Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

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Address
125 Phelps Way
Pleasantville, NY 10570
Latitude 41.112919
Longitude -73.836517

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Click here to see the Rockefeller State Park Preserve event schedule.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Important Message for Equestrians: Please read before bringing your horse to the Park.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve offers quiet countryside walks of all lengths through forested hills and valleys surrounding sunlit pastoral fields. Thirty miles north of New York City, the property is the former Pocantico Hills and Rockwood Hall country estates of John D. Rockefeller family and William Rockefeller. Since 1983, the Rockefeller Family has generously donated over 1771 acres to the State of New York to safeguard these lands for present and future generations. Managed by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Preserve is open to the public year-round, sunrise to sunset.

The trails of the Preserve are crushed stone carriage roads laid out by John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Jr. in the first half of the 20th century. Designed to complement the landscape, the 45 miles of scenic carriage roads are wide and easy to walk. Popular for walking, riding, jogging, and carriage driving, combinations of trails lead through varied landscapes and past natural and historical features, such as Swan Lake, the Pocantico River with its wood and stone bridges, gurgling streams, colonial stone walls and rock outcroppings. Trail maps of the carriage roads are available at the Preserve Office.

The Preserve is primarily hardwood forest dominated by huge oak, tulip poplar, maple, and beech trees. The forests, fields, streams, and wetlands support a high diversity of native species of resident and migratory birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish and aquatic species, some of which are in decline and now uncommon in Westchester County. With 202 recorded species of birds and its Important Bird Area designation by the National Audubon Society, the Preserve is a must-visit area for birders. Over 100 species of native wild bees frequent spring and summer wildflowers. In the fall, Monarch butterflies stop to feed and lay eggs during their southward migration. An on-going environmental stewardship is underway to favor native biological diversity.

Rockwood Hall is a distinct bucolic section of the Preserve with commanding views of the Hudson River and Palisade Cliffs. Between 1886 and 1922, William Rockefeller's estate was 1000 acres with a 202-room mansion, a working farm, and a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape design. While the house and buildings are now gone, massive rock walls around the former house site and extensive grassy fields with magnificent specimen trees harken back to the heyday of the estate during the gilded age.

While in the preserve, stop in the Preserve's Gallery by the entrance where rotating exhibits feature contemporary art and natural history exhibits. In the entrance courtyard between the Gallery and Preserve office is the Tree Peony Garden.

Please Note: Bicycles, mechanized vehicles, drones, metal detectors, snowmobiling, camping, and open fires are strictly prohibited. Dogs must be leashed.

Permits Required:

  • Organized running groups with over 7 people
  • Geocaching
  • Scientific research
  • Film shoots
  • Fishing
  • Equestrian


Volunteer Opportunites

From NYC by train: Metro North Hudson Line to the Tarrytown Station. From there you can take a short taxi ride from train station to the Preserve Office on Rt. 117 in Pleasantville. At the Preserve Office you can obtain a map and other important area information.

Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near the park preserve:

  • 13 Bridges Loop Trail-1.9 miles of even to moderate grade, leading to 13 bridges on the wandering Gory Brook
  • Fern Garden-located at the entrance, this garden is volunteer maintained
  • Tree Peony Garden-located next to the art gallery, these beautiful flowers were donated by a town in Southern Japan (the town of Yatsuka in the Shimane Prefecture).  The peonies bloom every spring in late April through early May.
  • Swan Lake-located a short walk from the art gallery, a 22-acre lake
  • Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site-located 15 miles south, a museum of history, art and architecture, as well as host to community organizations, meetings, educational programs and special events.
  • Rockefeller Art Gallery-gallery of two-dimensional arts.  Rotated every six weeks.  See the calendar of events for the most updated exhibit.
  • Rockwood Hall-it was once the county estate of the late William M. Rockefeller
  • Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park-0.9 miles of the Old Croton Aqueduct travel through the preserve.

 

Pet Policy: A maximum of two pets are allowed in day use areas unless prohibited by sign or directive. Pets are to be supervised at all times and either be crated or on a leash not more than 6-feet in length. Proof of rabies inoculation shall be produced if requested by staff. Pets are not permitted in playgrounds, buildings, golf courses, boardwalks, pools and spray-grounds or guarded beaches (this does not apply to service animals).

Hours of Operation

  • The Preserve is open year round, from dawn to dusk. The office hours are from 9:00 AM- 4:30 PM, closed Christmas Day.
  • Picnicking: Extremely limited. No picnic pavilions on premesis.

    There is no picnicking allowed in the area of the carriage trails--the area that begins at the visitors' center and spreads both east and west. There are, however, several picnic tables opposite the equestrian parking lot which is just before you enter the general parking area. The public may use those tables. There is also a table opposite the VUF booth, and in the back of the paved parking lot, in the woods.

    At Rockwood Hall the public may picnic on the grounds, however BBQs are not permitted. There are no restroom facilities available at Rockwood Hall.

  • Equestrian use and carriage driving is allowed by permit only. Please contact the Preserve Office for details.
  • Freshwater fishing is permitted in season with a free Preserve fishing permit available at the office and a NYS Fishing license available from town halls and most sporting good stores.

Fees & Rates

Most New York State Parks charge a vehicle use fee to enter the facility. Fees vary by location and season. A list of entry fees and other park use fees is available below. For fees not listed or to verify information, please contact the park directly.

The easy-to-use Empire Pass card is $80- and your key to all-season enjoyment with unlimited day-use entry at most facilities operated by State Parks and the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation including forests, beaches, trails and more. Purchase online or contact your favorite park for more information. Learn more about our Admission Programs including the Empire Pass.

  • Vehicle Entry Fee (VUF)
  • $6.00 per vehicle¬†
    Bus permits: $35 for non-profit orgs, $75 for commercial - per visit

    Collected:
    April - October, daily
    November - March, weekends & holidays

    *Collected via automated pay station.

  • Equestrian Permits
  • Annual Equestrian Permit: $40 plus empire passport for vanning horses
    One Day Pass Equestrian Use Permit: $15 plus vehicle entry fee

    Trailer & horse: $65 season/empire passport; $6/visit

Maps

Digital Maps

New! Download this park's digital map to your iOS Apple and Android device.

Highlights of Rockefeller State Park Preserve:

  • Despite being less than an hour from Manhattan, the park's wooded valleys still offer the peace and quiet described two hundred years ago by Washington Irving in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He wrote, "Not far from (Tarrytown), perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquility."
  • RSPP encompasses forested hills and valleys cut by the Pocantico River and several streams along with a pastoral landscape of hayfields and pastures. The beech-maple, oak-hickory, and mixed hardwood forests contain towering trees, some over 150- 200 years old. Hemlocks can be found at the base of the cool slopes along the 13 Bridges and Witches Spring Trails. These forests are rich in wildlife that nest and feed in old trees with snags and hollows, such as bluebirds, owls, woodpeckers, wood ducks, and flying squirrels.
  • To highlight its value as natural area, Rockefeller is designated by the State as a "Park-Preserve." Park preservation areas identify and conserve and protect portions of state parks that possess outstanding ecological values, including assemblages of flora and fauna that are unique or rare in the state. A park preserve allows passive recreation use within the park.
  • Mixed flocks of warblers pass through in waves during the spring and fall, leading one birder to call the park "warbler heaven." Over 34 species of warblers have been recoded here, including two uncommon species for the Hudson Valley, the Kentucky and worm-eating warblers; the latter nests on the ground in the deep forests of the park.
  • Swan Lake, in addition to being extremely scenic, has a fragrant diversity of shoreline wildflowers, such as swamp azalea, tall meadow rue, sweet pepperbush, and swamp milkweed, and rafts of fragrant water lilies. The lake attracts diverse waterfowl including migrating buffleheads, hooded mergansers, and diverse waterfowl, including the occasional loon.

What will you see? Plan your trip today!

Look and listen for these birds at our Park:

Everyone is a Steward: Be a Rockefeller State Park Preserve Hero!

  • Know the rules and concerns for the area you'll be visiting.
  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Respect other visitors and their experience. Avoid excessive noise.
  • Share the trail. Keep to the right except to pass. When in doubt, give the other user the right of way. Warn people when you are planning to pass.
  • Respect wildlife and observe from a distance
  • Use extra caution when using headphones. You may not be able to hear warnings.
  • Don't litter.
  • Hike on established, durable trails.

For more information, please read our Trail Tips!

Ask a Naturalist!

Q: What is the black bird with the long neck sitting on the log in the lake?

A: That is a cormorant, a fish eating bird species. Cormorants stop to dive for the fish in Swan Lake during their annual migration. They spread their wings to dry out after swimming, because they do not have oil on their wings like ducks do.

Q: Can you see the Hudson River from the Park?

A: Yes, there are spectacular views of the Hudson River and Palisades from the hilltop at Rockwood Hall. This is also a good place to view bald eagles in the winter.

Q: Are there fish in the lake and rivers?

A: The warm waters of Swan Lake support large-mouth bass, crappie, pumpkinseeds, bluegills, and bullhead catfish. Pocantico River is habitat for caddis fly larvae, which are the favorite food of the stocked brown trout. Trout fishing season is from April 1 to October 15. In Bass Lake, fishing season runs from the third Saturday in June to November 30. Anglers 16 years and older must have a Rockefeller State Park Preserve fishing permit, obtained for no charge at the Preserve office, and a valid NYS fishing license.

Q: Do I have to worry about ticks?

A: RSPP carriage roads serve as wide trails so visitors do not brush against tall grass and brush, the habitat of ticks. Over 40 miles of carriage roads enable visitors to safely and easily access most parts of the park-preserve. However, you should still check your skin and clothing for ticks after being outdoors. Showering soon after being outdoors gives you an opportunity for a full body tick check and can help wash off unattached ticks. If you find a tick, you should remove it and speak with you doctor if any signs of illness occur.

Q: What is the vine with the mottled turquoise blue berries?

A: It is Porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), an ornamental vine with grape-like leaves that was introduced to the US from northeast Asia in 1870. Spread by birds, it is now very abundant and forms thick walls of vines draped on trees in the park and along Westchester parkways. It is considered to be an invasive species that outcompetes many native wildflowers, trees and shrubs.

More Interesting Facts about Rockefeller State Park Preserve:

Folklore:

  • Buttermilk Hill, a high rocky ridge at the northeastern part of the preserve, is said to get its name from the turbulent period of the American Revolutionary War, when local farmers hid their dairy cattle on the ridge to protect them from marauding soldiers. The hill is referred to in an adapted Irish song:

   Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill,

Who should blame me cry my fill?

And every tear would work a mill,

Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Flora:

  • Rockefeller State Park Preserve boasts 1,400-acres of forests, fields, a lake, and wetlands, including nearly 260 acres of Oak-Tulip Tree Forest.
  • Ferns are a conspicuous part of the flora in RSPP. Most ferns prefer moist shaded areas, but a few, such as hay-scented fern, grow in open sunny areas on relatively dry soil, and the marginal woodfern is found in crevices on dry rocks. To date, 22 species of ferns and fern allies, fern-like seedless plants, have been found in the Preserve. Pocantico River Trail, Brothers' Path, 13 Bridges, and Eagle Hill Trails support the greatest diversity of ferns in the preserve.

In 1886, William Rockefeller bought the 200-acre estate and castle, Rockwood, from the heirs of William Henry Aspinwall. Seven years later, John D. Rockefeller bought land in 1893 at Pocantico Hills.

Since 1983, over 1,000 acres of their estate at Pocantico Hills have been deeded to the State of New York. Laurance S. Rockefeller donated the property to New York State in 1999, as part of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

Rockwood Hall History

National Register of Historic Places

Rockefeller State Park Preserve will conduct a controlled bow hunt this fall. To participate, hunters must commit to a minimum of five days of effort. Applications and conditions of the hunt may be obtained in person at the Preserve Office, on the park website (below), or via email to laurence.gill@parks.ny.gov. Questions can be directed to the Preserve Office at 914-631-1470, ext. 120. 

Bow Hunt Application

About RSPP Hunting

Sun 25 Jul
Horses in the Preserve
Sunday, July 25, 2021 01:00 PM - 02:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Rockefeller is famous for its carriage roads and horses. This is a unique opportunity to meet one of our mounted guardians, Anne Sumers, and her mare, Shining Star. Learn all about horses and how to interact with them. You'll also have the chance to pet and brush Shining Star, if you'd like. The Preserve is a paradise for horses and the people who ride them! Find out why. This program is suitable for all ages. Meet in the Visitor's Center courtyard; we will walk down to the lake promptly at 1:00 pm to meet Anne and Shining Star.

Cost: $3

Maximum: 25 Participants.

SUBJECT TO NY STATE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Please register for this event at https://rockefellerstateparkpreserve.eventbrite.com

Registration: Required
Tue 27 Jul
Stewardship Team: Meets Every Tuesday at 9:00 am!
Tuesday, July 27, 2021 09:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

ALL ARE WELCOME!

Please register each week at the link below. Some of our ongoing projects include: (1) "Fisher Cam" Project to determine if this member of the weasel family is resident in the Preserve (2) Cavity Bird Boxes Project: We will be identifying dead standing trees 10-15 feet off trail for placement of cavity bird boxes to provide housing for our feathered residents (3) Deer enclosures, weather permitting (4) Invasive plant control (5) Signs of Spring

PLEASE NOTE: The projects we work on week to week are determined by weather conditions and other factors. Please be sure to wear suitable clothing for working outdoors (long pants are required) and bring water and gloves if you have your own. Gloves will be provided, but supplies may be limited. SUBJECT TO NY STATE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS.

Please register EACH WEEK at: https://rockefellerstateparkpreserve.eventbrite.com/

Registration: Required
Thu 29 Jul
Sunset Hike at Rockwood
Thursday, July 29, 2021 07:30 PM - 09:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Come join us for a Sunset Hike at Rockwood Hall for what we hope will be a spectacular view over the Hudson and the Tappan Zee Bridge. Please dress according to weather conditions and bring water. We will gather at the main kiosk and will leave ON TIME. The parking lot is right below Phelps Hospital, off Route 117. The path that leads up to the park is across the street from the parking lot. Leashed dogs are welcome. In case of bad weather, the event may be canceled (including overcast skies when we know there will be no visible sunset). Please watch for notices from Eventbrite.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS HIKE IS AT ROCKWOOD HALL (1 Rockwood Road, Sleepy Hollow, NY) DO NOT GO TO THE MAIN PARK ENTRANCE!

Cost: $3 Maximum: 40 Participants. SUBJECT TO NY STATE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS. Please register for this event at https://rockefellerstateparkpreserve.eventbrite.com

Registration: Required
Wed 04 Aug
Monarch Habitat Hikes
Wednesday, August 4, 2021 12:00 PM - 02:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Join Shayla and Hailey on a family-friendly hike that will explore the natural monarch butterfly habitat in the Rockwood Hall area. Sadly, the number of monarch butterflies has been sharply declining over the last couple of decades. For a few short months each year, monarchs call Rockefeller State Park Preserve home. Learn all about the monarch butterfly, their life cycle and incredible migration, why their numbers are in decline and, most importantly, what we can all do to help them. Meet at the kiosk at the top of the hill when you enter Rockwood; the hike will be about 2-3 miles with frequent stops for discussion. Don't forget water! The hike will continue in light rain; however, in the event of heavy rain, the hike will be canceled and a full refund will be issued. You will be notified via email the day before.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS HIKE IS AT ROCKWOOD HALL (1 Rockwood Road, Sleepy Hollow, NY) DO NOT GO TO THE MAIN PARK ENTRANCE!

Cost: $3 + Eventbrite fees. Maximum: 30 Participants.

Register on Eventbrite

Fri 06 Aug
Watercolor Painting En Plein Air
Friday, August 6, 2021 09:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Experience nature through painting "en plein air," a French expression for "in the open air." Join us for a series of 4 classes guided by Anne Johann, an award-winning artist who grew up in the Hudson Valley and emphasizes the beauty of nature in all her work. Anne will help you develop your skills and learn the watercolor technique while encouraging you to observe and appreciate the beauty of the landscape before you. You may bring your own supplies if you have them; if not, supplies will be provided. Recommended supplies include: a watercolor set, paintbrushes, watercolor paper or a watercolor block with a gummed edge, pencil, eraser, and a couple small jars of water. Rain dates are September 3rd and 10th.

Cost: $50 for the series + Eventbrite fees. Maximum: 10 Participants.

Register on Eventbrite

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Did You Know? The park's glacial erratic is estimated at 600 million years old and one of the largest in the US.

Amenities Information