Constructed on the beds of 19th-century railroad lines, the area’s rail trails offer outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to walk (or bike, hike, run, skate, stroll, or horseback ride) along the paths of Hudson Valley history. The most prominent “rail trail” in our region is the one-of-a-kind Walkway Over the Hudson, which is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. This winter came the news that the Dutchess Rail Trail will be extending its reach by building a bridge over six lanes of Route 55 in the Town of LaGrange. Expected to be completed in June or July, the project has been in the works for several years. All aboard!
Eastern Dutchess County 12 miles. Surface: Dual, paved/soft.
From Hopewell Junction to Poughkeepsie
The long-anticipated completion of this trail, which was awarded Best New Hiking Trail by our readers in 2008, begins this summer. Construction of a 900-foot bridge across Route 55 and Wappinger Creek in LaGrange will extend the path to Morgan Lake in Poughkeepsie. By the end of the year, it is expected that the path will be connected to the Walkway Over the Hudson. The trail is beloved by runners for its double surface design, which features a crushed-stone lane that runs parallel to the paved section.
Orange County 11.5 miles. Surface: Multiuse asphalt.
From downtown Goshen to Monroe
Curving through scenic wildlife sanctuaries and past historic landmarks like the old Chester Railroad Station, this 10-foot wide trail runs along the path of the old Erie Railroad and welcomes all types of pedestrian traffic. The trail ends at Monroe Airplane Park, named for the F-86L Sabre fighter jet on view there.
Dutchess and Columbia Counties 14.5 miles. Surface: Paved.
Two sections: From Wassaic Station to Millerton Station (10.7 miles) and Under Mountain Road to Copake Falls Station (3.8 miles)
When this route is finally completed, it should stretch 46.1 miles from the Wassaic Metro-North train station in northeast Dutchess County all the way up to Columbia County’s cutesy town of Chatham. Currently, only the two sections mentioned above are open. Little has been done to the trail in the past decade, but suddenly there are signs of progress. A five-mile extension from Hillsdale to Copake Falls is expected to open soon, and late last year, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association was awarded a $258,750 grant to pay for the design of the trail from Chatham, 11 miles south, to near the Taconic Parkway.
Highland (Western Ulster County) 4 miles.
From Route 44 to Tony Williams Park
This trail, which is the shortest in the Valley, begins at the Walkway Over the Hudson. It winds through the scenic Black Creek Wetlands Complex and Tony Williams Park, which both offer a bevy of outdoor activities (including fishing, baseball, tennis, and basketball). Though the paved trail ends here, intrepid explorers can ramble through a mile-long stretch of dense trees and stunning scenery before coming to a double bridge which crosses a creek.
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 runs along the Wallkill River through New Paltz, Rosendale, and Gardiner — welcomes walkers, runners, bikers — and even horseback riders. Stop for a bite at the Italian eatery La Stazione, housed in the former Wallkill Valley Railroad Station. In the works is a restoration of the 940 foot-long Rosendale trestle, which rises 150 feet above the Rondout Creek. Due to be completed this summer, the trestle will connect the rail trail to 11 miles of incomplete trails leading to Kingston.