to bring water to New York City during a severe shortage. It is considered by many to be one of the most outstanding engineering feats of the 19th century. Today, the old Croton Aqueduct right-of-way is home to 27 miles of recreational paths collectively known as the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park.
For casual riders, only the southern section of this trail is really suitable. The northern end, highlighted by the awesome Croton Dam, is just too broken up for a road bike or hybrid. Word had it back in 2001 that parts of the northern end were blocked by fallen trees, but I haven't been up there to see it for myself since then. If you want to check out the northern end anyway, take the NYS Thruway to Rt. 9 in Tarrytown, which is the last exit before the Tappan Zee Bridge as you head north. Get on Rt. 9 North and travel approximately 10 miles to Rt. 129 (Croton-On-Hudson). Take Rt. 129 East approximately 2.5 miles and watch closely on your right for the entrance into Croton Gorge Park. If the bridge is open, you have two options here: You can enter the park and get a great look at the dam (which may be trickling or gushing, depending on the season) and then enter the trail from the parking lot (huge climb to the top of the dam!) OR you can pass the park entrance and continue to the top of the hill to Croton Dam Road. Here, you'd make a very sharp right, cross over the dam, and park in the small lot on your right. The trail begins here and there is no climb. It's your call.
NOTE: The road over the dam has been closed on and off for security reasons at various times since 9/11/01. Check the status on one of the local bicycling newsgroups before planning to ride over the dam.
The northern section only remains interesting for about the first three miles, at which point it is interrupted by the GE Management Institute. The first time I rode this section, I took a detour around the GE property and continued about another two miles to Ossining, but I found it boring and never did it again. The trail continues, in various on and off-road forms, all the way south to Tarrytown, where I begin my description of the southern section below. Be aware that the section south of Ossining and north of Tarrytown involves a good deal of carrying your bike up and down stairways, etc. If you're interested, there is an excellent map/tourist guide of the entire Old Croton Trailway available from the Friends Of The Old Croton Aqueduct (914-693-5259). I highly recommend getting a copy. And if you came to this site looking for fairly easy rides, I also highly recommend skipping right to the southern section of the trail.
The Old Croton
Aqueduct State Historic Park Southern Section
The southern section of the Croton Aqueduct Trail, based on what I've seen, is apparently Westchester County's "favored child." When I last rode it in 1998, it was much better kept than the northern end, and a trailway information station had opened up along the way. In fact, that Sunday, there was a volunteer handing out trail maps and answering questions about the history of the aqueduct that runs beneath the entire length of the trail. This section is all packed dirt and very narrow at many points, but a hybrid bike should handle it just fine. You'll need to follow the cues below to stay on the path.
To reach the Southern Croton Aqueduct Trail, take the NY State Thruway to Exit 9A, which dumps you onto Rt. 119 in Tarrytown. Make a left off the exit and go a short distance to Rt. 9. Make a left onto Rt. 9 and head south, approximately half a mile until you see a stone wall and an entryway to Lyndhurst Mansion. Once you see Lyndhurst, turn around and find parking somewhere in the area, perhaps across the street from the Tarrytown Hilton. There's a tiny entrance to the trail right on Rt.9 just before the point you first saw the mansion. Look for a small opening in the stone fence. Bikes are permitted and welcomed here, so don't feel like you're trespassing.
You'll see a narrow dirt trail running across a field. Follow it. From here on, you'll be crossing quiet neighborhood streets and coming across quaint little towns. At about 1.3 miles, you'll reach the parking lot of the Irvington Middle School. Go straight through the lot, cross Main Street, and continue on the trail. At 2.5 miles, you'll reach a small but steep hill that leads into Dobbs Ferry. Walk your bike up the hill. You may choose to visit Dobbs Ferry and return to this point, but for now, to continue, go through a parking lot to the left of the restaurant across Cedar Street (it was closed and for sale in November, 2001) and look for the dirt trail. At 3.4 miles, you'll come upon the Old Croton Trailway Office. There may be info and personnel there to answer your questions. Continue on the trail to a 5-way intersection at around the 4.7 mile mark. To continue, cross US9 diagonally, just southwest of the Episcopal Church. You'll find the trail in this area! After another half a mile or so, the trail starts to lose its appeal, so I'd recommend quitting at Washington Avenue, roughly the five mile mark. If you want, though, you can continue all the way south to the Bronx.
Overall, this is a great leisure ride for casual bikers. Afterwards, you can stop in Tarrytown for lunch or dinner, perhaps at an outdoor cafe. You may also decide to head across the Tappan Zee Bridge to Exit 10, where you can take a short drive to the Nyack Beach Trail. This starts out as a great (but short) flat ride along the waterfront, then gradually takes you up into the hills for some great views of the Hudson and some really nice cliff formations. See the "Nyack Rail Trail" page for more info on this one.
Meanwhile, if you have a chance to ride any section of the Old Croton Trail anytime soon, please contact me and let me know the current condition. Thanks!
NYACK RAIL TRAIL "+"
Nyack to Tappan +
RIDE: October, 2015
The basic 10 mile round trip from South Nyack to Sparkill is not really a "family ride," as you'd probably find it a little too rugged for kids, shaky riders, and anyone with skinny tires. It takes in a few different types of terrain, from loose gravel to packed gravel to dirt (no pavement) -- so, if you want to give it a go, bring a mountain bike. Fortunately, the last time I rode this one (October 2015), it had bounced back pretty well from two major storms in 2002 and 2013 and was in pretty good shape. Best of all, though, I discovered that it now connects with a paved bikeway called the Joseph B. Clarke Trail, which was built sometime in the early to mid 2000's.
The whole ride is pretty flat, except for one extremely steep descent on a paved street that leads into Piermont, which is a really nice town to stop for a drink or an outdoor meal. To avoid having to climb this hill back to the top, you can always return via Piermont Avenue, a paved residential street with a great view of the Hudson and a lot of interesting houses. Other highlights include antique shops in Nyack, restaurants and a bike shop at Piermont Pier, and a great water view at Piermont Landing.
From the New York Thruway North, get off at Exit 10 and follow the signs to 9W North. When you reach a fork with a sign that directs you to South Nyack, bear right. (The other direction will say "Nyack/Piermont.") As you proceed straight up this street, you'll see the bike path on your right. Eventually, you'll reach the Franklin Street Park on your right. Park on the street somewhere near this playground and begin the trip on the gravel path (Raymond G. Esposito Memorial Trail).
When the Raymond Esposito Trail ends, you'll see a sign across the street that says "Hader Park." Enter the continuation of the trail here (it turns to dirt now) and just continue straight. Whenever you reach a street crossing, you will see similar signs. You will also see descending paths to the left. Do not take them, as some lead to the street, but some lead to private property.
At approximately 3.5 miles, you'll reach Ash Street, where you'll see the newly restored Piermont railroad depot on your right. If you'd like to get a drink, grab some food, or take a rest, Piermont is just down the hill on Ash Street. Make a sharp left off the trail onto Ash Street and walk your bike downhill to the first corner. Make a sharp right and continue walking your bike down the very steep hill. At the bottom, you'll be at Piermont Avenue. In front of you is a small waterfront park with some great art galleries, restaurants, and a bike shop. To your right, down Piermont Avenue, are several cafes and a large convenience store that's very biker-friendly. From here, you may also want to visit Piermont Pier, where you can picnic by the Hudson River with a great view. It's only about another mile from here on a paved road. If you don't see signs for the pier, ask anybody how to get there.
If, when you reach the railroad depot at Ash Street, you'd prefer to keep riding, the trail continues across Ash Street for another few miles or so, eventually connecting to the paved Joseph B. Clarke Trail at Sparkill, then ending sort of abruptly in the town of Tappan.
Now you have some options. To return to Franklin Street Park, simply retrace your steps, making sure to bear right at the fork where a dirt trail leads you back to South Nyack. If you want to explore the Joseph B. Clarke Trail, bear LEFT at this fork and follow the paved trail about two miles until you reach the end of the pavement at around Rt. 303 in Orangeburg. From here, you can turn around, head back to the fork, and make a sharp left to get back on the Old Erie/Esposito Trail - or you can find your way back to South Nyack using the roads. If you didn't head down Ash Street to see Piermont on the way out, I'd suggest that you consider it on the way back. And if you want to avoid the big climb back up to the rail trail after your visit, you can always just ride north on Piermont Avenue. There are some great old houses along the way. Take Piermont Avenue approximately 2 miles, go under the footing for the Tappan Zee Bridge, and make a left on Mansfield Street. Take Mansfield to Broadway and make a right. Take Broadway to Brookside Avenue and make a left. At Franklin Street, make a right and look for your car.
This little network of trails is apparently still under construction. I look forward to seeing where the project leads.
BONUS RIDE! Nyack Beach State Park
While you're in this area, you may want to check out another cool scenic trail by the Hudson River. The best part of the Nyack Beach Trail is only about a mile and a half (the full trail is 5 miles), so I wouldn't drive all the way to Nyack for this path alone. However, if you're up for a pleasant ride along the water after you've returned from Piermont, you can take your bike or your car back down Cedar Hill Road to Broadway, make a left, and go about 2.5 miles to Nyack Beach State Park, on the right. The advantage to taking your bike is you'll avoid the parking fee, but the advantage to driving is you won't have to ride the huge hill that leads down to (and, ultimately, up from) the beach.
This ride begins in the parking lot and skirts the shoreline for about a mile and a half before beginning a sharp ascent into the mountains. As of August, 2002, the trail is closed to bicyclists just beyond this ascent, so I'd save the climb if I were you.
Anyway, if you do decide you want to drive directly to this trail, take the NYS Thruway to Exit 11 and get on Rt.59 heading east. This will involve first getting on 59 West, then making a U-Turn. (If anybody knows a better way, please let me in on it!) Take Rt. 59 about 2 miles to Broadway in Nyack, make a left, and follow Broadway approximately 2.5 miles to the park entrance on your right.
5. Mosholu Parkway / Pelham Greenway
To be continued...
Just when I thought I had gathered ALL the good bike paths in the New York/ Long Island area for this site, I accidentally stumbled upon the easternmost portion of the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway, between the golf course in Pelham Bay Park and both Orchard Beach and City Island.
Man, New York never ceases to surprise and amaze me. Until a few years ago, I thought the Bronx was no more than a run-down slum, destroyed by Robert Moses many years ago. I admit, I was a naive, misinformed Long Islander. Now I've discovered Pelham Bay Park.
The Mosholu/Pelham Greenway actually runs from Van Cortlandt Park south (along the Mosholu Parkway) to Bronx Park, then east along the Pelham Parkway to Pelham Bay Park. From there, you can go to either Orchard Beach, City Island, or both - as they're all within a short ride. There's also a portion that runs along the Bronx River Parkway, as well as one that takes you up into a residential area of the Bronx. So far, I've only ridden from the golf course on Pelham Shore Road to Orchard Beach, then south to City Island, a quickie little trip of maybe 3 miles, at the most.
I'll be expanding on this one sometime soon, but
for now, I wanted to add this path to the site, as it's certainly as nice as
most of the bikeways already listed here.
To get to my starting point, take the Hutchinson Parkway to the Pelham Parkway exit and travel east, over the Hutchinson River Bridge, into the park. If you continue straight on Pelham Shore Road, you'll see a parking lot on your left, adjoining a golf club shortly beyond it. Enter the golf course parking lot, pay $2.00 for parking, then park in the lot. The path runs right in front of the lot.
From here, just follow the signs (be careful at the intersections!) to wherever you want to go. Orchard Beach is a very lively place, with Salsa music pounding its way into your blood. City Island is known for its lobster - although the restaurants can be kind of pricey.