Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is a must-do in the Hudson River Valley. The bridge across the river is built on an old (1889) Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge between Poughkeepsie and Highland, NY. It's the world's longest elevated pedestrian bridge, 1.28 miles in length, 212 feet above the Hudson River. Visitors including bikers, hikers, walkers, and joggers (over 700,000 each year) enjoy the 360-degree scenic views as it crosses the river. To the east, the Walkway links to the 13-mile Dutchess Rail Trail, and to the west to the 7-mile Hudson Valley Rail Trail - all part of the 750-mile Empire State Trail (New York City to Canada, and Albany to Buffalo). (Detailed map and photos below.)
Walkway Over the Hudson
Location: Poughkeepsie (Duchess County) to Highland
(Ulster County), NY (See map)
Distance: 1.5 miles (the bridge, 1.28 miles)
Trailheads/Parking: Poughkeepsie (61 Parker Ave.), Highland (87 Haviland Road)
Nearby Places of Interest: Mid-Hudson Children's Museum, Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Vassar College, Culinary Institute of America
There are trailheads at each end of the Walkway: to the east at 61 Parker Ave., and to the west at 87 Haviland Road. An ADA-compliant 21-story glass elevator (a destination in itself) is available at Upper Landing Park (83 N. Water St.) in Poughkeepsie - seasonal and subject to closure due to weather or maintenance, check the website for current status. There's also a stairway that runs up from Washington St. to the East Gate Plaza. The Walkway can be very busy, especially on weekends, and it may better to walk your bike. It's also the site of many events - concerts, movies, festivals, races and tours - that can lead to crowds (the website lists upcoming events). No shade.
The upper parking lot at Parker Ave. is fee-based, the free lower lot is under construction through 2023. From the parking area, the east access path runs about 3/4 mile to the elevator at the river. The Dutchess County Visitor Center and the East Gate Plaza provide restrooms, information, gift shop, vending machines, picnic tables, and outdoor event space. The bridge starts at East Gate Plaza (at the Washington St. stairway). Continuing on the bridge toward the river, the Walkway crosses several roads and gives rooftop views of surrounding Poughkeepsie neighborhoods.
Past the elevator platform, the Walkway crosses the Hudson River. The bridge is wide and flat, easy to ride - cyclists must yield to pedestrians. Pull-offs are provided at regular intervals to take in the Hudson River Valley views, including the Mid-Hudson Bridge a half-mile to the south. The day we visited, it was very windy. Riding westbound into the wind was a challenge, but we blew back easily!
Leaving the Walkway you pass through the "Scenic Hudson Gate" onto a plaza at the Ulster County Welcome Center. Here are parking, restrooms, covered patio, concession stand, and bike rentals. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail (link below) continues seamlessly to the west. The statue honoring Sojourner Truth, the 19th Century African-American abolitionist and women's rights advocate, was erected in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Women's Suffrage . More about Sojourner Truth .
To return to Poughkeepsie, an alternate route is the Walkway Loop Trail, extending the ride to 4.4 miles. From the west trailhead, go past the parking lot and follow Haviland Rd. to the Mid-Hudson Bridge and ride the north walkway back across the river. Then, a street and sidewalk route winds back to the Walkway at Washington St. and return to trailhead. We didn't ride this, but comments from others indicate a preference for returning via the Walkway due to heavy traffic and noise on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, and the city streets.
The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge (AKA Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge) was completed in 1889. Called the "Great Connector," it was the only fixed crossing across the Hudson River until 1924, serving as a major rail corridor for both freight and passengers between the Midwest and Northeast. During World War II, it played a vital role in carrying troop and supply trains. After a fire In 1974, and with rail traffic in decline, the bridge was abandoned and passed into the hands of a private owner but the bridge continued to decline amid ongoing neglect and litigation. Finally in 1998, a grassroots movement resulted in formation of the a non-profit volunteer organization called Walkway Over the Hudson, which gained ownership. Through partnerships with the State of New York, federal government, local communities, corporations and other non-profit organizations the dream of turning the old bridge into a pedestrian and bicycle walkway was finally realized. Walkway Over the Hudson Historic State Park opened in 2009 in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's 1609 voyage up the Hudson River on his search for a Northwest Passage to China. The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. It's the oldest surviving steel cantilever bridge in the world.
NY Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation - Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park
Walkway Over the Hudson
Walkway Over the Hudson brochure
Walkway Over the Hudson Loop Trail brochure
Empire State Trail
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