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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.
- Organized running groups with over 7 people
- Scientific research
- Film shoots
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.
At Rockwood Hall the public may picnic on the grounds, however no open fires are 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. State permits required. Please register each season at the Park Office.
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.
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.
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.
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 SwanLake, fishing season runs from the third Saturday in June to November 30. Fishing Guidelines
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 55 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:
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.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve boasts 1,775 acres of forests, fields, a lake, and wetlands, including nearly 260 acres of Oak-Tulip Tree Forest, a vulnerable habitat type in New York State.
Rockefeller is home to at least twelve endangered plant species.
Many of these support endangered pollinators and threatened grassland wildlife.
The Big Tree Trail is part of the Old Growth Forest Network. The
forest in this part of the park dates back to at least 1860 and is characterized
by towering tulip trees as tall as 157 ft tall.
On Witch's Spring trail, look out for New York State's tallest
Black Oak tree at 132.1 ft tall, and the state's tallest White Oak tree, at
130.2 ft tall. On Pocantico River trail, you can find the state's tallest
Mockernut Hickory and Scarlet Oak trees, at 120.3 and 119.9 ft tall
respectively. All trees measured by the Eastern Native Tree Society as of 2021.
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.
The Rockefeller State Park
Preserve, opened in 1983, and was made possible through the farsighted and
generous gifts of the Rockefeller Family and the John D. Rockefeller 3rd
Fund. Originally designed by John D.
Rockefeller, Jr., the Preserve initially encompassed 743 acres. In 1998 the 80 acres of William Rockefeller's
estate on the Hudson River, Rockwood Hall, as added to the Preserve. Over the years, more acres were added by the generous
donations by the Rockefeller family bringing the Preserve to its current 1800
acres and nearly 55 miles of carriage roads (2022).
The property spans from the Hudson
River on the West to the Saw Mill River Parkway in the East, including the
hamlet of Pocantico Hills in the village of Sleepy Hollow, which is in the town
of Mount Pleasant. It is operated by the
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
visitor's center, opened in 1994, was designed by New York architect Lo Yi Chan. It contains changing art exhibitions of
natural, cultural, and historic interest.
It is also used for programmatic workshops and available for public rent
to small interests.
Preserve was fashioned after the public landscape ideals inherent in Central Park and British carriage trail parks, at the
turn of the century. JDR, Jr's objective
was to create a "civilizing" environment which would renew the individual's
connection to nature by revealing a treasure store of beauty whose bounties
were enhanced by the hand of man.
the Preserve is characterized by a variety of habitats—woodlands, meadows,
wetlands, and a 22 acre lake. The
carriage trails, which intersect with family land, lead visitors to shady river
lanes, intimate wooded paths, and panoramic vistas.
Following the tragedy of September,
11th, a Town in Shimane Prefecture, Japan wanted to express a gesture of
healing and solidarity towards the United States. They sent the Rockefeller State Park Preserve
a gift of 500 peonies from Yatsuka Cho. The Peony is considered Japan's "most
noble of flowers". The gift was intended
to promote the healing process and to symbolize the blending of two cultures by
placing the Japanese flowers on American soil. The Friends of the Rockefeller
Preserve initiated a major landscaping project around the gateway to provide a
worthy site for this generous gift. Mr.
Yatsuka Cho graciously sent over Japanese gardeners to plant the flowers and to
teach the Preserve Staff how to care for them.
The cost of the Gateway Preserve Project was generously underwritten by
the Friends Board of Directors, the Rockefeller Family, the Japanese Chamber of
Commerce and Industry of New York, and donors from surrounding
communities. The result is an inviting
entrance that serves as a gateway to our entire peaceful Preserve and
exemplifies the beauty of people coming together in a time of need.
In July 2020, carriage roads in the
Rockefeller State Park Preserve were officially listed to the National Register
of Historic Places. The Preserve's carriage road system includes more than 55
miles of crushed stone carriage roads laid out by both John D. Rockefeller Sr.
and Jr. during the first half of the 20th century. Built as a means by which
the estate's scenery could be enjoyed by the Rockefeller family, much of the
road system was also made available to the public at an early date. Today the
public continues to enjoy access this system which are especially popular
destinations for walking, jogging, horse-riding and other passive recreation.
2022, a section of the Preserve's forest, Big Tree Trail, was formally inducted
into the national Old-Growth Forest Network. Rockefeller State Park Preserve
contains 1775 acres of preserved land, of which about 1450 acres are forest. Much
of the mesic woodlands are oak-tulip, a forest community considered imperiled
or vulnerable by the New York Natural Heritage Program. These successional
forests contain 150-ft tall tulip poplars, the tallest black oak in New York
State at 132 ft tall, and countless other over-100-ft trees. This area of the
park has likely been regenerating to mature forest since William H. Aspinwall
bought it as parcels of farmland in 1860. Since at least 1886, when John D.
Rockefeller began acquiring these properties, this land has been preserved and
maintained for passive recreation through its private and public ownership. The
towering tulips of Big Tree Loop are likely to be untouched since Aspinwall's
Park Preserve (RSPP) has a deer management program (DMP) that has been
operational for approximately the past 20 years. This DMP employs a
multi-faceted approach to reduce the impacts of excessive deer browse on native
flora, with the broader intent to conserve the integrity of RSPP's ecosystems.
In the absence of deer management, native herbaceous flora, forest understory,
seedlings, saplings, and even mature trees can be severely damaged or depleted.
Unfortunately, this excess herbivorous pressure not only results in losses to
native floral demographics, but also has cascading impacts onto other wildlife
which rely on this vegetation for food and habitat. For general context of deer
impacts at RSPP, it was estimated in 2019 that there were approximately 50 deer
per square mile in the preserve, which is roughly 5x the amount of deer that a
typical ecosystem in the northeast can healthily sustain.
component of our DMP is a strictly-managed bowhunting program of
white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). No other wildlife species aside
from deer are allowed to be harvested on property.
Our bowhunting program is not open to all members of the public and
participation is acquired through a stringent selection process. In compliance
with Westchester County regulations (WMU 3S), only select bows are allowed to
operate on the property. It is not legal to hunt with a crossbow or firearm
within Westchester County, including the preserve's property. All hunting on
the preserve must be conducted from a tree stand or saddle that first requires
inspection from the program manager and hunting committee. Several other
management controls have been implemented to ensure public safety, such as that
hunting must take place in the deep forest at a specified distance from all
trails and that an implement may never be fired across a trail.
The duration of our
managed bowhunt abides to state and county regulations (WMU 3S), with permitted
hunting activity being limited to the months of October through December (with
some possible exceptions to early-season declarations in September). The extant
location of the designated hunting area is limited to the easternmost side of
the preserve. In 2022, we have opened a ‘pilot' location for the DMP west of
the Gory Brook/Pocantico waterways & in the 13 Bridges area. This pilot
area is under strict management by the preserve naturalist, who is working
closely with a small team of professionals to safely harvest deer in this area.
This location hosts one of the last stands of Eastern hemlocks (Tsuga
canadensis) within the preserve and is currently under significant stress
from deer browse and hemlock-wooly adelgid. Alleviating some deer pressure in
this area might not only benefit some regeneration of hemlocks, but also the
aquatic ecosystems they support as well (i.e. shading the Pocantico to reduce
water temperatures which is critical species, such as our native Brook trout).
The trails within these DMP areas will be posted with signage to inform the
public of approved hunting activities and to clearly denote boundary limits to
approved participants within the DMP. No hunting activity is permitted outside
of the aforementioned seasons or designated areas.
Free Fishing Day!
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day by learning a skill that's been passed down through generations of our ancestors. Free fishing days offer residents and non-residents who are 16 and older* to fish without a freshwater fishing license or recreational marine fishing registration (*Kids under 16 can always fish for free!). These days offer the perfect opportunity to try out fishing for the first time, to get back into the sport, or to take a friend or the whole family along! (Even though a license is not needed, all other fishing regulations apply.) Don't have fishing equipment? Borrow fishing gear for the day from one of the many providers statewide! To find a list of providers and learn more about fishing regulations, Learn to Fish clinics, and other helpful tips, please visit: dec.ny.gov/outdoor/44804.html
Forest Therapy: Equinox Celebration
Saturday, September 23, 2023 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Embrace change with mindful movement, nature observation, journaling, and tea under the trees. Led by Mindful Outdoor Guide and certified Forest Therapist, Cindy Olsen, this experience will be an opportunity to celebrate the natural world in honor of the autumnal equinox. Blankets and seat cushions will be provided. Ages 18+. No dogs please. Cost: $4. Parking: $6 per vehicle. Max: 15 people. RockefellerStateParkPreserve.org/events
. Please note: forest therapy is not a substitute for medical treatment or diagnosis.
Geology of the Hudson Valley
Sunday, September 24, 2023 09:30 AM - 01:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Join our resident geologist, Kim Fendrich, on a journey through time. Learn about the geologic history of this area and observe evidence of tectonic activity, glaciation, weathering, and erosion throughout the Buttermilk Hill area of the Preserve. With 4 sites of interest and a route that covers 5 miles, we'll be doing lots of walking so please come prepared with plenty of water and a light snack. Be prepared to move at a steady pace, some hiking experience is recommended. Leashed dogs are welcome. Suggested for ages 16+. Cost: $4. Max: 20 people. RockefellerStateParkPreserve.org/events