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Blithewood Garden at Bard College in the Hudson Valley

Welcome Summer at The Hudson Valley’s Parks, Trails & Stunning Gardens

Summer provides the perfect excuse to venture outside and enjoy the Hudson Valley’s glorious natural beauty. Whether you prefer to commune with nature by hiking through the rugged beauty of the area’s parks or you would rather stroll through formal gardens at stately mansions, it’s a good time to consider which of the area’s beautiful locations to visit. Here are just some nearby places to savor the sight of greening trees and rolling hillsides.

Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield | 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park | 845-444-2809

Beatrix Farrand was a landscape gardener whose work defined the American taste in gardens during the first half of the 20th century. While most of her gardens have been lost to time, a few survived, including the Beatrix Farrand Garden at Bellefield. Bellefield Mansion, an elegant 18th century house, was remodeled by famed architects McKim, Mead and White for Thomas and Sarah Newbold, and now serves as the headquarters for the National Park Service. The Beatrix Farrand Garden at the Bellefield Mansion is on the property of the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site.

Black Creek Preserve | Winding Brook Road, Esopus | 845-473-4440

 

Black Creek Preserve is a great place for a family-friendly hike. Kids enjoy crossing the suspension bridge that spans the creek and skipping stones on the Hudson River shoreline. In between, they can watch out for wildlife — from blueback herring, which journey from the ocean to deposit their eggs in Black Creek—to bald eagles. The park is free and open year-round.

Blithewood Garden at the Bard Arboretum | 30 Campus Road, Red Hook | 845-752-5323

Blithewood Garden at Bard College

Blithewood Garden is a classic example of a walled Italianate garden. Situated on a steeply sloping bluff approximately 130 feet above the Hudson River, Blithewood is a 45-acre section of the Bard College campus that was once part of a historic estate, comprising a manor house, outbuildings, drives, gardens, lawns, and meadows. Blithewood Garden features an awe-inspiring backdrop of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River. The Arboretum encompasses the entirety of Bard College’s campus, made up of three historic estates and nearly 1,000 acres of fields and forested land bordering the Hudson River.

Clermont State Park/Historic Site | One Clermont Avenue, Germanton | 518-537-4240

Clermont State Historic Site Germantown NY

Clermont State Historic Site was the Hudson River seat of New York’s politically and socially prominent Livingston Family. The home features four gardens, a South Spring Garden with gorgeous views of the Hudson River, a Cutting Garden, a Walled Garden influenced by the gardens of Florence, Italy and a Wilderness Garden with a fish pond. Tours of the house and the visitor center are temporarily suspended during restoration. The grounds remain open. Please check the calendar for upcoming tours and events.

Drayton Grant Park at Burger Hill | 3158 NY-9G, Rhinebeck | 845-876-4213

Drayton Grant Park at Burger Hill Rhinebeck NY

A great place to view the sunset. After a half-mile stroll up Burger Hill you can enjoy sweeping views across the Hudson River to the Catskill Mountains beyond. Stone benches on the 550-foot crest provide information about the peaks you can see.

Esopus Meadows Preserve | 257 River Road, Ulster Park | 845-473-4440

Esopus Meadows Preserve Ulster Park NY

Trek through a rolling forest landscape or hug the shoreline to a dramatic river lookout. Whichever route you choose, arrive at the preserve’s Hudson River Greenway Water Trail site in time for lunch beneath its pavilion. Try hiking on the Phenology Trail and you can help scientists track our changing climate by studying eight plant species. Group visits must be pre-approved.

Ferncliff Forest | 68 Mt. Rutsen Road, Rhinebeck | 845-876-1559

Ferncliff Forest Rhinebeck NY

Located in northern Rhinebeck, Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve is a 200-acre forest known as the second-best old-growth forest in the Hudson Valley. The forest is available for hiking, camping, mountain biking, skiing, fishing, and picnics at no charge. Along the four miles of trails are the remains of hand-dug wells, cisterns, root cellars and old foundations.

Innisfree Garden | 362 Tyrrel Road, Millbrook | 845-677-8000

Innesfree Garden Millbrook NY

Over fifty years in the making, Innisfree is the work of landscape architect Lester Collins, (1914–1993). Collins’ sweeping landscape merges the essence of Modernist and Romantic ideas with traditional Chinese and Japanese garden design principles in a form that evolved through subtle handling of the site and slow manipulation of its ecology. The result is a distinctly American stroll garden—a sublime composition of rock, water, wood, and sky achieved with remarkable economy and grace. The park is temporarily closed. Check for opening dates.

James Baird State Park | 14 Maintenance Lane, Pleasant Valley | 845-452-1489

James Baird State Park is a 590-acre state park located in the northern part of the Town of LaGrange. James Baird State Park offers picnic tables with pavilions, a playground, recreation programs, hiking and biking, a nature trail, cross-country skiing, and a food concession. A sports complex that offers pickleball, softball, volleyball, basketball, and tennis are also included in the park, in addition to the 18-hole James Baird State Park Golf Course

Lake Taghkanic State Park | 1528 Route 82, Ancram | 518-851-3631

Lake Taghkanic State Park Ancram NY

Lake Taghkanic State Park, nestled next to Lake Taghkanic in the rolling hills and lush forests of Columbia County, offers a wonderful variety of recreational activities. The Columbia County park has tent and trailer campsites and cabin and cottage lodging facilities

Madam Brett Park | South Avenue, Beacon | 845-473-4440

America’s first female real estate tycoon, Catheryna Brett, operated a gristmill here along Fishkill Creek, which later powered the Tioronda Hat Works. Today Fishkill Marsh furnishes a home for amphibians and aquatic mammals and provides hunting grounds for ospreys and bald eagles and a stopover for migratory birds. A waterfall on the creek is especially impressive, and raucous, in spring or after heavy rains. Free and open year-round, sunrise to sunset.

Mills Norrie State Park | 9 Old Post Road, Staatsburg | 845-889-4646

Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park adjoins Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial State Park and together, comprises more than 1,000 acres. Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park offers recreational opportunities and activities for visitors of all ages. The numerous trails that thread through the grounds of both Mills and Norrie State Parks are ideal for walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing – treating visitors to fabulous views of the Hudson River which runs directly along the parks’ western boundaries.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve | 5481 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson | 845-255-0752

Minnewaska State Park Preserve Kerhonkson NY

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is situated on the dramatic Shawangunk Mountain ridge, which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. The park features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, incising sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys, 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths on which to bike, walk, hike and simply enjoy.

Mohonk Preserve | 3197 State Route 44/55, Gardiner | 845-255-0919

The preserve has a variety of short, self-guided trails around the visitor center that are designed to give you a quick and easy introduction to the ridge. The J & S Grafton Sensory Trail is a 1/4-mile, easy, level loop. Interpretive stations along the way encourage you to touch, look, and listen to nature. The Weinstein Butterfly Garden along the Sensory Trail attracts a colorful display of wild butterflies. Take a rest and see the flowers that butterflies like. The LaVerne Thompson Nature Trail is a 1/3rd–mile rolling loop that forks off from the Sensory Trail.

Mount Beacon Park | South of Beacon | 845-473-4440

The trail up Mount Beacon is steep, but observation platforms atop the stairs preview the treat rewarding all who reach the summit: a panoramic vista stretching from the Hudson Highlands to the Catskill Mountains. A mile away, climb 60 feet up the South Mount Beacon fire tower for a view that’s even more spectacular — on a clear day, you can see from Manhattan to Albany. Free and open year-round, dawn to dusk.

North-South Lake | County Route 18, Haines Falls | 518-589-5058

North-South Lake is the biggest and most popular state campground in the Catskill Forest Preserve, offering extraordinary scenic beauty, and historical sites, such as: Alligator Rock, Kaaterskill Falls, and the former site of the Catskill Mountain House. An abrupt change in elevation occurs from about 540 feet above sea level at the base of the escarpment to approximately 2,250 feet at the site of the former Catskill Mountain House. The provinces around the lakes have long provided visitors with exceptional views of the surrounding countryside. It is said that on a clear day, five states can be viewed from the escarpment.

Poets’ Walk | 776 River Road, Red Hook | 845-473-4440

Poets Walk Red Hook NY

The landscape is a series of “outdoor rooms” separated by stands of trees and stone walls — created for the owners of two neighboring estates around 1850. It got its name because writers like Washington Irving loved rambling here. Legend has it he came up with the idea for “Rip Van Winkle” while gazing toward the Catskill Mountains, the site of his protagonist’s long sleep. The majestic vistas haven’t changed a whit in 170 years. Free and open year-round. Gates open every day at 8:30 a.m. Closing hours vary according to the season.

Riverfront Park | Red Flynn Drive, Beacon | 845-765-8440

Also known as Seeger Park after Pete and Toshi Seeger, the park offers recreational amenities right on the Hudson River. There are barbecues, a playground, tennis courts, swimming at the River Pool and even a little sand pit for some “beach” volleyball.

Rose Garden at Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site | 4097 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park | 845-229-5320

The Rose Garden was the Roosevelt family’s formal garden and today contains the gravesites of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The garden consists of two rectangular rooms framed by gravel walks. The smaller room, on the western side adjoining the greenhouse, contains a central lawn and a single, large mixed herbaceous border along the one side. The larger room, to the east, contains 14 rows of roses, each with two small rectangular beds edged in turf. A large central lawn is surrounded by an herbaceous border that includes profuse plantings of peonies supplemented with a variety of seasonal bulbs, perennials, and annuals.

Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park | 23 Long Dock Road, Beacon | 845-473-4400

The Dock Park is a popular place to launch kayaks, picnic, stroll through rehabilitated wetlands and meadows, drop a fishing line, explore an intriguing sculpture by renowned artist George Trakas, or just sit and admire the river. Hudson River Expeditions offers kayak and paddleboard rentals at Long Dock Park from July through mid-October.

Shaupeneak Ridge Park | 143 Popletown Road, New Paltz | 845-473-4440

Views from Shaupeneak Ridge

This preserve offers wildflower-filled grasslands, woods, a waterfall and pond, stunning rock formations and an abundance of wildlife, including beaver, deer, coyotes and turkeys. Just as impressive are the vistas, stretching to the Hudson River and, once the leaves fall, the Catskill Mountains. This natural splendor, combined with the rugged terrain, makes Shaupeneak Ridge one of the region’s prime destinations for mountain biking and trail running.

Sleightsburgh Park | Parsell Street, Port Ewen | 845-331-0676

Excellent fishing and breathtaking views abound at this park, conserved by Scenic Hudson and owned by the Town of Esopus. Short trails parallel Rondout Creek, lead through a wooded peninsula to a spit of land extending far out into the river. Free and open year-round from dawn to dusk.

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site | 119 Vanderbilt Park Road, Hyde Park | 845-229-7770

Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt, who owned the mansion during the Gilded Age, were very fond of the Italian style of formal gardens. They were inspired by many of the gardens they saw while touring Europe. They combined elements of both the picturesque or natural style and the European formal garden style in their garden, which overlooks scenic views.

 

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