Day Hike: Walkway Over the Hudson & Hudson Valley Rail Trail

I rolled out of bed blurry-eyed but bushy-tailed yesterday morning. My backpack and walking shoes were already sitting by the front door. I filled a water bottle, checked the time, and made my way to Grand Central Terminal for a day out of the city and in the sun. The train was full of other day-hikers, getting off at Garrison, Cold Spring, and Peekskill. I got off at the last stop: Poughkeepsie.

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Poughkeepsie is approximately two hours outside of New York by train. I’ve been there a handful of times before, but only to rent a car for travels elsewhere. I can’t say much about it as I only spent about fifteen minutes walking to my destination from the train station - the walk is reasonable, though far from scenic. The city is  s l o w l y undergoing a revitalization which seems to be bolstered by the success of the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, and that was the reason I was there.

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One of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, the Walkway Over the Hudson originally served as a railroad bridge from the late-1800s until it was damaged in a fire in the mid-1970s. Re-opened in 2009 as a national recreation trail, the bridge spans the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie to the Hamlet of Highland.

The path from the train to the trailhead is well-marked and as soon as I reached the parking lot at the park entrance, I was surrounded by other walkers, bikers, joggers, strollers, and plenty of dogs. I stopped many times on the bridge to admire the beautiful day and watch freighters making their way north. (The bridge has a few different sections with seating areas and lookout points.) Once I reached the west entrance, I admired the newly completed pavillion and took a moment to sit in the shade.

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The Hudson Valley Rail Trail connects directly to the Walkway just west of the pavillion. This trail is well-shaded which was a welcome relief from the sundrenched bridge. At times, it was so quiet on the trail that the only sounds I heard were the water-like rustling of leaves in a light breeze and my own soft footfalls on the pavement. The cicadas were out in full force with a few butterflies chasing each other here and there, and I was happy to not need the bug balm in my bag.

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I spent a little less than half an hour on the Rail Trail before veering off into the Hamlet of Highland for lunch. Underground Coffee & Ales had caught my eye on the map and I was not disappointed by my choice. The food is locally sourced and the craft beer is nationally sourced, rotating frequently. My “beeristas” were very friendly and after a few tastes of the craft brews on tap, I decided on a German Pilsner from Massachusetts with a Hudson Valley sausage and fries. Before heading back to the trail, I couldn’t help myself and bought two stouts to enjoy at another time…

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All told, this day trip is about as stress-free as it gets. If you are able, sit on the west side of the train to enjoy Hudson River views, and bring a book or magazine to get some reading done while you’re in transit. You’ll be out of the city for nine hours but it will feel like you spent a weekend away!

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If you have any suggestions for my next day trip out of the city, I would love to hear from you! Send me an email at needleandpinegeneral@gmail.com or leave a comment below.