Crisp fall air, the leaves showing their boldest colors Ñ a perfect day for a family outing on bicycles! Now, where was that trail your friend told you about? Briarcliff, was it? Or was it Valhalla? And didnÕt someone mention Somers? Where does it start? Where does it end? And what do you do with the car once you find it? RENEE CHO provides the navigational logistics É
There are a variety of noteworthy biking areas in Westchester County, five run by the Westchester County Department of Parks and Recreation. The countyÕs three paved bicycle paths, which can also be used for walking or skating, are the North County Trailway, South County Trailway, and the Bronx River Pathway. For mountain biking, Graham Hills Park and the Blue Mountain Reservation feature trails for different levels of ability. A third mountain biking area, which will also have trails for all abilities, is scheduled to open at Sprain Ridge Park in late 2000. Bronx River Parkway Bike and Skate Sundays, which opens the parkway for biking from County Center south to Scarsdale Road (14 miles round trip) ends for this season on October 1. There is parking at the County Center for a $3 fee. Another bike path, the Old Croton Trailway State Park, is owned by New York State.
North County Trailway This paved and mostly level bike path runs from Eastview north to the Putnam County line. If you want to get on the path at Eastview, take the Eastview exit off the Saw Mill Parkway, go west on Saw Mill River Road, and youÕll see signs for the parking lot on your right. The entrance to the bike path is just before the lot. Follow this path and youÕll come to a T. A left turn will take you on a lovely three-mile ride along the Putnam Railroad line, through a forested area with wonderful rock formations. At the end of this section, youÕll have to turn back and return to Eastview, however, because the northern part of the path is still under construction.
You may want to access the bike path further north on Route 117 at Route 9A, where there is a parking lot on the south side of Route 117. From here, you can ride the bike path 17.4 miles all the way to Baldwin Place at the Putnam County line. Heading north from Route 117, the path follows Route 9A north to Route 100. Just past the Briarcliff Manor library, the path is actually on Route 100 next to traffic and continues a short distance to an entrance to the Trailway on the east side of the road. If you have small children, you may prefer to begin your ride a bit further north in Millwood. Proceed up Route 100, turn right on Route 133, and after the shopping center, there is a parking area for the Trailway on your right. From here, the bike path goes through lovely wooded areas and continues across a bridge over the beautiful Croton Reservoir and northward. The scenery is a mix of marshlands and forests on a generally level path. Be careful further north however, when the bike path crosses Route 202, a fairly busy road. There are emergency telephones all along the North County Trailway.
South County Trailway The South County Trailway will eventually extend from Eastview through Yonkers and Mount Vernon into New York City, but it is still under construction from Eastview to Elmsford and presently ends at Hastings-on-Hudson. If you want to access it at Elmsford, go south on the Saw Mill River Parkway and take the Elmsford exit. Go east on Route 119. After less than a quarter of a mile, turn right onto Saw Mill River Road and continue until you see a large green sign for RinoÕs Ristorante. Turn right at RinoÕs, go 75 yards and you will cross the bike path and find a parking lot. From here the bike path goes 6.4 miles all the way down to Farragut Avenue in Hastings-on-Hudson. ItÕs an easy ride through forested areas and lakes, following the Saw Mill Parkway. If you want to start out in Hastings-on-Hudson and go north, there are parking and access areas east of the bike path near Farragut Avenue. There are also parking and access areas west of the bike path between Dobbs Ferry and Irvington.
Both the North County and South County Trailways are family-friendly and well-kept, excellent places to introduce young children to the joys of bike riding. You can call (914) 242-PARK for more information about the countyÕs bike paths or access the Parks DepartmentÕs website at www.westchestergov.com/parks. The website has a sidebar called Trailways which offers maps of the bike paths that you can print out.
Bronx River Pathway This bike path follows the Bronx River Parkway from the Kensico Dam to Mt. Vernon, but unfortunately is not continuous. The loveliest part of the path is probably the three-mile section from the Kensico Dam to the County Center. There is parking at the dam plaza near where North Broadway (Route 22) meets the Bronx River Parkway. The bike path goes from the dam plaza through a wooded area to the County Center and continues on down to Green Acres Avenue in Hartsdale, a five-mile ride, with many points of access along the Bronx River Parkway. There is also a 3.6-mile section from Harney Road in Eastchester to Palmer Road in Bronxville, and a one-mile loop from Oak Street in Mt. Vernon, north. There are emergency telephones all along the Bronx River Pathway.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Bronx River Park, so the Westchester Parks and Recreation Department is publishing a "WalkerÕs Guide to the Park", which provides detailed maps of the bike path, and explanations of the flora, fauna and historical aspects of the park. You can get a copy of the guide by calling (914) 242-PARK.
Graham Hills Park Graham Hills Park is located in Pleasantville on Route 117, just east of the Taconic State Parkway. It features several miles of aggressive single track for the intermediate to advanced mountain bike rider. You can get a detailed map of the paths if you access www.westchestergov.com/parks and go to the Graham Hills section of the ÔTrailwaysÕ section. You can get more information specifically about mountain biking from the Westchester Mountain Biking Association, at P.O. Box 286, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520, or at www.wmba.org.
Blue Mountain Reservation Blue Mountain Reservation is located in Peekskill and features a range of trails suitable for all levels of mountain biking ability. Take Route 9 to Peekskill and get off at the Welcher Avenue exit. Go east and follow the road to the park entrance. You can get a detailed trail map with levels of difficulty indicated in colors from www.westchestergov.com/parks by going to the Blue Mountain section of the Trailways sidebar.
Old Croton Trailway State Park The Old Croton Aqueduct once brought water to New York City and is now a National Historic Landmark. The Old Croton Trailway State Park runs 26.2 miles between Croton Gorge County Park and the Yonkers/New York City line. A level grassy path, sometimes with a narrow dirt path down the center and often atop an embankment with high mounded sides, it is open to walkers, bikers, skiers and equestrians. Be careful biking here when the ground is wet because the path can get slippery.
The trail is marked by round yellow disks or an "A" or "OCA", but in many places it is unmarked. The path occasionally runs through towns and side streets, so it is not necessarily suitable for very young bikers all along its length. One beautiful segment that is off-street goes from the General Electric Conference Center on Albany Post Road off Route 9A to the Croton Dam. Park on Fowler Avenue off Albany Post Road and pick up the Aqueduct trail where it crosses Fowler Avenue. The approximately 2.5-mile ride to the dam passes through hemlocks and gorges; the dam itself is spectacular. The segment from Lyndhurst in Tarrytown to Yonkers is mostly off-street as well. There is no designated parking area, but you can access the Aqueduct trail at an opening in the stone wall in front of Lyndhurst on Route 9. The path crosses LyndhurstÕs lawn, passes through Sunnyside, and runs about 11.5 miles through Irvington, Dobbs Ferry and Hastings-on-Hudson to Yonkers. Once in Yonkers, the path turns east and you must go on streets until Tibbetts Brook Park, where it enters the park. For a detailed map of the Old Croton Trailway State Park, with information about historic sites along its route, contact Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, OverseerÕs House, 15 Walnut Street, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522-2109, or call (914) 693-5259.