Being stuck at home 98% of the time has forced me to look for places I can visit in order to get some fresh air and exercise. One place near my house in the Bronx that allows for this in a beautiful setting is the Rockefeller Preserve State Park, in Pleasantville NY.
The Rockefeller Preserve is a state park that is located about 25 miles north of Manhattan. It is the former estate of William Rockefeller, the older brother of John D. Rockefeller. The family began the transfer of the land to New York in 1983. Today the park covers over 1700 acres and contains 55 miles of carriage trails for hiking. The park has been identified as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. It is home or a rest area for over 180 species of birds. The hiking paths pass through several habitats, including open meadows, dense forest, brooks and Swan lake, which covers 24 acres. The park’s visitors center has a small art gallery, that under normal times hosts shows, mostly of local artists, dedicated to nature. The preserve is also adjacent to the grounds of the Stone Barn Center for Food & Agriculture.
There are many options for walking. All of the trails are well developed, so there is no worry of tripping over rocks, roots or fallen trees. On my visit, I started with a loop of Brother’s Path, which circles Swan lake. The 1.1 mile path follows the edge of the lake, and gives beautiful views of it. I started walking south, along the western shore, and the path stayed close to the water’s edge. It is a great place to look for birds and turtles. At the southern tip there are several options, but I continued on Brother’s Path, turn north along Swan Lakes eastern shore. Here the path rose ten to twenty feet above the water, and it is more heavily wooded than the western shore. From its height, it provides wonderful views back across the water.
After returning to the lake’s northern end, I chose two nearby side trails to continue my walk. The Deer Run is a 0.4 mile loop through dense forest. This well shaded path allows for the growth of moss, ferns and a lush undergrowth. I even encountered a real deer along the path. From there I took the Peaceful Path, which dropped down below the Swan lake, following and crossing the brook leading from the lake. It travels north for about 0.5 miles and climbs up to end at the northern end of the Old Railroad Bed Trail, I walked back along this trail, and finished up back at the visitors center.
If you are in the NYC/Westchester area, and you are looking for place to find some easy walks through nature, head up to the Rockefeller Preserve State Park.
Nuts and Bolts:
Getting There (from NYC): Take the Saw Mill River Parkway or the Bronx River Parkway north to the Taconic Parkway. Exit onto route NY-117 east. The park is about 1.7 miles east of the parkway.
There is no entrance fee for the park, but there is a $6.00 parking fee. However that fee is waved during the COVID Crisis.