Monday, November 8, 2010

Autumn Leaves Walk/Hike in Rockefeller Preserve State Park and Stone Barns Farm, NY

Content Summary: Area Description; Maps; Trail Information; Complete Travel Directions; Photos/Narrative; Recommended Books at Amazon: Books Blog, Category II.

Area Description: An easy day trip from NYC, in reach of public transportation, just in time for spectacular leaf colors, but with a few good weeks left for YOU, our 10,000+ steps were gorgeously trod just 30 miles away in the Pocantico Hills at Rockefeller Preserve State Park and neighboring Blue Hill Stone Barns, a non profit, progressive farm with a mission to educate young farmers and the public (more later). With our AMC hike leader, we clocked 6 miles on the old pedometer and had a chance to try some delicious grilled and baked snacks at the Blue Hill Stone Barns Cafe without gaining a single pound. But whether you're looking for a 6-miler or a much longer hike, you can navigate your walking, jogging, horseback riding and birding on these 1,400 acres of carriage roads created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. What a great way for us seniors to try for better reports on our next bone density tests!

Trail Information: At the Visitor's Center, you will find maps (below) and general information to plan out your route.

E.G., our set marking points were: Visitors' Center, Swan Lake, Stone Barns, Eagle Hill summit, Visitors' Center.

 A good supplement to the map those folks give you is this satellite overview of the entire area. Click here and choose: Trail map, satellite view (pdf). 
(We found that we had to download the map to our computer before we were able to print it, so you might have to do the same.)

We also recommend a compass to keep track when the paths are unmarked, as they often are. 

Complete Travel Directions from NYC:
Driving: 55 minutes:Take 9A (the old West Side Highway) to Henry Hudson Pkwy. Continue onto Henry Hudson Pkwy. Merge onto Saw Mill River Pkwy N. Take exit 23 for Saw Mill Rd. Turn left at Old Saw Mill River Rd. Continue onto Neperan Rd. Turn right at Lake Rd. Slight right at NY-448 N/Bedford Rd. Turn left: Restricted usage road, Rockefeller State Park Preserve. There is a $6 fee for parking. Or - you can find free parking inlets and path access along Sleepy Hollow Road.

By train: Metro North, Hudson Line to Tarrytown Station. Take a short taxi ride to the Preserve Office on Route 117, Pleasantville.

From the Visitor's Center, we took Deer Run Path to Swan Lake, and then Boat House Path partially around the Lake. Our goal was to get to Blue Hill at Stone Barns on Route 448/Bedford Road by lunch, so we didn't follow too many loops north and south, but rather kept heading eastward. Route 448 is visible on the satellite map.

Stone Barns is an institution that trains young farmers to be innovative and truly green in the production of food. Group visits can be arranged for 10 people or more, or the site offers self-guided tours to download for individuals and families. The farm is operative year-round.

You know you're getting close when you come to the farm pastures.

... and the Stone Barn itself.

The sheep have had time to regrow their wooley coats since we saw them last in the spring.The paths start to get busy as you approach the restaurant.

This rooster had to wait for visitors' cars to pass before crossing the road.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is an exceptional, highly respected restaurant that serves only the produce and -- and animals -- grown and raised on the farm. Reservation are required for lunch and dinner, and the food makes it well worth the trip from the city!

In case you're thinking of skipping the hike and taking a direct ride to the meal, it's at 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, NY., an easy cab ride from the Tarrytown Station, or driving directions are right there on the site.

Or, you can stay healthy and rack up the many miles along the paths with the lovely vistas and wooden and stone bridges over gurgling brooks, and just sample some grilled and baked delights at the Blue Hill Cafe.

It's a challenge to find a seat on the weekends, but there are beautiful spots back on the trails of the Rockefeller Preserve to retreat to and enjoy your lunch either from the cafe, or packed in your trusty rucksack!

This late bloomer was roadside, where we saw taxis pull up with dining and overnight guests.

Back out and away from the traffic, the colors were captivating.

The ear tag is a sad reminder ... this guy's here to be served. At least his life is pleasant.

We loved the progression of the color changes as we headed back to the west, passing across Farm Meadow Trail to Sleepy Hollow Road Trail, which took us to the southwest, crossing over the Pocantico River Trail, to the access point to Eagle Hill lookout point on Eagle Hill Road. The ascent took about 20 minutes, and was well worth it.

This vista was the first of the day to include the Hudson, and there were some good flat rocks to relax on. From up here at Eagle Rock, the walk back to the Visitors' Center took about an hour-and-a-half because we wanted to rack up some more miles on the old pedometers. But you can make it back in half the time if you follow Sleepy Hollow Trail straight out.

On our earlier post for The Rockefeller State Park Preserve, we offer an alternative walk to Rockwood Hall and the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, a trip you must take on another day.