As we head into late summer—sadly, of course—I’m thinking of ways to extend the season outdoors and what better way than to take a hike? I could fill an entire issue of our paper with interesting hiking venues nearby but a few stand out on my most familiar and favorite list. These diversions just get better as the weather and leaves change; lots to experience while enjoying all the seasons.
FAHNESTOCK MEMORIAL STATE PARK
1498 Route 301, Carmel, NY
A stunning state park that spans Putnam and Dutchess counties and encompasses 14,086 acres of robust terrain with something for everyone (a Diversions’ requirement, of course!). In summer there is hiking for all levels, trail biking, nature paths, swimming, boating, picnicking, a playground, camping and fishing. Included in this gem are Fahnestock Winter Park and the Taconic Outdoor Education Center. In winter, tubing and cross-country skiing are added to the mix and there is seasonal fishing and hunting allowed in certain parts of the park. This land was donated by Dr. Ernest Fahnestock in memory of his brother Clarence, who died while treating patients during the post-World War I influenza epidemic.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Because this is where I learned to downhill ski many moons ago—yes, for real, and although the ski lift is gone, I can still park at the Taconic Parkway entrance and walk down memory lane to the old ski lodge. I also love that I can share how to pronounce the name of the park: It’s Fahnestock with a long a, not Fawnstock. You might see many a fawn on the trails, but it is not named after them (wink, wink).
BLUE MOUNTAIN RESERVATION
435 Welcher Ave., Peekskill, NY
This park is Westchester County’s only public sportsman’s recreation area, meaning that it’s the only shooting sports complex within a county park. The Reservation offers hiking and mountain biking trails for all abilities, nature paths that offer views of the park’s beautiful bounty of oak, maple and beech trees and the chance access the two peaks: Blue Mountain and Mount Spitzenberg. The park is split by the Briarcliff-Peekskill Trail, so on the other side of the trails is the range for pistol, rifle, archery, 3-D archery and trap and skeet shooting. There is free instruction for those 12 and older. It is well-managed and -maintained in a safe, natural environment. With 1,538 acres, it is easy for both naturalists and sportsmen to coexist.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Because I became an archer at this park and while there have been many improvements made to the ranges, a visit here takes me right back to that simpler time where the most fun was had outdoors. I also think that the year-round hiking here is the absolute best in the fall because of the dense foliage. You can hike on a cloudy day in the fall and the colors are so profuse it will appear to be sunny. Keep that in mind as summer wanes.
WARD POUND RIDGE RESERVATION
6 Reservation Road, Pound Ridge, NY
This park is the largest Westchester County park at 4,315 acres and features hiking, mountain biking, camping and nature trails. One of my favorite parts of a visit here is the Trailside Nature Museum. Great local taxidermy, Native American exhibits and activities for kids. There are also ancient archaeological sites to explore: Leatherman’s Cave, The Bear Rock Petroglyph, Dancing Rock, Raven Rocks and the Magic Stairs all provide physical and mental challenges to make a day here really interesting.
WHY I LOVE IT:
Because there is so much to see and do from a local and global historical perspective and because the majestic Boutonville Oak, a landmark during the American Revolution, deserves its own Instagram page.