There’s a reason your great-grandparents chose to head up the Hudson River when summer came. It’s beautiful up there, hilly and wooded. Best of all, all that nature leaves the weather cooler and less humid than in the stifling, sweltering city. A century ago, people spent a week or more at a Catskills bungalow camp; today, that still works — but it’s also nice to get away for a quick day trip.
Here’s a plan that lets you see all sorts of regional beauty in the Hudson Valley, natural and otherwise.
9:30 a.m. Pack up a few Kind bars and get an early start heading north. Ignore Waze’s preference and instead be sure to cross the Hudson at the George Washington Bridge and take the Palisades Parkway, with its beautiful views. Stop for a picture on the way; there’s time allotted.
11 a.m. Arrive at Bear Mountain State Park and pick up some water bottles in the lobby shop at the century-old Bear Mountain Inn, a stately, classic stone-and-timber lodge. Then set out on the Bear Mountain Loop Trail, which takes you past the lake, up the mountain, and, for a bit, along the Appalachian Trail. Regular clothes and sneakers are an adequate outfit, but this is a real hike. It’ll take you close to three hours to get to the summit and back, but it’s a fun jaunt on the busy trail, and the views of the Hudson Valley are spectacular. When you make it to the top, treat yourself to those Kind bars.
2 p.m. Depart Bear Mountain State Park and cross the Hudson at the Bear Mountain Bridge, an adorably tall but tiny suspension bridge that on its east side seems to lead into sheer rock. (Don’t worry; you’ll make a sharp right at the end of the bridge onto the mountainside Route 9D.)
2:15 p.m. Stop in Peekskill, just downriver of the bridge, for a quick lunch. Try Gleason’s or The Birdsall House, around the corner from each other and jointly owned, both providing locally sourced, freshly harvested fare. Gleason’s is a bit fancier and specializes in pizza; Birdsall House is a gastropub with a beer garden.
3:15 p.m. There’s no time to linger, because you want to make it to the Kykuit visitor center by 3:45 p.m., for the 4 p.m. “classic tour.” (Reserve in advance.) Kykuit is the Rockefeller family estate overlooking the Hudson, and it’s awe-inspiring. The tour shows off the house, built by John and John Jr.; the grounds; and the priceless modern art collection amassed by Nelson, one of John Jr.’s sons. There’s also a display of the family’s cars, including an enormous 1960s limousine Nelson used when he was New York’s governor. It’s all enough to make you decide on a career shift to oil baron.
6 p.m. Depart Kykuit and drive a few blocks to Tarrytown, for drinks and dinner on the terrace at RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen. You’ll watch the sun start to set and admire the new bridge that’s going up soon to replace the Tappan Zee. (Planners worry that the Tappan Zee is on the verge of collapse, but don’t you worry: You’ll head home without crossing it.)
A tougher climb: If you want something a little more challenging than Bear Mountain, head across the Bear Mountain Bridge and go north to Bull Hill, just past Cold Spring. It’s a steep hike up to amazing views, a trip that’ll also take you about three hours. For lunch, you can still head to Peekskill, or stop at Cold Spring Pizza, a classic and beloved slice joint.
A fancier dinner: Red Hat on the River is, as its name suggests, right on the river. The views are stunning, and the locally sourced, French bistro–inspired meals are just as good.
How to get there
Driving is easiest, and Zipcar is your best bet. There’s also the old trick of taking Metro-North to New Rochelle and renting a car there. (That’s significantly cheaper, but more time-consuming. Also, although several rental companies have locations near the station, they have limited hours on weekends.) Or if you insist on going entirely car-free, Bull Hill is a short walk from the Cold Spring station and Red Hat is across the street from the Irvington Station.
What to see
Where to eat