Background you can feel free to skip: You wouldn’t expect to find awesome hiking trails within eyeshot of the Route 9 stripmall-a-palooza, but there they are, hiding right behind the home of the guy who invented the telegraph, which is the communication device people used back when they wrote in dots and dashes, rather than sideways smiley faces.
Most of the trails here are converted from old carriage roads, so they’re wide and smooth. I’ve been carrying my son Evan on my back for most of the hikes I’ve done over the last year, but our trip to Locust Grove was the first time he walked a significant distance on his own, maybe half a mile. Hopefully, this bodes well for more hiking after he outgrows the pack.
A trail guide for Locust Grove might very well be the least essential thing I’ve ever written. The trails are very well-marked, you can pick up a paper copy of a trail map at the visitor’s center (or print one out ahead of time), and you’d have to be trying really, really hard to get lost here.
Still, there are a few highlights that it would be a shame to miss, like Sunfish Cove, the picturesque cascade by Mosquito Lake (if it’s not called that, it should be), and the river views with beckoning homemade benches. The trail guide below hits all these highlights, but I’ll completely understand if you’d prefer to just wander around and invent your own route instead. No, really, it’s okay, just ditch me. Sigh.
Most visitors come here to see the Morse Estate, which is an interesting building to tour, for a small fee.
The main event, though, is going on just down the hill. For free!
1. From the parking lot, walk to the front door of the newly renovated visitor’s center to pick up a brochure with the trail map (if you haven’t already printed out your own copy). Once you have that, you don’t really need me anymore, but I’ll suggest some destinations anyway.
2. Continue walking around the visitor’s center to find a nice covered porch and a walkway into the gardens. From here, you can follow signs back to the hiking trails, which begin downhill, towards the river, to the right of the Morse Estate.
3. If you get mugged under the giant locust trees and thugs make off with your trail map, have no fear. You’ll find a big plastic map near the start of the hiking trails, and more of these map podiums sprinkled throughout the property.
4. You’ll pass a pet cemetery on your right as you near the hiking trails, with wooden grave markers that look like they’ve been recently refurbished. This might be slightly macabre, but you have to respect a family that appreciates a good pet.
5. Continue down the hill to the right of the house to arrive at a second pet cemetery with several headstones. I bet those were some good pooches.
6. Directly opposite the headstones, pass through the gate to access the hiking trails. You’ll start out on the Lane Loop, and immediately be presented with two roads, diverging in a yellow wood. I took the one on the right, and that has made all the difference. No, but seriously, take the one on the right.
7. Stroll past an old barn on your left. In just a minute, arrive at the intersection with the Lakeside Trail, where you’ll turn right to head toward the Edgehill Road, which lines the northern edge of the property.
8. When you reach the Edgehill Road in a moment, turn left to head toward the river.
9. In under ten minutes (or exactly ten minutes, walking at toddler speed), you’ll start to catch some water views through the trees.
10. As you head down the hill, you’ll see the well-marked (everything is well-marked here) intersection with the Sunfish Cove Trail. I recommend taking a stroll along Sunfish Cove, even though it’s an up-and-back affair that will require you to retrace your steps.
Sunfish Cove is a peaceful place where you can get close to the water and probably spy on a bird or two. Just mosey along the unmarked trail for a while, enjoying the solitude you’ll occasionally share with a passing MTA train on the far side of the cove. When you reach the cement marker in the dirt, you’ve reached the end of the trail, and it’s time to turn around and come back to the junction with the Edgehill Road.
Total roundtrip time for a visit to Sunfish Cove, assuming a very casual pace: 15 minutes.
11. Whether or not you decided to visit Sunfish Cove, keep going along the Edgehill Road to find a nice bench in just a moment. If it’s unoccupied, have a seat and enjoy the pleasant riverside atmosphere. If it is occupied, snap a picture over your shoulder as you walk past, so the people sitting there don’t realize you’re taking their picture.
12. When the Edgehill Road dead-ends into the Lane Loop, take the right-hand Lane Loop option to stay closer to the river. (Taking a left here would bring you straight back up to the Morse house.)
13. In just a moment, emerge into a clearing that looks like a scene from The Lorax, with several stumps where trees used to be. I wonder if these trees were cut down to improve the view from up the hill. In any event, you can get a fairly clear shot of the river to your right.
14. Keep hugging the river, turning straight/right to join the Sawmill Trail, while the Lane Loop departs to your left.
15. Enjoy the view from another nice bench. If you stand right up next to the edge of this small clearing, you can see the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Walkway over the Hudson to your right, and the docks for the Pirate Canoe Yacht Club to your left, with the railroad tracks below. Yachts in Poughkeepsie? Indeed. We are very high falutin’ around here. Excuse me, high faluting.
16. Hop on the Sawmill Trail, directly behind the bench.
17. In just a minute, the Sawmill Trail dead-ends, putting you back on the Lane Loop. Take a right to follow the Lane Loop back towards the Morse estate.
18. The Lane Loop runs you into Mosquito Lake. It’s a pretty pond, from what I could make out through the haze of mosquitoes as I ran past (my visit was in early May, so that may have just been bad timing on my part). Take a right to cross the stone dam at the base of the lake, pausing to admire the scenery, if you dare.
19. Continue following the Lane Loop towards the Morse estate. When you see the Cascade Trail departing to your left, I recommend taking a moment to venture down that trail to take a gander at the nice little bridge-and-cascade scene, which is about a two-minute roundtrip.
Not a bad spot, right? After you’ve scoped it out, retrace your steps back to the Lane Loop.
20. Follow the Lane Loop all the way back to the gate at the start of the hiking trails, enjoying the views up the hill to highest tower of the Morse estate, and down the hill to the fields, pond and river beyond.
21. After you go back through the gate, walk up to the Morse house and around to the backyard, where you’ll find the nicest views on the property.
Have a seat on one of the benches and soak in the scene.
22. When you’re done, exit through the gardens, back toward the visitor’s center and your car. Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers on your way out.
Directions to the trailhead: From the eastern side of the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie, head south on Route 9 for about two miles. Just past the large cemetery on your right and the stoplight for Beechwood Ave, turn right into the very well-marked driveway for Locust Grove. (Coming from the south, there’s a stoplight to turn left into Locust Grove, shortly after you pass the Coyote Grill and the Courtyard by Marriott on your left.)
You can also get directions by checking out the Locust Grove entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Address for your GPS: This hike has its own address. Far out!
2683 South Road
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.67199, -73.92964 (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 excellent resources:
- The official (and very informative) Locust Grove homepage
- The excellent trail map from the Locust Grove homepage
- Some glowing Yelp reviews for the grounds
- This heavy-on-information and light-on-paragraph-breaks write-up from the Hudson River Valley Institute
- A nice Wikipedia synopsis of the home’s history
- A Frommer’s review on the site
More Locust Grove pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:
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