Here is a list of just some beautiful places that are off the beaten path, which offer peace, lovely views, and a lot of fun for dogs and their humans alike…
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Roosevelt Farm Lane and Val-Kill, Route 9, Hyde Park. Many know Vanderbilt Mansion and the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt as historic tourist attractions – but have you ever thought about hiking the beautiful grounds and connecting to nearby trail systems? Even on busy days, the trails are more quiet than the touristy mansion areas – and there’s plenty of space around the properties to find some serenity. Part of the Hyde Park Trail System, you can take the trail down by the river at Vanderbilt and hike the 1.2 miles to the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt (which has a whole slew of trails). But before leaving Vanderbilt, be sure to visit the Italian Gardens, which anyone who has a green thumb would appreciate. They are graciously maintained by volunteers of the Vanderbilt Garden Association and feature copious numbers of flowers, a koi pond, and romantic fountains. What a peaceful spot to relax on a bench and take in the sun with your best four-legged friend. From near the Vanderbilt Mansion, you can take in the incredible Hudson River view and then walk the paved road down to Bard Rock, where there is a quaint picnic area on the banks of the Hudson and a walk-in river pool for your dog to romp if he’s the water-loving type.
Roosevelt Farm Lane Trail is an old 1.8-mile carriage road that connects FDR’s Home to Val-Kill (Eleanor Roosevelt’s estate). The Trail parking lot shares a driveway with the Drive-In across from FDR’s estate on Route 9 in Hyde Park, and the trail itself is relatively flat and easy to navigate. At the end, cross over Route 9G to the former First Lady’s homesite, which offers a peaceful trail to Top Cottage and gardens that she tended herself many years ago. Who knew that a little step back in time could be so much fun?
Wonder Lake State Park, 380 Ludingtonville Road, Holmes. With almost 9 miles of trails, this park is a delight for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and people who enjoy birding or fishing. Offering more rugged terrain, you can take a short jaunt on the Yellow to Red trails, which take you on about a 45-minute loop over Bare Hill and back to the parking area, or continue on the Yellow and teal Highlands trails which will lead you to Laurel Pond and Wonder Lake – a stunning sight. There are many places in this expanse of nature where you can near nothing other than the birds chirping or frogs calling. Hunting is allowed in this over 1,100 acre area during hunting season, so be sure to wear reflective clothing, keep your dog on leash, and dress him in either a reflective collar or vest if you’re taking a trek during that time of year.
White Pond Multiple Use Area, White Pond Road, Stormville. Only a few minutes’ drive from Wonder Lake is White Pond. It’s a rather large pond actually – very scenic and more like a lake, and you’ll often find people fishing either from the small pier or in a rowboat, and kayakers as well enjoying the tranquil water views surrounded by forest. You can follow the walking trail that starts from the gravel parking lot on White Pond Road, goes past the fishing pier and leads around the pond, all the while going up into the surrounding hillside and back down near the marshy corners, until it comes out on White Pond Road on the other side. There’s really only one main trail so it’s easy to follow with very low chance of getting lost or disoriented. The trail is clearly marked and if all else fails, just stick close to the pond! Swimming is not encouraged for humans, but many of the dogs love it. The only downside - you will have to walk back along White Pond Road to get back to the parking area, unless you go back the way you came. You do get to enjoy the beauty of the pond and traffic is relatively light, but the road is pretty narrow with no shoulders - so just stay alert to cars approaching. Otherwise, this beautifully peaceful locale can be a fun and relaxing time for all.
West Point Foundry Preserve, 80 Kemble Ave, Cold Spring. This leisurely but scenic trail is mostly flat, making it easy for older dogs or dogs with joint problems (or people, for that matter!). You can take a mulch-covered trail through the woods that circles around to a piece of the old mill and water wheel, complete with a grated staircase and equally interesting grated walking path (a great opportunity to socialize your dog to strange surfaces underfoot!). On the other side of the park, you can enjoy a gravel trail that strolls alongside the preserve, with benches along the way in the event you’d like to stop for some quiet reflection (hearing only the birds and an occasional train in the distance). If you continue to follow the preserve path, it will take you out by the Cold Spring train station, which you can follow to the riverfront or up the hill through the center of town, turning right onto Rock Street or Kemble Ave to head back to the WPFP parking lot. Not a rigorous hike by any means, but perfect on a day when you want to keep things low-key but still get out to enjoy nature with your dog.
Dennings Point, Dennings Avenue, Beacon. The Dennings Point trail is a pleasant hike through the woods, past abandoned ruins and the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, around the peninsula of Dennings Point. It’s a nice loop, not too long but just enough to get some exercise on a nice summer morning – and for the water-loving dogs out there, it offers a few spots where a smaller trail takes you right down to the river’s edge. Dennings Point is closed from December to March to protect the nesting season of the resident Bald Eagles but in spring you may be lucky enough to spot some high in the trees along the riverside or soaring above looking for fish.
This Hudson vista additionally connects to two flat gravel trails for laidback walks that also feature good views – The Klara Sauer Trail on one side, and the Dave Miller Connector Trail on the other (which leads you to Madam Brett Park). The Klara Sauer trail is flat and goes from the entrance of Dennings Point north along the Hudson River and train tracks to the riverfront Long Dock Park near Beacon Train Station. This park offers a nature walk, a meadow that has been recently restored for wildlife, and a great place to picnic or watch kayakers.
The connector trail offers a private trail along the estuary heading to the south of Beacon. You’ll find a comfortable bridge that walks along old brick buildings on one side and the water on the other. From here you can hear the waterfall – go a little further beyond the bridge and the Madam Brett parking lot and you’ll see it too. Much of this trail is shaded, appreciated during the summer heat, and there are benches available along the trail for moments when you just want to sit and take it all in.
Storm King State Park, Mountain Road, Cornwall-on-Hudson. My husband and I had our first date hiking this trail, and since it’s only 10 minutes from our house it’s one of our go-to places when we want to be active on a Sunday morning. Our dog loves it too! Despite being a state park, it’s not developed and doesn’t offer any toilets or concessions – just nature as intended! While there are a few different entrance points, I like to enter from Mountain Road where I park in a small gravel parking lot on the right near the bottom of the hill (not very well marked except for the rock pillars on either side of the trail entrance). The trails here are more rigorous (it is a mountain after all!), but you get a great workout!
Start hiking up the wide gravel road, pass what I call the “Stegosaurus Bridge” (which I named for the erect pointed rocks that christen the top) and meet up with the main Yellow Trail which veers off to your left and takes you off the gravel road and into the woods. If you continue to follow this trail, you will be met with breathtaking scenic views atop the southeast side of mountain (with a couple of other picturesque shots along the way). Here, I always take some time to chill on the rock ledge and look out at the Hudson below. Across the river to your left you can see Breakneck Ridge and follow Route 9D south into Cold Spring (you can actually see Cold Spring’s riverfront park jutting out into the Hudson almost near the end of your sightline). You might even catch a freight train or two passing by, where it’s easy to count the cars from above. Even on a hot sunny day, you get a refreshing breeze up there and I always feel on top of the world! Just me and my dog with the bustle of life below.
For another vantage point, continue to follow the yellow trail just a few minutes more to the very top, which takes you to the north side of the mountain and a view of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. You can then either turn around and go back down the way you came, or continue to follow the yellow trail to the Bluebird Trail (blue and red) – which takes you on a nice downhill loop that will meet up at a “T” with the yellow trail again, and if you take a left there you will head back to the gravel road and the parking lot. You can spend an hour and a half or all day on this trail – either way for me, it’s always worth it!
Black Rock Forest, 65 Reservoir Road, Cornwall. Across Route 9W from Storm King is another wonderful preserve that offers some lovely glimpses of nature and more rigorous hiking opportunities (and it’s actually connected to Storm King via the Stillman Trail). From the parking lot, you can either take the red (Duggan) trail into the woods immediately, or start up the gravel road and gradually make your way into the woods as you first pass the Science Center on your left (where many conservation and research programs are conducted) and a lovely trickling brook beneath a wooden bridge on your right. You can follow the wooded trail or the gravel road which will take you to a reservoir that doesn’t allow human swimming but is just perfect for the dog that likes to wade in and get his feet wet. There are a plethora of trails to take through this forest – you can visit the old oak tree or find the “money spot” at the summit that looks out over the valley of Mountainville. My dog and I have meditated here a few times (well, maybe he hasn’t, but I have) – that’s how peaceful it is in this little corner of absolute quiet. For those of you who love wildlife, you can witness a lot of it here – a variety of birds overhead, frogs and turtles in the ponds, and possibly a fox (or occasional bear on Honey Hill) if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. For a list of some trail ideas, both MeetUp and Hike The Hudson Valley have some great trails described in step-by-step directions to make your woodland adventure worry-free.
Franny Reese State Park, Mack Lane, Highland. This lesser-known park offers over 2.5 miles of hiking trails that follow an old carriage road, complete with ruins from what were once a lovely (I can only imagine) 19th century mansion. Following the yellow trail will take you from the parking lot on Mack Road to directly underneath the Mid-Hudson Bridge, where you can also connect to Johnson-Iorio Park on Haviland Road and ultimately, the hugely popular Walkway Over the Hudson if you choose. On the way, take a detour where the yellow trail meets the blue trail for an amazing view of the Mid-Hudson Bridge from the top - you are literally on the mountain above the bridge looking down, what a fun perspective! And if you’re looking for a quieter loop through the woods where you can get up close and personal with nature, try the white trail loop off of the main yellow trail.
Bear Mountain State Park, 3006 Seven Lakes Drive, Bear Mountain. This expansive state park offers a myriad of trails that go up through acres of mountain vastness, featuring a wide range of difficulties and elevation changes (I’m told that at the summit of Bear Mountain you can even see to the Manhattan skyline – I’ve never been all the way up there). But I think my favorite is the casual and easy paved trail that surrounds Hessian Lake. On a clear summer or autumn day, the glassine lake supplies a reflection of the sky that will have you wondering if you’ve gone to Heaven. You can take a detour down the trail towards the Trailside Zoo. While dogs aren’t allowed in the zoo or museum, you can pass by the zoo and continue on a walkway that leads you to the Hudson River, where you get a great view of the Bear Mountain Bridge from the ground level. Back at the main area, kids will get a kick out of the historic Merry-Go-Round and ice-skating rink in the winter time (though again, dogs are not allowed in these areas). They can watch from afar though, which may provide a good socialization opportunity. And depending on the time of year, may events are hosted at this park too so check out their schedule ahead of time – you might find something you like!
D&H Canal Park, 58 Hoag Road, Cuddebackville (off Route 209). This peaceful park includes a 1-mile section of the Delaware and Hudson Canal (hence the name) and is an easy scenic trek on a flat towpath that is made of mostly gravel and grass. There are many places along the canal where the dogs can wade into the water to cool off, making it a nice choice on a warm summer day. You can access this trail from Sullivan Street in Wurtsboro (which is what I’ve done) or Bova Road in Philipsport. If you happen to go here dog-less, you can also visit the Neversink Valley Museum, which takes you on a little trip back in time to the early days of the canal and its history. This linear trail does travel through some parts of town so you will be passing some private properties – users are asked to stay on the towpath to respect adjacent landowners.
Just a side note - since deer ticks are prevalent in many areas of the Hudson Valley, and some deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, please take proper precautions to protect both yourself and your dog from tick bites by wearing a repellant, long pants and appropriate shoes, and by having your dog on a tick preventative method.
As with any trail, PLEASE respect nature! Many of these trails are managed by preservation agencies that keep the trails and trailheads clean and usable for the rest of us. We need to do our part to keep these trails offering the beauty and opportunities they can offer us. This includes picking up after your dog, carrying out anything you might carry in, and respecting posted rules. We certainly wouldn’t want to ruin future opportunities by disrespecting those who are providing us with these lovely gifts! Thank you in advance for doing your part to protect our environment, and enjoy your hike!
Maria Huntoon, CBCC-KA