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5 gorgeous Hudson Valley trails for non-hikers

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The Overlook Pavilion in Poet's Walk Park in Red Hook, NY. The Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge is in the far distant right.

Image: Shutterstock/Nancy Kennedy

Just an hour from the crowded streets of midtown Manhattan, New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley is known as a hiker’s paradise. Mountains, forests, and state park paths offer more options than any hiking enthusiast can tackle in a lifetime.

But what about us non-rugged types, who are at best only semi-outdoorsy? What if we want to amble rather than scramble?

Fortunately, there are plenty of non-woodsy Hudson Valley trails for people who appreciate a beautiful view, but like to experience nature in smaller doses. A day in the country (or at least, in the exurbs) doesn’t have to mean hours navigating woods and rocky terrain. And it also helps when there are less rustic pleasures like food, drink, antiques, and culture nearby.

Here are five Hudson Valley trails that will feed your soul without wearing out your soles. And unlike woodlands, these trails are maintained throughout the year, so they’re walkable all year round.

Poet’s Walk Park, Red Hook, NY

A pastoral paradise overlooking the Hudson River, Poet’s Walk Park is named for the literary figures that supposedly strolled its shaded paths. Local legend has it that Washington Irving got the inspiration for “Rip Van Winkle” as his eye caught sight of the Catskill mountains in the distance.

The landscape’s subtle architecture invites visitors into its “outdoor rooms” fashioned from stone walls and foliage. Nestled in the vastness of its 120 acres of wood, meadows, and streams, is a mercifully compact 2-mile trail that inspires repose as much as movement, with footbridges, wooden pavilions, and benches as stops along the way.

Poet’s Walk Park is a place to muse, marvel at the river and distant mountains, picnic, get engaged, and even get married — I attended one of the most beautiful outdoor weddings ever under the park’s most spacious pavilion!

Open: 8:30 am year-round, closing times vary with the seasons.

Getting there: This park is easiest reached by car.

You can gather more information here.

Nearby: The bustling village of Rhinebeck, with an abundance of upscale shops, restaurants, and the esteemed Upstate Films for indie selections; the village of Red Hook is a smaller cousin to Rhinebeck, with cafés, bookstores, and antique shops.  

Walkway over the Hudson, Highland and Poughkeepsie, NY

View of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, also known as Walkway over the Hudson.

Image: Shutterstock/Nancy Kennedy

A community effort to refurbish a long-neglected rail bridge high over the Hudson River, the Walkway opened as a New York State park in 2009. Your walk over one of the widest sections of the Hudson can start on either the Highland or Poughkeepsie side. Before you even reach the middle of this 1.28-mile walkway, a stunning, 360-degree panorama of the river opens up before your eyes.

Walking from end to end and taking in the views from this bridge (which is open only to foot traffic and bicycles — strollers are always in abundance, too!) is pleasure enough, but you can also check their calendar for special events and activities. On beautiful days, finding a parking spot in the designated areas might be tight, but the walkway itself never feels crowded.

Open: Various opening and closing times, year-round.

Getting there: The Highland (western) access is easiest reached by car. The Poughkeepsie (eastern) access is not far from the Poughkeepsie train station, and can also be reached by car.

You can find more information here.

Nearby: On the Duchess county side, downtown Poughkeepsie, with plentiful eateries and the historic Bardavon Opera House is in walking distance. The suburban-style shopping plazas and malls of the Town of Poughkeepsie, and Locust Grove, the home of Samuel Morse, are easiest reached by car.

Rosendale Trestle and Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, NY

rosendale-trestle

One of the newest additions to the connected system of rail trails in the mid-Hudson valley, the Rosendale Trestle offers a lovely view of craggy rock formations from a vista 150 feet high. It connects to the north and south with Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, letting you extend your linear amble for as far or near as your time and energy will allow.

This section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail offers intimate views of birches, mini-caves, and boulder formations while you, the walker, stay on the terra firma provided by the path. This section of the trail is bike-friendly, though you might find it a bit more rugged on wheels than you do on foot.

Open: Dawn to dusk year round.

Getting there: The Rosendale Trestle can be reached by car, or by Trailways Bus lines from Manhattan or points north. The trestle is just about a mile from the bus depot and will take you through the charming village of Rosendale by foot.

Here is some more information.

Nearby: Cute and funky, the tiny village of Rosendale features the iconic Rosendale Café (great music most Saturday nights), and other eateries, the community-owned theatre, and eclectic shops. The New York Times ran an article on Rosendale titled 90 Miles Upstate, a Brooklyn Feel, but don’t buy it — Rosendale’s charm is uniquely its own!

Scenic Hudson Riverwalk Park, Tarrytown, NY

This lovely shoreline park that was once the site of a riverfront asphalt plant is a tribute to Scenic Hudson’s dedication to rehabilitating and maintaining lands and waterfronts adjoining the river.

Only an hour from mid-town Manhattan, the park is the jewel in the crown of this upscale Westchester suburb. The river esplanade is just a bit more than half a mile long, but you can extend this easy and tame walk by exploring the terraces and “eco-corridors” of the adjoining Pierson Park. If you need a quick and simple escape from New York City, this is an excellent choice! 

Open: From a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset, year round.

Getting there: Accessible by car, and easy to get to by Metro-North from Manhattan. The park and esplanade are just a few minutes walk from the Tarrytown train station.

Here is some more information.

Nearby: Tarrytown boasts a thriving downtown, with shops, cafés, and suburban-style amenities. Nearby is the village of Sleepy Hollow, which inspired Washington Irving’s famous tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Putnam Trailway, NY

Image: Wikimedia/PointsofNoReturn

Image: Wikimedia/PointsofNoReturn

Defunct train tracks have been such a gift to residents of the Hudson Valley, and the Putnam Trailway is no exception. It offers twelve miles of paved trail that visitors can enjoy in whatever small or larger chunks they choose. It’s a great bicycle path, too.

Connecting the villages of Mahopac, Somers, Carmel, and others, this trail does offer some entries into wooded areas, if that’s your thing. These quick traverses through forest are rewarded with views of Lake Casse and Bloomer Pond. Or, just stay on the path for your walk (or bike ride), and use extra time to explore the suggested side trips below.

Open: Dawn to dusk, year round.

Getting there: Accessible by car from points off the Taconic Parkway.

You can find more information here.

Nearby: Though the village of Cold Spring, NY is a good half hour drive from some of the access points of this trail, you’ll enjoy the plethora of eateries and antique shops of this charming Hudson River town. Even closer is the stunning Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY, home of the largest statue of the Buddha in the western hemisphere.