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At first glance, there’s no evidence that an aqueduct ever existed along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The trail is often a singletrack dirt pathway that winds through communities and trees and provides an oasis of green just north of the Bronx. But take a closer look and the trail begins to hint at a history that spans more than 175 years.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Croton Aqueduct was completed in 1842, when water first flowed from the Croton River south into the Bronx, providing clean water to a city with a rising population that desperately needed it. The aqueduct quickly grew obsolete as New York City’s population continued to boom, and a New Croton Aqueduct, three times the size, was built in 1890.
The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail gives visitors a lesson in New York history, starting from the north at the New Croton Dam. It begins to the right of the dam, and as you head south, you’ll quickly pass the first of 21 remaining ventilators, 10- to 14-foot-high structures that were placed at roughly 1-mile intervals to allow fresh air to reach the water in the aqueduct.
After about 3 miles, you’ll reach the town of Crotonville, one of several small towns along the trail. Another 2 miles farther is Ossining. This northern tip of the trail up to Ossining will be the most comfortable for horseback riders. The trail crosses many public streets along its 26 miles. Drivers tend to yield to trail users, but use caution at these crossings, which get more numerous as the trail continues south and enters urban areas.
Walkers can enjoy the trail’s entire length; cyclists and other trail users may use the path as well but may find some sections difficult to traverse. Cyclists will need to be comfortable biking on the sidewalks and roadways of several streets of varying traffic volumes and speeds. Travelers should particularly use caution in the section of the trail following Albany Post Road, which has no sidewalks or shoulders, for about 0.3 mile south of Scarborough. Here walkers and casual cyclists will want to follow a 0.8-mile detour, which goes right on Scarborough Station Road, left on River Road, and left on Creighton Road back to the trail.
Follow the trail another 3 miles to the town of Sleepy Hollow, which is much quainter than its legend of the Headless Horseman suggests; this is another section of the trail that equestrians may enjoy. Rockefeller State Park Preserve, which offers a bridle path, is also nearby (though equestrians must have a permit).
Trail users get views of the newly constructed Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly known as the Tappan Zee Bridge) about 2.5 miles south of Sleepy Hollow. A new shared-use path runs along the bridge and provides a nonmotorized crossing of the Hudson River. About 0.5 mile south of the bridge, the trail crosses through Lyndhurst, the site of a Gothic Revival mansion where cyclists are asked to dismount and walk through the park. Take the time to walk through Lyndhurst and enjoy its well-manicured landscaping.
Signage is infrequent on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, an intentional effort by the trail’s developers to maintain its rural nature. Four miles south of Lyndhurst, trail users will find it easy to locate the historical Keeper’s House and park headquarters, worth a stop to admire a piece of the trail’s history. To stay on the trail, be on the lookout for the stones imprinted with OCA at many street crossings, as well as the wayfinding signs installed in summer 2018 at several areas that are difficult to navigate.
The remainder of the trail headed south is best suited for walkers, as the trail surface is occasionally rocky and winds through and around public streets in Yonkers. The southern end of the trail lies near the intersection of Lawton Street and Hancock Avenue in Yonkers, while the Old Croton Aqueduct continues south into the Bronx. There is no formal trailhead at the trail’s southern terminus, and those reaching the trail by car can look for on-street parking nearby.
To reach the southern terminus from I-87 S, take Exit 1 toward Hall Pl./McLean Ave. Merge onto Central Park Ave., go 0.5 mile, and turn right onto Forest Ave. Travel 0.2 mile, where Forest Ave. turns right and becomes Hancock Ave. Travel another 0.2 mile to the southern terminus near the intersection of Hancock Ave. and Lawton St.
To reach the southern terminus from I-87 N, take Exit 14 toward McLean Ave. Merge onto Jerome Ave., go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto McLean Ave. Make an immediate left onto Forest Ave. Travel 0.2 mile, where Forest Ave. turns right and becomes Hancock Ave. Travel another 0.2 mile to the southern terminus near the intersection of Hancock Ave. and Lawton St.
To reach the northern terminus from I-287 W, take Exit 6, and turn left onto Orchard St. Go 0.2 mile, and continue onto Cemetery Road. From I-287 E, take Exit 6, and turn left onto NY 22. Immediately turn left onto Cemetery Road. In 0.3 mile turn right onto Bronx River Pkwy., and go 1.7 miles. At Kensico Cir., take the second exit onto Taconic State Pkwy. Go 13.9 miles, and take Exit 13 for Underhill Ave./Croton-on-Hudson/Yorktown Heights. Head southwest on Underhill Ave. Travel 0.8 mile on Underhill Ave., and turn right onto NY 129 W/Croton Lake Road. After 3 miles, turn left onto Croton Dam Road. Parking is available at the New Croton Dam in 0.2 mile on the right.
We’ve been walking this trail for years. If you enter at the corner of Cedar and Dobbs, and walk to Paulding, through that gated patch where you pass over the small bridge, which is what we most often do, it’s about 7.5 miles and takes ~2.5 hours at a decent pace. Today we walked from Dows Lane to that gate by the cottage and back around. An hour and fifteen. And if you want a snack or drinks, you can detour down Main St, Irvington. We like to walk to MP Taverna.
Historic trail with varied terrain and beautiful scenery. We parked in Rockland County and rode over the Tappan Zee Bridge and made am easy connection to the trail.
As described, this trail varies from a wide gravel path to a single track dirt track with grass. We started in Tarrytown and went south. This is not a trail for a road bike but you are ok on a gravel bike as long as you are comfortable with rough spots and roots. The trail has lots of road crossings and they vary from neighborhoods where the cars have stop signs to steep hills where no one stops. Almost all have large granite curbs that you have to dismount to lift your bike over. As long as you are cautious you are ok. We made it to Yonkers when we turned around due to a raccoon which was blocking the trail and threatening to attack. Others on the trail kept going and one group was going all the way to NYC. We rode a bit of the River Walk as well which looks like it connects the southern part of this trail with the northern.
There is a bathroom at the Keepers House along with a museum and lovely docents who had lots of fascinating information about the aqueduct.
This was a fun outing to try something new but will likely not be on our list of gravel trails we love to ride and go to frequently.
This trail will take you all the way from Van Cortland Park up to the Croton Dam. I split it into 2 rides with the halfway point being the Cuomo bridge in Tarrytown. There are lots of street crossings with high curbs and a few spots that are so steep you will have to walk the bike. The dam at the end is the reward but be careful with the on road sections. Road bikes are not advisable as the path is only paved through Ossining. It hooks up with the Briarcliff-Peakskill Trail up at the dam if you’re feeling your oats and want to extend the day. Bring a map for this one.
This is not really a one long trail but a series of segmented trails. While the beginning of each segment is marked with an "OCA" post, at the end of most segments there is no indication about where to find the next thread of the trail. Often you have to go through busy suburban streets to make the connection, some of which are quite dangerous. Other reviews recommended using GPS on your phone, but Google maps only indicates where the various trail segments are and it is difficult to find out how they connect. My friend & I attempted to do the northern half of the trail from Tarrytown up to the Old Croton reservoir. When you get to the Clearview School in Scarborough, you have to ride on a very busy Rt. 9, which has no shoulder, until you can take up the trail on Scarborough Rd. When we got to Ossining, the trail ended with no indication how to continue, so we again had to ride on Rt. 9. Then my friend hit a broken drainage grate on the side of the street, which was covered with leaves so that she could not see the gap in the pavement. It threw her head-first onto the asphalt. She was knocked out for several minutes, had a concussion, was bleeding profusely and nearly broke her neck. I called an EMT which took her to a hospital, where she stayed for two days and had stitches to her face and several tests. She was lucky she was not paralyzed (thanks to wearing a helmet). Exercise GREAT caution if you take the Ossining part of the trail. Some of the other segments are O.K. but some of them are just like riding through peoples' backyards.
We rode from Sleepy Hollow High School to the Croton Dam and back on 9 26 20, total 22 miles round trip.
This is quite a varied trail experience. First, there are several on-road segments that connect the trail sections. The trail itself was mostly hard packed dirt, with some gravel...you need a trail bike or a mountain bike. Basically flat, but some of the road crossings had ups and downs and there were a few slightly hilly areas too.
It’s a complicated route, you definitely need a map or a Ride With GPS route or something similar….trail has signs but not always marked clearly. Old Croton Aqueduct.org has a lot of info.
The first section, from Sleepy Hollow High School to Scarborough was all off road. Once in Scarborough, we took a detour down River Road, to Creighton, to Scarborough Station Road to avoid a section right along Route 9. Crossing Route 9 at Scarborough Road, you ride on-road up a small hill to Long Hill Street, where you pick the trail up again. This section ends in the parking lot of an apartment building You’ll need to cross Route 9 and make your way diagonally through Nelson Park and Nelson Sitting Park to Spring Street in Ossining. After a couple of blocks we took a right on Maple Street and then on the left you’ll see the trail proceed between buildings…sort of like a walkway. This “walkway” continues through Ossining, over a nice high bridge and eventually ends up out by the Northside fire house, where you pick up the trail again. The next big cue will be crossing Route 9 again at Audubon Street, you ride on road up to Piping Rock, take a left, and pick up the trail shortly on the right, finally coming out on Ogden drive. Turn left, ride on road to Old Albany Post Road, turn right, pass under the highway, and then you have the choice of turning right on Shady Lane Farm Road and picking up the trail to go around the GE property (this was very rough, hilly, and difficult) or staying on road, riding uphill and turning right on Hillcrest Road. Both options take you out to Indian Brook Service Road, where you’ll again pick up the trail and follow it to the Croton Dam, passing over Quaker Ridge Street a number of times.
The area through Rockefeller Park and Scarborough is really nice, including that off road detour in Scarborough where you can see the river behind some nice houses. The section next to Rockefeller park is really beautiful, you can see the hiking trails of the park from the Aqueduct. And the section immediately before you reach the dam is nice too, pretty wide, nice tree-lined stretch. I have to say though that the section to get to that (around the GE offices) is rough. And you have to ride through downtown Ossining, not hard but not of course a real trail, and there’s one section where you have to walk your bike up and over some steps. So, all in all – sort of a mixed review, some really nice sections and views but be aware that there are some challenging sections and on road sections too. And please note that there’s a whole other section south of here that goes all the way to NYC.
We only walked a small section of the trail starting in Dobbs Ferry. The OAC is lined with trees and has plenty of shade. It’s wide enough to keep social distancing (important these days). There are beautiful homes to look at along the walk. Great for city people who just want to make a day trip.
The trail offers the opportunity to ride in the green and without cars for most stretches, but its views are limited.
The first part through Yonkers is very uninspiring, it looks more like a landfill than a nice trail, so I would definitely skip that part next time. Coming through those Hudson villages is nice, but it also creates the necessity to cross a lot of streets. That wouldn't have been much of a problem if the trail was designed for it, but the way it is now you need to dismount your bike because the curbs are just too high to bike over, so that definitely takes the flow out of the ride.
Signage is poor at some places as well, I would recommend a GPS unit to ride the whole trail. There are also a couple of unbikeably steep sections that also require you to dismount. The final destination, Croton dam, is impressive to see and the highlight of the route.
All in all a very mediocre biking trail, but options are very limited anyway, departing from NYC. I think I won't be riding it again.
This is a trail for mountain bikes or road bikes with fatter tires. The trail comes in short sections, and in some parts the continuation isn’t clearly marked so I did some wrong turns and had to double back. Scenic in some areas. Just beware - there’s plenty of bigger rocks, tree roots jutting out, branches on the ground!
The OCA trail offers a rich variety of surfaces and surroundings. I rode a commuter bike with 38mm slicks and did just fine, even through the muddy sections. I picked the trail up in Yonkers off the South County with a bit of street riding. This initial section runs through some rough spots in Yonkers and includes some on-street sections. After reaching the northern neighborhoods of Yonkers, it all starts to feel European with back-to-back posh villages, mansions, and views of the Hudson. There are even some interesting stone ruins, not to mention the Lyndhurst Mansion grounds.
The trail comes and goes a bit further north and you'll find yourself on the road more than you may like, but there are some deeply wooded sections and a fun climb to a bridge over Phelps Way. There is an aqueduct museum along the way and many clear signs of former aqueduct works.
I highly recommend this trail and shall return to it many times.
My friend and I rode the OCA on January 22, 2017. We started from the parking lot of Sleepy Hollow high school. The trail is free of snow and ice, with a few muddy patches. The section shortly after is hilly. There are a few breaks in the trail that require riding on the road. One of these is at River Road in Briarcliff Manor. Two in Ossining are located from the Highview Terrace Apartments parking lot and another at Ogden Rd. near the GE complex. These road connections aren't marked so make sure you have an OCA map or GPS. There are numerous road crossings, most not heavily trafficked. There is one very steep road crossing in Ossining. Unless you're a seasoned mountain biker, I'd recommended walking your bike up and down. There is also a fairly steep hill along the fence at the GE complex. Because the surface of the trail changes from grass to dirt and can be uneven in spots, hybrid tires, at a minimum, are recommended. There are historical markers, ventilators, and weirs along the way. Make sure to ride atop the dam.
...Have parked just off Route 129, pedaled over the metal bridge just a bit east of the Taconic over the Croton Reservoir and rode alongside the reservoir up to the Old Croton Dam and down the unpaved, but very rideable path, down to Route 9A and down to Croton Harmon Metro-North station, passing over the top of the Croton River emptying into the Hudson. Then rode over the bridge over the Metro-North tracks and west to the Hudson River.....Beautiful. About 18 miles roundtrip !
I describe this trail with pictures on wetschestertrails.com This is an unpaved trail; you cannot in-line skate on it.
"It's been over a year since I posted my last review of this trail, so I thought that an update might be in order.
Of all the trails I've biked in the past year, this one still remains my favorite.
I rode the segment from Tarrytown to Yonkers 2 days ago. It's a nice level ride although there are many street crossings to deal with. Once you get into Yonkers, be aware of broken glass in the more populated areas of the City.
I biked the segement from Sleepy Hollow north to the Croton Dam today. There are fewer street crossings on this segment, but you must deal with off trail street detours in several spots. The ride was well worth it though; views from the top of the New Croton Dam were spectacular.
This trail should not be missed by any serious off-road bikers.
E-mail me if you're in the area and want more details.
Safe riding . . . "
"A great trail for those who enjoy long distance, fast moving off-road biking.
Detours via city streets in Yonkers, Tarrytown, North Tarrytown, and Ossning but otherwise a nicely maintained dirt & gravel trek from NYC to the Old Croton Dam.
Trail doesn't get very much use except just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in Irvington & Hastings-on-Hudson.
A good starting point is the Sleepy Hollow High School in North Tarrytown. From this point, head north for the most scenic and crowd-free trail portions.
No facilities in place on trail. Bring your own water & food. Maps are available from the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct. Get one; they're great.
E-mail if in area for more details.
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