Empire State Trail bike ride day 2: Hudson to New Paltz

Hills, more road than trail … and the lunch stop you must go to.

What a change from our first day! Oh still ridiculously hot for June, but more road, more shade… and more hills. If you have any thoughts of a leisurely ride with the Hudson River in sight, let me kill that fantasy now. This was definitely more challenging.

The hills and traffic started before we left Hudson, though fortunately we had only a handful of miles before the Empire State Trail gave us a guardrail-separated path along a highway. Oh, but we had to descend to a roundabout to get to it … so another climb.

That was by Olana, of Hudson River landscape painting fame. So much for my intentions to check it out; we are a few days too early for the building’s reopening, and anyway, I couldn’t see an easy, bike-friendly path.

The roads quieted to almost empty, but the hills didn’t flatten as we made our way to Clermont, the old Livingston estate, around mile 18. This was our first look at the Hudson River. The Catskills to the west mocked us — those hills you’re tackling are wimpy compared to what you’ll find this way, they seemed to say.

And oh what a resume this Mr. Livingston had!

Now if you think we were only a few miles from crossing the river … nope. We still had another 9 or so miles, including an interesting path that took us off the road to reach Bard College. And then we did a big loop through Kingston … a beautiful new trail, then past the new Hutton Brickyards entertainment area, into the historic area and a long stretch of Kingston trail that I think let us avoid a steep climb. Still, it was still another 9 miles or so until our lunch spot …

OK, let me tell you about lunch. You absolutely have to stop at Top Taste, a husband-and-wife Jamaican restaurant with a couple of tables inside, a table for two outside and a steady stream of customers. And the food! We shared a large portion of jerk chicken with rice and greens, piled high in this container. We’d already made a big dent in it by the time I took this photo.

The husband says he rides in the area and was intrigued by our bike plans … I just pointed to the Empire State Trail sign down the road and encouraged him to follow the signs. So when you stop, ask where he’s been riding.

And as if that wasn’t enough … Bike Tarrytown had recommended Boice Brothers Dairy for ice cream, so we detoured a couple of blocks off the route for that. Another business with a steady stream of customers, this time arriving by car. It sold more than 9,000 ice cream cakes last year and seems to be doing 800-900 a month this year (it posts the tally) — that’s nearly 30 a day! And yes, we saw a couple of those cakes being picked up in the 15 minutes we were there.

Now we were only a separated trail and a handful of road miles (with a hill) from the big trail of the day: the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

This is not a paved trail, or even crushed stone, so the surface was a little rough and it slowed us down (not that my 28mm tires couldn’t handle it.)

Not these two guys we saw coming toward us with fully loaded bikes and moving at a good clip on a gentle incline. “Where are you headed?” I called out, thinking maybe we’d chat for a few minutes and trade info on what’s ahead. “The Canadian border,” one called back without slowing his pedal stroke.

Us? We found reasons to stop along the trail. First it was the mystery of these oh-so-pleasant rushes of cold air and these odd structures, kind of like caves, or a tipped-up bridge. The signs filled us in: these were mines to extract natural cement, and the trick was to create stone pillars to prop up the “ceiling” in a series of “rooms.” A bit further on were the giant kilns where the rocks were dried out, or calcinated.

And then there was the view from the 940-foot Rosendale Trestle, 150 feet above the Wallkill! That’s the photo at the top.

We crossed one final bridge as we neared New Paltz … and someone had left a vegetable garden in a couple of plastic storage bins .. I hope they thought about drainage! Will the tomatoes, basil, pepper and more thrive?

In all, close to 55 miles. Here’s our route.

We opted to stay at the New Paltz Hostel, thinking we’d end up in conversation with other travelers. A bonus is that it’s within walking distance to downtown restaurants. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for us. If you prefer a hotel, there are several options closer to the New York Thruway exit. We biked past them the next day, when we stayed in the area to play tourist and get a fancy lunch at one of the Culinary Institute restaurants.

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

4 thoughts on “Empire State Trail bike ride day 2: Hudson to New Paltz”

  1. What kind of bike did you use? I would love to do this trip but I’m afraid my road bike won’t be able to handle the Walkill Valley Trail


    1. Hi Kelsey, I have a Cannondale Synapse road bike. It came with 25 mm tires, but I swapped them for 28 mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pros (narrow enough profile to fit between the forks + brakes .. old enough that no disc brakes) several years ago when we did a Vermont-Quebec-Vermont loop and I knew the final trail in Vermont would be rougher than crushed stone dust. Never changed back to the 25 mms.
      The Wallkill wasn’t great and I took my time picking my way through. But no flat tire either! Hope that gives you the courage to do it.
      No surprise, but gravel bike had no problem.


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