ying quietly to
the west of the mighty Hudson in the Mid-Valley
is a quiet jewel stretching lazily from the
hamlet of Highland westward toward New Paltz.
The sun sparkles off the nearby creeks and ponds,
the forest climbs the surrounding Illinois Mountain
and the pleasures of enjoying the tranquil beauty
and splendor of the countryside on a broad and
level pathway await you.
This pleasant family
friendly boulevard thru nature is better known
as the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, created, supported
and maintained by the forward thinking people
of the Town of Lloyd in Ulster County. The trail
stretches 5 miles, from the old railroad bridge
over the Hudson between Poughkeepsie and Highland,
meandering up and through the hamlet of Highland
then heading west joining up with Route 299
half way to New Paltz. You can reach its beginnings
from the pedestrian sidewalk on the Mid-Hudson
Bridge and follow it along it's full length,
stopping for lunch in Highland or sitting out
at the Black Creek dangling your feet in the
cooling waters as they ripple past.
in part with funds from the Greenway Conservancy
for the Hudson Valley, the trail through Lloyd's
story is actually rather more intriguing, filled
with high finance and high technology. It's
the story of a town unfazed by corporate pressures.
Way back in the
70's the railroads stopped using the right-of-way
after the bridge to Poughkeepsie partially burned.
The absolute cause of the fire is unknown, but
it was a happy circumstance for the railroad
as it allowed them to break the links across
to Connecticut where they had to share rates.
From that point on, rail traffic headed north
to Albany before heading to the east into New
England. Both the right-of-way and the old bridge
fell quickly into disrepair, with the right-of-way
eventually being taken over by Ulster County.
In the years since,
the bridge has passed into and out of various
hands all hoping some day to develop it into
a pedestrian corridor across the Hudson becoming
a vital link in the trail system in the Hudson
Valley. The five mile section of the old New
York, New Haven and Hartford Line from the old
bridge west to Route 299 was deeded to the Town
of Lloyd after the County was able to recover
back taxes by selling off the chunks leading
to New Paltz and other pieces to local utility
companies. And there it sat, the Town of Lloyd
not knowing how or what to do with it, it needed
to be developed into a trail.
Now here's where
high technology comes in. Unwittingly, right
now, you are what turned into a piece of the
solution. In the mid-90's fiber optic backbones
began to be installed up the NY State Thruway
corridor to accommodate the demand for high
speed access across the Information Super Highway.
To get from the Thruway across to Poughkeepsie
they were going to have to follow Route 299,
then down Route 9W and across the Mid-Hudson
But wait! There
was a shortcut! The old railroad right-of-way!
It would shave miles off the route and save
many hundreds of thousands of dollars to the
corporation. So they approached the Town of
Lloyd to acquire an easement offering a few
tens of thousands of dollars in compensation.
Luckily there were some pretty savvy business
people on the Town Board so they entered into
negotiations after months of which they finally
arranged for $400,000.00 as compensation for
was happy, (sorta), and the citizens of Lloyd
were happy; they had the funding necessary to
bring to reality their Hudson Valley Rail Trail.
Within two years the first section, the 2.5
miles starting in the hamlet of Highland and
heading west to Tony Williams Town Park, was
cleared through the efforts of local citizens
and Highland Rotary members, old ballast stone
was removed and the trail officially opened
are well underway for the further development
of the two ends of the trail. Although "officially"
undeveloped, the section from the Mid-Hudson
Bridge into the hamlet is passable and takes
you from the bridge and under Route 9W straight
to the edge of downtown Highland at Vineyard
Avenue. At Route 9W there are a number of excellent
restaurants immediately adjacent to the trail,
fast food and other convenience stores and deli's.
Located in the hamlet are pharmacies, pizza
shops, pubs, restaurants, antiques galleries
and all the other things you might need along
your walk. In the near future a foot bridge
will be constructed over Vineyard Avenue to
create a completely unimpeded trail thru the
Once you leave the
hamlet heading west on the developed portion
of the trail, the old rail bed starts cutting
thru rock outcroppings and hillsides creating
dramatic canyons and cool shaded passes. The
trees hang heavily overhead as the trail heads
arrow straight to the northwest for about a
mile. As the trail approaches the New Paltz
Road it starts a lazy bend to the west until
it passes under the road and then heads arrow
straight towards the west.
past New Paltz Road the land starts falling
away, Illinois Mountain, to your left and behind,
is giving way to the valley and Black Creek
Wetlands Complex. The old rail bed keeps level
as the valley falls slowly away. At the crossing
of Black Creek the rail bed is about 20 feet
above the valley providing you an extraordinary
vista across the valley back to Illinois Mountain
and north across the beaver bog toward the Catskills.
Black Creek is a Class A protected trout stream
and access is a fairly easy scramble down the
embankment. As you walk the trail, make plans
to spend some time at Black Creek. If you have
patience you may see beaver, deer and other
wildlife in addition to the hundreds of birds
that use the bog as their home.
the trail looking across at Illinois Mountain
you will see an even older rail bed from the
days in the 19th century when there was trolley
service between New Paltz and Poughkeepsie.
If you are really adventuresome go back up the
trail a little and scramble down the embankment
and follow the old rail bed out into the bog
where you will have an exceptional view of the
trail, the creek and Illinois Mountain. Take
the trailside lunch you purchased back in the
hamlet and have a picnic, dangle your feet in
the creek and soak up some sun.
Continuing on to
the west you will come to Tony Williams Town
Park in about another half mile. It's a large
park with ball fields, tennis courts, basketball,
pavilions and restrooms. As the trail has been
developed it has become a major route for kids
on bikes to get between the hamlet and the park
and on a busy spring, summer or fall afternoon
there is laughter and the crunch of rocks as
the bikes go back and forth.
Once you've reached
the park you've also reached the end of the
developed portion of the trail. But the best
is still waiting for you! Beyond the park the
trail becomes more densely overgrown and the
trees completely envelop the trail creating
a mile long arbor of dense shade with occasional
skylights revealing shafts of sunshine penetrating
the canopy. It's a seemingly magical place of
hills, dense stands of trees and chipmunks scurrying
thru the leaf clutter.
half a mile or so further along when the Black
Creek passes back under the trail stop and look
closely at the bridge you are on top of. Better
yet, go down the embankment and give it a real
look, it's a totally unique structure in the
Hudson Valley as it's a double bridge. It carries
the rail bed over the creek and an old farm
road under the rail bed and over the creek.
Sound confusing? The reality isn't. It's a sublime
and simple solution to a thorny logistic situation.
Past the bridge the creek cascades over a series
of rocks and pools in the dense shade, pausing
momentarily before it continues.
A half mile or so
further you emerge from the arbor out into the
bright sun where the New Paltz Road meets up
with Route 299 heading west to New Paltz.
Along the "developed"
portion of the trail there are four parking
areas specifically for accessing the trail;
in the hamlet, at the Hudson Valley Rail Trail
homesite located mid-way along the trail adjacent
to New Paltz Road and at Tony Williams Park.
In addition at the western terminus on New Paltz
Road there is also a parking area.
At full development
the town plans on having a 12 foot wide strip
of asphalt, with a 12 foot wide adjacent soft
surfaced strip, leading from the Mid-Hudson
Bridge all the way to Route 299, construction
is slated to begin in 1999. The Hudson Valley
Rail Trail is a very easy family friendly walk
with only a few short stretches of rough ballast
stone still ungraded. With any luck, the Greenway
will be able to assist in the further development
of connecting trails from the eastern end of
the Mid-Hudson Bridge providing scores of miles
of uninterrupted pedestrian and low impact sports
access stretching from Westchester, through
Highland connecting with the vast trail system
in the Shawangunks and up into the Catskills.
In addition to these
future possibilities, the Town of Lloyd is working
on finalizing its plans to create a "circuit"
by constructing an interpretive nature walk
across the Black Creek bog connecting with a
small park under development where the Black
Creek crosses New Paltz Road east of Tony Williams
there a new trail is being developed up the
western slopes of Illinois Mountain, past the
town reservoirs and back down into the hamlet
of Highland. These additions to the Hudson Valley
Rail Trail will take a few more years to become
a reality, but they are an integral part of
the development plans.
The Hudson Valley
Rail Trail encourages walking, biking, horses,
cross country skiing and snow shoeing during
daylight hours. Once the paving is completed
roller skates and rollerblades will be allowed.
Along the trail you are encouraged to slow down
and observe the animals, birds and plants around
you; breathe deeply of the fresh air and tranquility;
take a moment or two to reacquaint yourself
with the beauty of the Hudson Valley and enjoy
this very special access into the landscape.
alcoholic beverages, open fires and camping
are not allowed along the trail. And please
remember to be considerate of others on the
trail and responsible by bringing off the trail
anything you take onto the trail. The Hudson
Valley Rail Trail is a Carry In/Carry Out trail.
You can obtain a
map and information and help support the development
of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail as a recreational
amenity and economic development tool for the
hamlet of Highland and Town of Lloyd by writing
Valley Rail Trail Association
6 Main Street, Suite 3006
Highland, NY 12528