Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bicycling on Wallkill Valley, Shawangunk and Walden Rail Trails

The Wallkill Valley, Shawangunk and Walden rail trail (or rather rail trails) span from Walden, NY to Rosendale, NY, roughly in the North-South direction. I am not exactly sure on the whole nomenclature issue but it is very easy to ride all three trails together, in one day and at a very leisurely place. The surface of the trails varies as does the marking. The Walden rail trail is pretty much as good as it gets. It is paved in its entirety, very well marked with stop signs and proper road crossings. And if you start in Walden like we did, it is slightly downhill. The second part of the ride is an unmaintained singletrack, followed by riding on roads to the trailhead of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail on Denniston Road. Wallkill Rail Trail is unpaved, mostly packed dirt and crushed stone, with some patches (mostly around New Paltz, NY) of variously degraded asphalt.

Morning at Wooster Groove in Walden, NY. Getting ready to head out.
Morning at Wooster Groove in Walden, NY. Getting ready to head out.



Beginning of the Walden Rail Trail, off of Woodruff Street.
Beginning of the Walden Rail Trail, off of Woodruff Street.
Walden Rail Trail is paved in its entirety, and starting from Walden mostly downhill.
Walden Rail Trail is paved in its entirety, and starting from Walden mostly downhill.
I suggest starting the trip in Walden, NY where ample free parking is available at Wooster Groove. This parking area is clearly marked as you approach it on Route 52 (Main Street) - at least if you arrive from the East (Thruway). In any case, if you see an ice cream place on the side of the road, the parking is literally behind it, on the other side of the river. I will get ahead of myself and say that parking, although a bit less ample is available at the other end of the trail, in Rosendale, NY off of Mountain Road (between Fairview Ave and Elting Road). From Wooster grove, cross the Main Street and turn right on Woodruff Street until you see the start of the trail. it is very hard to miss due to the very peculiar engineering solution designed to bring you from the street, some 20-30 feet lower to the railroad grade. The amount of railing used is quite astonishing.
Trail crossings are well marked.
Trail crossings are well marked.
The paved trail ends in Wallkill, NY. The next few miles are on dirt.
The paved trail ends in Wallkill, NY. The next few miles are on dirt.
As I mentioned before, the trail is completely paved, road crossings marked and really well maintained. Very similar to Cape Cod Rail Trail in terms of quality. The paved section, however ends in Wallkill, NY right as it crosses Route 208 (Bona Ventura Avenue). We continued straight pass the police department onto Railroad Avenue and then, just as the street started to veer right, continued straight onto an unmaintained trail (singletrack) on the abandoned railroad grade. The trail, although unmaintained, is perfectly good to ride a mountain bike on, perhaps even a hybrid if it hasn't rained recently. There is some motorbike/ATV damage on the trail but not much. Eventually, this brought us to River Road where we turned left (Galeville Road to Sand Hill Road) to bypass the state correctional facility property. We picked up the Wallkill Valley rail trail again on Denniston Road. As we got on Sand Hill Road, we had the first glimpse of the Shawangunk Ridge where we will be riding tomorrow.
The first glimpse of the Trapps from intersection of CR19 and Sand Hill Road.
The first glimpse of the Trapps from intersection of CR19 and Sand Hill Road.
One more view of the Trapps. It is very hard to resist these panoramas.
One more view of the Trapps. It is very hard to resist these panoramas.
 Once on the trail, we moved forward quite quickly, passing through Gardiner to New Paltz. The surrounding areas were very typical of other rail trails, mostly woods with occasional farms, a nice preserved bridge here or there, and a view of the Gunks on occasion. The surface, as I mentioned before was crushed stone and some dirt, but all in good condition, passable by mountain as well as hybrid bikes. As we neared New Paltz, the number of cyclists and walkers on the trail increased but still wasn't too bad. Perhaps the iffy weather predicted for the afternoon was keeping more people off the trail.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Dirt and crushed stone all the way to Rosendale.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Dirt and crushed stone all the way to Rosendale.
Obligatory selfie as we pass through a blooming apple orchard.
Obligatory selfie as we pass through a blooming apple orchard.
 In terms of preserved railroad structures, the truss bridge just north of New Paltz was definitely the best. Just after crossing the bridge, the weather looked like it was going to change for the worse but it held up until we made it to Rosendale. We rode down hill into town and stopped at the first place we saw - Rosendale Cafe - for lunch. No particular reason, other than this was the first one that we saw. The menu was full of vegetarian and vegan dishes and it was quite difficult picking a just two dishes for lunch. We eventually settled for tempeh reuben and black bean chili with brown rice - both of which were fantastic. Just as we were getting up to leave a massive storm cloud appeared out of nowhere and brought in some seriously angry rain, fortunately only for an half hour or so. We waited it out at the cafe and at a nearby pretzel bakery, which sadly was almost completely devoid of pretzels.
Plattekill Creek near New Paltz, NY.
Plattekill Creek near New Paltz, NY. 
Very well preserved truss bridge over the Wallkill River.
Very well preserved truss bridge over the Wallkill River.
I was quite surprised how big the Wallkill River actually is.
I was quite surprised how big the Wallkill River actually is.
Rosendale Cafe. Tempeh Reuben and black bean chili with brown rice.
Rosendale Cafe. Tempeh Reuben and black bean chili with brown rice.
Main Street in Rosendale, NY.
Main Street in Rosendale, NY.
We hauled the bikes back up the hill and after meeting two riders that had nowhere to hide, started the ride back. The rather stuffy air cleared out nicely after the storm but the trail was completely soaked. There was no way for us to go but forward so we pressed on, riding towards the side of the trail to avoid most of the puddles. It was to no avail, however, and soon we were pretty much covered in black mud. At one point we nipped across a side road to Springtown Road (CR 97) to bypass a couple of miles of mud and returned back to the trail at the nearest intersection. In New Paltz we stopped to visit a virtual cache, got some Gatorade at a gas station and continued on.
The way back. Start of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Rosendale, NY.
The way back. Start of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Rosendale, NY.
The weather forecast mentioned something about thunderstorm showers and it seems they weren't kidding. Storm clouds peeked over the Gunks ridge and swiftly headed in our direction, pretty much perpendicularly to the trail. We sped up hoping to miss the worst of it, of surprisingly enough the plan worked. We did get caught in the rain (no lightning) but waited it out under a pine tree - Andi with that single use emergency poncho over her and me in my beat up Columbia rain jacket. After 15 minutes it was over, and we continued south towards the car. After a few miles, there was no sign of rain, everything was very convincingly dry.
After the first rain storm, the trail got a bit .... shall we say ... muddy.
After the first rain storm, the trail got a bit .... shall we say ... muddy.
After the second rain storm, on the way back to the parking lot.
After the second rain storm, on the way back to the parking lot.
The trailhead of the Wallkill Rail Train on Deniston Road in between Wallkill and Gardnier, NY.
The trailhead of the Wallkill Rail Train on Deniston Road in between Wallkill and Gardnier, NY.
This part of the trail must be bypassed on local roads. Between Denniston Road and River Road.
This part of the trail must be bypassed on local roads. Between Denniston Road and River Road.
  After the Sand Hill Road bypass, we opted to take a slightly different route back to Wallkill. We turned sharply right onto River Road which followed Wallkill River for a few miles. The scenery was very idyllic - horses, nice houses, wild geese. In Wallkill we rejoined the paved rail trail and quickly pedaled towards Walden. I tried to find a few geocaches but managed only one. granted I didn't spend enough time looking for the others - mostly because I didn't want to spoil the nice ride by rummaging around poison ivy or prickly bushes. 
Horse pastures along the River Road.
Horse pastures along the River Road.
Goslings on the banks of the Wallkill River.
Goslings on the banks of the Wallkill River.
End of the trip! Frostee Freeze ice cream in Walden, NY.
End of the trip! Frostee Freeze ice cream in Walden, NY.
We concluded the ride at Walden Frostee Freeze, an ice cream and fast food shop across the river the from parking lot. The bikes needed some serious cleaning since we were going to bring them into our hotel room, but that fortunately did not take too much time. After packing up, we headed back to Newburgh to spend the night.

Bottom line: 46 miles, flat, scenic and highly recommended.

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