Explore the Hudson Valley

Experience The Hudson Valley

Hudson Valley Rail Trails

  |   May 1, 2021  |  Comment

Pictured above: Ashokan Rail Trail, West Hurley. Photo courtesy of Ulster County Tourism.

In a region once crisscrossed by train tracks, only two train lines remain open—one passenger, one freight, running up alongside the Hudson from New York to Albany. Where these train lines once ran, a remarkable transformation has taken place over the past 25 years. Derelict relics of the 19th century have been turned into a series of linear parks that make the Hudson Valley a walker and biker’s playground. 

Empire State Trail

The capstone initiative of this project is the Empire State Trail, completed in December. The 750-mile multiuse trail—the longest in the US—links 400 miles of previously unconnected trailways, adds 180 miles of new off-road trail, and has upgraded 170 miles of on-road bike paths, most on low-speed rural roads, to provide safe, accessible car-free travel along the Hudson Valley Greenway, Champlain Valley, and Erie Canalway Trail, passing through 27 of New York’s 62 counties on the way. Ten feet wide, its off-road sections (about 75 percent of the whole) are surfaced in road bike and wheelchair-friendly asphalt and pulverized stone, and grades are gentle. Below we’ve noted some other rail trails in the region you might want to explore.

Ashokan Rail Trail

Gently and gracefully skirting the northern shore of the majestic Ashokan Reservoir, the 11.5-mile long Ashokan Rail Trail (ART) fits the landscape like a well-sized crown. The trail, with its commanding views, is the jewel among Ulster County’s rail trails. The ART has rapidly become a top local recreational destination, drawing 100,000 visitors in the past year.

Running from West Hurley to Boiceville, the trail offers stunning views across the reservoir of the eastern Catskills, including Ashokan High Point, South Mountain, Balsam Cap, Friday Mountain, Cornell Mountain, and Wittenberg Mountain. It’s not uncommon for a bald eagle to soar past; less commonly, an osprey. If you keep your eyes open, every other form of local wildlife may appear. It’s also a birder’s paradise.

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

The 22.5-mile trail stretches from Kingston to Gardiner, under a leafy canopy that passes through farmland and forest alongside the Shawangunk Ridge. The trail passes through the quaint village of Rosendale and the vibrant tourist mecca of New Paltz on its way to its terminus. The preeminent landmark along the trail is the Rosendale Trestle bridge, which was highest bridge span in the US when it opened in 1872, towering 150 feet above the Rondout Creek and other views made for Instagram.

Hudson Valley Rail Trail

For a scenic, family-friendly ride, try this seven-mile-long route. Park in the dedicated lot at the Route 299 and South Street intersection in Highland and set forth on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which is asphalt paved. Follow the trail through wooded canopy as it turns south at an abandoned Southern Pacific boxcar and down into the village of Highland. Continue on across the epic Walkway Over the Hudson for the most picturesque views of the river. On the other side, in Poughkeepsie, adventurous riders can continue another 13 miles to Hopewell Junction via the Dutchess Rail Trail.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail starts in Wassaic and offers 26 paved miles through the bucolic Columbia and Dutchess County countryside. Towns to explore include Amenia, Millerton, and Copake. Currently the trail is in two sections, with a gap between Millerton and Copake that requires navigating eight miles of country roads. Organizers hope to ultimately finish the route out to Chatham, north of Hudson. The most recent segment extends the trail for downtown Millerton north into and past the Webatuck Creek watershed to Copake Falls. Most of the abandoned rail bed sections are in different development or planning stages, and most of another 18 miles have been acquired to take the trail north into the village of Chatham.

O&W Rail Trail

Running 11 miles from from Kingston to High Falls, the first two miles of the trail are rough (and sometimes muddy), but just south of Esopus Creek, it turns to asphalt while it parallels Route 209 for two miles. (There’s also a well-marked trailhead and parking lot where this section begins, in Hurley, if you’d rather start there.) Follow it south past scenic fields and a railroad tunnel toward Cottekill. About halfway there, the route becomes wooded and grassy again. It’s also wide enough to ride two or three abreast, for a leisurely social ride.

Keep going until you reach High Falls, where you can visit the D&H Canal Museum, grab wood-fired pizza at Ollie’s, and check out the hamlet’s eponymous falls. If you go on a Sunday, thrift for vintage and second-hand scores at the High Falls Flea Market, which takes over Grady Park from April through October with dozens of vendors.

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