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The former “Old Put” commuter rail corridor that ran from the Bronx to northern bedroom communities in Westchester and Putnam Counties is popular once again, only this time it’s for people riding bicycles, walking dogs, or pushing strollers. At just over 20 miles, the North County Trailway is the longest of four rail-trails created from the former New York Central Railroad’s Putnam Division line. The others, combining for some 45 miles of trail travel, are the Old Putnam Trail, South County Trailway, and Putnam Trailway. All but the Old Putnam Trail are part of the 750-mile Empire State Trail, expected to be completed by 2020.
Several mid–19th-century railroad companies laid tracks that came under control of the New York and Putnam Railroad in 1894. Serving communities in Westchester and Putnam Counties, the primarily commuter rail service ran from the Bronx to Brewster. It became the Putnam Division of the New York Central after 1913, earning the nickname Old Put. Passenger service ended in 1958, and tracks began to be pulled in 1962.
The paved trail starts as a continuation of South County Trailway as it rolls under Old Saw Mill River Road. (A trail to the left in 0.1 mile goes along the southern shore of Tarrytown Reservoir toward Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson River.) It trends slightly uphill to its junction with the Putnam Trailway in Somers. The trail is scheduled for repaving by the end of 2019. Vegetation screens sections that pass through residential and commercial areas or run next to roads. Two short sections (one spanning 0.5 mile and the other 0.8 mile) use the shoulder of Saw Mill River Road. Food and refreshments can be found in numerous towns along the route.
The pathway follows the Pocantico River and Saw Mill River Road north through Briarcliff Manor. You’ll pass a short trail on the left at 5.2 miles that leads to the Briarcliff Manor Library, originally one of 23 railroad depots that served commuters in Westchester County. The first on-road section begins in a short distance. At mile 7.4, the other on-road section begins, passing Echo Lake State Park before ending in Millwood.
About 3.3 miles after regaining the trail in Millwood, you’ll pass through the Kitchawan Preserve and cross the New Croton Reservoir on a railroad bridge. In another 3 miles, you’ll enter the business district of Yorktown Heights, which has several Colonial and Revolutionary War landmarks, as well as a Putnam Division railroad depot. Plans call for a trail to head about 1 mile west from here to Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.
One mile after Yorktown Heights, the trail comes within 0.5 mile of the 1830s Amawalk Friends Meeting House on Quaker Church Road. From the trail, you’ll see pick-your-own orchards as you cross Granite Springs Road. Past the orchards, you’ll soon arrive in Somers, which offers many snacking opportunities.
To reach the Elmsford trailhead from I-87, take Exit 8 or 8A, and merge onto I-287 E/Cross Westchester Expy. Go 0.2 mile, and merge onto Saw Mill River Pkwy. N. Go 2.5 miles, and take Exit 23. Turn right, go 0.1 mile, and look for parking on your right. The trail at the rear of the parking lot goes left 300 feet to reach the North County Trailway. Alternatively, take Exit 23 and turn left onto NY 303/Old Saw Mill River Road. Go 0.1 mile, and look for parking on your right. Turn left onto a spur trail at the entrance to reach the North County Trailway in 0.2 mile.
To reach the Baldwin Place trailhead from I-684, take Exit 6; head west on NY 35. Go 1.6 miles, and turn right onto NY 100 N. Then go 0.6 mile, and turn left onto NY 139/Primrose Dr. Go 2.7 miles, and stay on the arterial to join US 202/Lincolndale Road. Go 1.8 miles, and turn right onto NY 118/Tomahawk St. Go 1.9 miles, and turn left to stay on NY 118/Tomahawk St. Go 0.1 mile, turn left into Somers Commons, and immediately look for parking on the left. Turn right onto the trail at the rear of the parking lot. (A left turn will take you to the Putnam Trailway.)
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