1,600 acre Blue Mountain Reservation in Westchester County, New York is one of the most popular mountain biking destinations on the east coast. The park may not be big, but good things come in small packages. Just one hour from Midtown Manhattan, over 20 miles of designated mountain bike trails designed by mountain bikers and a landscape carved by glacier action makes this venue an MTB Urban Legend. A network of tight, twisty singletrack trails, jeep and gravel carriage roads wind through a beautiful mixed hardwood forest, past scenic freshwater ponds, over rolling glaciated terrain and spectacular rock outcroppings of Hudson Highlands granite and lead to two mountain peaks.
Both the Spitzenberg Mountain and Blue Mountain, the result of geologic faulting, rise almost 700-ft above sea level. The summit of 540-ft Mt. Spitzenberg offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and the surrounding Hudson River Valley. A challenging foot trail leads to the summit of the 680-ft Blue Mountain.
The carriage trails and woods roads are frequented by hikers and horseback riders. The popular 12-mile Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway, an unpaved trail for hiking, is also accessible from the Blue Mountain trail system. Park facilities include picnic areas, ballfields, shooting range, bathhouse and trail lodge, as well as two comfort stations built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Trails: Blue Mountain Reservation
The first time we rode at Blue Mountain Reservation, there were a mere 7 miles of designated mountain biking trails. A member of the Westchester Mountain Biking Association (WMBA), stationed in the parking lot, handed us a trail map and gave us some advice on the best route to take to familiarize ourselves with the trail system. We found it tough going. We thought we'd start out on the "easy" yellow-blazed Park Boundary and Dickey Brook Trails our first time out. "This is supposed to be easy?", I questioned as I zig-zagged between giant boulders, rolled over a section of "slickrock" and faced a short but steep rock strewn climb, all within the first 15 minutes of our ride. We toured around and traversed the western boundary of the park and enjoyed a picnic lunch on a grassy knoll overlooking an idyllic pondscape studded with geese.
The Blue Mountain Trails we rode that day were the first ever trails geared especially for mountain bikers in the area, the result of a cooperative effort between a dedicated group of local MTB trailblazers and the Westchester County Parks Department. Today, the Blue Mountain Reservation is criss-crossed by a renowned, compact 20+ mile mountain bike trail network. The trails are well-marked, color coded and geared for different levels of riding ability. You'd have to try real hard to get lost at Blue Mountain Reservation, as the trails never take you too far from the parking lot or road.
Keep in mind that difficulty levels are subjective, especially at Blue Mountain. You'll find a little bit of everything. Beginners will enjoy the easier, gently rolling carriage roads while more advanced riders will revel in technical boulder mazes, jaw hammering drops, steep climbs and twisty switchbacks that will leave you wondering if you are coming or going.
The Blue Mountain Loop
This intermediate/advanced loop ride utilizes a chain of trails of varying terrain and degrees of difficulty to take you on a circuit of some of the best the trail system has to offer.
Start your ride by heading northwards on the gently rolling Dickey Brook Trail and continue onto the Crossover Trail to Boundary Trail. Climb up challenging Neds Left Lung Trail to one of the highest points in the park and then shoot down the Stinger, Middle and Lower Stinger for a fun descent and great scenery. Take the Switchback Trail to the Hip Hop and meet the Dickey Brook Trail to complete the loop.
The land encompassing Blue Mountain Reservation was once part of Van Corlandt Manor. The Van Cortlandt story began with Olaf Van Cortlandt, a Dutch merchant who arrived in New York (then New Amsterdam) with the Dutch East India Company. His son Stephen, born here, began acquiring land between Croton and Peekskill from the Indians as early as 1677. By 1697 he had acquired an 86,000 acre tract that ran from the Croton River twenty miles north to Anthony's Nose (where the Bear Mountain Bridge crosses the Hudson today) and from the Hudson River east to Connecticut.
From North: Route 9 south. Exit at Welcher Avenue; turn left and follow to park entrance.
By Subway from New York City: You can take the subway to Grand Central Station, then take the train to Peekskill and the Reserve on the Metro North Railroad, you'll need a metro bike permit. (Call the Metro North Railroad 1-800-METRO-46).
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