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The South County Trailway rolls 14.4 miles through one of the most densely populated parts of New York, but its route through pocket woodlots, parks, and golf courses and along riverbanks makes it seem more remote.
The trail runs through Westchester County between Yonkers and Greenburgh, connecting Van Cortlandt Park and Tarrytown Lakes Park. Much of the way is screened as it runs between Saw Mill River Parkway and the Saw Mill River. While all the trees provide shade in the summertime, the tree roots have created ridges in the asphalt that can make for bumpy travel for anyone on wheels.
The South County Trailway is part of a four-trail system that includes Old Putnam Trail to the south and the North County Trailway and Putnam Trailway to the north. They combine for 45 miles of mostly off-road travel along an old railroad corridor. Passenger and freight service began in the 1880s, and the corridor fell under control of the New York and Putnam Railroad in 1894. In 1913 it became the New York Central Railroad’s Putnam Division, earning the nickname Old Put from commuters. Passenger service ended in 1958.
The trail, part of the developing 750-mile Empire State Trail, starts at the north side of Van Cortlandt Park and begins an easy but steady climb north. In less than a mile, it reaches Tibbetts Brook Park, where you’ll find a popular water park and the closest parking to the trailhead.
After crossing over Cross County Parkway and Yonkers Boulevard, the trail passes the 126-acre Dunwoodie Golf Course on the left and the HF Redmond Jr. Memorial Park on the right. In a mile, an observation point just north of the Palmer Road overpass reveals a view of north Yonkers from the trail’s highest point.
The trail passes through the communities of Bryn Mawr, Nepperhan, and Grey Oaks, where you should expect traffic noise from Saw Mill River Parkway. You’ll meet the Saw Mill River at a bridge about 6.2 miles from the start and soon pass the sprawling Mount Hope and Westchester Hills Cemeteries. In another 3 miles, the trail passes Woodlands Lake in V.E. Macy Park. The haunting Great Hunger Memorial across the lake memorializes the millions who died in the Irish potato famine.
Another 2.5 miles down the trail, you’ll arrive in Elmsford, home of the only surviving railroad station from the “Old Put” days on the South County Trailway. It’s a restaurant today, one of many places to eat in town. The final 2 miles to the junction with the North County Trailway pass through the wooded watershed of Tarrytown Reservoir. A spur trail travels the south shore of the lake toward Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.
To reach the Yonkers trailhead from I-87 N, take Exit 14 and merge onto Jerome Ave. Go 300 feet, and stay straight onto Central Park Ave. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto McLean Ave. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right to stay on McLean Ave., and then go 0.2 mile, and stay straight onto Midland Ave. Go 0.8 mile, and turn left onto Teresa Ave. and enter Tibbetts Brook Park. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto County Park Road. Then go 0.2 mile and look for parking on the left. From the parking lot, cross the street, turn left, and then turn right onto the first trail. Go a short distance and take the next trail left, and then go 0.3 mile and bear right. Go 0.1 mile, turn left onto another trail, and follow this to the junction with the South County Trailway. Turn left to reach the southern endpoint in 0.7 mile. From I-87 S, take Exit 1 toward Hall Pl./McLean Ave. Merge onto Central Park Ave., and immediately make a sharp right turn onto Bajart Pl. In 0.2 mile turn left onto Wendover Road, and go 0.2 mile. Turn right onto Midland Ave., and follow the directions above from there.
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.
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