The Hook Mountain Nyack Beach bikeway runs north for seven miles along the towering Palisades cliffs and the Hudson River shoreline from Nyack Beach State Park to Haverstraw State Park in Rockland County, NY. Both parks, along with adjacent Rockland Lake State Park and Hook Mountain State Park are part of the Palisades Interstate Park System in New York State. They are also stepping stones along the Hudson River Valley Greenway, a regional trail system connecting nearby trails and byways, communities, parks, and historic sites along the Hudson River.
Rising to almost 600 feet, the Palisades cliffs form a unique, 20-mile long wall along the Hudson River from Jersey City, NJ to Nyack, NY before turning inland at Haverstraw Bay. Their prominent and striking cliff faces, visible from New York City makes them a famous geologic landmark.
The Long Path, a popular hiking trail, travels along the forested Palisades escarpment above, while the Hook Mountain Nyack Beach Bikeway runs along the Palisades talus slopes and the river’s edge below. Both trails offer some of the most unique features and breathtaking vistas near New York City. Accessible from the bike path, several trail spurs provide a variety of biking and hiking options of varying lengths.
There’s plenty of wildlife that call these parks home. Hook Mountain was designated a National Natural and Historical Landmark along with adjacent Nyack Beach State Park. The Audubon Society estimates that an average of more than 12,000 hawks fly by Hook Mountain each fall. The summit at 732 ft is one of the best Hawk Watching spots in the nation as it offers close range views. The panoramas of Rockland Lake and the hills of Harriman State Park from the summit are beyond breathtaking.
Osprey, Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles are just some of the birds of prey you might see nesting in the tree tops or soaring and swooping along the cliff and bike path. Deer, chipmunks, a variety of waterfowl and maybe even a giant snapping turtle are some of the wildlife you’re likely to meet along the Hook Mountain / Nyack Beach Bikeway. There are also fossils and dinosaur footprints in the rocks along the path.
We’re lucky to have the Palisades Interstate Park System and it’s natural residents to observe and enjoy today. 100 years ago, extensive quarry mining was steadily eating away at the Palisades cliffs and Hook Mountain Ridge. The special scenic view of the Palisades from New York City and Westchester County drove many people, including wealthy landowners and government to take measures to stop the destruction and protect the Palisades for posterity (see Historical Notes below).
Highlights: New York Palisades, Hook Mountain, scenic Hudson River views, historic sites, wildlife, Fall hawk-watch site.
Trail Description: Hook Mountain / Nyack Beach Bikeway
The Hook Mountain / Nyack Beach Bikeway is comprised of two distinct sections, the Lower and Upper.
The lower (southern) half of the trail (Nyack Beach Trail) is a well-maintained, family-friendly, flat and hard-packed gravel/dirt path. It travels long the base of the Palisades cliffs and hugs the Hudson River shoreline for 1.5 miles before arriving at a Y junction with the 5-mile Haverstraw (Hook Mountain Trail) and a paved bike path that connects to Rockland Lake State Park.
The northern half of the trail, (Haverstraw Trail) while not technical, provides a more challenging experience. The narrow, hilly and rocky path climbs and winds along the Hook Mountain hillside to Haverstraw State Park overlooking the Hudson River. Loose rock and deep sandy spots coupled with several sharp turns along cliff edges makes the climbs and descents tricky. Only experienced bicyclists with good bike handling skills and well-maintained mountain bikes should attempt the Haverstraw Trail.
Both trail sections offer fantastic views of the Hudson River and unusual Palisades cliff rock formations, historic sites, wildlife sighting opportunities and beautiful picnic spots. Bring your lunch and camera along.
If you just plan to bike out to the Haverstraw Trail junction and back for a 3-mile round trip, a hybrid bike will do. A mountain bike is a necessity if you plan to take on the Haverstraw Trail segment.
Nyack Beach Bike Trail
We began our bike ride at Nyack Beach State Park, the southern terminus of the Hook Mountain section of the Hudson River Valley Greenway. There is a small parking area (seasonal fees apply) and picnic tables overlooking the boulder-strewn beach.
Immediately we noticed evidence of the old quarry mining days. The "power house" building in the parking lot of Nyack Beach State Park was where the Manhattan Trap Rock Company would crush rock quarried from the cliffs and load it onto barges waiting on the river below. The beautiful Dutch colonial sandstone building to the left of the powerhouse was originally the mining building. In the 1930’s it was converted to a bathing facility when swimming was permitted in the Hudson River. If you look up the cliff to the right of the building, you can see the tunnels in the mountain where train cars carrying the stone came out.
The Hook Mountain / Nyack Beach Bikeway begins at the far end of the parking lot at the gated trailhead. The moment you begin riding, you'll probably say "Wow". The scenery begins immediately and doesn’t quit for the entire 12-mile (round-trip) bike ride.
The wide path hugs the river and snakes along the base of the cliffs. Trees jut out at angles from the cliff slopes and shore and hang leafy branches over the path and river. All along the route, debris from the abandoned Palisades quarries and natural rockslides form piles of talus rock fragments and boulders at the base of the cliffs and along the river.
Just around the next bend, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Hook Mountain projecting it’s hooked and quarry scarred, cliff face into the river. To early Dutch settlers, Hook Mountain was known as "Verdrietlg Hock," which means "Tedious Point", named for the contrary winds that sailors encountered while trying to navigate around it.
Strategically placed picnic tables and and narrow trail spurs heading off toward the river to hidden vantage points offer a myriad of opportunities to stop and soak in the views. We headed down one spur and discovered a beautiful carved wood bench shaded by a tree right at the driftwood-strewn river’s edge. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to sit and enjoy the moment.
Back on the main trail, we came across a giant snapping turtle. At first we thought it was a rock until it moved a few inches. We stopped just in time and just long enough to take a few photos (see our Hook Mountain Nyack Beach Bikeway Trail Photos).
Just after we passed the ruins of a small stone building, at about 1.20 miles, the trail becomes paved for a short stretch and ascends for another quarter of a mile to a Y Trail junction. Here you have two ride options.
The fork on the left leads to Rockland Lake. Take the right fork marked by the brown Haverstraw Trail sign and begin the 4-mile climb up to Haverstraw Beach State Park.
Option 1: Haverstraw Mountain Bike Trail: 4 miles (one-way)
The narrow, unpaved and rocky Haverstraw Trail climbs and winds along the side of a steep hillside. We found this section of the Hook Mountain Nyack Beach Bikeway to be a welcome challenge after the “pleasant” first section. Sandy sections, loose rock and gravel coupled with sharp curves, short steep inclines and descents will keep you focused. Use extra caution after periods of heavy rain or after an intense storm. Ruts, fallen trees and branches and rock falls can change the landscape dramatically.
On the left, the cliff walls and talus slopes covered with dense foliage are interspersed with flat grassy areas where a picnic table or bench shadowed by the cliffs offer quiet spots to enjoy a snack. A deer grazing on the meadow grass barely looked up as we rode by just an arms length away. On the riverside, boulders, trees and fencing on sharp curves delineate the cliff edge. There are fabulous river views from the trail overlooking the river.
At times the trail becomes almost singletrack bordered by dense, jungle-like foliage. Honeysuckle flowers drip from vine branch tips overhead and tree trunks sprout fantastic mushroom colonies. Ruins of park and quarry buildings seem to materialize out of the woods, their windowless eyes full of stories about the past.
The trail becomes paved for the last stretch. You’ll know you are near the end point when you come to the brown Treason Sign on the right. It was here in 1780 that American General Benedict Arnold and British Major John Andre plotted the surrender of the American fortress at West Point. Rather than spill all the beans and spoil the story, we’ll let you finish reading the inscription on the sign. A short while later you’ll come to the end of the tail at Haverstraw.
Haverstraw is the route's turnaround point. The ride back offers a challenging descent and views of the Hudson looking south toward Tappan Zee Bridge.
Option 2: Rockland Lake Bike Loop: 3.2 mile loop
To the left, paved Landing Road travels up to Rockland Lake where bicyclists can enjoy the 3.2-mile non-motorized use paved trail around the lake. It's a moderate climb up Landing Road to the lake with a few short steep climbs.
Rockland Lake State Park is located on a ridge of Hook Mountain adjacent to Hook Mountain State Park above the west bank of the Hudson River. Park facilities include two Olympic-sized swimming pools, picnicking, boat launch and rental, hiking trails, six tennis courts and two 18-hole golf courses.
Palisades Interstate Park Commission
Local red sand stone, also known as quarry stone or freestone, was discovered at Hook Mountain in 1785 sparking a quarrying frenzy along the Palisades. Initially, the stone was only used locally in buildings such as the Upper Nyack’s Old Stone Church, built in 1813. However, by 1838, more than 30 quarries operated from Grand View to Upper Nyack, NY.
The Palisades Interstate Park was created in 1900, in response to concern over the quarrying of the Palisades. It was the first agency of it's kind and one of the most successful public/private partnerships in the nation.
Today it is a federally chartered bi-state system with jurisdiction over 24 state parks and eight historic sites. The Commission is comprised of five commissioners from New York and five commissioners from New Jersey, each appointed by that state's governor to staggered five-year terms. Preservation, education, and recreation form the core of the Commission's services.
From New York City: Take the George Washington Bridge to Palisades Interstate Parkway North. At 10.6 miles, take Exit 4 for US-9W North. At end of ramp (.1 mile) turn left onto 9W North. Drive @5.7 miles and turn right onto S. Broadway. Travel about 3.2 miles to Nyack Beach State Park lot. (S. Broadway turns into N. Broadway after Main St. in Nyack.)
GPS: Latitude 41.118946 / Longitude -73.915085
Alternate parking at North or South Entrance to Rockland Lake State Park.
Nyack Beach State Park
Phone: (845) 358-1316
Palisades Parks Conservancy
Phone: (845) 786-2701