- Caroline Kaye
- Kayaking or canoeing is a great way to get out of the house while maintaining social distance. In individual kayaks, maintaining a distance of 6 feet, you can even go with a group.
In New York State, our extended COVID-19 self-isolation “vacation” has only just begun, and cabin fever is already setting in for many. Thank god social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go outdoors. Spring has finally sprung in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, and the mountains, forests, and parks are calling your name. Rather than going stir crazy in your own home, use this antisocial time to immerse yourself in nature.
Ample scientific studies have shown what most of us intuitively know: spending more time outside reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. As long as you keep six feet from other hikers while out and about, a stroll through the woods might be the best medicine right now.
Governor Andrew Cuomo also recently announced free admission to all New York state parks, providing access to a multitude of gorgeous outdoor spaces across the region. So you’ve really got no excuse not to go out. Here are some great ideas for what Hudson Valley outdoor activities that let you maintain social distance.
Visit a Sculpture Park
Art Omi, the iconic sculpture park in Ghent, NY, has been around for decades but is still a bit of a hidden gem. Filled with massive works from internationally acclaimed artists, the fields and woods at Art Omi offer a lot to contemplate and appreciate. Omi is home to the “ReActor” seesaw apartment, which created an international buzz when completed in 2016.
The visitors’ center, cafe, indoor art gallery, (and public restrooms) are closed now but Art Omi is encouraging visitors to come out and take advantage of the grounds. With the majority of the Hudson Valley’s museums and galleries closed to the public, Art Omi is a great way to still enjoy art in person during this difficult time. A visit is free but donations can be made online.
As of now Hudson Valley sculpture park Opus 40 is still planning to open for the season the first weekend in April.
Storm King Art Center has postponed its opening as well as all upcoming events and programs through May 31. However, they are inviting people to explore their permanent collection, recent exhibitions, and history of collaboration with artists online. Stay tuned to their social media account for at-home programming opportunities like audio tours and art-making activities.
Take a Meditative Stroll at Poets’ Walk
There’s a lot on our minds right now. Contemplate our mercurial existence while walking in the mental footprints of Washington Irving and Fitz-Greene Halleck at Poets’ Walk in Red Hook. The trail system, which winds over gentle swells and valleys, offering glimpses of the Hudson River, was sculpted by landscape architect Jacob Ehlers in 1849, and is now cared for and protected by Scenic Hudson.
With its unique gazebo and meandering trail system, Poets’ Walk is a great place to get lost in thought or just get some exercise. Since its inception, writers and creatives of all kinds have been inspired here, including William Cullen Bryant and Jack Kerouac. Perhaps this period of social isolation is the right time to get inspired by Poets’ Walk and write your masterpiece.
Hike at the Scenic Hudson Properties
Poets’ Walk is just one of the 43 beautiful parks shepherded by Scenic Hudson throughout the region. All the hard work the organization has done to protect sites of great natural importance has never seemed more valuable.
Exercise on the Rail Trails
The industrial legacy of the Hudson Valley left railroad track marks across the region. Today many of those pathways have been repurposed into attractive and often lengthy pedestrian paths great for (dog) walking, running, or biking.
Go from Kingston to High Falls on the 11-mile O&W Rail Trail or trot 13-miles on the popular Wallkill Valley trail that connects Rosendale to Gardiner. For shorter outings, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail from Lloyd to Poughkeepsie is a healthy seven miles and for a brisk four mile rout try the trail that starts on Underhill Mountain Road in Ancram and terminates at the Taconic State Park, a great place to hike around in its own right.
For a comprehensive list or public trails in your area, rail or otherwise, Parks and Trails New York is a valuable resource.
Hit the Water
As the weather warms, local waterways are a great—and often underutilized—resource for recreational activity and exercise. Whether by kayak or canoe, the Hudson’s many tributaries are at their fullest in early spring, making it the best time to go out and explore the quiet tranquility of creeks and streams. With gyms closed to the public, kayaking and canoeing are a great way to get in an upper body workout.
Paddle out on the Rojan Creek from the boat launch at the Tivoli Bays State Park or the Esopus from the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve.
For the more experienced, get out onto the Hudson. Try using manpower to reach the Hudson River Island State Park, which is only accessible by boat. Experiencing the motion of the water beneath your boat is a nice reminder that just because humanity is taking a timeout the earth moves on.
Go for a Drive on a Scenic Byway
Hopping in the family car and going for a scenic drive used to be a national pastime—before the oil crisis of the ’70s, global warming, gas prices, and traffic spoiled the fun. But hey, right now gas is getting cheaper (thanks Saudi Arabia!) and with so many things shut down, our global carbon footprint has shrunk dramatically. So you can feel good about getting out in the relative safety and solitude of your vehicle to go for a ride.
Where better to take such a meandering spin than here in the Hudson Valley. While just about any old back road around here is a springtime delight of landscapes, farms, and interesting antique architecture, our local mountain ranges offer some particularly superlative scenery.
The 88-mile Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway loop wraps around the cliffy mountains and forest of the range. For a shorter but no less spectacular mountain pass, drive up Route 23A from Catskill to Tannersville. It’s an exhilarating Cliffside climb that gets seriously steep fast as it passes many overlooks, trailheads and the tight winding bridge that hugs crazy-close to the Kaaterskill Falls.
For scenic route ideas in Dutchess County, check out these driving tour suggestions from Dutchess Tourism.
See a Drive-In MovieMissing your move theater experience? Four Brothers Drive-In in Amenia is still open for business offering a delightful movie-going experience from the safety of your own car seven days a week! They're also reducing prices. To see a movie at Four Brothers, buy your tickets online and stay in your car while watching.
View this post on Instagram
🎬🚗🎉Open Tonight: 1)Please buy tickets online 2)Car Hop or Pickup/Takeout 3)Please stay in your car while watching the movie. - enjoy an escape out to our theatre in the safety of your car #hudsonvalley #covid_19 #dutchesscounty #amenia #movies #driveinmovie #ny #nyc #nystate #ilovenewyork #iloveny #milkshake #burgers