Passing through scenic Harlem Valley with its farms, wetlands, beaver ponds, woods, rolling pastures, and magnificent vistas is the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. This trail is through diverse rural landscape of the Columbia and Duchess Counties. Along the route a variety of bird species, animals and plant life may be observed in their natural habitat. One may see blue heron, beavers, coyotes, deer, foxes, hawks, owls, and turtles.
The trail follows old abandoned railroad right of way over 46 miles from Wassaic northward to Chatham NY. The 10’ wide trail is paved asphalt built upon the old railroad bed through the Harlem Valley connecting New York City with Chatham. The trail is open all year for walking, running, bicycling, wheel chair users, and cross-country skiing.
Its route is though towns, villages, schools, public parks, and a county fairground. Communities include Amenia, Millerton and Copake Falls. Restaurants and shops may be visited in these communities along the way.
The trail has basic rules to make everyone’s experience pleasant. Bikers and skaters should yield to walkers. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the trail. Dogs must be leashed and dropping removed by owner. Alcoholic beverages, camping, fires and hunting are prohibited. Everyone is requested to remove their litter. Please respect trail neighbors by remaining on the route preserving quiet near residences. Park only in designated parking areas.
Copake NY is a town of 3,615 named after a lake known to Natives Indians as Cook-pake, or Ack-kook-peek, meaning ‘Snake Pond’. The town is north of Taconic State Park. Wassaic is a town in southeast New York State surrounded by the East and West Mountains along Tenmile River. Chatham is a town at the north end of Taconic State Parkway of 4,128 population. The town is at the intersection of route 66 and route 203.
New York and Harlem Railroad was one of the earliest railroads in the U.S. and perhaps the first street railway. It became the Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line, opening between 1832 and 1852 between Lower Manhattan to beyond Harlem.
The railroad discontinued its operation in 1976, with track removal from the rail bed in 1979. New York State purchased the right of way between Wassaic and Copake Falls in 1989 creating the first 22-mile section of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. The trail opened in 1996 with additional sections of the trail completed over time until its current state in 2005.
Taconic State Park is composed of 14,400 contiguous acres of protected open space spanning three states. Within the area camping, hiking, bicycling, hunting, and winter cross-country skiing is permitted.
Copake NY is a 4:15 hour drive of 276 miles from Rochester NY. Drive I-90 east past Albany toward Massachusetts. Exit onto the Taconic Parkway before Chatham East driving south to route 23.
Here’s one visitors comments on the trail.
“An easy ride for the whole family. The trail is flat, scenic, safe, and great for all types of riders/walkers.”