Pooch proclivity: No doggies allowed at the marsh. If you want to take your dog to a boardwalk, you might have to go to the Jersey Shore instead.
Parking predicament: With only eight legal parking spots at this popular site and frequent enforcement applied to those who make up their own spots, Constitution Marsh has made the very reasonable request for folks to PLEASE not illegally swim at Indian Brook Falls while taking up a parking spot at Constitution Marsh. The falls are unaffiliated with Constitution Marsh, and the visitor’s center lets visitors park here to visit the falls out of the goodness of their hearts – a goodness that you will be testing if you leave your car parked here all day while enjoying an illegal frolic. Please help to keep things as harmonious as possible out here, and be courteous to your fellow nature lovers – visit the falls, take some pictures (pictures which hopefully won’t be ruined by other people treating this place like Splashdown Beach) and head on down to check out the one-of-a-kind boardwalk at Constitution Marsh. Thanks for being awesome! (And please see this comment from the park manager at Hudson Highlands State Park for a 2019 update.)
Background you can feel free to skip: I wonder if the residents of Cold Spring know how good they have it. There are no fewer than four really nice hikes within a couple miles of the town center, and that’s if you count Constitution Marsh and Indian Brook Falls as one (the others are Breakneck Ridge, Bull Hill and Little Stony Point, and there are more around).
This hike is great if you just want to get out into nature, but don’t have a whole lot of time or energy to burn. It also makes a nice appetizer for a bigger hike in the area, like Breakneck Ridge or Bull Hill.
According to the sign as you enter Constitution Marsh, this is an Important Bird Area.
As you wander out onto the boardwalk, taking in the views of Storm King and Breakneck Ridge dipping down to meet the river as endless acres of rushes sway in the breeze in-between, please take a moment to say hello to the Important Ducks.
“Good afternoon, Important Duck,” is the kind of greeting they’re accustomed to. Let’s not commit any social blunders out there, folks.
Otherwise, just enjoy the beautiful waterfall and the pleasant stroll over some small hills and rocks out to the marsh boardwalk, which really is a one-of-a kind place.
There are plenty of worse ways to spend an afternoon. I’m not immediately thinking of too many that are better.
1. Let’s visit the waterfall first, since it’s a nice warm-up that gives an immediate payoff.
As you drive into the parking area, you’ll see a large sign that invites you to turn left to “Drive to Waterfall Trail.” The parking area for the falls is only a few hundred yards up there (the parking area is just on the far side of the Route 9D bridge, which is high above to your left as you drive in), so it’s your call if you’d rather just walk up there or drive it. W ith or without your car, turn left up the dirt road here and head towards the falls.
**UPDATE 11/8/2014** The very nice sign pictured below is apparently no longer present in the parking area, and the spot I referred to above as the “parking area for the falls” apparently now has NO PARKING signs posted (thank for the updated information in your comment, Jason!). So from the parking area for the marsh, it looks like the only legal way to visit the falls is to stroll up there (it’s really not far – about .2 miles, or five minutes walking). Just walk up Indian Brook Road towards Rt 9D (away from the Hudson River), walk under the giant bridge for 9D, and you’ll arrive at the old gate for the waterfall trail in just a few more moments.
2. You’ll come to a seriously uncosmetic trailhead on the right, complete with graffiti and a rickety old gate.
If you drove your lazy bones up here (like I did), park in front of the gate. If you brought your spray paint, tag a nearby sign. (Kidding – please don’t do that.)
3. Walk around the gate and across the little bridge just beyond. Behind you, the Route 9D bridge looks way bigger than it does when you’re driving across it.
4. Follow the trail through a left turn after the little bridge, heading upstream just beside the creek.
5. Boom! There it is. Indian Brook Falls. It’s funny – the Internet contains very little information about these falls, but this is such a nice spot. And it’s a short enough hike that you can lug out a tripod and slow that shutter down just a bit.
Here’s a shot of the falls taken with a normal shutter speed:
And here are a couple of shots from a tripod, with the camera set to Shutter Priority mode and the shutter speed set as low as the camera could handle:
That’s about the only trick I know how to do with a camera, but still, it’s not a bad trick. If you didn’t already know how to do that, it’s a nice way to make your waterfall pictures look more postcardy.
6. When you’re finished checking out the falls, head back to the graffiti trailhead.
7. Either via car or foot, head back down to the Constitution Marsh parking area, where that big wooden sign is. If your car isn’t already there, leave it there now.
8. Head down the driveway, towards the Hudson River. You’ll see plenty of signs letting you know that you’re going the right way.
9. Towards the bottom of the hill, you’ll see the Audubon Society building, with a blue-diamond trail marker in front. Take a right to follow those blue diamonds across the yard, past the educational signage and across the little footbridge.
10. Keep following the blue diamonds through the woods. Keep your eye on them, too. This is a short trail, but you can lose it if you aren’t careful.
11. If you’d like to play Forrest Gump of the Marshlands, enjoy a seat on this very cool homemade bench with a view of the Hudson River and West Point on the other side.
12. The trail wraps around this little spit of land and drops you off onto the main event: The Constitution Marsh boardwalk.
13. Stroll around. Take pictures. Read educational signs. Befriend Important Birds.
14. When you’re done, retrace your steps back to your car. I tried opening the door to the Audubon Society building (the sign said “Open”) on our way out, but the door was locked. Not sure what’s in there, but the people who run this place sure do a nice job of maintaining it. Thank them if you get a chance. And if you’re not on your way to another hike in the area, a stroll around the shops on Market Street in Cold Spring might be a perfect way to end the day (we stuffed our faces at Cold Spring Pizza and didn’t regret it for a second).
Directions to the trailhead: From the village of Cold Spring, head south on Route 9D. Not even a mile out of town, you’ll pass Boscobel, a big old historic Hudson River estate, on your right. Shortly after Boscobel, take your second right onto Beverly Warren Road. This road dead-ends in a moment, where you’ll take a left turn to arrive at the Constitution Marsh parking area, straight ahead.
**UPDATE May 2015** Please see the comment from the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center below for important information on the parking situation here.
**UPDATE August 2019** And please also see the comment from the park manager of the Hudson Highlands State Park below for more important information. Please be sure to read it before you attempt to visit here!
You can also get directions by checking out the Constitution Marsh/Indian Brook Falls entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The Constitution Marsh Sanctuary has its own address. Far out!
127 Warren Landing Road
Garrison, NY 10524
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.40422, -73.93429 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route (showing boardwalk visit first, then falls):
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit the Constitution Marsh homepage.
More Constitution Marsh and Indian Brook Falls pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:
Want to support trails in the Hudson Valley? Here’s one great way: Visit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference homepage and click on Volunteer, Donate, or Shop! (Then you can volunteer, donate, or shop, depending on your mood.)