Posts Tagged ‘Huyler’s Landing’

Three Hudson-Palisades Loops — 1, 4, & 8 July 2012

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Hudson Palisades Trails, Map 108
  • Trails: Shore Trail, Long Path, Huyler’s Landing, Dyckman Hill, Closter Dock, and Carpenter Trails
  • Type: Loops
  • Distance: Loops A & C, approx. 4 miles; Loop B, approx. 7 miles
  • Time: Loops A & C: 2 hours; Loop B: 4 hours
  • Exertion: Easy, with one moderate climb on each loop

Getting There

Loop A: Palisades Parkway to Exit 2 (Alpine).  Follow signs to Alpine Boat Basin.  There is a reasonable $5 parking fee at times.
Loop B: Palisades Parkway, Rockefeller Lookout (first of 3 on the Parkway).  Parking is free.  Note: if you’re coming from the north, you need to go to Exit 1, and get back on the Parkway northbound to get to the lookout.
Loop C: Palisades Parkway to Exit 1 (Englewood).  Follow signs to Englewood Boat Basin.  Again, the $5 parking fee is a good investment.

The Hikes

Here I will combine three hikes I took within eight days in the same general area.  The basic outline of these loops is this: the Long Path (teal blazes) rides along the crest of the Palisades, while the Shore Trail (obviously) goes along the shore of the Hudson River and has white blazes.  Every few miles there is a short, steep trail connecting the two, which makes for some very nice loop hikes.  The ascent is about 300-400 feet from river to clifftop, and some of these connector trails are very well built with steps and switchbacks.  It goes without saying that the only safe way to get between these two major trails is via the connector trails.  Every few years someone falls from the top of the Palisades to his death, and going off-trail in this area is a Bad Idea.

Of the two parallel major trails, the Long Path (which begins in Fort Lee, near the GW Bridge) is the more popular.  Except in its southernmost section, the Shore Trail is much more deserted.  In many parts it feels very isolated, with the river at your feet and the cliffs hanging above you.  And although there is the paved Henry Hudson Road only a few dozen feet above you for the entire way, it can get very lonely down there.

Loop A (Closter Dock to Huyler’s Landing)

For this I began at the Alpine Boat Basin and willingly acceded to the $5 parking fee to make sure that the climb up the Palisades was in the middle of the hike, not the end.  It’s not easy to pick up the Shore Trail from the parking lot, but just walk south and as soon as you run out of Boat Basin, you’ll catch the little dirt path that continues along the river.  I must say that for some reason, perhaps just the mood I was in, the whole run along the river seemed somewhat gloomy.  Perhaps the plaque commemorating John Jordan, which appears on a boulder at the start of the hike, gave a melancholy start to the day:

John Jordan Plaque

John Jordan Plaque

Apparently Captain Jordan slipped on some ice and fell down the Palisades, although from where is not clear.

The trail is narrow and sandy, with occasional breaks in the brush to allow you to view the opposite shore.  At this point, what is across from Alpine is my home town, the city of Yonkers, NY, a working-class place where both sides of my family, at least back to my grandparents, were born and/or raised.  Yonkers since its heyday in the 1940′s, 50′s, and 60′s as a bedroom community for NYC, has been a perpetually hard-luck town, known more for its crime, corruption, racial problems, and poor schools than for its Victorian-style homes, river views, and diverse population.  But I do feel a connection to it, as I view what still looks like a vibrant city across the river from tony Alpine, NJ.

Yonkers Pier, from Alpine, NJ

Yonkers Pier, from Alpine, NJ

The run down to Huyler’s Landing takes you almost opposite the Yonkers/Bronx city line, but as best I can tell, you are still across from Yonkers when you hit the little beach and breaker that mark the Landing.

Looking at South Yonkers from Huyler's Landing

Looking at South Yonkers from Huyler's Landing

A word about Huyler’s Landing and the eponymous trail we’re about to ascend is in order.  Per some signs back in the Boat Basin we’ll mention at the end of this hike, in November 1776 Gen. Cornwallis landed 5,000 British troops here and marched them up this trail to the top of the Palisades to attack the Colonial army at Fort Lee.  This was shortly after he had beaten the stuffing out of Washington’s army in Brooklyn, as well as capturing Fort Washington in Manhattan.  The Americans just barely escaped into the the (then) wilds of New Jersey, abandoning Fort Lee.  Thus began an ignominious retreat for Washington across the state, which would only be halted on Christmas Day when he crossed back over the Delaware and attacked the Hessians at Trenton.

So we climb up the trail those lobster-backs took that day, although we won’t get quite to Fort Lee as they did for now.  The trail is pretty wide at the start until it crosses over the paved Henry Hudson Drive.  Then it gets a little narrower, but it’s still pretty well laid out with a moderate grade.  The distance is about a half mile, so although not very steep, you do have about 15-30 minutes of exertion.  You’ll know when you’re near the top by the wonderful traffic noise of the Palisades Interstate Parkway (PIP).  It will be our constant companion as we head north back to Alpine after making a right onto the Long Path.

There are only three points of interest along the crest here.  The first is an overlook on a pulpit overlooking the river.  Because of its protrusion from the cliffs, you get nice views up and down the river.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit

Upriver from the Pulpit

Upriver from the Pulpit

Downriver from the Pulpit

Downriver from the Pulpit

The next point is the Alpine Lookout, which does not have any views to compare with the pulpit, so you can just skate right on by this.  The last point is the Zabriskie Ruin, which will appear on your right.  From the bits I’ve dug out on the web, this mansion, called Cliffdale, was quite the residence.  I took some pics, but this web site has better ones, taken on a very sunny day in the winter, whereas mine were under full leaf cover, and later in the day, e.g.:

Zabriskie Ruin

Zabriskie Ruin

This is really quite an extensive set of ruins, just be careful as you walk on the first floor tiles because there are lots of holes you wouldn’t want to fall into.

The rest of the hike is getting to the Closter Dock Trail (orange blazes), and back down to the shore, making a right to get back to the parking lot.  As you enter the Alpine Boat Basin from the northern end, you walk past this impressive plaque:

Incorrect Plaque

Incorrect Plaque

Unfortunately, as we now know (and as a newer, albeit less durable sign right next to this plaque tells us) the Brits did not land here, but rather about 1.5 miles south at Huyler’s Landing.  (These signs also disagree on the date as well–Nov. 18 above and Nov. 20 for the newer one.)

The Straight Scoop

The Straight Scoop

Somehow the metal plaque bolted onto a boulder seems more impressive, in spite of its factual missteps.

Loop B (Huyler’s Landing to Dyckman Hill Trail)

In keeping with this Revolutionary War theme, I thought it apropriate to return to Huyler’s Landing on July 4th and continue with another cliff and shore loop.  This time, I parked in the Rockefeller Lookout and headed north on the Long Path to the Landing Trail I’d come up on Sunday.  It’s 2.4 miles.  There are a couple of views across the river of the Bronx, but we’re jaded now, and they’re old hat!  The nice thing about the LP here is that it is very flat and for the most part not rocky, so you can make good time and not have to focus most of your attention looking at your feet so you don’t trip.  After the last serious Hudson view (Clinton Point), the trail turns off the cliff top to skirt the Greenbrook Sanctuary.  You’ll know because of the chain link fence that follows you on the right for about a mile.  In the middle of this mile, you walk past the gated entrance as well as the connector trail into the Lost Brook Preserve to the west, which has an extensive set of trails, albeit without any of the vistas you get on the LP.

The junction with the Huyler’s Landing Trail is a welcome sight of an old friend from the previous hike.  This time we’re going down.  At the landing, I spent a little time, re-hydrating and cooling off some.  It’s quite an isolated spot, although you do get some power boats whizzing by from time to time.

Huyler's Landing

Huyler's Landing

Once recharged, I proceeded south on the Shore Trail.  This section seemed a bit less dark and oppressive than the run from the Alpine Boat Basin on Sunday.  There are more river views and a bit less overgrowth.  It’s 3.3 miles to the Englewood Boat Basin and the exit trail back up to the LP.  For the first couple of miles, the trail is pretty sandy with easy, flat walking.  On this day my progress was slowed by the abundant raspberry bushes which were covered with ripe berries.  I stopped at least a dozen times to grab a handful.

There are two waterfalls along this section, Greenbrook and Lost Brook Falls.  However, since it’s not rained much lately, the former was down to a trickle, while the latter was bone dry.  I have seen the Greenbrook when it was running heavy, and it’s very nice, so someplace to think of when we get bombed with rain again–or maybe even better, in winter after a big snowfall!

Greenbrook Falls, down to a Trickle

Greenbrook Falls, down to a Trickle

There are also two “docks” interspersed between the falls, Lambier’s and Powder Docks, which are little more than a pile of rocks extending 50 feet into the river with various clumps of debris scattered about.

Shortly before the Undercliff Picnic Area, I walked passed a simply amazing section of these orange flowers coming from the rocks and scores of butterflies flying in and out of them.  Unfortunately, I am not a botanist nor a entomologist, so I don’t know what these are, but they sure looked nice:

ShortlyButterfly & Flower

Butterfly & Flower

I took some short videos of these creatures, and it is a poor representation of them because (a) I’m a lousy videographer, and (b) they move very fast.  But you can get some idea; just imaging a hundred of them all around you!

Video: Butterflies on the Hudson

Shortly after you leave the flutterbys behind, you will hit the Undercliff Picnic Area.  This is a nice little spot on the river with ruins of a former bathhouse from the days when people actually swam in the Hudson like we do at Jones Beach these days.

Bathhouse Ruins at Undercliff

Bathhouse Ruins at Undercliff

I wasn’t trying to get all artsy-fartsy with this pic, but the sun was right above the ruins and I had some limited angles.

As you approach the Englewood Boat Basin, you can see the Henry Hudson Bridge across the way that spans the Harlem River from Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx to Innwood in Manhattan.   (Innwood Park, BTW, is an amazing place that I hope to cover in some future post.)  On this day, as I had spent some extra time picking raspberries and being hypnotized by butterflies, I opted for the “high tide” route of the shore trail, even though it was clearly low tide.  This brings you onto Henry Hudson Drive and gives you an extra hundred feet or so of altitude when you start to climb up from the Boat Basin.

The route out is the Dyckman Hill Trail, a very nicely-built set of stone ramps and steps that comes up along a small waterfall.  Since I shortcut up to the drive on this leg, I did not get the pleasure of the full ascent–that would have to wait for my next trip.  At the top, you’re right at the entrance to the PIP, but the sign for the Long Path is obvious and you trudge back to the Rockefeller Lookout, with darn little to see that you’ve not already peeked at earlier from better vantage points.  OK, so maybe I was getting a bit tired.

Loop C: Dyckman Hill to Carpenters Trail

A few days later it seemed logical to continue the theme here with a third loop, this time starting from the Englewood Boat Basin, up to the LP, then south to Carpenters Trail and back along the shore.  All of this was old territory to me, but I had only a short time this day, and no inspiration, so I figured it would at least make for a better blog post.

As with its Alpine cousin, the PIPC charges you $5 to park at then Englewood Boat Basin, but hey, they can use the dough, and it’s only a finn.  It also fits in well with my tactical philosophy of doing the hard part first when you’re still fresh.  It was a pretty hot day, as the others had been, so best to get the steep out of the way early.  When you park at the Basin, you get a nice clear shot across the river at the aforementioned Henry Hudson Bridge and Innwood Park.

Henry Hudson Bridge & Innwood Park

Henry Hudson Bridge & Innwood Park

The Dyckman Hill Trail can be picked up at the picnic area, or just go back up the road a bit and you will catch the yellow blazes on the stone walls.  It is a wonderful construction of stone blocks that ease you up the hill for the first part, followed by elegantly wide steps for the steep bits.  (The phrase, They don’t build ‘em like that anymore, came to mind.)  There is a stream which rolls downhill, becoming a waterfall in some places, which was even running a bit although it’s been pretty dry here of late.  It’s really not a bad climb, closer to 300 ft. in this part, and the footing is excellent.  At the top, go south (left) on the LP, and re-encounter our old bugbear, the Palisades Parkway.

There is a little spur almost immediately to an overlook, then back onto the PIP track.  At St. Peter’s College (on your left, separated by a chain link fence), you get a very interesting shot through the trees of what I am pretty sure is the Whitestone Bridge, which connects the Bronx to Queens on Long Island:

Whitestone Bridge from St. Peter's College

Whitestone Bridge from St. Peter's College

If you have binoculars and shift yourself around on the path a bit, I believe you can also pick out the Throggs Neck Bridge a bit further to the east.  This is about a 10-mile view.

A little more walking brings you to a little hidden gem called Allison Park.  The plaque on a boulder near the edge of the cliff explains the origin of this place:

Allison Park, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Allison Park, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

This is a quiet little spot, cut off by the PIP, with unobstructed views of the river, benches, rest rooms, and a water fountain.  (If you were to do a long, southerly hike along the LP, you could do worse than to stop here for a break.)

As we’re approaching the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, that structure looms in all our views.  Directly across the river is yet another Manhattan treasure, Fort Tryon Park and the tower of the Cloisters (I’ll save the GWB pic for later):

Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan

Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan

The LP continues on uneventfully, with occasional overlooks.  The Ross Dock in Fort Lee is our target below, and we get to see it from above from a nice pulpit near the end of our LP journey.

Ross Dock, Fort Lee, NJ

Ross Dock, Fort Lee, NJ

Of course the graffiti on the rocks enhances the view so much.  Kudos to our resident mutants!  This is a good spot to take a few snaps of the GWB, opened according to Wikipedia in 1931, the bridge with the most vehicular traffic in the world, 4th longest suspension bridge in the US (was first in the world until 1937, now 20th), and oh yes, a perpetual choke point of the NY Metropolitan Area.  That said, I think this is a pretty nice photo of the bridge–I guess I got lucky:

The George Washington Bridge

The George Washington Bridge

Shortly after these vistas, the Carpenters Trail comes in first on the right, from its journey under the PIP and its trailhead in Fort Lee.  The route down on the left comes a few steps later, and oddly, there’s no signpost for it.  Just look for a four-way intersection and take the hard left, almost a U-turn.  This is an exceptionally well-built trail that descends a very steep path down to the shore.  Not as elegantly appointed as the Dyckman Hill Trail we first took, but it has a much harder job of keeping you from falling off the Palisades, and it does it quite well:

Carpenters Trail

Carpenters Trail

BTW, you should not get the impression that this was some trail that in the bygone days, salt of the earth carpenters used to get up and down the cliffs to do their work of building this great nation of ours.  In fact, it’s named after the Carpenter Brothers Quarry, which, had it not been for the efforts George Perkins (he of Perkins Memorial Tower atop Bear Mountain), would have chopped up the entire length of the Palisades for trap rock.  (See the Palisades book in the References.)

Back at the river, we’ll go left and head back north.  If you have a few extra steps you want to take, it’s worth the half mile or so to follow the Shore Trail to the GWB for an impressive view of the span from its underside.  On this day the Ross Dock was very crowded with picnickers, but come back in the winter when it’s empty for a nice restful view of the NY skyline.

The trip back up the shoreline is uneventful and under a mile and a half.  This part differs from some of the more forlorn bits we did in the previous loops.  The crowds from the Ross Dock or Englewood tend to meander up and down the river, and the path is well traveled, as demonstrated by the raspberry bushes which were stripped pretty clean this Sunday compared to Wednesday’s cornucopia north of Englewood.  At several points along the way stone docks appear on your right with steps going down to the water, evidence of the days when the entire Hudson shore was heavily used for recreation before pollution turned it into a notorious waterway.  Near the end of the trip, an interesting little garden and bench with a plaque commemorating Dan Holovach sits on a quiet little beach with a nice view of Fort Tryon Park across the water:

Beach Garden

Beach Garden

The Boat Basin pops up around a corner, and you’re back to the car.

Summary

So there are the three loops.  The opposite shore regions roughly work out to Yonkers, the Bronx, and Manhattan for A, B, and C, respectively.  They can be combined for longer hikes, and Loop C could be extended to go all the way south to Fort Lee Historic Park, which would add another couple of miles.  The upper run of the Long Path provides more vistas because of the height, while the Shore Trail has much more varied attractions: beaches, waterfalls, docks, picnic areas, interesting flora and fauna, and no traffic noise!  At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ve hit all of the Shore Trail at one time or another.  If you want to be a Shore Trail completist, be aware that north of the Forest View Trail (the last connector trail in NJ) are the Giant Stairs.  This is a poorly-named section of boulders quarried off the cliff that pour down straight into the river that is a strenuous rock scramble.  There was a sign in the Stateline Lookout restaurant I saw last week that indicated the Giant Stairs were closed for now due to instability.  Should they be re-opened, be aware that it is not something to be attempted on a rainy or icy day.  Although well-blazed it is still tricky.  The half-mile run will take at least an hour, and it will be a workout.

The run from the GWB up to the NY state line is about 11 miles.  The Shore Trail ends there, but the Long Path continues on into Rockland County because it is… well… long.  It continues along the Palisades as they turn inland near Haverstraw, and keeps on going through Harriman Park and onward.  The run along the river is probably the most dramatic part of the LP until you get up to the Shawangunks.

A One-Year Update

Went back to Loop B on 7  July 2013, particularly to check out the butterfly situation.  Hurricane Sandy that roared through in the Fall of 2012 seems to have somewhat nailed the site with the orange flowers.  There were still a good number of the butterflies, but the bushes with the flowers seem to have been upset a bit by the storm.  The flowers were not as plentiful, and the insects seemed a bit reduced, although there was another spot a bit to the south that also had quite a few of them, albeit without the flowers.

One other nature note:  last year’s trip on 4 July reported abundant raspberries along the trail.  This year on 7 July, the bushes seem like they are just about to pop.  Only got a few of the early birds.