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Hudson Valley — a Scenic, Historic and Livable Haven

November 6, 2014


Fall sunset over Hudson

“Just another Hudson Valley sunset.”

My husband’s observation, made as we watched the autumn sky turn a fluorescent red, underlined my appreciation for the natural beauty of the Hudson River Valley. I’ve always felt lucky to be living in this place, with its rolling hills, mountains, acres of forests, and the 150-mile-long waterway at its heart.

The rich history of the region also makes it special. You can visit West Point, the sites of Revolutionary War forts, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s lifelong home, and the family home of Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow author) — to name just a few interesting places.

One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and the big river is to hike up one of the mountains located next to the Hudson or nearby. Although I often hike many of those trails, I never tire of the gorgeous views in every direction from the summits.

View of Hudson River from Anthony's Nose near Peekskill, N.Y.

A view from Anthony’s Nose in Hudson Highlands, near Peekskill, N.Y.

The valley’s diverse hiking trails include 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail, so you can cover part of the A.T. (a hiker’s Holy Grail) without devoting weeks to the effort. The first section of the 2,200-mile trail was built at Bear Mountain State Park, which overlooks the Hudson, and ran west through Harriman State Park — both great places to hike, picnic and enjoy the scenery.

Manhattan may have the wonderful High Line elevated park, but Hudson Valley has the Walkway Over the Hudson, a former railroad bridge that is now billed as the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. If you’re not afraid of heights — the structure is 212 feet tall — it’s a great place to take a stroll or connect to local rail-to-trail walking and biking trails.

For a blend of nature, history and culture, a great place to visit is Boscobel House and Gardens, an early 19th-century building on beautiful grounds that overlook Constitution Marsh, a postcard-perfect spot along the Hudson. In the summer, the river serves as a stunning backdrop for plays performed under a tent by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival troupe.

Constitution Marsh and Hudson River, Garrison, N.Y.

Constitution Marsh and Hudson River, Garrison, N.Y.

You can even combine outdoor recreation with an art history lesson. The Hudson River School Art Trail project has created a map of sites that inspired the work of the Hudson River School artists. When visiting the sites, you can see the views that Frederic Church, Thomas Cole and other painters captured on canvas.

At least one of those 19th-century landscape paintings features a section of the Palisades, reddish-brown cliffs that hug the western shore of the Hudson in the Nyack area and stretch about 20 miles south into New Jersey. The cliffs are an impressive sight, whether you’re viewing them while standing on the opposite shoreline or sitting in the local commuter train that travels along the river to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

You can still see signs of the damage done during the 1900s, when chunks of the Palisades slopes were removed and shipped south to New York City, where it was used as building material for docks and roads. Now the cliffs, which rise to a height of about 550 feet, are protected as a National Historic Landmark.

Then there’s the expansive Hudson River itself, where you can motorboat, sail and kayak, and in some areas, swim.

When I posted the sunset shot, above, on Facebook recently, a friend asked whether it’s possible to swim in the Hudson. “Yes,” I replied, “as long as you’re wearing a cast-iron wet suit and goggles.” I was only half-joking.

Sections of the Hudson were once extremely polluted due to raw sewage discharges along the river and the dumping of industrial chemicals by riverside businesses. The Hudson is much cleaner these days, thanks to federal and state laws and the hard work of Clearwater, Riverkeeper and other environmental groups. But pollution continues to be a problem, mostly because runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, automotive fluids and other contaminants still makes its way into the water.

It’s possible that the entire river will be swimmable one day. Meanwhile, in a region that has been named one of the top 20 places in the world to visit, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the Hudson Valley.


Looking south from Storm King Mountain, Cornwall-on-Hudson.

Looking south from Storm King Mountain, Cornwall-on-Hudson.


© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2014 5:46 pm

    Wow the site is gorgeous ❤

  2. Anonymous permalink
    November 7, 2014 10:28 am

    Janice this is a wonderful article; love the info I learned, and the photos are gorgeous. I am going to print one of them out and bring to my watercolor class as the subject of a painting.

    • November 7, 2014 11:08 am

      Thanks so much. I’m honored that you’ll be using one of the photos for your class.

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