Built on the remnants of 19th-century railroad lines, the area’s many rail trails offer the opportunity to walk (or bike, hike, run, skate, stroll, or horseback ride) along the paths of Hudson Valley history. The most high-profile “rail trail” in our region is the one-of-a-kind Walkway Over the Hudson. In January came the big news that, after years of delay, CSX Transportation Corp. has agreed to sell the nearly one-mile long stretch of rail corridor that will allow the Dutchess Rail Trail to be linked to the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail on the western side of the bridge — an uninterrupted stretch of 17 trail miles. All aboard!
Dutchess Rail Trail (Eastern Dutchess County)
12 miles. Surface: Dual, paved/soft. From Hopewell Junction east to Poughkeepsie
The long-anticipated completion of this trail, which first opened in 2007, is almost at hand. Construction is expected to begin this summer on Phase Four, which although short, is the most complex portion of the trail as it involves building a 900-foot bridge across bustling Route 55 and Wappinger Creek. Much of this trail features a double surface — part of it paved, with a parallel soft surface specifically made for runners. In November 2010, an original Maybrook Rail Line signal was reactivated after two local railroad buffs led a volunteer effort to restore it.
Hudson Valley Rail Trail, Highland (Western Ulster County)
4 miles. From Route 44 to Tony Williams Park
This short-but-sweet trail connects with the Walkway Over the Hudson. It weaves through the Black Creek Wetlands Complex (where fishing is allowed) and the Tony Williams Park, which has baseball fields, basketball courts — and rest rooms. The developed portion of the trail ends here; the adventurous can continue along a mile-long stretch of dense trees and stunning scenery before reaching a double bridge which crosses a creek. At points, the trail offers a magnificent view of Illinois Mountain.
Heritage Trail (Orange County)
11 miles. Surface: Multiuse asphalt. From downtown Goshen to Airplane Park in Monroe
Winding past wildlife sanctuaries and historic landmarks like the old Chester Railroad Station, this trail welcomes all types of foot traffic. It offers easy wheelchair accessibility and extra fun at its conclusion at the Monroe Airplane Park, so named for the fighter jet on view there.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, New Paltz area (mid-Ulster County)
12.2 miles. Surface: Packed cinders and gravel. From Shawangunk town line north to the Rosendale town line
Built entirely by volunteers, this trail, which opened in 1993 and runs along the Wallkill River through New Paltz, Rosendale and Gardiner, welcomes walkers, runners, bikers — and even horseback riders. On May 19, take a self-guided tour of historical locations along the trail as part of New York Heritage Weekend.
Harlem Valley Rail Trail (Dutchess and Columbia Counties)
14.4 miles. Surface: Paved. From Wassic Station to Millerton Station; Under Mountain Road to Copake Falls Station
Funds have just been approved to complete more sections of this trail, which — at a whopping 46.1 miles — is destined to be one of the longest rail trails upon its completion. The finished product will allow visitors to wander from Wassic all the way to Chatham. Currently, two stretches are open for exploration: 10.7 miles in Dutchess County and 3.7 miles in Columbia County.