Rockefeller State Park Preserve

As can be guessed by the park’s name, William Rockefeller (“the” Rockefeller) originally owned the land that the park sits on.  His estate, a 204-room mansion of exuberance, also sat on these grounds.  Over the next 100 years, the land and estate passed down through the family.  In 1983, an ancestor gifted the land to New York.  The mansion is now only a shell, but fortunately for us, the park is well-maintained with many winding trails for birdwatching, horseback riding, jogging, and hiking.

The park is immense and requires some careful planning to explore it.  If you are spending half a day there like we did, you will only be able to see probably a third of the park.  We hit only two of the highlights listed on the park’s website plus a third spot that sounded interesting on the map.

The park’s only lake, called Swan Lake, is close to the entrance. We circled the lake but did not see any swans, unless they were disguising themselves as geese.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

As we walked the trail towards the Eagle Hill overlook, we encountered a number of animals, both domesticated and wild. Several folks on horseback took the trail with us.  You may bring your horses in, but there is no horse rental onsite for the horse-less.  The etiquette in these parts is that horses have the right-of-way.  You, the pedestrian, must stop and let the horses go by first.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We passed a herd of cattle along the Ash Tree loop.  It is always a joy to see cattle grazing on real grass rather than on modified corn from a trough.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We were walking along another trail when we spotted a rabbit that had frozen on its tracks upon seeing us.  We froze when it froze, and then it became a game of who moved first.  I did, with my camera!

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We also encountered chipmunks everywhere.  Most scampered away when we came near, but some continued searching for food right in front of our path!  We jokingly said we could probably scoop up one or more of these stupid ones to take home as pets.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

There were also plenty of squirrels, but they didn’t quite have the same appeal as chipmunks, since squirrels are a dime a dozen in the city.  This one just seemed picture-worthy because its tail mimicked the looping of branches on that tree.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We also came upon a few indications of other animals that we couldn’t find.  We think these are woodpecker holes.  We heard them in the distance making loud knocking sounds, but we never saw one.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Here is a large cocoon by a bug that I am glad I didn’t see!

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The forest was primarily a constant green.  Mossy logs, mushrooms, and the occasional watering hole kept things interesting.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

We made our way up to Eagle Hill lookout, but instead of seeing a panorama of the Hudson River and the surrounding farmland that was promised on the map, we saw a tiny sliver of the Hudson River.   Perhaps the views are better in the winter when the leaves aren’t in the way?  I do NOT recommend doing the loop for this lookout in the spring or summer.

We next made our way to the 13 Bridges loop.  Guess how many bridges we passed?  This is a typical view of the brook that meandered underneath the bridges.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

By the end of this 2-mile loop, we were exhausted.  We had meant to see the remains of the mansion much further out, but realized the distance was too daunting for our tired feet.  That will be for another day when we return to visit nearby Stone Barns.  We turned around and took a different trail back, where we encountered this interesting underpass.  Does this remind you of the Noguchi Museum?

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park is located near Pleasantville in Westchester. The drive from the city takes about 45 minutes.  Click here for directions.  The park is open from 8:30 to 4:30 every day except Christmas.  The vehicle entrance fee is $6 per car.  You can bring your dogs and horses, but no bikes.  Apparently you can go fishing and hunting too, and those require a permit.  In the winter, you can go showshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding.

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