Stewart State Forest, located just outside of Newburgh, NY is a 6,700-acre State Forest that surrounds the regional Stewart Airport. The forest is comprised of mostly former farmland gone wild. Over 18 miles of wide gravel roads, 22 miles of major trails and a large network of singletrack trails provides unparalleled hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and bird watching opportunities.
The roads and trails lead through successional forest, working and abandoned farm fields, forested uplands, wildflower-filled meadows, picturesque wetlands and past numerous ponds. Along the way, old home sites, stone walls that once delineated farm fields and long abandoned orchards remind us of earlier times. It all works together to create a unique contiguous landscape that provides a wealth of outdoor recreation experiences and critically important ecosystems for a wide variety of wildlife.
Stewart State Forest also serves as a public hunting cooperative and is closed to all other uses during the height of the hunting season (October 1 through December 31). Forty-two species of mammals including deer, turkey, pheasant, grouse, rabbit, fox, squirrel and the occasional black bear call Stewart home. The wetlands provide a home for amphibians and a thriving beaver population. Stewart State Forest is also a birdwatchers paradise that supports rare grassland and shrub land bird species. Sightings of hawks and other birds of prey are not uncommon.
Stewart is a carry-in /carry-out park so come prepared with snacks, plenty of water, a cell phone, bug spray, friends or family to bike with and a trail map. Facilities are limited to two port-o-potty’s; one at Ridge Road and the other at the Weed Road Parking lot.
Kiosks with maps, forest and contact information for DEC Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Officers and appropriate local emergency services can be found at the Weed Road Parking Lot, Ridge Road Parking Lot and Barron Road North.
Mountain Bike Trails Description - Stewart State Forest
We first “discovered” Stewart State Forest on a beautiful late August afternoon in 2011. Just 75 minutes from New York City was everything you could want in a mountain biking destination and we had never ridden there before! After a full day of riding we had barely scratched the surface of all that Stewart has to offer. We decided to make up for lost mountain biking opportunities by coming back to explore this jewel in the Hudson Valley often.
As a mountain biking destination, the Stewart State Forest known locally as the "Stewart Buffer Zone", has some the best singletrack riding in the northeast. There is something for everyone. Beginners and those out for an easy, scenic mountain bike ride will enjoy the miles of wide, old gravel roads with gradual grades that criss-cross the forest. There are plenty of opportunities to hop off the roads and explore trails that intersect the forest roads at frequent intervals. The marked and color-coded snowmobile trails are a mix of hard-packed dirt double track and single-track trails. We found these to be fairly easy, lots of fun and perfect for beginners looking to expand their horizons.
Intermediate and advanced riders alike will find unlimited mountain bike ride options using a combination of gravel roads, well worn snowmobile trails and challenging singletrack with moderate climbs, banked turns, roots, exposed rock outcroppings, mud and the occasional downed tree. You will encounter wet areas near bogs and wetlands. Some of these are bridged with wood planking. Trails travel through forest, farm fields and wetlands.
Signs are posted where the trails enter or depart roadways. All road intersections are marked with the road names. Enjoy these suggested mountain bike rides through the Heart of Stewart State Forest.
Suggested Mountain Bike Ride: Heart Of Stewart State Forest
Miles: 10 mile loop (Advanced Beginner/Intermediate)
From the Weed Road parking lot, hop on your bike and go around the yellow gate next to the kiosk and head down the rolling, gravel Weed Road. You’ll be cruising mostly downhill. In just under a half mile pass the former wildlife check station that serves as the DEC Field station (open seasonally). It is used as a clearinghouse for information and to manage the hunter reservation system during the first part of the big game hunting season.
You’ll pass wetlands and the Snowmobile Trail F intersection on the right before the road dips south. Giles Road and Drakes Lane intersect on the left. At the intersection with Snowmobile Trail J, look for the large brown Beaver Pond Loop Trail sign posted on a tree. Under that is a sign with mileages to Restoration Pond and Forrester Road. Stay on New Road and you will shortly come to a fork in the path. To the right is Snowmobile Trail F1. Keep left and follow the curve of the road as it turns north. At the next intersection, marked by a Lindsay Road sign posted on a tree, leave New Road and turn left onto gravel Lindsay Road.
Lindsay Road, a gravel road edged by soft bright green grass and wildflowers, alternately runs through forest, meadows and wetlands. The view quickly opens up as you pass through a utility corridor. A vast sea of wetlands, punctuated with purple loosestrife and goldenrod, border both sides of the road. This spot is marked on the Stewart State Forest Maps as a scenic viewpoint. The views are definitely worth stopping for.
Continue pedaling north on Lindsay Road. You’ll come to a T intersection. where Trail I, the Raincoat Factory/Lindsay Road Loop crosses the road. The branch to the right is marked as a foot trail that leads to Wilkens Pond. We decided to explore the branch to the left towards Stick Pond. We didn’t get too far. The path led us between grassy hillocks through an open field until the path all but disappeared into a sea of heather. At this point we turned around and headed back to Lindsay Road.
To continue the mountain bike journey, keep pedaling north on Lindsay Road, which eventually becomes old, paved Barron Road. Pass red-blazed Snowmobile Trail (C) on the right. At the next intersection, it’s time to leave the old roads and get on the dirt. Turn right on Snowmobile Trail (D), which is blazed with yellow discs posted on the trees.
The smooth, hard-packed trail travels mostly through woods for 1.3 miles. It’s an easy. flowy ride with some roots, rocks and a few short rolling hills. Arrive at the Orlando Drive intersection. Both the left and right branches will lead to New Road. We took the longer left fork. This wide trail follows old double track farm lanes and skirts wetlands at several points, before meeting New Road.
Turn left on New Road for a couple of heartbeats, then make a right onto the blue-blazed Snowmobile Trail (G). This rolling, hard-packed trail runs through through deep woods. You'll encounter several wet areas. Ride to the intersection with the red-blazed Snowmobile Trail (E). For a short detour, head down the narrow one lane farm road past the stop sign towards Pittman Robertson Pond. You’ll soon be on a narrow causeway between a wetland forest of tall trees, living and dead. Huge mats of bright green algae are punctuated with fallen logs and hummocks of grass sprinkled with purple asters. Choruses of bullfrogs serenade you. This spot looked like it might be inundated with water during wet seasons or after a heavy rain.
We turned around here and retraced our path back to the intersection. Turn left to continue on the blue-blazed trail through the woods. There is a stream crossing and footbridges lead over several wet areas. Stay on the blue-blazed trail (which eventually becomes Snowmobile Trail F) and enjoy the ride through the forest. You’ll spill out onto New Road. When we arrived at this point, we noticed a hawk perched on a tree limb right above our heads.
Take a right turn on New Road and head back to the Weed Road Parking Area. You’ve completed the loop.
The Second Wind
Back at the Weed Road parking lot, we decided we were not ready to go home. Fueling up on a snack, we headed back down Weed Road a short distance and turned right onto Trail A.
It begins as single track through woods then turns into a grassy swath leading through an overgrown meadow. It was really tough pedaling over the soft bed of tall-flattened grass. Then a steep ascent up a narrow dirt path leads onto a winding trail through old farm woods. This trail wouldn't be our first choice for a ride.
Believe it or not, we still had some energy left. Back on Weed Road, we continued on New Road past the DEC Field station and gate and made a right turn onto Ridge Road. This wide gravel road bisects Stewart basically south/north. It climbs and rolls along the ridge past old apple orchards and fields. There are really great views of the Great Swamp and the Shawangunks. We rode as far as the intersection with the red-blazed Trail F spur. Being curious, we turned left onto the spur. The path opened up to a wetland wonderland. Sure, we had traveled past and through several wetland environments on our bike journey around the heart of Stewart State Forest. “Seen one seen em all” does not apply to Stewart. Each was distinctly unique. This was no exception. Forest-green woods surrounded the pond contrasting against the powdery-blue sky. The understory of shrubs interspersed with stands of rich brown cattails, reeds, delicate bracts of White Queens Anne Lace, Goldenrod and Purple Loosestrife provided a palette of color that only nature could provide. The trail was flooded ahead, preventing any further trail reconnaissance.
We rested and feasted our eyes for a while. It was the perfect ending to our mountain biking sojourn around Stewart State Forest. Feeling rejuvenated, we headed back down Ridge Road to New Road and returned to our starting point at the Weed Road Parking Lot.
We’ll definitely be back. So many trails left to explore!
Stewart State Forest Major Trails
A. Maple Avenue to Weed Road: 1.3 miles
Sections of an existing old farm road and sections of an overgrown footpath with blow down in places. Travels through overgrown meadows, old farm woodlands and fields.
B. New Road to Barron Road South: 2.9 miles
The trail is mostly a well-delineated single track that winds at times through and around high-tension electric wires. It starts at New Road and proceeds west, tying into a trail spur east of Beaver Pond, then along old farm field lanes intersecting with an old farm road (once called Woodruff Lane), and the dam forming Restoration Pond on its way to Barron Road.
C. New Road to Barron Road North: 1.3 miles
This 6 to 8 ft. wide trail travels through dry woods. There are several wet spots and stream crossings. White pines and cedars on the ridge provide a change in scenery.
D. Orlando to Barron Road: 1.3 miles
This wide trail follows old farm lanes and skirts wetlands at several points.
E. Pittman-Robertson Pond Road: 1.0 miles
Old one lane farm road through fields and woods near several farm ponds.
F. Windsor Woods to Ridge Road: 1.2 miles
Old road through woods that experiences seasonal flooding.
G. Windsor Woods to New Road: 2.0 miles
Old road through deep woods and hemlock. Several wet areas.
H. Scofield Lane Trail: 2.0 miles
Old road that starts at overgrown Scofield Lane, runs the woods on the ridge west of the Great Swamp and ends at the Ridge Parking lot.
I. Raincoat Factory/Lindsay Road Loop: 1.4 miles
Travels through a mix of woodlands and wetlands. The trail provides access to Stick Pond and field and skirts Wilkens Pond to the west, old quarries, and bypasses Baron Road. Some wet areas on the old roads.
J. Restoration Pond and Beaver Pond Farm Lane: 0.8 miles
Old farm road. Vehicles permitted by permit. Used to access frequently used dog training areas.
K. Buchanan Hill Trail: 1.8 miles
Trail travels through a mix of fields and woodlands. It leads to highest point on the property (658 feet) with good views in all directions, especially southwards toward the Hudson River. After skirting the northern end of Whalen Pond it ends at Maple Avenue.
L. Armstrong Lane Wetland and Farm trail: 0.8 miles
Trail uses a combination of old farm roads, existing paths that lead around wetlands, through old farm woods and fields to reach Clark Street.
Stewart State Forest Major Paved and Gravel Roads
In 1971, New York State condemned and acquired 802 parcels of land west of what was then the Stewart Air Force Base. These lands (Stewart Bufferlands) were to provide a necessary airport buffer zone for a planned Super Sonic Transport (SST) airport. The airport expansion and SST plans were abandoned about ten years later and commercial flights began at Stewart in 1990. The airport's long runway remains one of several emergency-landing sites for the Space Shuttle.
The Stewart Park and Reserve Coalition (SPARC), a grassroots, all-volunteer organization was founded in 1987 to save the Stewart Bufferlands as open space and protect the land from scattered development. In 1999, New York Governor Pataki set aside about 5,100 acres of the buffer lands as 'State Forest Land' but allowed the Empire State Development Corporation, to offer 1,200 acres for development. SPARC eventually won protection of the entire 7,000 acres as Stewart State Forest, and today the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation manages it.
Main entrance (south side): Take NYS Thruway, I-87, to exit 17 and head west on I-84. Take exit 5A and at end of ramp turn left onto Rt.747 (Drury Lane) south toward airport. Turn right onto Rt. 207 and travel @2 miles to Weed Rd. Turn right onto Weed Rd and proceed to parking/trailhead.
North side of Stewart State Forest: Take exit 6 off I-84 to Rt. 17K. Turn right from westbound I-84, or left from eastbound I-84 and travel west to Ridge Rd. Turn left onto Ridge Rd. and proceed to the parking area.
New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation - REGION 3