Outdoor markets, warmly lit downtowns, cozy restaurants, cheerful locals... there is something special about American…
Surrounding the river that shares its name, Hudson Valley has to be one of the most beautiful regions in New York. Beginning between Albany and Rensselaer counties and ending down between Rockland and Westchester counties, the region covers over 7,000 square miles and has always been a great way for New Yorkers to escape the city easily. One of the best things to do here? Enjoy one of the many scenic Hudson Valley walks – especially if you’re planning your visit for the fall when all the leaves begin changing color.
I love a good walking trail as it allows everyone of all abilities to get outside and enjoy nature. No need to worry about steep inclines or elevation changes like with a hike! Many walking trails and paths are well-marked and paved, so you never need to worry about getting lost. The best part is that they’re on the shorter side, so you don’t have to dedicate your entire day to walking them.
Below I’ve picked out a few of my favorite parks and trails in Hudson Valley that show off how beautiful this place is.
Scenic Hudson Valley Walks to Get Outdoors
1. Walkway Over the Hudson
Stretching across the river between Poughkeepsie and Highland sits what is now known as the Walkway Over the Hudson.
While today it’s a pedestrian bridge, it was originally constructed in 1889 as a double-track railroad bridge. Known then as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, both freight trains and passenger trains used it to get around the Northeast. While freight trains would carry raw materials to industrial factories, passenger trains would carry travelers headed towards major cities like Boston, New York City, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. At the time of its construction, the bridge stretched 6,768 feet and was considered the longest bridge in the world – a true engineering feat.
Unfortunately, as the next century went by and other modes of transportation came into play, it slowly fell into decline. A fire in 1974 ended its service for good, and it fell into total disrepair for the next four decades.
That is until 2009, when a group of friends, known as the Dyson Foundation, gathered together to find a way to not only save the bridge but transform it into something else.
Today, the Walkway Over the Hudson is known as the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge and sees over half a million visitors come through on foot and bike. In total, the path is about 1.28 miles long and is considered part of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Network. Take in views of the river from above and in the middle of the river and see the same views hundreds of passengers saw over a century ago.
2. Farm Lane Trail: from Springwood to Val-Kill
You can’t visit Hudson Valley and not take time to see Springwood Estate, also known as the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. As the president who led us through the Great Depression and World War II, he is also the only president to serve more than two terms. His father bought the estate in 1866, and FDR was born there in 1882. Later he’d move there with his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, and he’d often return throughout his life. It’s here that the first ever presidential library was created in 1939.
Less than 2 miles away sits an assuming cottage known as Val-Kill, also known as the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Once a furniture factory, Eleanor turned it into her own personal retreat. After FDR’s death in 1945, she’d go on to make it her primary residence. Much simpler and more intimate than nearby Springwood, she often used it to host everyone from local students to world leaders, to share her interests and exchange ideas.
One of the loveliest ways to enjoy both estates is to walk the Farm Lane Trail, which runs between both of them. It’s only 1.8 miles and will take you through upland and wetland habitats. The National Parks Service even has some podcasts you can listen to to get more of the history as you go.
3. Innisfree Garden
Tucked away in the town of Millbrook, Innisfree Garden has earned its right to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Spanning 150 acres and overlooking the glacial Tyrrel Lake, the garden was a lifelong project between Walter Beck, Marion Burt Beck, and landscape architect Lester Collins. Beck was particularly inspired by the work of 8th-century Chinese poet, painter, and garden maker, Wang Wei, while Collins, during the three decades he’d worked on Innisfree, was inspired by his multiple experiences and studies of Japanese landscapes. These experiences included travels through Asia, a Fulbright studying traditional garden design in Japan, and even helping to translate Sakuteiki, the oldest Japanese text on garden-making, into English.
Together they created the magnificent Innisfree Garden, taking the name from the poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats. After both Becks passed, Collins opened it to the public in 1960. This might be the most unique of all the Hudson Valley walks on this list! Really take your time leisurely zigzagging through the gardens and imagine what kind of ancient paintings and views inspired the designs seen today.
4. Poets’ Walk
Located in Red Hook, Poets’ Walk is a beautiful 120-acre park designed to celebrate the relationship between scenery and poetry. The architect behind its design, Hans Jacob Ehler, designed the land so it would feel as though you’re walking through different outdoor “rooms.” He was hired back in 1849 to fix up the grounds and named them Poets’ Walk after writers like Washington Irving, who could often be found strolling through. Some say this is where Irving came up with his famous “Rip Van Winkle”!
The main trail through Poets’ Walk is about 2.4 miles in total. It’s a nice, easy way to take in the Hudson River and enjoy the same views writers took inspiration from for years. Bonus: go towards close for some sunset views, and if you want to make it even more fun, follow the Poets’ Walk Park Quest.
5. Bear Mountain State Park
Spanning both Rockland and Orange counties, Bear Mountain State Park has over 235 miles worth of trails to enjoy. Before it became a park in 1913, it played a crucial role during the American Revolution and almost became the new location of the infamous Sing Sing Prison before preservationists stopped development.
With over 5,000 acres of land, there are many ways to enjoy it, but if you’re looking for a simple walk, I recommend following the Hessian Lake Loop trail. At 1.4 miles, it’s a nice, gentle path you can even bring your dog on. Just, uh, don’t Google why the lake is named after the Hessians, also known as the German soldiers who fought with the British during the revolution.
6. High Falls
If you were hoping for a waterfall walk on this list – here it is! Located in Columbia County, the High Falls Conservation Area gets its name from the waterfall you will want to see. At over 150 feet high, it’s the tallest in the county and one of the tallest in New York.
Back in the day, these falls powered mills along the creek, but today the park is for many city dwellers looking for some fresh air and an easy trail with high rewards. To walk the trail yourself, follow this 1.4 miles out and back trail.
7. Rockwood Hall Trail in the Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Once upon a time, Rockwood Hall was one of the largest, most extravagant Gilded Age mansions – second only to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The mansion was initially built in 1848 by the then owner, Edwin Bartlett, who modeled it after an English Gothic castle. Thirty years later, William Rockefeller brought it and nearly doubled its size with renovations, making it as grandiose as you’d expect a Rockefeller during the Gilded Age to do.
Unfortunately, only the foundations of this incredible mansion exist today! Instead, the land, which was initially designed by the father of landscape architecture himself, Frederick Law Olmsted, remains and is part of the larger Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Follow the 3.5 mile loop trail to see why exactly Rockefeller chose this property to begin with.
Bonus: Stop over to the nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to see where Washington Irving is buried and the famous village of the same name. Beware of the headless horseman!
8. Esopus Meadows Preserve
Looking for a walk with a lighthouse view? Check out Esopus Meadows Preserve. Since 1871, the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse has stood in the middle of the river and is the last wooden lighthouse in the Hudson. It’s actually still an active lighthouse, though it had a small hiatus between 1965 and 2003.
The nicest way to see the lighthouse is by taking a strolling along one of the trails in Esopus Meadows Preserve, which sits to the left in Ulster County. If you’re wondering about the lack of meadows, don’t worry, they’re there. They’re just underwater.
And there you have it! Some fairly doable and incredible Hudson Valley walks that let you enjoy this region’s beauty no matter what time of year you visit.