Background

Background you can feel free to skip: While surfing the web for some information on a different hike, I stumbled across a page for the Oblong Land Conservancy, which featured a striking picture of a huge cave called the Dover Stone Church.

“How have I never heard of this place?” I thought.  And I still don’t have any good answers for how I managed to live in the Hudson Valley for ten years without anybody ever telling me about the Dover Stone Church.  I’m still a little sore at you for that, everyone I know.

Actually, the odd thing about this place, besides the fact that it exists, is how well it’s hidden, so maybe that accounts for why you don’t hear it mentioned too often.  There’s no sign for it on the street, and you have to park either at the local elementary school or at a gracious local establishment that has agreed to let visitors make use of its parking spaces (more information on parking areas can be found in the official visitor’s guide).

In fact, when our small group went to Dover Plains to check this place out, we couldn’t find it.  As we stood in a huddle on the sidewalk, debating which way to go, a man walking by said, “Looking for the Stone Church?”

“Yes, we sure are,” we said.

“It’s right up there,” he said, pointing between two houses.  “They took down the sign on the street because too many people were coming here, I guess.”

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It didn’t seem like a park could possibly be hiding up that driveway between the two houses.  We felt like we were trespassing at first, but sure enough, he was right.  There was a beautiful park back there with a well-maintained trail to the main attraction.  If somebody doesn’t tell you where it is, though, the trailhead is harder to find than the train to Hogwart’s.

**UPDATE June 2012**: Remember that thing I said about the trailhead being hard to find?  Never mind.  I just drove through Dover Plains and saw a nice yellow-and-blue historical marker for Dover Stone Church right at the entrance to the driveway.  Maybe they were polishing it or something last time I was here.

**UPDATE July 2018** Remember that thing I said about the sign being back?  Never mind!  It’s apparently down again, with a small paper sign in its place.  Thanks to Lynn and her comment below for the heads-up!  

Also, this hike is called the Stone Church because of the cathedral-like appearance of the cave, so no need to bring any dollar bills for the collection plate.  You should bring a camera, though, because you’ll want to record your visit to this one-of-a-kind place.

Trail Guide

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.)

**UPDATE June 6 2015**  Some apparently awesome new trails just opened up at Dover Stone Church today, and I need to get back out here and do a re-write.  In the meantime, you can find out more information in the Poughkeepsie Journal article, “Dover Stone Church: New trails, views at stunning site.”  Good stuff!  (The information below is still all valid, but is now incomplete.  Have fun exploring the new trails, and if you think you’ve discovered the best route to hit the major highlights, please drop a comment below!)

**UPDATE June 30 2015**  Thanks to Stancy DuHamel for sending me this updated trail map that includes all the newly-blazed awesomeness out here.  w00t!

1.  From the parking lot at the Dover Elementary School (see “Directions to the trailhead” below), face Route 22 and carefully cross the street.  Turn to your right to head down the sidewalk for about one block.

2.  Well before the traffic light at Mill Street, you’ll see a gravel road heading up a small hill to your left, between two white houses.  This is Stone Church Lane, which is sometimes marked with a nice blue-and-yellow historical marker, and sometimes completely unmarked.  In any event, you’ll see a split-rail fence leading up the right side of the lane.

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3.  When we visited, there was a blue dumpster visible at the top of the lane, which seemed purposefully placed to block the Dover Stone Church sign (I’m guessing the local landowners get annoyed at people driving up there, but since you’re on foot and following the rules, consider yourself invited to the Stone Church party).  Just behind that dumpster, you’ll see the very nice Dover Stone Church sign, with a beautiful open field behind it.

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4.  Who would have guessed that this was back here?  Somebody takes very nice care of this place.  Hop down the steps and across the field.

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5.  When you come to the “Welcome to Dover Stone Church” sign, take a left to stay on the main trail.

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6.  Cross the footbridge over the aptly named Stone Church Brook to enter a picturesque field with a pond in the back.  Not a bad spot for a picnic.

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**UPDATE July 2018**:  There’s a handy and beautiful new sign to greet you once you cross the bridge, telling you about all the awesome new trails to your left.  Perhaps it goes without saying, but Dover Stone Church is to the right/straight behind that sign, NOT to the left.  

7.  The trail heads upstream, hugging the left bank of the brook.  The trail can be a little slippery here, so watch your step.

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8.  All of a sudden, boom, you’re attending church.

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9.  The trail goes all the way up into Dover Stone Church.  You’ll have to be very careful at the cave’s entrance, especially if the water is high.  It can be tricky hopping into the cave without getting soaked.  But once you’re in there, what an incredibly cool place.

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The waterfall rushes down behind you while the cave’s entrance frames the forest in front.  It feels like you’ve left the Hudson Valley and entered some remote spot in Jamaica, Scandinavia or Middle Earth (depending on the weather when you visit, and whether you see any hobbits while you’re here).

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10.  When you’re done marveling over how this place has remained such a well-kept secret (unless you already knew about it, in which case you win tons of coolness tokens), retrace your steps to head back to your car.

Directions

Directions to the trailhead: From Poughkeepsie, take Route 55 East to Route 82 North.  Follow Route 82 for 9 miles, then turn right onto Route 343.  When 343 dead-ends into Route 22, take a right.  Dover Elementary School is a half-mile ahead, on your left.

Park in the spots closest to Route 22.  (If you’re here when school is in session, please refer to the visitor’s guide to locate the parking areas for the local businesses that have graciously offered their spots for your use instead.)

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You can also get directions by checking out the Dover Stone Church entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.

Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The address of Dover Elementary School is:

9 School Street
Dover Plains, NY 12522

Park in the spots closest to Route 22.  (If you’re here when school is in session, please refer to the visitor’s guide to locate the parking areas for the local businesses that have graciously offered their spots for your use instead.)

GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.73901, -73.57972 (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:

Google Terrain Map of hike route:

Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these excellent resources:

  • The official Town of Dover Stone Church page
  • A very nice PDF map that shows all of the awesome new trails to explore
  • The official Dover Stone Church visitor’s guide (PDF brochure)
  • The official Dover Stone Church Facebook page
  • A nice article with historical details and local information from livingmedia.com
  • Some very nice shots on this dude’s flickr site
  • This awesome video (complete with drone shots!) from Sal Basilone
  • Another awesome video shared in the comments below – beautiful work, John!

More Dover Stone Church 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.)



Comments (38)

Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
  1. Maximuz

    We went there today , it was beautiful hike and the cave
    We did went up the halfway mountain and the kids gets too exhausted so we went back
    We passed few group of kids that smoking weed on that trail tho

  2. Lynn Tondrick

    July 11, 2018 the blue and yellow sign is not present. A disgruntled home owner? There is a small square white paper sign that says Dover Stone Church. Hike was lovely. Easy. Well maintained trails. Clean. Lovely.

    1. Mike

      Lynn, thank you so much for letting us all know! I’ve put an update into the trail guide above, with a heads-up about the (lack of a ) sign.

  3. Joseph McKeown

    Went on this hike today with a bunch of friends. Went on the new red and blue trails. The red trail was just a loop with some good views of the rocks. The blue trail went to an overlook but you could not see much because of the trees. They removed the ladder from the last time a went a few years ago so you cannot go on top the rock in the cave. However, you can climb up the right side of the cave and get on top to see another waterfall.

    1. Mike

      From Dover Stone Church, it’s a 15-minute drive to Bull’s Bridge. From there, you can hop on the Appalachian Trail and walk to Georgia, if you’re looking for a much, much longer hike. (You can also do a very nice 5-mile hike at Bull’s Bridge.) You could also drive 15 minutes out to Crown Maple to check out the maple syrup facilities, cafe, and pleasant hiking trails. Hope that helps! Anyone else have some suggestions?

      1. Meaghan

        I’m a little late to this game, but there are tons of hikes very close. Bull’s Bridge is great, Kent Falls (Kent, CT – only slightly farther than Bull’s Bridge) is beautiful. Cat Rock in Pawling, NY (~10 minutes south), Nuclear Lake (also Pawling, NY).

    1. Mike

      That is a gorgeous video, John! Thank you for sharing it here. I’ve added it to the “Related resources” section in the trail guide.

  4. Susanne

    I want to thank you for this amazing site! I am newer to the area, a single mom (which means budget friendly is a must!), and ALWAYS looking for a new adventure. My 9 year old son and I have done more than half of the hikes listed. I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag, but with your guide and tips, piece of cake! Ok, I still get lost on occasion, but not nearly as much as I use to! We did Dover Stone Church, amazing! One of my son’s favorites, the cave is awesome! We then did the scenic loop, very nice view! Great way to spend an afternoon! Thank you again!!

  5. Sandy D

    Hello I use your website for every single hike I attempt. Just went to Dover Stone Church this weekend (twice). The first time I never found the cave because the signage was removed. I went on a 1.5 mile overlook hike but never found the cave, and when I came down it was too dark to try and find it.

    So, I went back yesterday and was upset to find out that it is literally a 2-3 minute walk from the little bridge. Therefore, don’t rely on the signs! The cave is the other way!

    1. Mike

      I can understand that sentiment — a Saturday afternoon in August is likely to be about the busiest time to visit this place, with the possible exception of foliage season. Last time I came here, my son had a half-day from kindergarten, so I took a half-day from work and we visited on a Thursday afternoon. We had the cave to ourselves, and saw only a handful of other hikers out and about. If you can hit it at an odd time, even a weekday evening, you’ll probably find more of the vibe you were hoping for.

  6. Stancy DuHamel

    Check out the Dover Stone Church FB page for photos of our Trails Ribbon Cutting Saturday, June 6, 2015. Albums by Colleen Pillus, Dutchess County Gov, Lydia Higginson, Dutchess County Tourism, mine, as well as some singles – it was a great day!

    1. anya

      Planning to head up there today and just saw this – can anyone confirm if the new trails are open? Or how to get to them? Hiking in Dover doesn’t seem to have much of an internet presence!

      1. Mike

        They’re open! Just head toward the Stone Church and you can’t miss the turnoff – right after the wooden bridge. Have fun out there!

    2. Dave

      We were wondering if anyone else hiked the blue trail? We didn’t have a map and we thought it was a loop (because the sign said 1.5 miles round trip). Then we got to the top and the trail sort of just ended. No sign or anything. At first we tried to find a way to continue down, but then we turned back. Upon getting all the way back, we saw on the posted map that the blue trail is not a loop. We think there should be a sign at the end of the trail so no one tries to go down the steep hill, off trail.

  7. Lisa

    Hi There,

    I am going hiking tomorrow, and I wondered if you can recommend a nice hike to go on with my kids and dog. We live in brooklyn and would love to drive and 1 1/2 hours at the most.

    Thank you. Lisa

    1. Mike

      Hi Lisa — Sorry if this answer is coming too late, but the hike/stroll featured on this page is a winner for sure. As mentioned in the comments above, too, Croton Gorge Park is another nice stroll that’s closer to the city (I’ll add that one to this site soonish). Otherwise, you can hop over to The Hikes page (http://hikethehudsonvalley.com/the-hikes/) for plenty more options. Hope that helps!

  8. Ken

    My girlfriend and I went yesterday after reading your trail guide. We took our 7 month old German Sheppard pup and we all loved the views the water fall and ever thing else this amazing hidden “gem” has to offer. I will add that we took a left right before we hit the rock path that brings you up to the larger cave. It lead us up a steep incline that after climbing burned some calories and made it feel more like a real hike. we followed the trail up and along the side of the falls and it took us to a smaller cave with deeper water perfect spot for my dog to get her doggy paddle on.. we sat there for a few ate some snacks and retraced our steps down to where the rocks lead to the big main attraction cave. The walk up to the big cave feels like something out of the lord of the rings. It was very very beautiful. Took some great videos and pics. I just wish there was more to it after you get to the cave you want more but that’s all folks. The place is very well taken care of and is a must see.. Thank you for putting it on your site.

  9. easydoesit36

    For those who don’t know, the stream runs through 2 more smaller caves behind that one, each with their own unique beauty. Best times of year to go is when the local streams are higher to enjoy the flow of water, but not too early in the spring as it stays frozen up there well after other areas have thawed. Enjoy your trip!

  10. Krista

    What a great place! Thanks for the info about where the entrance is located. I flew right past the gravel driveway the first time around. A nice, refreshing walk to help clear the mind and I got some fantastic pictures!

  11. susan

    I went there many years ago on a winters’ day when the water that cascades over and around the cave was frozen into a beautiful breathtaking ice sculpture. I was definitely moved by this natural sanctuary in the woods where I was filled with a feeling of peace. I hope to return some day.

  12. Jess

    I live in Dover and the Stone Church is a great place to visit during anytime. I’ve been there in the summer and in the fall. Though I suggest if you plan on going and it starts to rain be very careful on the path to the Church, it does get really slippery. During the summer is one of the best times to visit the Stone Church, and if you plan on taking the hike to the top of the mountain bring snacks and water. It’s a beautiful place and I reccomend visiting there at least once in your life.

  13. Orlando

    Going up there this Saturday. Thanks for the great details on getting there. And Thanks Fredd for that other Falls. I’ll probably do that also.

  14. Karen

    My sister and I did this hike a few weeks ago, it was really nice..It was so short though that we ended up climbing all the way up the mountain as well, it was really pretty up there too..We didn’t see any garbage either so it must have been cleaned up..There was a really cool looking rock at one of the ponds before the walk, The rock looked just like a Manatee! Thanks for posting all of your hikes, I love following them and have done a few so far…

  15. Fredd

    This place sound and looks like a place I will visit to take photos, how about parking?. Is this the same Route 22. to Patterson NY. Ty for Shearing with us this beautiful place. If you like taking photos you must go the Croton Falls on Rt 9 to exit 129 Croton On The Hudson NY and see a 100 ft water fall. Easy to get to just a shot drive down to the bridge and you will see this lovely fall. You can also googly it.

    1. Mike

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve never been, but I’ll have to make a point to check it out. And yes, it’s the same Rt 22. Hope you enjoy your visit and get some great pics here!

  16. Jeff Kent

    We went today and someone must have cleaned up the area because we didn’t see any mess. Just to add to the atmosphere, there was a woman ahead of us burning incense. There was also a purple, yes purple slime at the bottom of one of the pools across from the bridge. Still not sure what that was all about. We plan on going back with better footwear and exploring inside the cavern.

    1. Mike

      Glad to hear that report on the trash situation, Jeff. Also, dude, purple? I don’t know about you, but I’m suspecting some involvement by the incense lady.

  17. Eve

    So apparently stone church is being abused much like bulls bridge, with people having huge bbq’s and leaving piles of trash behind. Nothing is sacred. Just don’t want anyone to waste their time making the trip just to walk through rotting garbage 🙁

    1. Mike

      That’s really unfortunate. I’ve never understood people who appreciate nature enough to get out into it, but not enough to refrain from defiling it. Sad. It was pristine when I visited – hope it’ll have more considerate visitors from here on out.

  18. Rich Brideau

    We just went today to this and it was a great short walk! Thanks for the info and keep up the website! This is a great site you have setup.

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