Background you can feel free to skip: For the amount of tourist traffic that goes through FDR’s estate, you’d expect the well-kept, well-marked trails directly behind his house to be jam-packed. The last couple of times I’ve been there, though, the only other person I’ve seen on the trails was a park ranger. While you’re usually going to run into a fellow ambler or two on these trails, the stroll behind FDR’s house offers a chance to escape the hubbub without having to visit the wilderness.
While the scenery and woods are pleasant from start to finish, there isn’t a money spot along these trails that really knocks your Vibram soles off, so I’ve given this hike a relatively modest rating for its scenery. Even so, there is a lot to see here, and if you live anywhere near these trails, you need to pay them at least one visit. (And you could significantly add to the sights you see if you check out the new visitor’s center and wander around the rest of the Historic Site while you’re here.)
You’ll encounter some rolling hills here, but the trails are generally pretty flat. They also wander past many bogs and woodland ponds, so depending on when you visit, you might find a healthy number of mosquitoes back there. Just consider them to be miniature bouncers, keeping the crowds to a minimum so you can have the beautiful trails all to yourself.
1. From the main parking lot by the visitor’s center, head toward the back-left corner of the lot, away from Route 9 and the visitor’s center. (You should definitely take some time to explore the buildings and exhibits here when you get a chance – they really are something to see.)
2. Hop on the road that leaves from the back-left corner of the parking lot, with the “Authorized Vehicles Only” sign. Since you’re not in a vehicle, you’re authorized.
3. The road winds down to a podium with a nice map of the hiking trails. We’re going to check out the Forest Trail, the Cove Trail and the Meadow Trail. That should just about do it, right? When you’re done looking over the map, proceed on the road downhill, with nice little stone walls on either side.
4. Toward the bottom of the hill, take a left to leave the pavement and join the gravel road that will shortly plunge you into the woods.
5. Stroll along the gravel road (technically the Cove Trail at this point, I think) and enjoy the view back up the hill, across the apple orchard to FDR’s home. You can almost see him out on one of those decks, smoking a cigar. At least I assume that’s a cigar.
6. When you come to the signpost that points the way to your various ambling options, take a right to plunge into the woods on the blue-blazed Cove Trail.
7. In just a moment, you’ll arrive at the ice pond, with its picturesque manmade waterfall. Be careful if you walk out onto the dam – the water’s deep on your right, and it’s a doozy of a first step on your left. Probably best to let this place mind its own dam business.
8. Continue wandering down the hill as the small creek from the falls burbles to your right, then to your left after it crosses under the road. At the fork in the trail near the bottom of the hill, turn right to head toward the Forest Loop and away from the Cove Trail.
9. For this section of trail, you’ll be following the green-and-white Hyde Park Trail markers for about ten minutes. Continue through beautiful deciduous woods lined with small creeks and ponds, and try not to let a boggy stretch or two get you down.
10. When you arrive at the beginning of the neon-green-blazed Forest Trail, the sign informs you that you’re about to go on a loop that brings you back to this point in 1.1 miles. Take a left here to begin the loop.
11. Whoever named this trail wasn’t lying. It sure does take you through the forest, doesn’t it? Just keep following the Green (Forest) Trail, which is also marked with Hyde Park Trail markers in this section.
12. In another ten minutes, arrive at a trail junction. Take a right to continue on the green-blazed Forest Trail, and say goodbye to our old pal Hyde Park Trail.
13. In about five minutes, you’ll pass over a stream, then the trail forks with an unmarked trail leaving to the left. Turn right to stay on the Green (Forest) Trail.
14. The forest canopy changes, and you’re now walking on pine needles instead of leaves. This doesn’t really need to be pointed out, but I feel cool for noticing.
15. In just a moment, you’ll crest a small hill to find yourself back at the starting point of the Forest Trail. That was a nice way to spend 1.1 miles, wasn’t it? Turn left to head back toward the Cove Trail.
16. As you get close to the junction with the Cove Trail, take a close look at the marsh off to your right. Did you notice any of the downed beaver-chewed trees when you walked past this spot the first time? I didn’t, but on the way back, I saw four trees that had once served as a beaver’s breakfast. Or tooth-scratching post. In any event, there have been beavers in there, and that is very cool.
17. When you arrive at the junction with the Cove Trail, with the burbling stream directly in front of you, turn right to join the blue-blazed Cove Trail.
18. Not even two minutes after you make that turn, notice the swampy area off to your right. The Cove Trail officially goes right through the middle of that marsh, and if you show up during a very dry time, you can take this trail all the way down to the river (the trail officially ends just before the train tracks, and you have to be VERY CAREFUL crossing the VERY ACTIVE tracks if you want to get closer to the river). My soon-to-be wife and I went down there and skipped rocks once, hanging out at the river’s edge. It was a beautiful spot back then, but it’s been ten years, so I can’t vouch for it with 100% confidence anymore.
On my most recent trip, the Cove Trail was about six inches underwater, and I wasn’t motivated enough to attempt wading it.
Still, a couple of herons took flight when we approached, and the geese that honked at us from the cove endlessly fascinated the two-year-old on my back.
It’s a beautiful trail to explore, if you can. In any event, when you’ve checked out as much of the Cove Trail as you can, head back to the junction and make a right to continue on the now-yellow-blazed Meadow Trail.
19. Ignore the unmarked woods road that splits off to the right in just a few minutes. I followed this trail once, and if I’m not mistaken, it pops you out behind a strip mall on Route 9. Not really worth a side trip, unless you have a thing for strip malls.
20. Keep following the Yellow (Meadow) Trail as it climbs a small hill and pops you out of the woods, with views of FDR’s house straight ahead. As advertised by the trail name, you also stroll along the edge of a scenic meadow (called the “Hay Meadow” on the trail map at the podium).
21. Follow the Meadow Trail as it skirts some bull rushes and brings you back to the junction with the Cove Trail, which you’re old buddies with by now.
22. Stay straight/right to join the Cove Trail again, retracing your steps from earlier today. Make a right on the paved road to head back up the hill to the parking lot and your car.
23. You had nothing to fear but the mosquitoes themselves, right?
Directions to the trailhead: From Poughkeepsie, head north on Route 9 into Hyde Park. Notice all the FDR silhouettes everywhere? That means you’re getting close. Just past the Hyde Park Brewing Company on your right, you’ll see the extremely well-marked entrance to the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site on your left. Turn left here and park in the main visitor’s lot.
You can also get directions by checking out the FDR National Historic Site entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Address for your GPS: The address for the FDR National Historic Site is:
4097 Albany Post Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.7701, -73.93465 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
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 resources:
- The official Home of FDR National Park site
- A PDF with more Hyde Park trails
- A PDF map of the complete Hyde Park Trail (you’ll visit just a portion of this trail doing the hike described above)
- The Visit Historic Hyde Park page with heaps more info on the area
- Homepage of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum
More FDR National Historic Site 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.)