The crown-jewel of area trail running. (Some history.) Easy to get to, lots of miles, frequent chances to run with others. The trails can be unusable over the winter because once there’s snow, many of the trails get little direct-sun and hazardous conditions create problems. The spring-melt can also be a problem as the trail can get very slick.
New: If you park in the Visitor’s Center Parking Lot and your vehicle is there after 8:30am, you have to have a day pass, which you can get at one of the machines. No longer may you get there before then and park for free. Note also that Sleepy Hollow High School’s is a popular (and free) place to park.
Also, you MAY NOT run through the Visitor’s Center area. You must walk through or use a trail created to the east of the center.
The Friends of the Rockefeller has a great MAP. Sleepy Hollow HS is not marked, but it is in the lower left-hand corner, where you see the OCA (the red line surrounded by green) pass Route 448. Just south of Route 448 there is the parking lot. Also, people frequently get lost there. If you know how to get from Swan Lake to SHHS, you’ll be fine because everyone knows where Swan Lake is. Just fine the trail (FM) to the left of the lake and head south and then turn right at the “T”. That’ll take you right to a road that’ll take you right to SHHS.
Also, many non-runners use these trails so as always be polite and courteous. Try not to get more than two abreast. Rules of Use. The number of runners in the area around Swan Lake to no more than 4 so use common sense there as well. Efforts have been made to ban running in certain spots, and it is banned by the Visitor’s Center, so it is important that we behave.
Many groups meet on week-end mornings at Sleepy Hollow High School. You generally catch a group any time between 8 and 10. For example the Rivertown Runners go out at 8 sharp on Saturdays and Sundays. (The Club has an active Facebook page with regular notices of get togethers at and near the Rockies.) Also, you can get there by train from Manhattan. I’ve info at the bottom of the page.
From Sleepy Hollow HS, cross Route 448 and you’ll see the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The header above is the green-OCA post where the entrance is. When you reach a very quiet street, cross it, to the left and into a driveway, and you’ll see the continuation of the trail. About 3/4 of a mile in, you’ll see the Rockies to your right. There’s a low stone-wall. It has two openings close to one another. I take the second because you just go through the wall and head straight and you’re heading up the first hill. When coming back, be careful; there’s often a bit of mud right at the wall. The following video is taken at the entrance.
With those caveats in mind, the Rockies has very few flat stretches. There are loads of little ups-and-downs, often in switchback format. So it is surprisingly tough for long rus, but the downs allow for recovery. But you can’t beat the surface and just the feel of the place. Also, there can be wide temperature differences, as some areas, such as thirteen bridges trail, don’t get much sun and are near water.
I used to be afraid of getting lost here, but with more frequent visits I have a sense of the various landmarks and where they are in relation to where I want to be. I still get lost on about half my visits, but if I’m on a long run, it doesn’t matter early. As long as I can find, say, the Visitors’ Center and I’m in my last 20 minutes, I know I’ll make it out. But that was after some trial-and-error. While it is still a good idea to hook up with folks for at least the first few visits, the various trails are now marked with blue markers at each corner, including with arrows to the OCA. It makes sense to map out where you plan to go beforehand, and then just remember the turns.
The only place for water on this trail is at the visitor’s center, off route 117, so you may want to bring and stash your own. (Being cheap, I don’t park there because there is a fee.) But there are also many small springs that can at least be used for dousing yourself with nice, cool water.
You will see that you start the run in the same way that you do for the OCA Northern. Eventually you᾿ll see a trail to your right; that’s the Rockefeller. You also hit it either right before or right after you cross Route 117 (if you cross, you turn right into the Estate instead of left to continue on the OCA.
I recommend a 4.5 sidetrip along the OCA and an extension of the Rockies to Rockwood Hall. MAP. There’s a bridge across Rte 117. On the north end, a right turn takes you down to Thirteen Bridges Trail. A left is the OCA. It’s easy to follow. After you cross Rte 9, there’s a hairpin left-hander that takes you down a switchback. Just follow it down and around the field. After the switchbacks on the southern end, run through what remains of the mansion and keep to your left until you rejoin the trail on which you came in. I include elevation on the map because both of the switchbacks are steep. This is recommended for early in a run, to be gotten out of the way, unless you really want to suffer late.
Running at Rockefeller may be as woodsy as you’ll easily find in the area. But one point of this site is to identify trails that may be less-known. For those in southern Westchester, the issue often is whether it is worth the trip to go to Rockefeller. I hope that some of my thoughts will allow consideration of alternatives, to Rockefeller on the one hand and to roads on the other.
There are two races a year. In the spring a 10K (or so) starts and finishes along the Hudson at Rockwood Hall. In the fall, a 5K near the Visitor’s Center takes place.
It takes about 40 minutes to get to the Tarrytown Station from Harlem-125th Street on the MetroNorth Hudson Line (26 minutes if you get an express, and about 10 minutes longer from Grand Central), with a great view along the way (left side of train). It’s about 1 mile to the trail itself. Here’s a map. Here’s a link to MetroNorth’s schedule. RETURN