Enjoying Nature at Westchester’s Rockefeller State Park Preserve
By Colette Connolly
Over 1,700 acres of land that once belonged to the Rockefeller family has been one of Westchester’s most beloved treasure troves of nature since it was handed over to New York State in 1983.
That this wide expanse of land is available for all to enjoy is amazing given the county’s close to proximity to New York City and the huge suburban sprawl that has developed in the region over the decades.
Spring is an ideal time to rediscover the Rockefeller State Park Preserve or even discover it for the first time! Below you will find information on the many trails in the Preserve.
Rockwood Hall Trail
This 3.5-mile trail follows carriage roads created by John D. Rockefeller in the early 1900s that were intended to complement the surrounding landscape, which is made up of hardwood forest, primarily oak, poplar, maple, and beech trees.
While there’s not much left of Rockwood Hall, the once-grand summer home of William Rockefeller, brother to John D., the amazing views along the trail are still worth the effort, with the opportunity to take in the Hudson River and the Palisades.
A peaceful babbling brook with quaint wooden footbridges, blooming rhododendrons and a “Great White” weeping beech tree that forms a natural jungle gym for kids are just some of the enjoyable aspects of the trail.
Pocantico River/Eagle Hill/13 Bridges Trail
There are actually several trails in this western section of the Preserve that leads walkers through a deep forest filled with streams and fields. Along the way, you are likely to spot bluebirds, swallows and hawks.
The Gory Brook Trail is a short north-south pathway that connects the Pocantico River Trail to the 13 Bridges Trail, an area featuring a number of 100-year-old stone bridges spanning the river.
Other trails in this section of the Preserve include the Witch’s Spring Trail, the Spook Rock Trail, and the Eagle Hill Trail, where you can take a diversion to another attraction known as the Glacial Erratic, a massive glacial boulder deposited in the area 10,000 years.
Buttermilk Hill Area
The eastern section of the Preserve contains Buttermilk Hill, which overlooks the Sawmill River Valley. These trails are more isolated than others in the park. Spring wildflowers and migratory songbirds can be found here.
The Swan Lake section of the Preserve is for many a regular escape from the hustle and bustle of life. Circling the lake provides opportunities to spot a variety of wildflowers and plants as well as birds and other creatures living in this beautiful habitat.
A variety of connecting trails in the hardwood forest gives way to rolling pastures, where you might spot grazing livestock used by the nearby Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.
To safely find your way around all of the trails mentioned above, it’s best to grab a map at the park entrance or download this digital map before you leave home.