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Dirt/Gravel trails in NYC or environs?

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Dirt/Gravel trails in NYC or environs?

Old 10-21-19, 07:49 AM
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zacster
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Dirt/Gravel trails in NYC or environs?

Hey all, I've been fixing up my old Trek 8000 and putting knobby tires back on it, but living in Brooklyn does not give me much opportunity to use it anywhere without someone screaming "get off my lawn". Just kidding of course, but I'm looking for places to legitimately ride in dirt or gravel, something that this bike has barely seen in the 25 years I've had it. I've heard the aqueduct trail is gravel but I've never been on it, I know the new Shirley Chisolm park in Brooklyn has gravel trails but they aren't very long. I wouldn't go to Prospect Park because it would just kill anything around it. I've ridden the trail up to the S. County through Van Cortland park but I heard that is closed so it can be paved.

So where else can I go? I'm sure there are places but they've never been on my radar.
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Old 10-21-19, 09:47 AM
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Aqueduct trail is hard packed dirt and sand, yes, but what I've seen of it above Sleepy Hollow is for the most part smoother than some of the paving on the South County. It's more obstacles like uncut curbs (often every block), the occasional wash of loose rocks, etc. And then there are some outright interruptions.

D&R Canal over in NJ is another fairly easy gravel ride, it's not far from the New Brunswick station but a little annoying to get to, very easy from South Bound Brook. For the most part you just ride along but there are some (dry) spillways paved with flattish rocks that are bumpy going for a hundred yards, though not so frequently that you can't just walk them at worst. The drives at Colonial park from the towpath up to the bathrooms and water fountain are that kind of crushed blue stone that's fine if you ride it with determination but makes funny noises shooting out from under your tires - immediately recognized it from childhood when we had a driveway like that.

If you want actual mountain biking you'd be going places I haven't but there are various places like High Bridge park, Cunningham Park, or Sprain up in Westchester.

Last edited by UniChris; 10-21-19 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 10-21-19, 11:17 AM
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Dunno about unpaved options in Bkln. In Manhattan (!), yep, there are legit unpaved paths at the north end of Highbridge Park. On Staten Island, you'll find unpaved paths in Wolf's Pond Park and crushed stone paths in La Tourette Park. Of these, the only one I regularly ride is on the west side of La Tourette Park between Rockland Av and Richmond Av. It's delightful. I'd be hard-pressed to advocate visiting Staten Island solely to ride this path, but sure, incorporate it into a longer (paved) ride.

More about the Old Croton Aqueduct trail: I've lost count of the number of times I've enjoyed biking it. Worth keeping in mind: it was never built as a trail. The underlying engineering is the same as the Romans used. Enroute, there are a few "crossings" (e.g.: Jewell's Brook, Pocantico River) where there are massive earthworks crossing valleys, but for the most part, the old aqueduct is in a trench and you're on the fill that caps that trench. Expect lots of rocks and exposed roots. For much of its length, it's pancake-flat (the aqueduct drops north-to-south about 18" per mile). There are spots where active streams cross on top of the aqueduct and the trail is squishy.

Avoid the aqueduct trail after the first hard freeze and until well after "mud season" in the spring. After a hard freeze, even when there are a few above-freezing days and nights, only the top few inches of the trail soften. It's a muddy mess.

After "mud season" and until the first hard freeze, biking the trail is sort of like riding through a 27-mile long tunnel in a forest (plus biking through a few back yards). But right now / this time of year, after most of the leaves are off the trees, because of the rising elevation of the aqueduct, between Tarrytown and Ossining, looking west from the trail through the leafless overstory you can see most of the Tappan Zee.

Here's NY State's website: https://parks.ny.gov/parks/96/details.aspx About half-way down, there's a link to a .pdf map: https://parks.ny.gov/parks/attachmen...ctTrailMap.pdf

If you hadn't noticed, I'm enthusiastic about the Old Croton Aqueduct trail.
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Old 10-21-19, 05:24 PM
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Note on the Chisholm Park that the north section is now open. My estimate is between the south and north sections you can get a one-way 10 mile ride in, 90% gravel.

The advice I have for Long Island is the wider, non-single track trails has a high sand content that can suck. Edgewood Preserve in Deer Park has a wider dirt loop, maybe 3 miles around, not sandy, all dirt. CLIMB has a map on their website.
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Old 10-21-19, 06:43 PM
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The trails in Blauvelt State park are bike friendy. In Rockland County between Sparkill and Nyack
https://www.lohud.com/story/news/loc...rail/85660776/
HAve you tried Cunnungham and Alley Pond parks in Queens?
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Old 10-21-19, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Note on the Chisholm Park that the north section is now open. My estimate is between the south and north sections you can get a one-way 10 mile ride in, 90% gravel.

The advice I have for Long Island is the wider, non-single track trails has a high sand content that can suck. Edgewood Preserve in Deer Park has a wider dirt loop, maybe 3 miles around, not sandy, all dirt. CLIMB has a map on their website.
10 miles sounds like a lot from what I saw, but I suppose it is possible if you take every variation.

For getting onto the Croton Aqueduct trail I can start in VC Park, right? I took a wrong turn one time but kept going just to see where it left me and I believe that was the trail. I was on my road bike and already 25 miles into a ride with 25 miles back so I didn't go too far. I ended up at the Woodlawn #4 station somehow.
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Old 10-22-19, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
10 miles sounds like a lot from what I saw, but I suppose it is possible if you take every variation.

For getting onto the Croton Aqueduct trail I can start in VC Park, right? I took a wrong turn one time but kept going just to see where it left me and I believe that was the trail. I was on my road bike and already 25 miles into a ride with 25 miles back so I didn't go too far. I ended up at the Woodlawn #4 station somehow.
I've never had luck finding the OCA in VCP and typically just picked it up at Lamartine Ave. in Yonkers, just west of Rt9A. It's 8-1/2 miles one-way to Rt 9 in Tarrytown, where you can cross over the Thruway and pick up the trail, with assorted road detours thru T-Town and Ossining for another 10 miles or so to the dam. I've done assorted loops using the South County Trail.
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Old 10-22-19, 07:46 AM
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Another option would be to drive to New Paltz and ride Minewaska State park or Mohonk Preserve. A very popular option among cyclists to take a train from NYC to Poughkeepsie and then ride to New Paltz on a rail trail and all the way to Mohonk or Minewaska parks.

It takes all day though. Lots of people come here from NYC to ride the parks.

https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/n...-park-preserve

https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/n...ountain-biking
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Old 10-22-19, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
I've never had luck finding the OCA in VCP and typically just picked it up at Lamartine Ave. in Yonkers, just west of Rt9A. It's 8-1/2 miles one-way to Rt 9 in Tarrytown, where you can cross over the Thruway and pick up the trail, with assorted road detours thru T-Town and Ossining for another 10 miles or so to the dam. I've done assorted loops using the South County Trail.
What you've been going to is the main western part, just north of the big east-west dogleg along Yonkers Ave which has no actual trail option.

The eastern part in the park itself (and up to the top of Tibbets park) is probably most easily reached from outside the park, the entrance being at Van Cortlandt Park South and Dickinson Ave, a short distance above the Mosholu 4 train. I usually use that to get to the lake house and onto the Put, but it's actually the OCA. After going down the hill and climbing the corkscrew, the OCA departs west up a ramp and then doubles back east alongside the throughway before entering the woods. I've always gone the other way descending the lower part of the corkscrew to the golf house and the Put, but keep figuring I should go up there sometime and at least hike the park portion of the OCA to figure out what it's like.
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Old 10-22-19, 10:08 AM
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@Steve B. @zacster Yes, the OCA (including one vent tower) does pass through Van Cortlandt Park. Its surface is similar to what you'll find in Westchester. In VCP, the OCA is to the east and uphill (sometimes steeply) from the Putnam Trail. But. Strictly speaking, bicycle riding isn't allowed on the OCA in VCP. "Strictly speaking": my experience is that in VCP, this corridor is used by motorized dirt bikers. One reason (other than bragging rights) to check out this segment: once leaves are off the trees, there's an extended view to the west through the leafless overstory. IMHO, it's worth a visit, but I wouldn't go out of my way.

Access to the OCA: closure of the Putnam Trail corridor in VCP is immanent; I don't know the date. North of the Bronx - Westchester border, there's a brief segment of the OCA that's under folks' yards (similar to Tarrytown). The OCA continues under the eastern edge of Tibbetts Brook Park. My experience: this segment is worth skipping. At the northeast corner of Tibbetts Brook Park, what I think is the New Croton Aqueduct and what's certainly the OCA cross. There's a gate house that I'm sure contains some impressive plumbing.

Which leads to: when I visit the OCA, I use the access point immediately northwest of the intersection of Yonkers Av and Prescott St: https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=1...3555/-73.88271 Helpfully, there's a stone bollard with "OCA" carved into it. Not so helpfully, there's usually a parked car blocking access.

Trail conditions west of the impressive bridge crossing Nepperhan Av and Palisade Av / Ashburton Av can be sketchy, and you're back on streets for the short distance on Ashburton and North Broadway to where the OCA trail resumes at Lamartine Av. If you want your full portion of the OCA, it's accessible at Irving Place, but you're merely crossing parking lots.
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Old 10-22-19, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by arbee View Post
closure of the Putnam Trail corridor in VCP is immanent; I don't know the date.
The Old Put is closed through the park for the paving project. Fence went up a few weeks back - which does make the OCA up to Tibbets or at least the north end of the park newly interesting as an idea.
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Old 10-22-19, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
What you've been going to is the main western part, just north of the big east-west dogleg along Yonkers Ave which has no actual trail option.

The eastern part in the park itself (and up to the top of Tibbets park) is probably most easily reached from outside the park, the entrance being at Van Cortlandt Park South and Dickinson Ave, a short distance above the Mosholu 4 train. I usually use that to get to the lake house and onto the Put, but it's actually the OCA. After going down the hill and climbing the corkscrew, the OCA departs west up a ramp and then doubles back east alongside the throughway before entering the woods. I've always gone the other way descending the lower part of the corkscrew to the golf house and the Put, but keep figuring I should go up there sometime and at least hike the park portion of the OCA to figure out what it's like.
Yes, the corkscrew is where I went onto the trail instead of going to the clubhouse where I usually go. When I've done rides like the NYC Century and the Tour de Bronx, I'm usually the one that knows the way through there. And speaking of the TdB, it is this weekend. I have a thread already about it.
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Old 10-25-19, 07:11 PM
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I put the bike together and went into Shirley Chisolm park and it was a blast. I did 7.5 miles just going up and down the trails. If you haven't been there it is worth a visit. I think I'll go up to the Old Croton trail next week sometime to check it out. Maybe I'll ride out to Utica Ave, stake a place out at the rear of the 4 train where I won't be in the way, and ride the entire length up to Woodlawn in the morning. At least I'll be commuting to bike, not biking to commute. Then I'll pick up the trail there and ride as far as I feel I can. Or maybe I'll just drive.
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Old 10-25-19, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
stake a place out at the rear of the 4 train where I won't be in the way, and ride the entire length up to Woodlawn in the morning.
I don't mean to definitively say that you can't get to the OCA from Woodlawn, but the logical way to do it is a stop earlier at Mosholu.

Exit on the west stairs, ride the pathway slightly downhill, dodge the puddle, and then ride up to East Gun Hill Rd. Hop off, cross the compound intersection to the west with the light, look for the vertical OCA info sign to the north and head that way down the hill into the woods. Watch out after the slight rise as you come out alongside the highway ramp for what may be a couple of nasty speed bumps covering tree roots. Then you're at the corkscrew and the OCA ramps.
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Old 10-25-19, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
I put the bike together and went into Shirley Chisolm park and it was a blast. I did 7.5 miles just going up and down the trails. If you haven't been there it is worth a visit. I think I'll go up to the Old Croton trail next week sometime to check it out. Maybe I'll ride out to Utica Ave, stake a place out at the rear of the 4 train where I won't be in the way, and ride the entire length up to Woodlawn in the morning. At least I'll be commuting to bike, not biking to commute. Then I'll pick up the trail there and ride as far as I feel I can. Or maybe I'll just drive.
Did you ride the north section ?. I think itís called the Fountain Ave. section. It opened after the Penn. Ave. Part. You access it (in case anybodyís interested) by exiting the Penn. Ave. section at the NW corner onto the Belt Pkwy path, going over the bridge and a right into the Fountain Ave. section, which is
archer and has more miles of trails than the Penn section.
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Old 10-26-19, 08:27 AM
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Yes, I did both sections of the park. The Fountain section is almost completely empty. The Penn section has more people because that's where the parking and pier are. When they finish the Fountain sections it'll be really nice, with its own pier. It was also a weekday in the fall, so no crowds at all in any case.

I remember when it was a garbage dump, then a toxic waste site where the sludge covered the Belt Pkway bike path and it too was closed for a while. The hill in the park is a mountain of garbage. It's nice they did something with it.
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Old 10-26-19, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
Yes, I did both sections of the park. The Fountain section is almost completely empty. The Penn section has more people because that's where the parking and pier are. When they finish the Fountain sections it'll be really nice, with its own pier. It was also a weekday in the fall, so no crowds at all in any case.

I remember when it was a garbage dump, then a toxic waste site where the sludge covered the Belt Pkway bike path and it too was closed for a while. The hill in the park is a mountain of garbage. It's nice they did something with it.
When I started my job in Brooklyn 38 years ago I drove past the dumps twice a day. In summer it was a swarm of thousands and thousands of seagulls in the sky. It was disgusting. Remarkable what it is now
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