This hike follows the historic route of the Old Croton Aqueduct, built between 1837 and 1842 to supply water to New York City. Supplanted by several newer aqueducts, the Old Croton Aqueduct was taken out of service in 1955. The level footpath atop the Aqueduct "tube" has for many years been a favorite of walkers, and the Westchester County section of the Aqueduct became a state park in 1968....
This hike follows the historic route of the Old Croton Aqueduct, built between 1837 and 1842 to supply water to New York City. Supplanted by several newer aqueducts, the Old Croton Aqueduct was taken out of service in 1955. The level footpath atop the Aqueduct "tube" has for many years been a favorite of walkers, and the Westchester County section of the Aqueduct became a state park in 1968. Except for occasional posts at road intersections with the letters "OCA," there are few markings along the route, so you should be careful to follow the directions below.
Begin the hike by proceeding south from Prospect Avenue along the route of the Aqueduct. Just before the next intersection, you will notice a chimney-like stone tower with the number "14." These towers, known as ventilators, were constructed along the Aqueduct about every mile. They were equipped with an open grate on top and allowed fresh air to circulate over the water passing through the Aqueduct.
When you reach the next intersection, White Plains Road (Route 119), you will have to detour from the route of the Aqueduct, which is interrupted by the New York State Thruway just ahead. This will involve about half a mile of roadwalking, but it is the only detour you'll encounter on the entire hike. Turn right and follow White Plains Road for one block to South Broadway (Route 9), then turn left onto South Broadway, staying on the east side of the street. Cross the bridge over the Thruway and the Thruway ramp, and turn left onto Walter Street (just beyond Tarrytown Honda). Bear left onto Sheldon Avenue and follow it until you reach the Aqueduct route (just beyond #86).
Turn right onto the Aqueduct route. After crossing an embankment, you'll reach Gracemere (a private road), which is crossed on cobblestones. In a short distance, the Aqueduct passes through gateposts in a stone wall and reaches South Broadway. Cross this busy street at the crosswalk and continue on a wide dirt path blocked off by wooden posts, entering the grounds of Lyndhurst -- an American Gothic Revival "castle" built about 1840 and once owned by railroad magnate Jay Gould. Follow this dirt path through Lyndhurst. Soon after you leave the Lyndhurst property, you'll pass ventilator #15 and begin to follow a high stone wall on the left.
In another half mile or so, after crossing Sunnyside Brook on an embankment, you'll enter a quiet residential area. The Aqueduct crosses several paved roads and follows a wide right of way past large, attractive homes. Then, about 2.5 miles from the start, you'll pass a parking area adjacent to a school and cross Main Street in Irvington. Continue ahead through a municipal parking area and immediately pass ventilator #16.
Just beyond, you'll traverse a high embankment over Jewells Brook. After crossing two streets, you'll notice the unusually-shaped Octagon House, built in 1860, on the right. Next, the Aqueduct passes through the Nevis Estate, now the property of Columbia University. The brick mansion with white columns on the right side of the trail was built by Colonel James Hamilton III, son of Alexander Hamilton, in 1835.
After passing ventilator #17, you'll pass through the campus of Mercy College. You'll then traverse an embankment over North Brook, pass Dobbs Ferry High School on the left, then cross another embankment. At the end of the second embankment, you'll pass a kiosk on the left (with information on the history of Dobbs Ferry and the Aqueduct) and climb steps to Cedar Street in Dobbs Ferry. Cross the street and continue ahead through a parking area. The Aqueduct now parallels Main Street in the village of Dobbs Ferry, with views over the Hudson River to the right.
In a few blocks, you’ll reach an interpretive sign which explains the history and engineering of the Aqueduct. The adjacent barn and garage are used as maintenance facilities. Across Walnut Street is the Overseer’s House -- a brick building, built in 1857, which formerly served as a residence and office for Aqueduct caretakers. The building has been restored as a visitor center and park office (it is open to the public on weekend afternoons). Just beyond, the Aqueduct crosses to the east side of Broadway and follows an embankment through a residential area, with more views over the Hudson River.
In another mile, the Aqueduct - now in the village of Hastings-on-Hudson - crosses back to the west side of Broadway at the Five Corners. Using the crosswalks provided, cross Chauncey Lane, Farragut Avenue and Broadway, turn left and cross the driveway of Grace Episcopal Church, then immediately turn right onto the route of the Aqueduct at a green "OCA" post. After crossing another high embankment, you'll go through a parking area and begin to parallel Aqueduct Lane on the right, with Draper Park on the left.
Soon, you’ll notice a sign on the left, "Quarry Road Trail." Here, a path goes down and passes under the Aqueduct. The Aqueduct is supported by a stone-arch bridge, built in 1840 over a railway that served a former marble quarry to the east of the Aqueduct. It is worth taking this short side trail to get a view of this beautifully preserved stone-arch bridge.
Near the end of a long, uninterrupted stretch of the Aqueduct route, you'll pass ventilator #18. About half a mile later, after crossing another high embankment over a stream and a private road, you'll come to a particularly fine unobstructed view over the Hudson River and the Palisades. After passing the entrance to Lenoir Park and then a stone building on the left, you'll reach Odell Avenue, which crosses the Aqueduct in the middle of a broad curve in the road.
Turn right and follow Odell Avenue downhill to Warburton Avenue, then descend through the park on steps to reach the Greystone Metro-North station. Northbound trains to Tarrytown leave every hour - 57 minutes past the hour on weekends (for schedules, go to www.mta.info). Be sure to sit on the left side of the train to enjoy beautiful views of the Hudson River! The train ride takes only 15 minutes. When you arrive in Tarrytown, proceed to the southern end of the station and follow Franklin Street up the hill. When you reach South Broadway, turn right and proceed for several blocks to Leroy Avenue. Turn left onto Leroy Avenue, then turn right into the parking lot for an office building. Just ahead, you will see the Aqueduct embankment on the right side of the parking lot. Follow the Aqueduct for one block to Prospect Avenue, where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 02/06/2003 updated/verified on 01/26/2020
This level hike follows the route of the historic Old Croton Aqueduct from Tarrytown to Yonkers, with return via Metro-North train.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.