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Pocantico Hills Loop Walk
Directions to trailhead
Follow US 9 north in the Village of Tarrytown to a complex intersection where US 9 bears left. Do not bear left here; rather, continue straight ahead onto New Broadway (most street signs do not give the name of this street). In 0.2 mile, turn right onto Gory Brook Road, which dead ends at parking near the Old Croton Aqueduct.
Although there is no direct public transportation, it is possible to walk to the trailhead from the Metro-North Hudson Line Tarrytown Station. Walk north on Depot Place to Main Street, turn right and head uphill to Route 9 (Broadway). Turn left and walk north to a complex intersection where US 9 bears left. Do not bear left here; rather, continue straight ahead onto New Broadway (most street signs do not give the name of this street). In 0.2 mile, turn right onto Gory Brook Road, which dead ends at parking near the Old Croton Aqueduct.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve is an 865-acre park that was established in 1983, when the Rockefeller family donated a portion of their Pocantico Hills estate. The preserve is criss-crossed by a network of carriage roads, constructed by the Rockefellers in the 1920s and 1930s, and this hike follows these delightful gravel roads. It traverses the lesser-used western portion of the preserve and follows a portion of the Old Croton Aqueduct. Because there are many intersecting trails, not all of which are marked with signs, it is strongly advised to take a trail map with you.
You will notice a grassy road just to the west of Gory Brook Road. Proceed north along this road, going around a metal gate with the initials “O.C.A.” You’re now following the route of the Old Croton Aqueduct, built about 1840 to supply New York City with pure water and now a state park. Soon, you’ll pass the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to the left. In about half a mile, the aqueduct route curves to the left and crosses the Pocantico River on a high embankment. Just beyond to the left is a stone structure known as a weir. It contained valves that permitted the aqueduct to be shut off and south of the closed valve to be drained for maintenance.
A short distance beyond the weir, you’ll come to a junction, where a dirt road enters from the right. Turn sharply right, leave the route of the aqueduct and enter the Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Almost immediately, you’ll reach a junction and turn right on to the Big Tree Trail, which curves to the left and descends gently.
Soon, you’ll reach an H-shaped junction. Here, you should turn sharply right, following a carriage road that initially parallels the road that you just walked on – but now heading in the opposite direction. Although no sign marks the trail, you’ve begun to follow the Pocantico River Trail, which will be your route for the next two miles.
The trail descends to cross the Pocantico River on a stone-faced triple-arch bridge. To the right (west) is the massive embankment on which the Old Croton Aqueduct crosses the river. You just crossed this embankment (which can be difficult to see when the leaves are on the trees) a few minutes ago.
Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn left to continue on the Pocantico River Trail. You now begin to parallel the river, which is on your left. At the next intersection, turn right. The trail shortcuts a sharp bend in the river, but the river soon reappears to the left.
Just beyond, you’ll cross the abandoned Gory Brook Road (note the old concrete bridge over the river to the left). A short distance beyond, you’ll reach another junction. There are no signs here, but you should turn left to continue on the Pocantico River Trail, which crosses the river on a bridge. On the other side of the river, the Gory Brook Road Trail continues ahead, but you should turn right to continue on the Pocantico River Trail.
With the river now on the right, the trail passes several grassy meadows. Soon, you’ll come to yet another intersection. Ahead, two bridges lead across the Pocantico River, but you should turn left to continue on the Pocantico River Trail. The trail heads north, with the river still to your right. You will begin to hear the sounds of traffic from the rather lightly used Sleepy Hollow Road, which now parallels the trail on the other side of the river. In a few minutes, you’ll come to a particularly attractive section of the river, where the water tumbles over cascades, and a short side trail leads to a small waterfall. A short distance beyond, you’ll reach a fork where the Eagle Hill Trail leaves to the left. You should take the right fork to continue on the Pocantico River Trail, but just beyond, continue straight ahead as the Old Sleepy Hollow Trail begins to the right.
Soon, the trail crosses under the busy and noisy Route 117, which bisects the park. North of the overpass, the trail parallels this limited-access road for a short distance, but soon moves away from it. Continue ahead at the next intersection, where a side trail goes off to the right. Just beyond, the Pocantico River Trail curves to the left, and it soon ends at a T-intersection with the 13 Bridges Trail.
Turn right and follow the 13 Bridges Trail, which climbs gently, following a winding route. Upon reaching the northeast corner of this section of the park, the trail curves to the left and begins a steady descent on switchbacks, passing through an attractive evergreen forest. At the base of the descent, it turns left and heads south, crossing Gory Brook and then paralleling it.
After a while, you’ll come to the first of 12 bridges over Gory Brook (the 13th bridge is the one on which you crossed the brook at the base of the descent), all crossed in rather quick succession. You’ll again cross under Route 117 and reach the end of the 13 Bridges Trail. The Gory Brook Road Trail continues straight ahead, but you should turn right onto the Witches Spring Trail, which descends to cross Gory Brook. Just beyond the brook crossing, turn right onto the Spook Rock Trail, which climbs briefly but steeply. At the top, the trail turns sharply left, skirting the rock after which it is named. At the next intersection, continue straight ahead, now following the Big Tree Trail (which also goes off to the right). Proceed ahead at the following intersection, and continue on the Big Tree Trail until you reach the H-intersection that you encountered towards the start of the hike.
Bear left at this intersection and continue ahead, descending on the Pocantico River Trail (you briefly retrace your steps here). After crossing the triple-arch bridge over the Pocantico River, continue straight ahead. The trail begins to climb, and it soon bears right and heads south along the abandoned Gory Brook Road, which you should follow back to your car. This road directly parallels the aqueduct and runs only a few feet from it, but it offers a rather different experience than the aqueduct route that you followed at the start of the hike.