Day Trip: Brewster to Tarrytown, then back to New York

“This trail is nice because it not only went thru some nice woodsy spots, but it also cut through a few towns so you could stop and buy a snack or whatever if you cared to.  Lots of varied scenery (lakes, woods, farm fields, small towns, etc.) make the entire ride a pleasure. Great RR history as well. Highly recommended. ”

"Caffeinery"

Putnam County Trailway review

The Details

  • Length: 35.1 miles of bike path, one mile on-road to Tarrytown and train station.
  • Surface: Paved bike path
  • Difficulty: Moderate and level.  A few short, steep-ish hills near Brewster and in Tarrytown
  • Public Transportation: Metro-North train stations at both ends of this route.
  • Parking: Available at both ends of the trails, and intermittently along trails.
  • Services:  Restaurants and cafes in villages along the way; bike pump and “fix it” station on Putnam County Trailway.

From Brewster to Tarrytown, By Bike

I like an adventure that gets you there and back with a couple different modes of transportation.  For this one, you’ll use the Metro-North Harlem Line to take you from Grand Central to the Brewster station, in Putnam County.  From there, you’ll use the Putnam Trailway to wind through the trees and farmlands of Brewster, Mahopac and Carmel, before hooking up with the North County Trailway in Westchester.  Ride on!  Your last mile is along the Tarrytown Lakes Extension Trail, the perfect, easy lakeside cruise into charming Tarrytown and your train ride home.

The Brewster train station cafe, where you can get a coffee or beverage, something to eat, use the bathroom, look at a map, and just feel the wooden goodness of the old waiting room benches. Who wouldn't want to start a day-long bike ride this way?

The Brewster train station cafe, where you can get a coffee or beverage, something to eat, use the bathroom, look at a map, and just feel the wooden goodness of the old waiting room benches. Who wouldn’t want to start a day-long bike ride this way?

The three trails run contiguously to make for a 34-mile ride that’s nice and flat, shady in parts and sunny, too.  It weaves through charming northern Westchester villages with trailside cafes, lakes, and old train trestle bridges, ending by the historic Tarrytown lakes and a roll down into town.

Here’s how to do it:

  1.  Start by making sure you have a bike permit to allow you to ride the Metro-North train with your bike!  This is a $5.00 lifetime permit that you can pick up at Window 27 at Grand Central, or at any staffed train station on the Metro-North system.  You can also pick it up by mail.
  2. Take the Metro-North Harlem line up to Brewster (one-way, off-peak tickets are $13.25 as of August 2016).  They run nearly every hour, and on the weekend, you can leave Grand Central as early as 5:37 am to be in Brewster at 7:18 am.  That’s an early start, but it ensures that you and your bike will have plenty of room, and it also leaves you plenty of time for a nice breakfast at the start of the trip or along the way (and I really recommend the Countryside Kitchen for breakfast in the treetops!).
Green fields and pastures along the Putnam County Trailway.

Green fields and pastures along the Putnam County Trailway.

3.  At Brewster, use the bathroom at the train station, pick up any necessities from the train station cafe there.  If you’re looking for breakfast, Bob’s Diner, just to the right of the train station, is a 60-year-old institution, doing a basic diner-style breakfast amid a warm and inviting, cozy atmosphere.

4.  Then ride to the trailhead.  From the train station, turn left onto North Main Street, then left onto Route 6, crossing Tonetta Brook via the bridge.  After this crossing, bear right onto Putnam Ave and go uphill.  You’ll find the newly-completed section of the trailway just a little further along, on the left.  (Despite the sign that says “closed”, I have been told it’s okay for bikes and dog walkers to use this portion of the trail.  If you’re unsure, though, just continue along Putnam Ave until you see the old start of the trail, and turn right to enter it.

5.  It will take you three or four hours to bike down to Tarrytown, if you’re a casual rider and like to take water breaks or just linger.  There are good places to stop for lunch or a break, and I’ve listed my favorites below in the tips section.

Arrows and directions point the way to Tarrytown and the Tarrytown Lakes on the North County Trailway in Tarrytown, New York.6.  At about 34 miles, you’ll reach a spur trail (paved) that leads off to the right.  This is the off-ramp for the Tarrytown Lakes and the town and train station you’ll use to go back to New York.  Take this spur; follow it to Neperan Road and turn right, then quickly you’ll see the old stone pump house across the street.  Cross Neperan here, then go to the top of the dam to find the Tarrytown Lakes Extension bike path.

This paved, lakeside path through the woods brings you to the end of your bike path-ing.  The final mile into town is on Neperan Road: at the end of the bike path, turn left and follow this road down into town (keep left at the traffic island on Neperan Road and McKeel Avenue).

Tarrytown is a great place to settle in with a brew, meet fellow cyclists and try our local fast casual food or restaurants.  (See this story for some of our best!)

When you’re ready to head for home, just keep Main Street downhill to the station.  Remember to use the off-peak trains when you’re traveling with a bike.  Trains run frequently — every 15 minutes — from Tarrytown on the weekend.

Fishermen float on the Middle Branch Reservoir, visible from the bridge and Putnam County Trailway.

Fishermen float on the Middle Branch Reservoir, visible from the bridge and Putnam County Trailway.

 

How to Get There

It’ll take you  minutes on the Metro North Harlem line to reach the Brewster Train Station.  

  • Take the train from Grand Central Terminal to Brewster Station, on the Harlem Line.
  • By car to the trailhead:
    • In Brewster, you can park on Putnam Avenue just north of Route 6, in a parking lot set aside for trail-riders.  There is space for about ten cars.

Tips

  • There are several nice spots to stop for breakfast or lunch along the way.  I rank the breakfast at Countryside Kitchen, in Mahopac, high on the list, because in the cooler months you can sit outside on the treetop porch and hear the sound of bicycles rolling by down below.  Not to mention the fact that their creative breakfast menu is out of this world — just hope you don’t have to wait in line for it!  To reach Counryside, hop off the trail where it intersects Bucks Hollow Road and turn right; then, quickly turn left onto Route 6 and shortly you’ll see Countryside Kitchen on the left.
  • The Trailside Cafe, in Yorktown Heights, serves healthy juices, smoothies, salads, wraps, paninis, soups, baked goods and snack bars in a bike-friendly place just next to the trail.  It’s open seven days a week.
  • If you’re a real sucker for the rail-trail experience, how about this: Do this trip in the opposite direction.  Take the train to Tarrytown, bike to Brewster, and then take the train even further north to Wassaic to immediately jump on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.  Bike ten miles north, into charming Millerton, and stay at the No. 9 (a bed and breakfast on Main Street).  Return home via the same route or, at Wassaic, hop the train back to New York.

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