Background you can feel free to skip: Ithaca, NY may have dibs on the tagline, “Ithaca is gorges,” but we have some gorges of our own right here in the Hudson Valley. Well, at least one gorge. Here’s a tourism tagline for us: “The Hudson Valley has a gorge, too, you know.”
Perhaps that tagline could use a little work, but our gorge doesn’t need much marketing – it really sells itself.
Over the years, I’d seen a ton of pictures of Croton Gorge Dam, which is a favorite haunt of local photographers, but hadn’t been there myself until recently. When we finally mustered an expedition to check it out, the whole time we were there, I was wondering, “Dude, what took us so long?” What a beautiful, unique place.
From the moment you pull into the driveway and idle your car across the bridge, boom. Waterfall in your face.
From there, you can explore the falls, the dam, and the giant field at the base of the dam. Then you can hit the trail that will bring you up on top of the dam and across the bridge.
The bridge is closed to motorized vehicles, too, so you can stroll with impunity.
Oh, and there’s a little playground near the start of the trail, complete with bathroom facilities! (And porto-facilities, if that’s your thing.)
If you’re so inclined, you can also visit the trails along the river. We didn’t check them out during our visit because we had three boys under the age of six in our crew, and had to prioritize accordingly. But there are other trails to explore at the park, if your group has a longer attention span than ours. (You walk right by the River Trail access point if you follow the trail guide below.)
One note of caution: This place is not a well-kept secret. The guys at the guard shack on the way in told us that on nice summer days, the park often fills up, and they close the entrance with traffic cones. Before driving all the way here to see only scenic orange cones, you could try calling the park phone at (914) 827-9568 (that number didn’t work in early May 2015, but it is listed on the official Croton Gorge Park page as the contact # for the park). We also saw several cars parked on either side of the bridge on Croton Dam Road – not sure if that’s officially sanctioned or not, but it looked like a popular option for accessing the bridge on that day.
In any event, Croton Gorge Park is definitely worth a visit for both the natural beauty and the cool architecture. It’s tough to think of a shorter hike with a bigger, or more unique, payoff. When you’re looking for a quick trip to a place full of awesomeness, just remember: “The Hudson Valley is gorge.” Dang it, still working on the tagline.
If you find this free trail guide useful, please provide payment by picking up at least one piece of litter on your hike. Cha-ching! Thanks for being awesome! (And here’s a quick primer on Leave No Trace, too, to help us keep the trails nice and fresh for each other.)
1. From the parking area (see “Directions to the trailhead” below), walk across the field to get as close as you can to the base of the falls. Feel the mist and listen to the roar (or, if you’re here in late summer when the water level is low, imagine the mist and enjoy the peace and quiet).
If you have a hiking companion, now is the appropriate time to turn to them and say, “They should call this place Croton Gorge Daaaaaaa-yum!” (If they don’t laugh, you can blame me, then, before we move to the next step, I’ll wait here until you can find cooler friends.)
Also, if you catch anyone adding to the litter against the fence, perhaps you could query them about how they came to appreciate nature enough to visit it, but not enough to refrain from defiling it. People are curious that way.
2. Once you’ve frolicked at the falls and explored the base of the dam to your satisfaction, it’s time to head up to the bridge. Let’s do this!
With the dam at your back, look across the field to the playground, and you can see a dirt road just to the left of the playground, heading into the woods. That’s where you want to be. Hop on that bad boy.
If you’re starting from the playground (as you will be if you have kids in your group), looking at that same road, the only hint you get that it’s the road to the bridge is a sign that says, “AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY.”
To me, that sign would be way more useful if it said: “AUTHORIZED VEHICLES AND EVERYBODY WHO IS HIKING TO THE TOP OF THE DAM ONLY.” In any event, this is the trail you should be on, even if, like me, you’re not an authorized vehicle.
3. About one minute into the hike/stroll, after you pass the playground on your right, you’ll arrive at a fork in the trail. The right fork takes you along the River Trail, which sounds like a very pleasant place to explore if you don’t have three impatient children with you.
Take the left fork for the Aqueduct Trail Access, which will bring us up to the dam. (On our visit on May 2, 2015, the sign marking this fork was knocked to the ground. That may be remedied by the time you visit. And if you packed a post-hole digger and some concrete in your backpack, dude, this is your time to shine!)
4. In a few more minutes, as the trail continues to rise and passes by a funky old rock wall, you’ll be joined from the right by another trail, marked “OLD CROTON AQUEDUCT STATE HISTORIC PARK.” Probably another nice trail to explore, if you don’t have impatient kids with you. For now, keep heading straight.
5. If you notice another trail splitting off to your left, ignore that bad boy, too. We’re just going for a “stay on the trail we’re on” type situation right now.
6. We see you over there, dam! In just another minute (it took us about 15 minutes total from the playground), you’ll emerge onto the aptly named Croton Dam Road. Turn left to hop onto the road and the dam.
7. Whoa! Who knew there’d be a big fat reservoir on the other side of that dam?
The sights just keep getting better as you go. Keep heading toward the waterfall, checking out the reservoir on one side, and keeping an eye on your car way down there on the other.
8. Once you’re on top of the falls, duuuuuuude.
Don’t forget to check out the nice little view straight ahead, too.
And behind you, find more unique awesomeness at the spillway that feeds the falls. What an insanely cool place to be.
9. When you’re done checking it all out, retrace your steps back to your car, grabbing a selfie or two along the way, if you’re not above such things.
What a cool spot, right? Maybe you should go home and give your eyeballs a break now, since they’ve been gorging all day.
Directions to the trailhead: From the Taconic Parkway headed south from Poughkeepsie, take the Underhill Ave exit toward Croton-on-Hudson/Yorktown Heights, which is approximately 23 miles south of the I-84/Taconic interchange. From the exit, turn right onto Underhill Ave and proceed for less than one mile, where Underhill Ave will dead-end into NY-129 (Croton Lake Road). Turn right onto NY-129. Enjoy the winding, scenic drive for the next three miles, and arrive at the well-marked entrance to Croton Gorge Dam on your left.
Turn into the driveway, go over the little bridge, ogle the falls, find a parking spot, hop out and let the adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Croton Gorge Park entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The easiest way to get there is to search for “Croton Gorge Park” in Google Maps – it’ll take you right there. If you’re using a Paleolithic GPS device that requires an address, here’s the address for Platinum Autobody, which is one mile north of Croton Gorge Park on NY-129 (just head south for one mile from this address and you’re golden):
451 Yorktown Rd
Croton-On-Hudson, NY 10520
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.22603, -73.8577 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Resources & Interactives
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route (one caveat – the hike goes on the dam, not into the concrete):
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:
- The official Westchester County parks page for Croton Gorge Park
- The nice Wikipedia page for the park
- Some excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.com (ranked #1 of 8 – count ‘em, 8! – things to do in Croton-on-Hudson)
- A very helpful trail review, with pictures, from weewestchester.com
- A great article with tons of interesting historical information on the dam from the Hartford Courant: “New York’s New Croton Dam An Engineering Wonder“
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.)
Comments (53)Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
Thanks Mike! Your detailed info was super helpful to me and my family. We went on a rare 90F day in April, but enjoyed it despite the intense weather. We also took a little footpath back down to the base of the dam as opposed to retracing our steps and found that to be really fun – but it’s a steep decline in some sections and not suitable for those with very small kids. The footpath is off the gorge side of the dam, aka the money spot 🙂
Thanks again! I love your site, especially the knee-slappers!
Thanks so much for the kind words and great info, Erika! Much appreciated!
Looking for parks to enjoy my e bike… any chance I could take it to croton gorge park? Especially out of season. Please advise
That’s a great question, Pat, and I’m afraid I don’t know the answer. All the rail trails around here are awesome for e-bikes, but I don’t know the rules at Croton Gorge for them. My vote would be to bring your bike there and ask the attendant on your way in – worst-case scenario is that you’d have an awesome stroll if the e-bike is not allowed. If anyone else has any better info (or if you find out an answer some other way, Pat), please let us know! I’d be curious to hear. Thanks!
I visited in April 2022. Your guide, directions, pictures, suggestions are still, by far, the most useful and helpful resource out there. Very helpful so many years later, including the GPS coordinates.
The dam and surrounding area is still as beautiful as ever. Awe inspiring.
Thank you for the tips. the detailed pictures, and absolutely love the humor.
Thank you so much for the kind words, Burl! Makes me happy to hear that this guide was useful to you, and that you received my attempts at humor better than my kids generally do. I really appreciate you taking the time to brighten my day. Happy adventures to you!
I know it says on the website that the park opens at 8 AM. Do you know if you can get entrance before 8 AM because I would like to go there for the sunrise. Looks like a beautiful spot.
Hi Matthew — that sounds like a wonderful time to be there, but I’m guessing that it’s not possible to gain access before the park opens. If anyone has information to the contrary (or if you’ve found out anything since you posted this question, Matthew), please share it with us here!
I’m visiting friends in Ossining and about to head out this afternoon for that hike with my 5 month old son – thanks to you! I didn’t know where to go/what to do before finding this webpage. This elaborate guide is super useful – and I loved your jokes. There’s still snow here so I’m going to just take the baby carrier and I’m sure it will be gorgeous !
I hope you and your son had a wonderful day out there, Liza! You’ll have to bring him back in a couple of years to check out the playground, too 🙂 Thanks so much for the kind words, and enjoy the rest of your visit!
I see people having barbecues out today, yes, with their own grill
Hey. I wanted to ask if bbq is allowed in park if you have your own grill with you??
A great place to explore in the snow!
There’s about 2′ right now, mostly undisturbed and absolutely beautiful. We followed the aqueduct trail for a while and then opted to move to the road where it intersects with the trail because 2′ of undisturbed snow is a lot to walk through! The trail would be perfect on snowshoes or skiis right now.
Excellent description- directions- photos
Your guide was better than any catalog or department of park sites
This Hudson Valley Croton Gorge Park Dam has a history and is both scenic and interesting and breathtaking.
Deserves more attention
Thank you for your part.
Loved your tour and then-
Loved being right there in person!!!
Thank you so much, Ajmineola! Really appreciate your kind words, and glad you had a great day out there!
Love this guide as I have small children and I appreciate the step by step!
Do you think it’s possible to do the hike with a stroller
Hi Mike – do you know if I could get to this spot from Manhattan without a car? Would love to take my son there tomorrow to see the fall foliage, but hoping there is a way to get there by train. Thanks!
Hi, Tram! What a nice thing to do with your son! I’m afraid I don’t know of a great way to get there without a car. The park is 3.2 miles from the Croton-Harmon train station, so perhaps you could hail a ride from there? I hope you can find a way to make it happen! (It’s going to be quite crowded tomorrow – the park opens at 8am, so the earlier you can get there, the better your chances of getting in will be.) Good luck to you and your son tomorrow!
Thanks so much for your quick reply Mike! I think we might try to give it a go tomorrow, fingers crossed.
Hi, is there open on Sunday? And is there allow for bbq? Thank you
Hello, Lu cheung! Yes, according to the park’s website, they are now open seven days a week once again, though they still are likely to fill up on busy weekends. As for the BBQ, I consulted my old pictures to see if I could give you a good answer — there are TONS of picnic tables, and I did manage to find a BBQ hiding in one of my pictures. To the right of the “E” in “DOGS MUST BE”, you can see a BBQ. It’s possible that during COVID, those BBQs are not in use. I’ve seen at some parks that BBQs have been covered in plastic bags to keep them from being used. Not sure if that’s the situation here or not, but I’d be hesitant to depend on finding a BBQ to use. (Even if they are still accessible, it’s likely to be quite crowded and tough to secure one on a Sunday.) Hope that’s helpful to you, and I hope you have a wonderful visit!
Hi Mike, is the hike stroller-friendly? Thanks!!
Hi, Yana! If you have one of those beefy strollers with all-terrain tires (like a Bob stroller), I think you’d be fine here. I’m trying to remember any spots that would have caused issues with a stroller, and I don’t think there are any – the path is like a dirt road. Happy adventuring with your little person if you give it a go!
Is park open on 09/06/20 ?
Hi, Hina! Looks like the park has opened the door to allowing visitors on weekends again. Here is their updated COVID-19 guidance: “Parking lot may close intermittently on high-volume days.” Tomorrow will most certainly be a high-volume day, so I’d say your chances of finding the lot closed – especially after early morning – are pretty high. Sorry that’s the best information I can find right now. If anyone else had been there on a weekend recently, would love to hear from you!
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Are dogs allowed there?
Hi, Rod! Yes, according to the park’s homepage: “Dogs must be leashed. Service animals welcome.” Hope you and your pooch(es) enjoy it here!
I just have to say I use this website all the time for hiking info and it’s so helpful. It also helps that you have the best dad puns.
Thank you so much, Kate! Really glad this site has been useful to you! Also, I feel fortunate that the category of “dad puns” was created. In times past, people just referred to them as “bad puns.” My kids also deserve some of the credit, for qualifying me. Thanks for taking the time to brighten my day, and happy adventures to you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this so well. We did the hike today and had a blast with an 18 month and 3 year old. Perfect.
That’s awesome to hear, Mila! You sure picked a perfect day for it, too. Thanks so much!
Thanks for making me feel so smart yesterday! I read your post a few hours before my husband, friends, and I drove to Croton Gorge Park; when we arrived, I saw the “authorized vehicles only” sign and declared with certainty that we needed to take that route to get to the top of the dam. There were doubters in our group, especially as we initially seemed to be walking away from our goal, but your advice was of course spot on.
Yesterday was also the hottest day of the summer, which was our only explanation for why it wasn’t crowded at all. It was still a beautiful place to be and much cooler than the city!
Thanks again for a great post, fun to read and very helpful.
Aw, that’s awesome news, Elizabeth! Glad you proved the doubters wrong! You all are tough for tackling this hike on such a hot day. Bonus points to all of you. Really appreciate the nice comment — thanks, and stay cool! (Metaphorically and literally.)
This was a perfect description! I hiked with my 3yr old sons and mother. Following your guide helped us reach the top successfully! We have great memories and photos for life.
Thank you so much, Shi! Glad you and your band of hearty adventurers had a great day out there! Enjoy making more memories and taking more pictures together 🙂
Hi! Is this hike open in the winter (like now?). Also, curious what your favorite winter hikes are?
Hi, Sumathi! Indeed it is. From the park’s homepage: “Open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to dusk, year-round.”
I don’t do a ton of winter hiking, but my favorite hikes are pretty much my favorites year-round — anything listed with a rating of 5 or 4.5 cameras on “The Hikes” page would be on that list. I also always throw micro-spikes in my pack this time of year, since many of these hikes will have snow/ice in the higher elevations even when it’s grassy around town.
Hope that helps — happy adventuring out there this winter!
Your detailed response to Sumathi is very helpful.
I am a photography hobbyist, and planning to visit this place.
Thanks a lot.
Thank you, Sastry! I hope you have a wonderful visit and snag some great pictures!
Did this yesterday. The guide here was very useful. Certainly worth a visit.
Love reading your posts and the occasional jokes thrown in! Whenever I come across a cool NY hike or waterfall, I check your page for the play-by-play. Keep it up! You seem like a fun person to travel with. Hope to be heading to this place soon.
Thanks so much, Angela! Really appreciate the kind words, and glad to hear the site has been useful for you!
Hello, I tried calling today but your number does not seem to be working.
I was looking into planning an event for June 24th, please let me know what you have available and some pricing options.
Hi Chelsie! I’m afraid I’m not affiliated at all with the park, I’m just a random dude with a web site. The phone number for Croton Gorge Park, as listed on their website and in the trail guide above, didn’t work in 2015, and sounds like it still doesn’t work now (or at least nobody answers it). Perhaps you can track down someone to talk to through the Westchester County Parks website — plenty of numbers to call there: http://parks.westchestergov.com/contact-us
Hope that helps — good luck with your event!
Thanks. I love all the details and your humor.
Kayla from Atlanta
Thanks so much, Kayla!
DAM nice article and photos!
The Croton Dam is said to be the third (or second) largest hand-hewn stone structure in the World after the great pyramind of Giza and the Great Wall of China. The wall is not all stone which is where the disparity between #2 and #3, either way it’s up there as one of the greatest engineering feats out there…and right in our own backyard.
The Village of Croton has a lot of great historical info, stats and some cool pictures.
Link to their site here.
Welcome to my neck of the woods! If you want to avoid the busy parking lot (and fee) you can hike over from Teatown Lakes Reservation just a couple miles away. Grab a map there and head towards the Briarcliff/Peekskill trail, it will take you to the road that crosses the dam. The road hike isn’t very long and cars almost never use it now that the bridge is closed to traffic.
Here’s a map of a recent hike I did that included Teatown and Croton Gorge for a total of 7.5 miles.
Thanks for the tip/map dude. It was amazing!
Re: Hike from Teatown Lake… DEFINITELY worth it, although the reception is a little spotty so you’ll want to map it out beforehand. Also make sure to take the path to the left before you cross the dam (the east side of the river?), b/c otherwise you’re walking down route 129 (45mph highway) to the car entrance of Croton Gorge Park that takes you to the parking lot. I think we ended up with about 8 or 9 miles and it took us quite some time (the terrain is not difficult, and was much faster coming back) around 4-5 hours walking. Neighbors are friendly when you’re on the road stretch (Applebee Rd to Quaker Ridge Rd to Croton Dam Rd) and we even saw a snake! As well as a family of swans at dusk on Teatown lake. We did pay $5 to park at Teatown in the visitor center parking lot, but it was easy to navigate from there. We had two small dogs with us and we wanted a longer hike that was not difficult in terrain, but still challenging, so thanks to Jeff for recommending it!