Sunday, January 22, 2017

Croton Gorge Park, Old Croton Aqueduct State Park, Croton Gorge Natural Area, NY

Croton Gorge Park - County of Westchester, NY ($10 parking fee May - September)
Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park - New York State Parks
Old Croton Aqueduct - Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct
Croton Gorge Unique Area - New York State DEC

GPS Coordinates 41.22588, -73.85776
Croton Gorge Park parking as seen from the dam.

Old Croton Aqueduct Map and Guide: Westchester - New York New Jersey Trail Conference
Croton Gorge Unique Area - New York DEC (completely useless, does not show trail or parking)

Croton Gorge Park to Croton Gorge Unique Area:
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Croton Gorge Unique Area Trail:
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Both tracks combined - I had to do them separately since the Croton Gorge Unique Area trail was too difficult for Shawnee.

HIKE DISTANCE:  7.3 miles

From the parking lot, take the gravel road that heads towards the dam with the playground on the right.
The road makes a sharp right coming up behind the playground.  Or I suppose you could just cut through on this path but it was too steep for the wheelchair.
At the fork we went right to explore the River Trail.
Looks like this would be it, leaving the dirt road to the right.
There is an old marker on a tree.
But early on, some blow downs that I did not feel like maneuvering the wheelchair over so we turned back and continued on the gravel road ...
... to the power cut.  The Old Croton Aqueduct trail is up to the left but there does not appear to be access through the power cut and it's steep.  I did see later where people continue on to make a loop to the OCA this way but it would not have been doable for us.
Retracing ...
... then a sharp right on to the Aqueduct Trail Access.
This dirt road switchbacks up and up.
To the right is the beginning of the Old Aqueduct Trail but for now, straight ahead...
... to the Croton Dam.
It's closed to traffic but the barriers are an unattractive hot mess.
Once we worked our way through that, on to the dam.
The New Croton Reservoir is on the right.
New Croton Reservoir
Common Mergansers in the reservoir.
This little lady flew in all by herself a distance away from the group.
That little dot is her in the huge reservoir.
A look down into the Croton River gorge on the left.  That is the bridge we drove in on to get to the parking lot.
This wall is holding back a lot of water.
The spillway from above.
Back through those hideous barriers...
... to retrace the way we arrived.
Just a short distance ahead on the right, a trail down to ...
... a view of the dam.
This trail continues on parallel to the gravel road we came up on...
... and meets back up just before bearing left into Old Aqueduct State Historic Park on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. 
Coming up on the first ventilator.  They are spaced about 1 mile apart.
Going through that power cut where the dirt road we were on previously is down to the right.
Shortly after the power cut, a path where people were coming up from that dirt road below (This picture is looking back, would be on the right in the direction we were heading.).  This would make a loop back to the parking lot which is what I was going to do on the return route but it was too steep for the wheelchair.
Croton River down below.
At the first Quaker Bridge Road crossing, pull out parking for two cars.
The second ventilator.
At the second Quaker Bridge Road crossing, no parking anywhere with no parking signs on both sides.
Quaker Bridge Road is up a level on the left and the Croton River is down to the right.
You have to wonder if these 3 cars all rolled down off of Quaker Bridge Road.
Coming up on the Croton Gorge Unique Area.
Taking a break at the bench.
Just a little farther along is where a trail goes down into the gorge but it was obvious it was not wheelchair-friendly so we made this our turn around point and headed back.  Since there are two parking spots at the Croton Gorge Unique area and I had the coordinates (41.20287, -73.87069) the plan was to return to the car, drive back and leave Shawnee in the car while I checked out this trail.
Heading back.
Sometimes it's just easier to go under the barriers.
Back at the end of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail where we turn left to switchback down.
Back at the parking lot but first...
... straight ahead to ...
A view of the spillway from ground level.  In other pictures I have seen the water is raging but we have been in a drought so it is just spitting out water.
You can appreciate how massive this dam is by the tiny people standing at the base.
In the car and driving over Croton River on Quaker Bridge to Croton Gorge Unique Area.
From the parking lot where there is room for 2 cars, turn left on the OCA trail a short distance to just beyond the railing on the right. This is looking back from the start of the trail to the parking lot.
The unmarked trail heading down into the gorge.
The trail is pretty obvious but apparently not maintained.  There are blow downs to go under/over and lots of trail erosion but it's doable.
A climb down on roots.
Croton River
At river level.
An old culvert.
A Memorial.  So sad.
The trail then follows a very distinct berm.
I turned around at the dip only because I did not want to leave Shawnee in the car much longer and I did not know how far out this would go but looking at my track on the map, there is still some distance left in the unique area so it might still go out a way.
I headed back on the berm instead of on the trail along the river.
And by doing so, what did I see?  This balloon was up the steep gorge wall covered in a deep blanket of leaves.  Should I risk life and limb to go get it?
I did.
And then, after a gloomy, dreary morning, the sun came out.
Heading back up on the trail.
Final climb up to the OCA trail.
And back to the parking lot.
Waiting patiently.
I don't think she cared much that I had gone without her.  She hadn't really been on her game during her part of the hike and it had been very slow going.


  1. Excellent pix, as always! I'll start by saying that you could have fooled me with the "Shawnee not being on her game" your pix, she looks strong as ever! :)

    Another gorgeous park! I think my favorite was the spillway...I can only imagine what it must look like at "full force", but even without tons of water, it is still very impressive! Loved the walk on the cuesta; sort of what it was like walking down the Grand Canyon almost 30 years ago! Switchbacks are definitely interesting animals all in themselves...I've hiked the Mason Dixon Trail near the Holtwood Recreation Area in PA (just near the Lancaster/York County may have been there too.) After hiking along the beautiful Mill Run for a bit, a major switchback greets the hiker, and all you see (looking up) are blue blazes everywhere (due to the switchback; one must switch directions *at least* 10 times there!)

    Of course, the dam was another standout (even in the morning fog), and that was an interesting shot of Shawnee going under that barrier (looks like the *just* cleared it!) If Shawnee were a Great Dane, I'm not sure she would have cleared's not like there's any "Maximum Clearance" signs! Ha Ha!

    I liked the fact that there was a Quaker Bridge Road in your journey...the same name as a sand road in Wharton State Forest, complete with an actual Quaker Bridge (near the good ol' Batona Trail.) Could the builders of the Quaker Bridge where you were be one and the same as the ones in Wharton State Forest??

    Finally, VERY interesting [rhetorical] question about the cars that rolled off the cliff! Maybe they had a little too much Moonshine on the day (or night) they went off Quaker Bridge Road and did a multi-roll tumble??

    As always -- thank you for the pix! And so glad Shawnee is right there with you for another year of adventure!

    -- Jim

    1. Thanks, Jim! I have hiked Kelly's Run from Holtwood Recreation Area but not the dam. Sounds like one I hiked in Vermont, though. I believe it's the the Quaker Bridge Road in Wharton that has a grated bridge like the one I drove over in Croton. Shawnee had to be carried over Wharton one. When I was planning this hike I wanted to walk Quaker Bridge road over that bridge to some hiking trails on the other side then loop back to the OTC but when I "drove" it in Google Maps, I could see that bridge was grated so that was not going to happen. Really bad on the paws :) And yes, I was thinking the same thing about those wrecked cars, LOL. Except maybe it was Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill or Mad Dog 20/20 since they appeared to be of the 70's era.


  2. Looks like another great place to hike. Glad Shawnee was able to do some of the hikw. I love the shot of her when you got back to the car and she was snoozing. God Bless you both! Thanks for sharing! Joanne from NJ