Editor’s Note: New York by Rail updated this September 2017 blog experience to include current information.
As a former resident of the Hudson Valley and a current resident of New York City, the longing for days of bucolic serenity is encountered more often than not. With the autumn season in full swing, I began to research a day-trip getaway to experience the beautiful fall foliage before coming across an obvious choice. After living in the neighboring village of New Paltz for nearly six years, Walkway Over the Hudson was not unfamiliar to me, but it had been a while since my last visit. Friends, coworkers, and family continue to speak of how incredible an experience it is to walk across the roaring Hudson, looking out at the landscape that surrounds it. It was now time for me to get reacquainted with this wonder. Now in May, the Walkway Over the Hudson is just as breathtaking.
THE GREATER WALKWAY EXPERIENCE
The trip began at 10:20 a.m. Amtrak train from Manhattan’s Moynihan Train Hall to Poughkeepsie, a trip taking less than 1.5 hours. After boarding, I nestled into my window seat with a camera, and notepad in hand. Unfortunately, the seats on the western side of the car I entered were all taken. Don’t get me wrong, the view from the eastern side is great, but cruising north in the window seat that borders the Hudson River and Palisades feels otherworldly—not to mention it offers an excess of photo opportunities. So, make sure to have your tickets ready and try to get to the boarding line early to grab this sacred seat.
My Amtrak train arrived at the historic Poughkeepsie Train Station, a four-story building modeled after Grand Central Terminus. Lit by the three original chandeliers hung in the waiting room before its opening in 1918, the station services both Amtrak and Metro-North trains and is conveniently located near the Walkway.
Taking a look at the Walkway’s Discovery Map, I quickly learned that there is much more to the Walkway than I previously experienced. Since my last visit, Walkway Over the Hudson has teamed up with the surrounding area to create the Greater Walkway Experience, an easily accessible, walkable adventure to help visitors truly “Experience 360° of Discovery,” and that’s exactly what made this trip so enticing. So, with that in mind, I laced up my walking shoes for the amazing day ahead.
EASY ACCESS FROM POUGHKEEPSIE TRAIN STATION
From the Poughkeepsie Train Station, it’s about a quarter-mile stroll to the Walkway’s 21-story elevator along the waterfront or slightly more than a half-mile walk to the East Gate near the Washington Street stairs via the Walkway Loop Trail. The Walkway elevator is currently open. Newly reopened after COVID-19 restrictions, the elevator opens at 7 a.m. when the park opens and closes 90-minutes prior to the park’s closing each day. All Walkway visitors are also asked to wear a mask or face covering and are encouraged to social distance.
The new 4.4-mile trail allows for easy access to thrilling river views and historic points of interest. Its additional spurs connect parks and cultural attractions, allowing visitors to explore nature trails in Franny Reese State Park, miles of rail trails in Ulster and Dutchess Counties, and historic neighborhood walks, all with the ability to cross the Mid-Hudson Bridge and Walkway Over the Hudson. It’s truly the best way to experience the greater Walkway area. But whichever way you choose, you’re bound to find something interesting along the way.
If heading to the elevator, take in the beauty of the Poughkeepsie Waterfront Discovery Zone. From there, you can catch views of the Highland Landing across the river, Mid-Hudson Bridge, and of course the Walkway Over the Hudson to the north. Waryas Park, along the banks of the Hudson River, is an active area where people often picnic, take in river views on benches, jog or bike. If you’re as lucky as I was, you might even catch a seagoing bulk cargo carrier passing beneath the Walkway Over the Hudson, truly showing off how massive the footbridge really is.
Taking the longer course to the East Gate allows you to walk the full length of the Walkway, and brings you through Little Italy. En route, you’ll spot architecturally stunning churches like the Holy Comforter Church and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and the historic, Italianate-style Pelton Mansion on N. Clover Street. At night, you can visit the Italian Center Wednesday through Friday for community dinners and dancing.
WALKWAY OVER THE HUDSON
Once atop the historic structure, the anticipation is invigorating. Eagerness overcame me during the first one-hundred feet or so from the Walkway entrance, and I caught myself walking faster than I had on the walk-up.
Rising at 212 feet above the Hudson River, the 1.28-mile linear park is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Nicknamed “The Great Connector,” that is exactly what the Walkway is. Linking Ulster and Dutchess Counties, the Walkway Over the Hudson attracts a diverse body of people. Tourists come from around the world mixing with locals, bikers, and runners of all ages. The ADA-compliant, glass-enclosed elevator allows the disabled to enjoy the walkway regularly.
The unobstructed, 360-degree view of the Hudson is breathtaking- especially with the leaves changing color- and only gets better as you approach the flag that marks the dividing line between Ulster and Dutchess Counties. It was such a beautiful day. With a clear sky above, the sightlines of the mighty river and surrounding riverside parks and communities could make Frederic Edwin Church giddy with inspiration. During springtime, you’ll be greeted with lush greenery covering the mountains all around you. No matter the season, the 360-degree view from the Walkway is truly a sight to behold.
Marist College and the Culinary Institute of America are landmarks clearly visible looking north, upriver. The Mid-Hudson Bridge and the scenic overlook at Franny Reese State Park are in full view to the south. The City of Poughkeepsie sits to the east, the distinctive Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church steeple now looking small enough to hold in the palm of my hand. A gorgeous view of the Catskills to the northwest surrounds all of this splendor. I spent an hour on the historic footbridge taking all of this in, capturing nearly 1,000 photos, and already planning my return trip for the next season.
CONTINUING ON THE TRAIL
Not wanting to leave, it was time to continue on. Heading toward the Walkway Scenic Hudson Gate, the Walkway Loop Trail heads south through the highlands and Johnson Iorio Park to the western entrance of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. But from the western gate, the possibilities are endless.
Beyond the entrance and onto the 2.4-mile Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Highland extension, is the Highland Hamlet—a quaint town with beautiful architecture, boutique shops and restaurants, tucked away amid the beauty and tranquility of the Hudson Valley. From the hamlet, serious adventurers can continue west for hiking trails at Berean Park and Illinois Mountain, or along the rail trail to New Paltz, home of the Shawangunk Mountains and Mohonk Mountain House.
Hudson Valley Rail Trail and the Empire State Trail
The Walkway Over the Hudson conveniently connects to both the Dutchess County Rail Trail and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail which leads to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in New Paltz. If you’re walking the Walkway on a hot spring or summer day, you may want to catch some shade with some tree coverage. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail is a scenic and easy hike that places you between rock walls and under a canopy of green leaves.
Along the trail, you can see a remnant of the rail, a train car marking the beginning of the trail. You may see smaller animals, like frogs, birds and squirrels that inhabit the flora and streams following the trail. Now in May on a hot and sunny day, you’ll see sunlight peeking through the green leaves. Aside from the cars that you may hear in the distance, you’ll feel like you’re in your own little world of solitude and quiet.
If you’re following the Highland extension you’ll be lead past Yelverton House—built about 1754 and the only surviving structure from “Yelverton’s Landing,” southbound along Highland Landing. Here on the western shore of the Hudson, you’ll travel beneath the Walkway and alongside a freight train line that’s still in operation today. You can also take the Ransom Rd. extension to Highland Land, missing Yelverton House, but at a little less than half the distance.
Feeling a bit bold, I chose to take the Ransom Rd. extension. The walk allows for some incredible panoramas: the Walkway Over the Hudson, the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the city of Poughkeepsie nestled between them on the opposite shoreline. I wasn’t lucky enough to catch a freight train ride south to the bridge, but the walk was relaxing.
After reaching the base of the bridge visitors can travel across to the eastern shore via the Walkway Loop Trail. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge is typically a vehicular bridge but does accommodate pedestrians and cyclists—not to mention some amazing river views. Slightly over half a mile long, the walk across the bridge is fairly quick. But to travel straight across would mean missing an incredible view just a short hike away.
THE OVERLOOK AT FRANNY REESE STATE PARK
Franny Reese State Park is home to 250 stunning acres and 2.5 miles of trails owned by Scenic Hudson, the grassroots environmental and land-use advocacy organization. The land was acquired in 2003, preserving and revitalizing this natural wonder along the majestic Hudson River. Named after Scenic Hudson’s founding member and passionate environmentalist Franny Reese, it is currently a state park and an incredible sight to see.
Approaching the base of the bridge, I entered the tunnel beneath it, grabbing a map from one of the convenient stands. And, after traversing a short hill, I reached the overlook.
I was told it is stunning, but that is an understatement. With a clear view over the whole length of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, over the city of Poughkeepsie, to the north towards the Walkway, it really is remarkable. I sat at the peak of the overlook for a few more minutes before heading back down the trail, and crossing the bridge towards the other Discovery Zones on the east bank of the Hudson.
OTHER GREAT DISCOVERY ZONES
Upon reaching the eastern entrance of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, I had nearly completed the Walkway Loop Trail, yet there was still so much more I hadn’t seen. To the southeast—about one mile from the station, the Southside Historic District was originally built to afford a view of the Hudson. The distinctive homes located here are some of the most architecturally significant homes in the area and are the grand equivalents to today’s “model homes” used to attract and inspire more like-minded buildings. On a cool, fall afternoon, this Discovery Zone is the perfect spot for a walk.
A short walk from the historic district, north along Market Street is the City Downtown, filled with an eclectic art and music scene, restaurants and historic buildings. Peruse Main Street and Market Street for sights of beautiful murals, great eats and restored historic buildings, including the famous Poughkeepsie Post Office, which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt aided in designing and laid the cornerstone himself at a ceremony in 1937. Right across the street, towering above the post office, is the oldest newspaper in New York State—and the second-oldest in the nation, the Poughkeepsie Journal.
To the west of downtown, peruse Union Street Historic Neighborhood, in many ways the city’s oldest neighborhood. Explore what started as a mere footpath, connecting the early hilltop settlement to the Union Store on the riverbank.
REACHABLE WITH UBER
After a long day of walking, a ride is much appreciated. Grab an Uber from the walkway’s eastern entrance northward to the beautiful campuses of Marist College and the Culinary Institute of America—both situated on the shores of the Hudson. The Culinary Institute is currently closed for outside visitors unless you have a dining or food enthusiast-class reservation. A bit further north in Hyde Park is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Library and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, two sites you have to make time to visit. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Library and the interior of the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site are closed until further notice. However, the grounds of Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site are open to visitors daily.
Just beyond the eastbound entrance connects you to the Dutchess Rail Trail. College Hill Park, set on the highest point in Poughkeepsie and crowned by a Greek-style pavilion, allows for a great view of the Hudson and surrounding areas as you enjoy a picnic.
WHERE TO EAT
Poughkeepsie is foodie heaven. There is an abundance of high-end and specialty restaurants throughout the area. Some favorites are Brasserie 292 in Downtown Poughkeepsie, owned by Charles Fells, and Essie’s, an elegant dining experience in the heart of Little Italy, owned by Culinary Institute of America graduate and Brooklyn-native, Brandon Walker. Mill House Brewing Company downtown serves house-brewed beers for those looking for a cold craft brew and serves the Hudson Valley Magazine-voted “Best Burger.” Schatzi’s Brewpub and Biergarten has an impressive list of seasonable domestic and imported draughts on tap.
DINING WITH A VIEW
If you’re looking for dinner with a view the Poughkeepsie Waterfront has several options. River Station offers outdoor seating in close proximity to the Hudson River, and the views from the deck are incredible. Currently, River Station is operating at 75% capacity due to COVID-19, but the waterfront restaurant is still a must-visit location. Online ordering is now available, as well! During my lunchtime visit, the area was flooded with patrons. A crisp, yet refreshing, breeze blowing off the Hudson made it ideal for eating outdoors. I chose the roasted beet salad, made with baby field greens topped with roasted beets, sprinkled with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts, and finished with a blood orange vinaigrette. One word: delicious. Every bite was better than the last. I would have shared a photo, but my stomach insisted that there wasn’t enough time to snap one.
After wrapping up my adventure, while enjoying the scenery on the waterfront, I decided to have dinner a few hundred yards away from the Walkway at the Poughkeepsie Ice House on the Hudson. This historic, exposed brick, waterfront eatery has old-world charm with an expansive outdoor patio located at the water’s edge. Inside, the windows frame majestic views of the Hudson River, Mid-Hudson Bridge, and Walkway. Despite the beautiful decor of the restaurant, there was no way I wasn’t sitting outside.
The river view is gorgeous and I witnessed an amazing sunset. I was in awe at the sight of the sun setting beyond the cliffside with kayakers, speedboats and jet skiers passing by. The Ice House offers a nice selection of libations and craft beverages including one I found from Cooperstown’s Brewery Ommegang. The menu offers several appealing seafood dishes, interesting pub staples and health-conscious salads. I enjoyed the fish and chips served with old bay chips and a side of sautéed kale. The meal was flavorful and every bite relished. The carrot cake and a cappuccino both hit the spot before snapping a few last photos from the dock a few steps from the restaurant’s patio. Now it was time to catch Amtrak back to the city.
Although the Poughkeepsie Ice House is currently closed due to COVID-19, it’s a fabulous dining experience when open. Be sure to check for updates regarding the Ice House’s reopening, and check out one of the fantastic restaurants listed above.
Events at the Walkway
Throughout the year, Walkway Over the Hudson hosts multiple events. One popular event occurring in 2021 is Walkway at Night, which offers the opportunity to enjoy the starry night sky and the lights of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Recently on May 21st, the organization hosted its first Walkway at Night of the season. The next Walkway at Night takes place on June 11, 2021 from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
REFLECTING ON THE GREATER WALKWAY EXPERIENCE
Walking down the steps towards track 2, the 8:15 p.m. train to Penn Station blared its horn as the conductor shouted for tickets. I boarded the train, reclined my seat and reflected on the day behind me. The Greater Walkway Experience was truly unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. I can’t wait to visit it again sometime soon.
GETTING TO WALKWAY OVER THE HUDSON
Amtrak’s Empire Service, Maple Leaf, Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express lines service the Poughkeepsie Station; an hour and a half ride from Penn Station, and a one-hour ride from Albany-Rensselaer Station. The cost is $54 for a round-trip ticket with sufficient advance purchase but the price can vary. Free WiFi is available and you can bring small dogs, but there are restrictions and reservations are needed. A collapsed, small-wheeled, folding bicycle may be allowed on trains if smaller than 34″x 15″ x 48″. Additionally, guests can roll their bikes on the train thanks to Amtrak’s new carry-on bicycle service on the Empire Service and Maple Leaf trains. It allows bicyclists to roll their bike onto the passenger coach and hang it on the bike rack – no box or bag is required.
For timetables and schedules visit amtrak.com.
To reach the Walkway’s elevator entrance, make a right on North Water Street from the Poughkeepsie Station and a left at Upper Landing Park. Weather permitting, Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Currently, the elevator is operating, but be sure to call 845-834-3641 for elevator status due to seasonal operation and weather dependency. If the elevator is closed, it’s a short walk to the Washington Street entrance. See walkway.org/visit for more information and an interactive map.
Don’t forget to use the See New York and Save 15% Discount when purchasing tickets!
Staying overnight? Get picked up at the Poughkeepsie Station by Enterprise Rent-a-Car and taken to your reserved rental car! Use code NYTRAIN for a discount when making your reservation. Reach the Poughkeepsie office: 845-485-2222.