Circumnavigate The Hudson River

(With a quick stop at the Little Red Lighthouse and a crossing of the G.W. Bridge)

Pedal  the Hudson River -- ??  Sure, why not!!

As you can discern  by the intro map, the whole idea is to circumnavigate the Hudson -- or at least the section that boarders Manhattan -- and to that end, the trip is a worth while endeavor for anyone who loves the water and adjacent waterfront character.   That said, while the trip is currently very doable -- more so than it's been in years -- it's still not quite the Disney adventure that it's been reported to be, and, in fact, still contains a few areas of disappearing trail and dangerous autos. Nonetheless, with moderate  precautions and a few directions, this trip will open you  to a whole new perception of  our favorite aquatic environment.

So pretty much head north anywhere on the west side.  The bike trail is more or less intact and runs from the battery to the G.W. bridge area.  True, there are a few places where it bottlenecks down to a single-lane, dirt ditch, but for the most part the west side Manhattan bike trail is 98% complete, auto free, and a joy to ride.
The first problem area is right above the 79th Street Boat basin. There is a sign which describes the terrain as dangerous and tells bicyclist to detour around. But truthfully,  while the area is very narrow, with some pretty good sized holes and buckled cement layers, it is ride able, especially during daylight hours, if you go slow and don't mind an occasional walk where it bogs down. As your watch the traffic flow, it becomes pretty obvious that about 60% of bicyclists followed the detour, while the other 40% ignored it, carrying over the small stone barrier and sticking to the trail.  I suspect the sign is there for liability reasons -- also, because the path is so narrow, it is simply easier to separate walkers and bikers. I suppose a third choice is to carry over the barrier and simply walk the bike, as the whole problem area is only about 4/10's of a mile.  The detour itself is really not that bad and actually takes you through a lovely section of Riverside Park.  But typical of detours, the sign for the detour tells you where the detour begins but nowhere does it point the way back to the bike trail, so I've heard a few complaints from people being unable to rejoin the trail. The trick is simple.  As soon as you take the detour, right after the hill up into the park, stay completely on your left and take the first turn that looks like it is headed back to the water. 

The next problem area is the massive North River sewage treatment complex and park.  The bike path appears to end here, but is actually just cut in half and continues on the opposite side of the park.  This was initially pretty confusing, but since I've put up these pages there has already been several improvements.  If you note the map below, you will see two separate routes. Currently, the way around this very necessary and life improving facility/behemoth, is, immediately after the bike path ends, continue on through the parking lots and hang a  right on 133rd Street, immediately after the Fairview 24 hour supermarket, followed by a quick left on Twelfth Avenue, and then another left at 135th Street and take the D.E.P.  access road under the park.  Previously, however, there were problems with this road, and the D.E.P. controlled property was off limits -- unless you had a special visitor's path.  I have heard conflicting stories ranging from the road being closed because of liability issues to ego conflicts between the city and state agency controlling the area. Whatever the reason, the conflict seems to have been resolved and the access road is now open to the public. 

However, if for any reason the road is closed, the alternative route is described below the map.  Also, please note that the "official" route takes you on to 12th Avenue immediately after the bike path appears to end.  I dislike that route because it puts you on 12th Avenue for a longer time in a spot where the traffic is particularly bad.  My route takes you through the parking lots, skipping most of 12th Avenue, and past the Fairview market where I generally stop for a snack. 


IF THE ACCESS ROAD IS CLOSED: Make the right on 133rd Street, the left onto Twelfth Avenue, but instead of making the right turn on 136 Street, note the macadam path on the sidewalk (see map) and walk your bike over the curb. The path spirals up to the street above and will bring you out one block north of the entrance to the park. Cross over into the park, but don't head towards the water.    Instead, hug the land-side edge of the park and head north.   Keep going until you run out of park.   Around the carrousel, to your right, is the elevator tower that will take you back down to ground level and the bike trail. If the elevator is not working, the stairs will take you down, albeit in a more grunting and sweating style.


Once back on the bike trail, after the North River park complex, you will pass the volley ball courts on your right.  Immediately after the courts,  the road splits and the fork you are on  continues straight, taking you into a baseball field -- do not go this way.  You must make the sharp right at the split, which doglegs past a huge broken and overgrown gate before swinging left and continuing north.  From here it is smooth riding to  the Little Red Lighthouse, which is worth the digression, but  a few hundred yards past the  access way to the G.W. bridge.

As near as I can tell, the bike trail to the G.W. must have been created during the cold war, and since then it's been every government agency's holy mission to keep it from falling into enemy hands, hence the profound obfuscation. 

The secret map is printed below, and while it may seem like it's done in code, it's actually quite obvious once you are on the trail -- just don't let it fall into enemy hands, because then we will have to kill you.

A bit before the Little Red Light house, right before the tennis courts, is a stone and steel bridge that crosses the railroad tracks.  Carry up the stairs of the bridge and follow the path.  After the first underpass, head directly towards the highway. To your immediate left, running parallel to the highway, is a second underpass and a narrow pathway. The path is a mish mosh of macadam, dirt and concrete and runs about 2/10 of a mile and leads right to a pair of underground stair, which will lead you under the highway.  When you exit the stairs, cross the service road, and take the ramp, which runs parallel to the service road.  The ramp doglegs up the fairly substantial hill and exits you onto Haven Ave.  Dogleg around to 178th Street, making the left onto 178th Street and the walkway to the G.W.

After you cross over into Jersey and descend from the bridge, take the first left and follow the road.  It will lead you past the Fort Lee Historic Park, the alternate route into town, and after a very steep decline, past the entrance to the Palisades Park and down to River Road.  That's pretty much it.  River Road changes names a few times as it goes through various towns along the river, but you basically follow it the next 9 miles to Hoboken.  Some older maps will show the road ending in various spots, but it is NOW continuous.

Be warned, however, that River Road is heavily trafficked and traveling it on a bike can be slightly disconcerting.  On the plus side, because of the large amounts of bicycle traffic on River Road, motorist seemed somewhat comfortable with our presence and seem to lean to extra caution.  Also, the last time I did the trip was on a Sunday and it felt distinctly like Sunday traffic.  So it's quite possible that on a week day you will have the road relatively to yourself.

Along the shore line, you will occasionally notice fragments of what will one day be the Henry Hudson biking and walking path, which is hoped will run from the G.W. bridge to the Liberty Science Center.  Currently, it exists  in so many short, unlinked fragments, that you will spend the better part of your day crossing and re-crossing a considerably dangerous highway to reach it. Better to avoid it completely.  As of yet, nowhere does the trail span a long enough distance to make the crossing worth the effort -- although it's perfect as a break spot.
Also, should you need to end your trip early, you will pass several NY Waterway Ferry Terminals, which will take you to various Manhattan locations.  The only place where you may run into trouble direction wise is in Hoboken, see map below.  (The map will be more of a use, should you decide to do the trip from south to north, as the turn off from Park to River Road/Harbor Blvd. is a bit tricky) River Road/Harbor Blvd. brings you out on Park and 16th Street. If you proceed south another 16 long blocks,and then hang a left on Hudson Place (1st Street),  you will come to the Hoboken Ferry Terminal and the PATH station. Although I prefer hanging the left on 14th Street and either taking Hudson, or Frank Sinatra Drive -- which goes around the Stevens Institute -- down to the Ferry. The Hoboken Ferry takes you back to the bike path on the west side of Manhattan -- finishing on a nautical note.
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