by Evie Toland
As the sun rises and casts its light against the sharp outcrops of Hook Mountain, sending an orange glow along the Hudson River’s rocky edge, there is not a better place in Rockland to be than the Nyack Beach State Park.
Purchased by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in 1911 from the Manhattan Traprock Company, this 61-acre stretch of forest along the Hudson River is one reason to be grateful for wealthy 20th century elites, like Theodore Roosevelt, Foster Vorhees, J.P Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller Jr., who spent their money saving the Palisades from complete excavation. Today, Nyack Beach State Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Rockland County, providing access to Hook Mountain hiking trails and the Hook Mountain Bike Path, or Nyack River Trail, where visitors can bike, hike, walk, and run for 5 uninterrupted miles along the Hudson River.
About 1.5 miles in, the path splits and visitors can either continue to the right along the river ending at Haverstraw Beach State Park, or take a left at the fork and climb up a paved road to visit the bordering Rockland Lake State Park.
Nyack Beach opened in 1915, after extensive restoration efforts turned the once-power station for the traprock quarries into a beautiful sandstone bathhouse, used in the 1920s extensively by day-trippers from New York City. The bathhouse still stands, now hosting the park’s public restrooms, and can even be rented out. Though, its history as an active quarry can still be seen by the presence of two large, ominous tunnels that open out of the hill above the structure.
The park now is, once again, home to wilder things. Hawks, raptors, ravens, and vultures are commonly spotted cruising along the Hook’s jagged edge, and Great Blue Herons are often found standing quietly along the shore. In September and October, monarchs migrate down the Hudson on their long journey to their southern breeding locations, and dozens can be seen flapping down the bike path. Deer are often seen meandering along the trails and path, and coyote, though not often seen, are reported to roam these hills as well. Many migratory bird species make their appearance over the breeding season, and the forest is rich and abundant with many diverse plant species. It is a place to keep any nature-lover happily entertained at any time of year.
While most visitors choose to stay along the river, the forest can also be explored through accessing the Upper Nyack Trail about 250 feet in from the parking lot, where it is marked by three white blazes on the left hand side of the bike path. This trail leads up the mountain on long switchbacks, where it then meets up with the aqua-blazed Long Path, where you can take a right to reach the summit of Hook Mountain. A full loop can be formed by continuing on the Long Path back down from the summit, where it meets up with a paved road on the right that leads to the bike path about 1.5 miles from the Nyack Beach parking lot. The loop is about 6 miles in all.
The park is open-year round, dawn to dusk. Near the parking lot is a picnic area, and benches, tables, and fire pits for grilling dot the bike path, making it the perfect place for a family gathering. While no swimming or wading is allowed in the river, visitors are able to launch canoes, windsurfers, or rowboats, and some fishing is permitted. During the summer months and on weekends & holidays, there is a vehicle entrance fee of $8. Trails are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Dogs are allowed on the bike path, but must remain leashed.
Forest-turned quarry-turned bathing beach-turned bike path and forest again, this park is a classic representation of Nyack’s, and the Hudson’s, story of reclamation over the last hundred years. Now, this park is a sanctuary (especially off-season when the summer crowds die down!), where visitors can take a break from the digital world and get lost in the Hook’s looming cliffs or be swept away by the river’s quiet, yet still changing, tides. I promise, there isn’t a better place to fall in love with the Hudson (again).
Roaming through Rockland covers outdoor destinations to walk, bike or hike in Rockland County.
Sponsored by the Rockland County Tourism.
Roaming Through Rockland includes:
- Five Favorite Rockland Bike Rides, 12/26/2021
- Panoramic Views on The Long Path, 12/4/2021
- History and Scenery Abound in Tappan, 11/27/2021
- The Path on the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge, 11/20/2021
- Fall in Love with the Hudson (again) at Nyack Beach State Park, 11/13/2021
- Jones Point Path, 11/7/2021
- Tallman Is the Spot For Families, 10/30/2021
- Too Much to See at Harriman State Park, 10/23/2021
- Biking the Trails at Blauvelt State Park, 10/16/2021
- The Grand History of High Tor State Park, 10/9/2021
- The Esposito Trail Is A Stellar Sunday Brunch Ride, 10/2/2021
- RoCA’s Serene Sculpture Gardens, 9/25/2021
- Gazing Out From Piermont Pier, 9/18/2021
- Art, History, and Nature on Greenbush Road, 9/11/2021