Bike from The Bronx through Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Columbia Counties to Poughkeepsie

The region directly north of New York City offers first-class opportunities for bicycle rides. Superb trails provide secluded routes through densely populated suburbs. Farther north, suburbs change gradually to rural countryside but conveniences of civilization are never far away. What follows is information about a bicycle tour through Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Columbia Counties. It’s a great introduction to light-weight self-supported travel by bike.

If you're an experienced bicyclist, you'll probably skip most of what's on this page, go directly to the turn sheets and hop on your bike. If you're new to bicycle touring -- perhaps you're tempted by the concept but you've never tried it -- what follows should answer many of your questions.

Most services and accommodations along the route are small. I’ve tried to provide contact information (phone, URL, e-mail). Be sure to check in advance and confirm that anything on which you’re relying (for example, for overnight lodgings) is open. The WHAT'S NEW? section includes the date when this page was most recently modified and the dates of the most recent turn sheets.



QUESTIONS ABOUT BICYCLING FROM THE BRONX ON THE WESTCHESTER, PUTNAM COUNTY AND HARLEM VALLEY TRAILS TO POUGHKEEPSIE


HOW ABOUT A QUICK SUMMARY?

The entire route is somewhat modular: you don’t have to start at the beginning or end at the end. The route can easily be trimmed or expanded from day trips to multi-day tours. Also, with a bit of jiggering, ambitious folks can use the route for at least two different Century rides: Grand Central to Wassaic; and Patterson to Poughkeepsie by way of Copake Falls or Hillsdale. Lovely (and less heroic) options shorten the route: take a Metro North train from Grand Central and start your bike ride in central Westchester (Elmsford, Eastview, or Graham); end the ride at the Metro North station in either Croton Falls or Brewster.

The route starts in Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx and heads north on the old Putnam Line right-of-way on Westchester’s South and North County Trails. In Putnam County, the Putnam Trail continues through Carmel and is being extended to Brewster. North of the NYC / Yonkers border, the car-free trails are superbly paved. You’re rarely on roads. In these densely populated suburbs, the route is mostly through woods and wetlands.

Branch off the trail at the Croton Reservoir. Continue on secluded roads to the New Croton Dam. From the dam, there are both on-road and trail options to the Metro North Croton-Harmon station in Croton-on-Hudson.

There’s another on-road branch from Granite Springs past two pick-‘em-yourself apple orchards ending at Peekskill’s Metro North Station. (This branch includes segments on US 202 / NY 35 with heavy motor traffic. The route avoids US 202 / NY 35 as much as possible. These segments are for experienced cautious riders with the requisite skills.)

From Crafts (about 2½ miles south of Carmel), there’s a branch to the Metro North station in Croton Falls.

The route northeast from Carmel includes brief formidable hills. The reward is breathtaking scenery and a stunningly beautiful descent. Good spots to end this ride include Patterson, Pawling, Wingdale and Wassaic. Each has a Metro North station from which you can catch southbound trains. If you’re continuing north on a multi-day tour, Wingdale is the obvious spot to stop overnight: there’s a motel there.

You can continue north from Wingdale, or alternately, start the ride by taking a Metro North train to wherever you’d like to hop on your bike. Metro North will get you as far north as Wassaic.

North of Wassaic, the route features the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (HVRT) and rolling country roads through Dutchess and Columbia Counties' dairy and horse farms. In warm weather, don't forget your swim suit and a towel: there's swimming in Rudd Pond (2 miles north of Millerton), the ore pit in Copake Falls, and (if you're staying there) in the pool at Silvanus Lodge.

Stay overnight in the Copake / Hillsdale vicinity at your choice of accommodations ranging from campsites in a state park to high-end B&B's. Don't fail to explore Bash Bish Falls, a short hike east from Copake Falls. From Copake Falls, there’s another optional branch into the Berkshires. It’s a brief challenging climb repaid by a magnificent vista from Massachusetts across the Hudson to the Catskills.

Continue southwest from Copake / Hillsdale to Poughkeepsie, enduring more beautiful, smooth, low-traffic country roads than a body can bear. You'll approach Poughkeepsie on the new Dutchess Rail Trail. End your tour surrounding a cold beer on the deck at Andy’s Place under the Poughkeepsie - Highland Railroad Bridge looking out over the Hudson River. You can get Metro North trains heading south to New York City.

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WHAT'S THE ROUTE?

There are two turn sheets. You'll need Acrobat Reader (v3.0 or later) for the PDF files. They're formatted for ¼-page handlebar map holders.

The two turn sheets overlap between Patterson and Wingdale. There are two different routes between Patterson and Pawling. The NYC-Wingdale turn sheet assumes you'll ride through Patterson in the afternoon when Heinchon's Ice Cream on NY 22 may be open. Alternately, if you start biking from Patterson in the morning on the Harlem Valley route, Magnolia's (opposite Patterson's Metro North station) is a great place for a bite to eat before you set out and Harmony Road is a much more pleasant route between Patterson and Pawling. If you follow the NYC-Wingdale turn sheet and stay overnight at the Dutchess Motor Lodge in Wingdale, it's 1.4 miles north to Star 22 Diner where you can join the Harlem Valley route and continue on NY 55 at mile 13.8 on the Harlem Valley turn sheet.

I've used this convention where there's lack of clarity about street names and locations:

NYC-Wingdale.pdf
Two pages: the first page is the main route northbound from The Bronx to Wingdale; the second page has the branches to the New Croton Dam and the two pick-'em-yourself apple orchards in Granite Springs (Stuart's Fruit Farm) and Yorktown Heights (Wilkins Farm). The apple orchards branch includes segments on US 202 / NY 35 with heavy motor traffic. The route avoids US 202 / NY 35 as much as possible. These segments are for experienced cautious riders with the requisite skills. Starts from Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx; MTA options from Tarrytown, White Plains and Pleasantville; MTA option to Croton Falls. The route passes the MTA stations in Patterson, Pawling and Harlem Valley-Wingdale.

The NYC-Wingdale turn sheet presents the route northbound. For a one-day ride on Putnam's and Westchester's trails, many people prefer to take a Metro North train to either Croton Falls or Brewster, bike from there to Carmel, and ride south on the trails. This is an excellent variation. Indeed (Summer 2009), Putnam County is extending the Putnam Trail from Carmel to Brewster. One caution: if you attempt to expand on this by starting a southbound ride farther north, the uphills southbound from Patterson with which I'm familiar are steep and extended. The one exception is NY Route 22. Motor traffic on NY Route 22 south of Patterson is intense. Last time (2004?) I biked the segment of NY 22 south of Patterson, the shoulder was badly paved and narrow or non-existant.

Harlem_Valley.pdf
Two pages: the first page is the route starting from Patterson or Wassaic (the southern trail-head of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail) to Copake Falls / Copake / Hillsdale and on to Poughkeepsie; the second page has detailed maps of three locations on the Hillsdale - Poughkeepsie route: Ancramdale; Salt Point; and the approach to Poughkeepsie. At mile 47.7 ("DEAD END STREET" and "PRIVATE ROAD"): Continue bravely! The RIGHT and LEFT put you on Ireland Drive leading to Overocker Road but unless you ask someone, there's no sign confirming this until you get to Overocker Road.

If you’re wondering about the term “Harlem Valley” and you look for it on maps, you won’t find a geographic feature with that name. The New York Central Railroad seemingly developed the name to market its rail service between Grand Central Terminal and Chatham, NY.

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WHAT ABOUT MAPS?

Even if your handlebar computer is jacked to the max and the turn sheets and all the supplementary information on this page are 110% accurate -- highly unlikely -- BRING PRINTED MAPS. Printed maps are inexpensive; their batteries don't fail; and printed maps don't malfunction. I've no recommendation for specific commercially-available printed maps. If you're starting from Grand Central Terminal, visit Posman Books. Also, the well-stocked bookstore in Millerton (Oblong Books – named for the nearby disputed New York / Connecticut border) has an excellent selection of detailed regional maps.

The NYC Cycling Map (free printed copies available in most NYC bike stores) shows the unlabeled Putnam Division right-of-way passing through the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park (The Bronx) connecting to the South County Trailway at the NYC - Yonkers border.

Westchester County has maps for download as PDF files for the South and North County trails.

Putnam County has a brochure for download including maps. Note the orientation of the two detailed maps on page 2: it's different and "North" isn't "up."

Harlem Valley Rail Trail (HVRT): The website offers a PDF map for download as well as news and history – lots of good information.

The second page of the Harlem Valley turn sheet has detailed maps of three locations. Ancramdale, a likely food stop on a Hillsdale - Copake - Poughkeepsie ride (mile 14), is a multi-cornered sort of place; also, it's the site of old lead mines. It’s provoked befuddlement. Signs could be clearer. I guess eating (or the lead) confuses some folks. The Salt Point map (mile 36.4) shows the turn onto Hibernia Road. Signs at that intersection are poor. Also, even more than usual, be cautious about turning left across oncoming traffic.

The third map shows the route between mile 47.2 and mile 49. (Poughkeepsie Speedway to the Dutchess County Trail) where a few more road signs would be helpful. Looking to the future: the map shows the Dutchess Rail Trail as an unlabeled dashed line crossing NY 55 near the Poughkeepsie Speedway and continuing beyond Overocker Road. Currently, between the "DEAD END STREET" and Overocker Road, the surface of this former rail right-of-way is large ballast that's not suitable for other than wide tires. The Dutchess County Trail between Overocker Road and Morgan Lake is complete and delightfully bikeable. For more information, check out Dutchess County Trails.

I generated the turn sheets using DeLorme Topo USA v3.0. If you want the source files (*.RTD), let me know. I'm aware of nifty GPS- and web-based mapping options. To date, I haven't used this stuff. If you have, send me the link for whatever segments of this ride that you've mapped and I'll include it. I've found that current printed maps frequently have more accurate up-to-date information about trails and lightly traveled country roads than computer-based alternates.

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HOW DO I GET TO THE VAN CORTLANDT PARK GOLF COURSE CLUBHOUSE?

You can take the slo-o-o-w B'way Local (#1) to 241st Street, the last stop on the line. Carry your bike down the stairs. At the entrance to Van Cortlandt Park there’s a tiny sign for the Golf Course. The path shown on the NYC Cycling Map (free printed copies available in most NYC bike stores) from Broadway leads under the Putnam Line right-of-way.

It's faster to take the A train uptown to the last stop, 207th St. Bike north on Broadway, cross the Broadway Bridge, first right turn on 225th St, cross the Major Deegan Expressway (I-87), left on Bailey Avenue and continue north to Van Cortlandt Park. Enter at Van Cortlandt Park South and Bailey Avenue. (Don’t get on the Major Deegan Expressway, silly!) The distance from the 207th St station is a bit more than 2 miles.

The Marble Hill station near the Broadway Bridge is the Metro North station most convenient to Van Cortlandt Park. Directions from the Broadway Bridge to Van Cortlandt Park are in the preceding paragraph.

There are no signs to the Putnam Line right-of-way. It’s shown (but not named) on the NYC Cycling Map running through the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park (The Bronx) connecting to the South County Trailway at the NYC - Yonkers border.

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HOW DO I GET TO THE ALTERNATE STARTS AT METRO NORTH STATIONS? HOW DO I GO HOME?

MTA requires bike permits for non-folding bikes on Metro North commuter trains. (The same permit is valid on the Long Island Railroad.) On weekdays, non-folding bikes are barred from trains during peak commuting hours. Get info about train fares and MTA bike policy by calling 212 532-4900, 800 638-7646 (METRO-INFO) or in person at Grand Central or Penn Station.

Take Metro North trains to any of the alternate starting spots: Tarrytown, White Plains, or Pleasantville.

Heading home, Metro North trains are scheduled from Brewster, Croton Falls, Peekskill and Poughkeepsie approximately hourly.

From the stations north of Southeast (Patterson, Pawling, Wingdale and Wassaic) trains are scheduled about once every 2 hours.

Check the Sunday afternoon schedule for a new (Summer 2008) super-express from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central and the Sunday evening schedule for a southbound through-train from Wassaic (no need to change at Southeast) to Grand Central.

Though I've not biked from Poughkeepsie to New York City, if I were contemplating it, I'd consider crossing to the west side of the river and biking somewhat south of Poughkeepsie to find a place to stay overnight. First, Poughkeepsie didn't seem to offer much, and second, Poughkeepsie to NYC is about 75 miles, including the Hudson Highlands. It might be prudent to reduce that mileage somewhat.

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WHAT ABOUT WEATHER?

Weather in the Hudson Highlands and the Hudson Valley isn't the same as New York City. Check conditions and forecasts for Carmel, Poughkeepsie and Albany. Morning, afternoon and evening temperatures can and do vary widely.

My experience is that once there's snow on the ground, it's allowed to remain on the trails for cross-country skiers.

Both the Harlem and Hudson Metro North rail lines are subject to flooding after heavy rain. In addition to the telephone numbers on the turn sheets, 845-790-3370 is a Poughkeepsie-based MTA recorded message that may have up-to-date info about service interruptions.

Sometimes – rarely – Metro North substitutes bus service for trains. The MTA page about bike policy explicitly says no bikes on busses but I (and others) have found that the bus drivers can be obliging.

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HOW LONG IS THE RIDE?

Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course Clubhouse (VCP) to the New Croton Dam and then to Croton-on-Hudson is about 37 miles.

VCP to Stuart's Farm and Wilkens Farm and then to Peekskill is about 43 miles. (The apple orchards branch includes segments on US 202 / NY 35 with heavy motor traffic. The turn sheet avoids US 202 / NY 35 as much as possible. These segments are for experienced cautious riders with the requisite skills.)

VCP to Big W's BBQ in Wingdale is 66.6 miles. VCP to Wassaic is about 82 miles.

Starting in Westchester from Elmsford, Eastview, or Graham trims 10 to 18 miles off the south end of the route (from VCP).

Patterson to Hillsdale is about 57 miles. Starting from Pawling, Wingdale or Wassaic trims 6 to 28 miles off the beginning of the ride. Stopping in Copake rather than Hillsdale trims the ride by about 5 miles. Hillsdale to Poughkeepsie is about 54 miles; starting from Copake shortens the route by about 5 miles.

Mile markers on Westchester’s North County Trail show the 22-mile distance between Beaver Hill and Baldwin Place. The mile markers on the trail in Putnam County show mileage to what was the southern terminus of the Putnam Line at either Sedgewick Avenue near Yankee Stadium in The Bronx or across the Harlem River at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan near the site of the Polo Grounds. The mile markers on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail show the distance to Grand Central.

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ARE THERE LOTS OF HILLS ON THESE RIDES?

On the NYC-Wingdale route, there's a short steep hill if you start from Tarrytown. The rail trails are old railroad rights-of-way: trains don't like steep hills. The only flat surfaces in Putnam County are water: the lakes and reservoirs. The roads in Putnam County ramble through rolling countryside. It's called the Hudson Highlands for a reason. North (actually, northeast) of Carmel, there’s a sequence of hills, some (Bullet Hole Road), formidable. Total distance from Carmel to the highest point on Bullet Hole Road is less than four miles. Hang in there: the payoff is a breathtaking descent and pastoral views on the route to Towners, IMHO, worth the entire ride.

On the Harlem Valley ride from Patterson north to Hillsdale and then southwest to Poughkeepsie, the route assiduously avoids roads with names like "Overmountain", but there's an optional very steep climb from Copake Falls into the Berkshires to a spectacular overlook. Between Wassaic and Hillsdale, the route is either on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail or on rolling country roads just west of the Berkshires. From Hillsdale to Poughkeepsie, the general trend is downhill, but you'll have the opportunity to use all the gear combinations on your bike.

Cellphone coverage is marginal over much of the Harlem Valley ride. Calling for help may not be an option. A consequence of seeking (and finding) alternates to roads with names like "Overmountain" is that the route is occasionally in valleys: zones with no cellphone service at all, or limited service that tends to be "roaming."

elevations:

VCP Golf Course25feet
Mile Square Road290
Barney Street120
Woodland Lake170
Elmsford180
Eastview240
Graham Hills300
Briarcliff Manor260
Millwood350
Croton Reservoir200
Yorktown Heights440
Granite Springs500
Baldwin Place650
Mahopac730
Crafts480
Carmel510
Bullet Hole Rd (highest)798
Towners490
Patterson480
Heinchon's460
Pawling470
Wingdale430
Wassaic460
Amenia550
Millerton700
Copake Falls665
Sunset Rock (optional)1,230
Hillsdale700
Ancramdale550
Stanfordville360
Clinton Corners310
Pleasant Valley210
Poughkeepsie80

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WHAT’S THIS "OPTIONAL VERY STEEP CLIMB INTO THE BERKSHIRES?"

Well, it’s optional – not on the route. But it’s well-worth the effort. From Copake Falls, head east on NY 344 (Falls Road). The small Iron Works museum opposite the old blast furnace merits a brief stop. You'll learn about the iron industry at the former site of Copake Iron Works, established in 1845. Continue east on NY 344. After about half a mile, you’ll find an entrance to a parking lot on the south side of the road. There’s a bike rack at the east end of the parking lot where you can lock your bike and hike somewhat over a mile to Bash Bish Falls. Hike back and continue on your bike uphill on NY 344 east from the parking lot another .8 miles at which point you’ll cross the New York / Massachusetts border. The road climbs even more steeply (if you can believe it) for another half mile. You’ll arrive at an unsigned parking lot on the south side of the road. Climb up the rocks to a magnificent overlook west to the Hudson River and, on the horizon, the Catskills.

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IS THE ROUTE PAVED?

Apart from three exceptions, the route is paved superbly! Most of the route is smoother than the proverbial baby's butt.

Folks starting from Van Cortlandt Park bike 1.4 miles next to the southern segment of the Putnam Line's right-of-way. It’s unpaved hard-packed dirt that’s usually in better condition than most NYC streets. The path is actually a drainage ditch adjacent to the embankment on which the tracks were laid and where most of the ties still remain. After very heavy rain or in the spring, immediately after a thaw, you might find some water remaining.

Here's a serviceable if uninspiring on-road alternate:

0.0miWEST from VCP Golf Course to Broadway.3mi
.3 RIGHT-(NORTH)-Broadway1.7 
2 RIGHT-Caryl Avenue.3 
2.3 LEFT-Van Cortlandt Park Avenue.2 
2.5 RIGHT-Coyle Place (no signs).1 
2.6 RIGHT-McLean Avenue.5 
3.1 LEFT-Tibbetts Road.2 
3.3 LEFT-Alan Shepard Jr Place.1 
3.4miRIGHT-(NORTH)-South County Trail  

As shown on Westchester County's map, segments of the North County Trail share the paved shoulder of NY Route 100 between Briarcliff Manor and Millwood.

Between Wingdale and Dover Plains, I like an alternate route that's not on this version of the Harlem Valley turn sheet. The 1½ mile middle segment of Berkshire Road is signed "NO MAINTENANCE NOV 1 - APR 1." What this means is that accumulated snow isn't cleared. (And I've got pictures.) This road segment is unpaved hard dirt. The good news: virtually no motor traffic -- just you and the critters in the woods.

On the Harlem Valley turn sheet from mile 14.4 FORWARD-CR 6 (Old Route 22):

0.0miFORWARD-CR 6 (Old Route 22).6mi
.6 RIGHT-Reagans Mill Road (cross Ten-Mile River).7 
1.4 LEFT-Berkshire Road (no sign)3.5 
4.9 FORWARD-Sand Hill Road1 
5.8 BEAR LEFT-Sand Hill Road (No East Mountain Rd).8 
6.6 RIGHT-Limekiln Road.4 
7miFORWARD-Poplar Hill Road (CR 4)  

Return to the route on the Harlem Valley turn sheet at: 20.6 FORWARD Poplar Hill Rd (CR 4).

There's one other very minor exception: less than half a mile of good dirt road as the Harlem Valley Rail Trail approaches Copake Falls.

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WHAT SORT OF BIKE SHOULD I RIDE?

Most bikes are fine. If you've got a touring bike, that would be ideal.

Knobby off-road tires are definitely unnecessary even on the brief unpaved segments: you'll work much harder than you need to and the tires are so-o-o noisy on quiet country roads. If you choose the branch from the New Croton Dam on the Aqueduct Trailway, there's a .4 mile challenging descent on soft single-track.

Fenders are a useful option. They protect both you and your bike and even if it’s not raining, you won’t have to swerve around puddles. You’ll like ‘em, your bike will like ‘em, and anyone riding directly behind you will like ‘em.

LIGHTS! After dark, it's a good idea to have some kind of lights, blinkies or whatever, front and rear. If your plans involve having dinner in a different town than you'll be sleeping in, you'll want a headlight bright enough to let you see the road. It's amazing how dark the dark can be, out there beyond the streetlights.

A bungee cord may help you secure your bike on the train.

Bring filled beverage bottle(s), pocket food, and whatever tools and spare parts you think are appropriate.

Also, bringing a light-weight lock is prudent. This region isn't notorious for bike theft, but you might want to occasionally stroll away from your bike.

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I DON'T OWN A BIKE. WHERE CAN I RENT ONE?

Here are some suggestions. A bike from one of these sources will probably be just right for a day trip but for an overnight tour, rental bikes typically aren't equipped with anything that will support your panniers or saddlebags. Some models of Pletscher's racks fold flat when they're not mounted on a bike. One of these racks would probably be a good choice for use on a bike you don't own. Proof is left to the student.

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IF I GET TIRED, DO I HAVE TO RIDE MY BIKE ALL THE WAY?

There are fairly easy connections between the NYC-Wingdale route at Elmsford, Eastview, Graham, the Croton Reservoir, Mahopac, Crafts and Carmel to Metro North train stations at White Plains, Tarrytown, Pleasantville, Croton-Harmon, Croton Falls, and Brewster. The route passes through Patterson, Wingdale, and Wassaic where there are Metro North stations.

Not on the NYC-Wingdale turn sheet: from Mahopac (about 19 miles south of Pawling), you can continue east on Croton Falls Road (mostly downhill) about 4 miles to MTA's Croton Falls station.

On the NYC-Wingdale turn sheet: much more pleasant, and also mostly downhill, continue from Mahopac on the Putnam Trail 2.1 miles to Crafts. From the arched steel bridge crossing Drewville Road it's about 6 beautiful miles to Croton Falls.

MTA's Patterson station is about 5 miles south of Pawling.

The approximately 11-mile route to Wilkens Farm and Peekskill has no escape hatch. You can shave the total to about 9½ miles: busy US 202 / NY 35 from Yorktown Heights and skip the loop to Wilkins Farm. This branch includes segments on US 202 / NY 35 with heavy motor traffic. The turn sheet avoids US 202 / NY 35 as much as possible. These segments are for experienced cautious riders with the requisite skills. NOTE: it's definitely NOT all downhill from Yorktown Heights (or from Wilkins Farm) to Peekskill.

On the Harlem Valley route, there are no bail-out options between Wassaic and Poughkeepsie other than thumbing a ride from a passing motorist. However, if you're on this route and you find you've packed more than you need, there's a Post Office convenient to the route in Millerton from which you can mail excess stuff home to yourself. On the Harlem Valley turn sheet, you'll pass the Post Office as you leave Millerton. At mile 10.9, after the LEFT onto Maple Avenue, the Post office is on your left at the next corner: 33 Century Blvd.

Cellphone coverage is marginal over much of the Harlem Valley ride. Calling for help may not be an option. A consequence of seeking (and finding) alternates to roads with names like "Overmountain" is that the route is occasionally in valleys: zones with no cellphone service at all, or limited service that tends to be "roaming."

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WHAT SHOULD I BRING WITH ME?

Bring your bike, filled beverage bottle(s), pocket food, and whatever tools and spare parts you think are appropriate. A bungee cord may help you secure your bike on the train. If you haven't biked these routes, BRING PRINTED MAPS! Printed maps are inexpensive; their batteries don't fail; and printed maps don't malfunction. Also, I've found that current printed maps frequently have more accurate up-to-date information about trails and lightly traveled country roads than computer-based alternates. Bringing a light-weight lock is prudent. This region isn't notorious for bike theft, but you might want to occasionally stroll away from your bike.

IN WARM WEATHER:

Don't forget your swim suit and a towel. There's swimming at Rudd Pond (about 2 miles north of Millerton), the ore pit in Copake Falls, and (if you're staying there) Silvanus Lodge.

FOR OVERNIGHT TRIPS:

LIGHTS! After dark, it's a good idea to have some kind of lights, blinkies or whatever, front and rear. If your plans involve having dinner in a different town than you'll be sleeping in, you'll want a headlight bright enough to let you see the road. It's amazing how dark the dark can be, out there beyond the streetlights.

FOR SELF-SUPPORTED RIDES:

We've stayed at motels ("credit card" camping) on overnight versions of this ride. If you want to bring a tent and a sleeping bag, there's a NY State campground in Copake Falls. For the first night of a ride starting from New York City, both mileage and amenities suggest an overnight stop between Patterson and Wingdale. I'm unaware of any conveniently located nearby campgrounds.

You'll need to carry whatever you require - toothbrush, your PJs, fresh shorts for the next day. If this is your first self-supported ride, you may want to load up with what you think you need. Take an experimental spin around town. Pedaling uphill with a full load is a great way to convince yourself to make do with less!

To carry your overnight things and extra clothing you'll want panniers or saddlebags -- waterproof, or lined with plastic bags. Frankly, plastic bags usually work better retaining water that leaks in rather than keeping it out. A backpack is a possible alternate, but I really prefer panniers or saddlebags. Some folks like an easily removable handlebar bag for valuables you’ll want to carry with you if you wander away from your bike.

I know of only one manufacturer (Ortlieb) offering panniers or saddlebags that are reliably waterproof. They’re expensive. If you’ve never tried a self-supported bike tour, you might check yard sales and thrift shops for used panniers.

Typically, panniers or saddlebags attach to a rack. Make sure the rack / saddlebag combination you’re considering functions properly. If you’re mixing and matching used equipment, you might find cheap disposable tie-wraps are helpful.

Fenders are another useful option. They protect both you and your bike and even if it’s not raining, you won’t have to swerve around puddles.

The best guidance for clothing is: layers, possibly including something to fend off wind and rain. Check regional forecasts for Carmel, Poughkeepsie and Albany. It's not the same as New York City's weather. Morning, afternoon and evening temperatures can and do vary widely.

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WHAT ABOUT REST STOPS, FOOD, BIKE SHOPS AND OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS?

One of the most appealing aspects of these routes is the almost limitless number of places to stop for good food, drink and other resources. Indeed, bike rides in this region can easily result in a net calorie gain. The turn sheets list many accommodations. What follows duplicates and expands that list.

Most services on these routes are small operations. They may be closed on a whim for no apparent reason and with little or no notice. Call ahead to confirm the availability of anything on which you’re relying.

Bring at least two filled water bottles, pocket food, and what you think is prudent for emergency bike repairs.

Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course Club House

There's an occasionally-open snack bar; also, indoor plumbing.

Northern Yonkers (Grey Oaks / Nepera Park)

There's a sandwich shop and a donut/coffee shop in the strip mall where Mile Square Road meets Tuckahoe Road (mile 5.6 on the NYC-Wingdale turn sheet). The parking lot behind this strip mall is one of the significant obstructions delaying completion of this segment of the trail. There's no reason to reward these shops with our business. Pass 'em by unless you're desperate.

Alternates: there are signs on the South County Trail at both Grey Oaks and Nepera Park. At Grey Oaks (¾ miles north of Tuckahoe Road), leave the trail on the paved path immediately south of the Odell Avenue Bridge and cross the Saw Mill Parkway on Odell Avenue. There's an A&P (open 7 days) at Odell Avenue and Nepperhan Avenue. Or at Nepera Park (½ miles farther north -- immediately south of Barney Street), cross the Saw Mill Parkway on Hearst Steet. A short two blocks west at Nepperhan Avenue:

Ardsley

Leave the trail at the Ardsley sign, head south ¼ mile on Elm Street and then north another ¼ mile on Saw Mill River Road (NY 9A). At Ashford Avenue:

Elmsford

Briarcliff Manor

Millwood (near North County Trail mile marker 10 northbound / 12 southbound):

Yorktown Heights (near North County Trail mile marker 16.5 northbound / 5.5 southbound):

Tables and benches in front of the old station; food and shops nearby.

If you take the branch to Peekskill, you'll find Kelly's (beer and food) in the old station on the northbound (east) side of the railroad tracks.

Baldwin Place

shopping centers west of the trail at NY 118

Mahopac

Carmel

Patterson

Between Patterson and Pawling on the west side of NY Route 22 - Check the NYC-Wingdale turn sheet for location; open in season:

Pawling

Wingdale (½ mi south of “Harlem Valley - Wingdale” MTA; 8mi north of Pawling; 16mi south of Wassaic):

Wassaic

Amenia

Millerton (excellent lunch stop):

Copake Falls

Copake

Hillsdale

Ancramdale

Pine Plains

Stanfordville

Clinton Corners

Pleasant Valley

Poughkeepsie

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WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES?

Bike Hudson Valley is an excellent source for additional rides mostly in Dutchess, Columbia and Ulster (on the west side of the Hudson) counties.

Along the Hudson River, Metro North's bicycle-friendly rail service extends only as far north as Poughkeepsie. Amtrak does offer rail service between Penn Station in New York City and stations north of Poughkeepsie. Most Amtrak trains permit full-sized bikes only as checked baggage. Amtrak's checked baggage service at the stations between New York City and Albany-Rensselaer is spotty at best. The Adirondack may accept unboxed conventional (no tandems or recumbents) bikes. Proof is left to the student. If you expect to bring your bike on board an Amtrak train along this route, a folding bike is probably your best (and maybe your only) option.

Dutchess County and Columbia County have tourism web sites. These both appear to be pay-to-play: merchants who don't advertise aren't included.

Westchester County has installed informative signs along the North and South County Trailways at or near former station locations. I found the historical and cultural text accompanied by archival photos and maps fascinating; I found the intervals between the signs frustrating. There are approximately 30 signs spread over 36 miles: you're diddy-bopping along at a pleasant pace and ... D'oh! ... yet another sign to stop and enjoy.

Using the miracle of digital photography, I photographed and OCR'd the text on Westchester's signs.

Stations Along the Trail on the Putnam Division Right-of-Way is essentially just that: the OCR'd sign content about stations and environs from each former station location. The Van Cortlandt text was taken from a NYC Parks website. I've made minor corrections to spelling and style. It's possible that I've failed to catch errors that are artifacts of the OCR process.

South and North County Trailways and the Putnam County Trail summarizes the history; Waterways, Wetlands, Water Supplies and Wildlife describes what a wetland is and explains its value. Both files add to (and in some instances correct) content from Westchester's signs. Additional content is from first-hand observation and these sources:

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