With miles of bike lanes throughout its five boroughs, New York City (NYC) is a cyclist’s metropolis; commuters, weekend enthusiasts and professional racers all take advantage of the city’s park loops, waterfront paths and more.
However, the city can overwhelm even longtime residents, especially when you start craving a connection to nature that goes beyond Central Park. Whether you live in New York or just visiting for an extended period of time, consider planning a day trip slightly outside of the urban sprawl.
An hour or two of riding and/or a short train ride can transport you to country roads, idyllic hamlets and views that make the skyline seem worlds away. Though you can easily drive to any of the following destinations, they’re highly accessible by bike; this is especially important since many New Yorkers don’t own a car thanks to the city’s robust public transportation network.
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to get out of the city and be back in time for dinner is via the Metro North Railroad. With routes branching out across the Hudson River Valley, Westchester and Connecticut, there’s no shortage of riverside towns and beach communities to visit for the day. The Metro North also allows passengers to travel with bikes on board the train, meaning you can get to a number of cycling trails from Manhattan’s Grand Central and 125th Street stations.
New York’s South County Trailway is a popular ride out of the city that extends north for a little over 14 miles. It then connects to the North Country Trailway, which is just over 22 miles long. Combined, the two trails result in decent mileage for anyone looking to spend all day riding and exploring along the way.
The South County Trailway can be accessed from the Bronx at Van Cortlandt Park. Most people choose to start in the Bronx, ride a portion of the Trailway and catch the Metro North back to the city at one of the stations along the trail. However, you can also plan your trip the other way around, meaning you’ll take the Metro North to a station of your choice and then take the Trailway back into the Bronx. Either way, plan to incorporate a quick subway commute to or from Van Cortlandt park; the park is located quite far from most of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Located near the point where the South and North County Trailways meet, the village of Tarrytown is an ideal destination for a first time day ride out of the city. The town is about sixteen miles north of Van Cortlandt park, and you’ll be on the South County Trailway for most of the way there. The paved trail way is car- free, so expect plenty of other cyclists, greenery and a smooth, paced ride without any significant climbs.
Once in Tarrytown, take a walk down Main Street, grab a coffee or a bite to eat and be sure to venture down to the RiverWalk Park overlooking the Hudson, You can easily spend most of the day enjoying the small town atmosphere in both Tarrytown and historic Sleepy Hollow, which lies a few minutes to the north. When you’re all done, head to Tarrytown’s Metro North Station for a ticket back to the city.
Return trip: Riders who are planning to complete the entire 36 miles of the South and North Country Trailways can board a Metro North train back to the city in Brewster, New York.
The Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which connects the towns of Tarrytown and South Nyack is another option for cyclists looking to extend their ride. Nyack itself is an extremely popular destination for riders crossing the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan. Charming and full of local eateries, Nyack is directly on bike route 9W, which travels up the west bank of the Hudson. If you are planning a ride to Tarrytown, consider venturing over the bridge to Nyack as well; the bridge has bicycle and pedestrian paths. After exploring, bike back over the bridge to Tarrytown’s Metro North Station or take 9W south into Manhattan; the distance to the city totals about 30 miles, so plan ahead to make sure you have the energy (and the daylight) to complete the trip.
If you have all day and consider yourself an early bird, take the Metro North to Wassaic, New York, the very last station on the Harlem Line. Your train ride will last about two hours and include plenty of scenery to get you excited about taking on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.
This trail will eventually count 46 miles and run from Wassaic to Chatham, NY; currently, just over twenty miles of the trail is completed and open to cyclists. You’ll pass through three small towns during the ride, ending up at the entrance to Taconic State Park in Copake Falls before it’s time to turn back.
An hour and a half on Metro North’s Hudson Line will get you to the small city of Poughkeepsie, perched right on the Hudson River. The city’s bike- friendly Walkway over the Hudson is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world and takes you over the river to Highland, New York. Once there, it’s up to you whether to bike the Hudson Valley Rail Trail on the west side of the Walkway or the longer, 14 mile Dutchess Rail Trail to the east.
Thanks to its versatility, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail can take you beyond Poughkeepsie to another one of Upstate New York’s favorite weekend destinations. New Paltz, New York is a sizable college town just west of Poughkeepsie where you’ll find quaint shops, local dining, and mountain views. New Paltz marks the end of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and is located about nine miles from the Walkway Over the Hudson. There is no direct train service back to New York City from the town, so plan to ride back to Poughkeepsie to catch the Metro North.
For another ambitious option, take the Dutchess Rail Trail, which re-purposes a former railroad corridor to connect Poughkeepsie to the community of Hopewell Junction. Though there will be less in-town exploring on this route, you’ll be surrounded by nature as you make your way to the Hopewell Depot. Once you complete the trail’s 14 miles, plan to ride back to Poughkeepsie to take the train back into the city.
The New Jersey Transit is another resource to keep in mind, especially if you’re interested in exploring the Jersey shore or the state’s small towns. Bikes are permitted on NJ Transit trains, but there are some restrictions during peak hours, so make sure to plan accordingly. NJ Transit trains leave from Manhattan’s Penn Station.
The New Jersey Transit’s Port Jervis line stops in Harriman, New York, which borders scenic Harriman State Park. The park is a popular destination for hikers, campers and even snowshoers, but the region also boasts a rail trail totaling twenty miles and linking the towns of Harriman and Goshen. The Heritage Trail begins on Harriman’s River Road and crosses through the towns of Monroe and Chester, meaning there are plenty place to stop along the way and refuel. Expect a surface of paved road and occasional limestone, as well asa tranquil, wide trail that weaves through small communities. Getting to Harriman will require you to take a NJ Transit train to Secaucus Junction, where you will transfer to a Port Jervis- bound train.
One of the many benefits of living in a city defined by its rivers is the availability of ferries as public transportation. Bikes are permitted onboard NYC Ferry vessels, as well as NY Waterway boats for a small charge. Seeing the city rush by from the water will get your adrenaline pumping before you even reach your destination.
A day trip out of the city doesn’t necessarily have to pile on the miles when it comes to cycling. Getting to one of New York City’s neighboring communities by bike can be a quick and fun way to get to know a new town or city. If you’re looking to spend a sunny day on the water but want to escape New York’s ultra-popular waterfront, consider taking a ferry across the Hudson to Hoboken, New Jersey. Once you’re in Hoboken, pedal down the city’s riverfront walkway, stop for lunch and enjoy a fresh perspective on the New York skyline. Ferries to Hoboken leave from Midtown Manhattan, Battery Park City and Wall Street; make sure to take a look at NY Waterway’s route schedules before planning your day in New Jersey.
Feeling inspired? Whether you choose to hop across the river or take a long, leisurely train ride bringing your bike with you always opens up more possibilities. Eventually, you’ll be racking up mileage and getting to know the tri-state area’s hidden destinations every weekend.