This past Saturday, we dragged ourselves out of bed early so we could ride before a predicted afternoon storm. We enjoyed some excellent dirt riding through forests and across ridges with stunning views. And we managed to complete the entire ride before some nasty weather rolled in.
Our original route would have been 77 miles (see notes for the Brewster to Wassaic ride earlier this year), but we shortened it to 47 miles in light of the weather. We also moved the start location to Wingdale, which is near the center of this “figure 8” shaped ride, so we could easily bail if the storm arrived early. Thankfully, we completed this beautiful ride before the skies opened up with pouring rain, heavy winds, and even hail in some places.
I’ve pasted our shortened route below, because sometimes folks are looking for rides that don’t require an entire day to complete.
A dozen riders showed up on Halloween morning, including a few people who were riding with us for the first time. Welcome! It was fun meeting all of you!
We covered some of Westchester’s best dirt and quiet paved roads. Given the major rain storm the night before, we opted for hard-packed dirt roads and took the “main road” through Mountain Lakes Park, rather than the trails. It’s more of a rugged jeep trail for much of its distance, rather than a road, but it is the least-muddy and least-technical path through the park after rainy weather. Aside for temporarily losing a rider or two, who managed to zip past our appointed lunch location, everything went smoothly.
After the ride, a few of us grabbed beers and food at the deli next to the commuter parking lot. They have a little beer garden outside and had some solid brews available, given the small number of taps on offer.
The complete route is ~63 miles and >5000 ft of elevation gain. It can be shortened to 55 miles or even 48 miles if anybody is running low on time or energy. It is not obvious in this direction of travel, but The Market at Union Hall is on the corner around Mile 28. I updated the route to make it clear that there is a potential food stop at that location. For drivers, there is a large commuter parking lot, just a couple of blocks from the train station.
[For those who don’t know, Strava events disappear from the group page when they are done. I sometimes post routes or other information after a ride, so folks who can’t join us can ride the routes later.]
I mentioned a potential Wednesday gravel ride within last weekend’s event post. A few folks reached out and a trio of us tackled the big climb to the Shawangunk Ridge (i.e. “the gunks”) where Awosting Preserve, Minnewaska State Park, and Mohonk Preserve are all located. It was the first time I’ve cycled in this area, though I’ve hiked here in the past. It was well worth the trip. And worth visiting on a weekday (instead of a weekend) to avoid crowds of hikers on the trails.
The updated route is below. We observed some nice fall colors on the ridge and I suspect it will be getting better over the next week or two.
DETAILS: (also found in the link above) The main basis for this route is a classic NYCC dirt ride (nycc.org/node/85790/66595).
This route tackles the monster climb up to Awosting Preserve, then tries to cover the main carriage trails of Minnewaska, before heading across the ridge to Mohonk Preserve and back towards Poughkeepsie. You can head towards home before entering Mohonk (see mile marker 52). There may be a $20 trail fee for entering Mohonk. In this direction, on a weekday, there might not be anybody manning a table on that trail (we didn’t see anybody). On a weekend, count on somebody being there to collect the fee.
The dirt climb to the Awosting Reserve is a challenge. You will earn your views. Based on my GPS unit’s altimeter data, Ride with GPS clocked it at 6.7 miles, almost 2000 feet elevation gain, 6.1% average grade, but that included the gently graded sections at the start and end. The main climb was much steeper and more technical in places. Apparently it was >1400 feet over 3.3 miles, 9.0% avg grade, 23% max grade. You’ve been appropriately forewarned.
** Bring extra food and water for this journey. ** And I don’t mean two water bottles and a couple of energy gels. You’ll go either ~38 miles, or 54 miles if the Visitor’s Center is closed, before finding water again. And part of that distance is the considerable climb onto the ridge.
Some additional thoughts:
We purposely visited on a weekday because Minnewaska can be crowded with hikers on weekends, which is problematic if you are zipping around by bike.
If you drive and park, you can skip the monster climb, and just enjoy cruising the carriage roads. Alternatively, you can travel in the opposite direction and do the elevation in pieces over a much longer distance.
Some folks go down the Awosting Portal climb, but it is quite treacherous (particularly on a rigid bike), so use caution. There was a wide trench across the path in one spot, with an exposed drainage pipe in front of it. I would not want to hit that trench at high speed going downhill (this was Oct 2021). There were smaller gullies, too. But most of the rest was in reasonable condition.
This route takes you onto beautiful cliffside trails within Minnewaska. When you see a sign that says “Sharp Turn”, slow down. You don’t want to skid off the edge of an upcoming cliff.
You can shorten this route by 11 miles if you head east from the Minnewaska Visitor’s Center (rather than continuing for the extra loop within the park).
OVERALL: A spectacularly beautiful place that can get busy with hikers on weekends. Expect a long and tough climb if you take this particular route to get there. Bring plenty of food and water.
We embarked from the Dover Plains train station on Oct 9, 2021 for gravel ride in Dutchess County, NY. It was a lovely day out. Miles and miles of farms, forests, and hilltop views on hardpacked dirt roads (and pavement). We saw hints of fall color, particularly at higher elevations and along ridge lines.
This 65 mile route contains only actual roads (45% dirt and 55% paved) and no forest trails, so nothing too technical. Most of the dirt roads were fast-moving hardpack. That said, be wary of fast dirt descents with sharp turns, washboard, potholes, or occasional loose stuff. This route has quite a bit of climbing in total (probably closer to 6000′ rather than the 5000′ that Ride with GPS lists), but only one stout climb continues for a long time. So the challenge is the continual up-and-down rather than long climbs throughout.
I updated the route so that it detours through the town of Millbrook, since our original lunch location has closed permanently (sadly). Credit goes to Mark L for the original route.
On Saturday, Sept 25 a small group of riders left Cold Spring, NY to traverse the dirt and gravel roads around Fahnestock State Park and Garrison. Our route included virtually all of the true gravel roads in the region, which also meant tackling many of the longest and steepest climbs. Our route did not include the rough trails in the center of Fahnestock, which are more suitable to a mountain bike.
Overall, it was a beautiful ride. The weather was perfect, we spent much of the day traveling through forests, past ponds and streams, and through occasional farm country. We had lunch and replenished snacks and fluids at Boyd’s Corner Store/Deli at mile 30. After surviving all the climbs, we had a cold beer at Barber and Brew in Cold Spring. They had a few outside stools and no haircut is required to enjoy a good microbrew.
Notes about road conditions: 1) Expect some very steep grades (>20%) on some of the climbs and descents. 2) There were some very rough sections on those steep downhills (e.g. bad washboard), so keep your speed in check. One rider went down, but is okay. 3) Sunken Mine and Indian Brook roads: the gullies across the road were deeper and more numerous than I remember them in the past. Keep your eyes on the road ahead. 4) If you are looking for a still-challenging, but less intense version of this route, see here: ridewithgps.com/routes/37003811 . The alternative route has less gravel/dirt (sorry!), but adds a potential stop in pleasant Carmel Hamlet and skips some of the more ridiculous hills.
On Sunday, August 29, GrNY riders (including two new members) lined up to tackle either a 50+ or 80+ mile gravel route that included the challenging climb up Skiff Mountain near Kent, CT.
Overall, it was an awesome day out. We had good weather for riding (highs in the 70s and no rain, despite the gray skies); the roads were in better condition than we expected given Hurricane Henri the week before; everyone managed to complete the route (either 50+ or 80+ miles), and we covered some beautiful rural roads through farms, forests, and nature preserves.
That said, the start of our ride didn’t go as planned! A running race led to the closure of the first part of our route. We managed to detour. About 9 miles from the start, we came to another closed road. The bridge was completely missing. Water pumps were running and there were no construction crews around, so we crossed the construction zone.
One of the ride highlights — or lowlights depending on how much time a rider spent riding vs walking — was the climb up Skiff Mountain via N Kent Road. This is a minimally maintained road that resembles a jeep trail more than the hard-packed dirt roads on the rest of the route. It is a significant climb (>1000’), it is very steep in places (up to 20%), and continues for a long way (2.5 miles at 9 to 10% average grade), but it is the loose surface that makes it particularly challenging.
A couple of us managed to ride the entire way (which definitely felt like an accomplishment). Others managed to ride most of the way, but had to walk the steepest or loosest sections (not enough traction). One or two riders probably spent more time walking. My only tips are to keep your weight back, try to pick good lines (i.e. look for the better-packed sections), spin smoothly, and otherwise try to keep your wheel straight (not turned) through the loose stuff. I was running 38mm slick tires, but I’m sure wider would have been better.
Splitting up: Soon after Skiff Mountain, around mile 26, we split into two groups. Some of us continued on the 80+ mile route, which travelled through picturesque dirt roads in Dutchess County, NY. Others stayed mostly within Litchfield, CT and passed through the beautiful Macedonia Brook State Park to complete 50+ miles on the day. The 50+ mile group confirmed that everybody made it and enjoyed the route. Our 80+ mile group put in a long, but enjoyable day on the bike, with our fuel tanks mostly drained by the end. Total distance was ~83 miles and between 7200’ and 7800’ of climbing depending on whose device and routing service you believe.
My Saturday ride was *not* a GrNY group ride, but I thought I would share a scouting report for those who are interested in riding in this lovely region in the future. I don’t recommend taking my exact route (i.e. don’t do this: https://www.strava.com/activities/5681995427). But I have posted a revised version below.
The heart of my ride was Mark L’s 2021 Mt Riga route, which he has characterized in detail (https://www.cyclesnack.com/2021/07/annual-mt-riga-pilgrimage.html?m=1). Thank you Mark! In my infinite wisdom (i.e. foolishness) I decided that I wanted an extended version of Mark’s adventure. The version I rode ended up being 80 miles and ~7500′ of climbing.
Overall: It was an epic ride that included the ~1250′ climb up Mt Riga, the steeper ~1000′ climb up Sunset Rock, and the beautiful (flat) River Rd along the Housatonic River just north of West Cornwall. My version added a pleasant southern gravel loop in the Sharon, CT region, which could easily be extended by continuing in the southeast direction (see GravelMap.com if you are unfamiliar). I had originally mapped >90 miles before sanity kicked in and I cut it down to 80.
Interesting dirt/gravel sections (in order of appearance):
The Mt Riga climb (1250′) was not as tough as I had expected/feared. It was long, but the average grade was ~5% and the really steep sections were not too long.
Sunset Rock (1000′) was actually tougher with a much steeper average grade on the main climb.
Between the Lakes Rd (mostly flat) was a wonderful stretch of dirt between Washinee Lake and Twin Lakes. Great water views in both directions.
Wildcat Hollow Rd (mostly flat) was somewhat true to it’s name in that it was a minimally maintained, very rough section of dirt/gravel through the woods. A bit more technical than other roads mentioned thus far.
The section of River Rd (flat), just north of West Cornwall, was a lovely highlight. It was between a seemingly rarely-used train corridor and the impressive Housatonic River.
Mt Easter Rd and Clay Bed Road (skip it): I rode this 3.5 mile sand pit so you don’t have to! After climbing at 9% average grade for 1.1 miles in the afternoon sun (up Swaller Hill Rd) I entered Mt Easter “road”. It was definitely not a road. I would characterize it as an unimproved jeep and ATV trail with big washouts and deep sand in many places. I continued for the complete distance, slowly fishtailing in the sand, bunny hopping over gulleys, and nearly toppling over countless times. A fat bike and a strong rider could push through the sand of this road, but I don’t think gravel bike tires can hope to maintain traction in many sections.
The southern gravel loop included Butter Rd, Bowne Rd, and Tichnor Rd. These were very pleasant forested gravel roads over rolling terrain. They were mostly well-maintained.
Steve’s extended version (78 miles, ~7000′): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/36928079 – This improved version removes the 3.5 mile Mt Easter Rd section of sandy jeep/ATV trails. By consequence, it also removes the Swaller Hill Rd climb.
Parking: Nobody gave me trouble for parking at the Sharon Audubon Center on a quiet Saturday, but there were tons of signs saying ‘no parking’ during morning and afternoon camp pickup hours (presumable on weekdays?). Mark’s ride starts at Housatonic High School, but I’m guessing that parking is only allowed on weekends when school is not in session? Maybe someone who is local can chime in.
This was an idyllic ride through forests, farms, and scenic ridges, along many miles of rivers and streams. We stopped for apple cider donuts and other delights at mile 14 at Hacklebarney Farms Cider Mill. We arrived before they officially opened (at a rather late 10am), but they came out to greet us and opened up for us anyway. Great folks! Most of our riders completed the challenging loop that goes through the Teetertown Ravine Nature Preserve (miles 21 to 28), which included a satisfying climb followed by a somewhat technical dirt/gravel descent. I say technical because of the large gulleys and washouts across many sections of road, presumably due to recent storms. We regrouped for lunch in Califon, then continued along the Raritan River Rd within the Lockewood Gorge. It was beautiful back there. Just use a bit of caution on the rocky sections and potentially walk them. They are quite short. After the gorge, our ride continued along more beautiful, wooded stream sides. At mile 40, Kathy and I stopped to purchase a quart of maple syrup right from the source (as evidenced by the blue tubing in the woods). It was an on-your-honor, drop in your money, sort of operation. At mile 47, we stopped for cold drinks and snacks at the Oldwick Market/General Store. The last quarter of the ride included hills with great views across farm and forest. Our overall distance was 54 miles with somewhere around 4500 feet of climbing recorded across our various devices.
Miles 33-36 (Lockwood Gorge): There are short stretches with large rocks that you may want to walk rather than ride.
Mile 21: There is a 6 mile loop that starts here. Half is paved and half is a steep, minimally maintained dirt road/trail through Teetertown preserve. You need to choose your own adventure:
In the route that I posted (“counter-clockwise”), you end up going down a steep dirt section that currently has washed out gullies, so you’ll need to be careful to avoid gaining too much speed and wiping out. In this direction, the most beautiful part of the loop (Teetertown Preserve) disappears fast because it is all downhill.
In my old version (“clockwise” around the loop) you have to claw your way up the dirt section, but you get more time to take in the scenery of Teetertown Preserve as you climb. HOWEVER, you also have to make sure you slow down before a very sketchy hairpin turn (paved) on the descent. That hairpin turn is why I reversed the loop for this group ride. I’m not really sure that I made the right choice. So choose your direction and your hazard accordingly! Watch out for the hairpin turn before you reach mile 26 if you choose the clockwise direction. Watch out for the sketchy dirt descent if you choose the counter-clockwise direction.
Horses: The ride ventures onto the Columbia Trail for short stretches. There are a lot of horseback riders who use the trail. Stop and ask the riders before passing. You don’t want to spook a horse (for your safety and that of the rider).
This event was on July 5, 2021: Overall, it was a challenging, but very rewarding ride to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend. The route included paved sections, gravel sections, a short section of forest trail (around mile 22), and several challenging climbs followed by memorable descents.
All riders started together in Brewster, tackled the wild Penny Lane forest trail, then continued to our lunch stop in Wingdale. We picked up an additional rider who took the same train to Brewster and was using our route as a jumping-off point for his bike trip to the Berkshires. Cousins Bakery/Pizzeria was closed for the holiday, so we had to make do with the deli/Dunkin Donuts/Mobile Station just down the road. Normally, Cousins provides some nice baked goods for bringing up the blood sugar! Around mile 28/29 our “extra” rider continued on his route, a second rider headed back towards Brewster to complete the 50 mile loop (and get home a bit earlier), while the rest of the group committed to the full 77 mile route.
RidewithGPS estimated the route at 6000’, but all of our devices registered well over 7000’ of total climbing on the day. Those climbs earned us some beautiful views and fun, roaring descents. Everybody survived the route, though some suffered a bit more than others on the climbs.
For future riders of this route: There are no stores of any kind from mile 26 to mile 69 (43 miles total), so we tried to fuel up during our pitstop in Wingdale. We used my portable water filter to top-off our water bottles around Macedonia Brook State Park, since it was a hot day. Come prepared with everything you need for that stretch of the ride!
This was a really spectacular Memorial Day ride. It was much needed after a Saturday and Sunday of non-stop rain and cold wind. High temperature was a cool 68F, which is perfect weather for climbing. And we did plenty of climbing! Anywhere from 6400′ (Strava) to 7000′ (bike computer with altimeter) of elevation gain over ~64 miles.
While steep, the gravel roads on the east side of the Hudson were peaceful and often surrounded by forests and streams. But the star of the show was the Black Rock Forest. The trails were perfect for a gravel bike and the journey was rewarded by views of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs at every turn. It was as spectacular as a I remembered it. We continued onto the Storm King Highway and enjoyed stunning views over the Hudson River. We then returned over the Bear Mountain Bridge to finish the rest of the gravel roads on the other side of the river.
I’ve included some photos from the ride and the route links from Ride with GPS. The first route is 64 miles/6400′. The second “bailout” route takes a direct path back to Garrison, which cuts the ride down to 50 miles/4500′. I’ve also included a “mini” route that focuses on Black Rock Forest and the Storm King Highway (28 miles, 2500′), but requires driving to the start location.
NOTE: We were unable to go through West Point, so were forced onto some truly heinous roads for bicycling (the short bit on 9W). USE EXTREME CAUTION IF YOU DO THIS ROUTE! You will also need to traverse some *very busy* roads to cross the Hudson River (in both directions), but you will be rewarded with beautiful views from the Bear Mountain Bridge each time.