Pawling and its surrounding areas have a surprisingly wide variety of hiking trails, ranging from casual strolls to steep, demanding inclines with awe-inspiring sights. You may already know the walkable excursions close to home – the Appalachian Boardwalk, Cat Rocks, Lakeside Park, Dover Stone Church, and Nuclear Lake – but what else does our region offer? A lot. Below are simple strolls for those days where you just want to get outside without going to the trouble of lacing up your hiking boots.
Boyce Park (Wingdale, NY). Located across from the Wingdale Elementary School, Boyce Park seems like a fairly ordinary recreational facility. However, walk along a dirt road and move a little past a gate, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a bright meadow that overlooks the verdant hills in the distance. On a clear day, it’ll feel like a scene right out of The Sound of Music. (One to two miles.) Address: 6423 State Route 55, Wingdale, NY 12594. For more information: Dover Parks & Rec at (845) 832-9168 or TownofDoverny.us/ParksandRecreation.cfm.
Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area (Patterson, NY). This hike varies in difficulty depending on how far you choose to trek. Right off of Haviland Hollow Road, this conservation area is a hidden treasure. The various trails weave over wooden bridges, through wispy cattails of the Great Swamp, and finally to beautiful, stooping waterfalls. At the top of the Orange Trail, there is a 9/11 Memorial. (Three to seven miles.) Address: 478-480 Haviland Hollow Rd, Patterson, NY 12563. For more information: Patterson Recreation www.PattersonNY.org/CountyPreserves.php; or call (845) 878-6500.
Depot Hill (Poughquag, NY). Just a ways off Route 55 (near Pleasant Ridge Pizza), this part of the Appalachian Trail affords arresting views without having to scale mountainsides. The outlook spot can be a little hard to find, but once you reach it, you’ll be able to see the sweeping forests of the Hudson Valley. (Approximately three miles.) Address: 300 Depot Hill Rd, Poughquag, NY 12570. For more information: Department of Environmental Conservation's information page at www.dec.ny.gov/lands/34751.html.
Ninham Mountain & Fire Tower (Town of Kent, NY). An easy stroll up to an old fire tower. Along the way, you might stumble across some old stone chambers. No one really knows what they’re for, but some say they were built as a passage into “the other world.” Keep walking along the road, and you’ll find the fire tower, a steel structure built in the 1940s for forest fire prevention and recently restored by the Kent Conservation Advisory Committee. Climb up and you’ll experience 360 degree views of the Hudson Valley, with the Catskills looming in the distance on one side and a silhouette of New York City on the other. (Approximately 1.5 miles.) Address: Mt. Ninham Court, Kent, NY (intersects Gypsy Trail Road). For more information: Kent Conservation Advisory Committee www.kentcac.info/wp/hikes/mount-nimham-fire-tower/.
Wonder Lake (Holmes, NY). At 380 Ludingtonville Road, you’ll find a beautiful view of Laurel Pond as you tread through quiet trails in the woods of Holmes. If you venture far enough, you might stumble across an abandoned Boy Scouts camp. This trek can be a pleasant, easy walk or a longer, more challenging one if you choose to traverse all 8.6 miles of marked trails. Address: 380 Ludingtonville Road, Holmes, NY. For more information: New York State Parks & Rec at (845) 225-7207; or search “Wonder Lake” at https://parks.ny.gov/parks/.
Dutchess County Rail Trail (Hopewell Junction, NY). This 13-mile rail trail leads all the way to the Walkway Over The Hudson on the western side. Head east, and you’ll be on a leisurely walk under the trees and over several bridges. Wheelchair accessible.
Address for the Hopewell Depot Trailhead: 36 Railroad Avenue, Hopewell Junction, NY.
For more information: Dutchess Rail Trail Website www.DutchessRailTrail.com/.
Harlem Valley Rail Trail (Amenia, NY). Another opportunity to walk along scenic rural New York. You’ll cross through countryside and admire the lush woods, old farms, and if you’re lucky, calves and ducks as well. Approximately 16 miles of completed, paved rail trail, with more under construction between Millerton-Under Mountain Road, Black Grocery-Hillsdale, Hillsdale-Philmont, and Philmont-Chatham. From Wassaic Station to Amenia Station, it’s about 2.5 miles; to Millerton Station, around 10.5 miles.
Address for the Wassaic Trailhead: Wassaic Metro North Train Station.
For more information: Harlem Valley Rail Trail at www.hvrt.org.
Bull’s Bridge (Kent, CT). One of the more challenging hikes mentioned here, Bull’s Bridge refers to the covered, wooden, one-way bridge one encounters when driving here. In 1760, Jacob and Isaac Bull first built a bridge in this location to transport pig iron to Poughkeepsie. George Washington supposedly also crossed over it. The current bridge dates from 1842 and is a reconstruction by American architect and civil engineer Ithiel Town. After admiring the historical edifice, locate the trail further down the road on your left to discover white water rapids, steep hills, and an outlook at the top with sweeping views of the winding river below. (Approximately two to five miles.) Address: 248 Bulls Bridge Rd, South Kent, CT 06785. For more information: Hike the Hudson Valley at HiketheHudsonValley.com/bulls-bridge/.
Lover’s Leap Park (New Milford, CT). A fairly short walk across a lovely bridge, up and down the Housatonic River. Follow the trails for a leisurely stroll up the Housatonic. (Approximately one mile.) Address: 178 Shortwood Road, New Milford, CT. For more information: Search DEEP Lover’s Leap Park at www.ct.gov.
East Fishkill Recreational Park (East Fishkill, NY). Next to the East Fishkill Library, this park is a brief but easy plunge into nature for those who want a quick escape. The walking paths run by a pavilion and later venture off into the woods, where you’ll find good views of the bubbling Fishkill Creek and well-groomed paths leading you around the area. (Approximately one mile.) Address: 330 Route 376, Hopewell Junction, NY.
For more information: East Fishkill Recreation Office at (845) 221-3818.
Want to venture still further out into the Hudson Valley? Pick up a copy of
next month’s Pawling Record scheduled to appear Friday, August 25, for
Take a Hike! Part II.