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The Old Erie Path reveals spectacular views of the Hudson River Valley as the rail-trail rolls along cliffs that border the river’s western shore. Although fairly short, it joins two other rail-trails—Joseph B. Clarke Rail Trail and Raymond G. Esposito Memorial Trail—that combine for more than 8 miles of off-road travel in historic Rockland County.
The trail follows the original corridor of the Northern Railroad of New Jersey, which primarily ran passenger trains from Jersey City to Nyack and used tracks owned by the New York & Erie Railroad between Sparkill and Piermont. The Erie Railroad bought the line in 1942, after which it became Erie’s Nyack and Piermont Branch. Passenger service ended in 1966.
The trail begins just east of the railroad Y-junction in Sparkill, where the Northern Railroad left the Erie Railroad main line heading to Lake Erie. Called Depot Square, this is where today the Old Erie Path meets the 4.3-mile Joseph B. Clarke Rail Trail, which heads southwest to Tappan and northwest to Blauvelt.
You’ll notice that the Old Erie Path has a rougher surface than the Clarke or Esposito trail; hybrid or mountain bikes are recommended over skinny-tire road bikes. The first mile goes through woodlands above Sparkill Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River, before it arrives in the village of Piermont at the circa 1873 railroad depot. Today the building on Ash Street is a museum operated by the Piermont Historical Society. A nearby marker—JC 25—tells the distance to Jersey City.
Piermont is noted for the mile-long pier built into the Hudson River in 1838 by the New York & Erie Railroad to pick up passengers and cargo. Plaques describe it as the site where more than a million servicemen embarked by ship to North Africa and Europe during World War II. You can reach the pier and Piermont’s historical downtown and eateries by heading downhill on Hudson Terrace and then turning right onto Ash Street.
Leaving the old depot, a thick hardwood forest surrounds the trail through Grand View-on-Hudson, whose name is derived from its setting. The railroad company laid track about 200 feet up the cliffs that overlook the Hudson. The trees provide shade in the summer, while the leafless vegetation in the fall and winter allows for views of the Piermont pier, Westchester County across the Hudson, and the steel girders of the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (formerly known as the Tappan Zee Bridge). The new shared-use path on the bridge is expected to draw more traffic to local trails.
Homeowners, many of them above or below the corridor, access the trail by way of creative engineering: hillside stairways with handrails fashioned from the limbs of native trees, as well as decorative archways and gates on intricate pulley systems.
Crossing South Broadway, the pathway soon enters South Nyack and becomes the Raymond G. Esposito Memorial Trail, which ends in Franklin Street Park after a mile.
To reach the endpoint in Sparkill from I-287, take Exit 13S to merge onto the Palisades Interstate Pkwy. Go 4.9 miles, and take Exit 5S onto US 303 S. Go 0.5 mile, and turn left onto Kings Hwy. Go 0.9 mile and turn right onto Orangeburg Road; then go 0.3 mile and turn right onto Main St. Go 0.1 mile, turn right onto Depot Sq., and look for on-street parking. Head northeast on the right trail fork 0.2 mile to reach the Old Erie Path.
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