The Hudson Valley is a sprawling region carved by waterways, bursting with mountains and dotted with dozens of towns.

If you’re looking to veer off the well-trod path, driving is the easiest way to do it, but you don’t need four wheels to see the top sites. Here’s everything to know about getting around the Arcadian expanse due north of New York City. 

Car

Cars are the Hudson Valley’s go-to form of transport. While trains and buses serve many of the region’s towns, smaller hamlets and secluded woodlands are nearly impossible to reach without wheels. Local car trips come with perks: scenic Hudson River routes and snaking roads through state parks offer unique perspectives of the landscape. 

What you experience during a Hudson Valley drive depends on location. The closer you get to NYC, the greater the chance for traffic. Major roads in southern counties like Westchester, Dutchess and Orange experience rush hour congestion on weekday mornings (7 - 9am) and evenings (4- 6pm). Between June and September, expect car jams on Friday and Sunday evenings as NYC weekenders flock to and from the region. 

While driving on forest-flanked roads, lookout for wildlife - particularly between dawn and dusk. White-tailed deer often move in mobs near the roadside. If you see one, there’s likely more nearby. 

A two-lane highway in Cornwall on the Hudson, NY. On one side of the highway is a dense forested area. On the other side a tall mountain.
Driving is still your best option to see some of the smaller places around the Hudson Valley © Jon Bilous / Getty Images

There are two major interstates that criss-cross the area: I-87 travels north and south along the Hudson River’s west side between NYC and Albany, and I-84 travels east and west between the Delaware River and Connecticut. For slower scenic routes, trade I-87 for Route 9W and I-84 for Route 44. The Taconic State Parkway is the main north-south thoroughfare on the Hudson’s east side; Route 9W is its scenic counterpoint. 

If you plan on taking interstates or crossing the Hudson’s bridges, be prepared for tolls. Traveling with an E-ZPass is the easiest and fastest way to handle payment. If you don’t use E-ZPass, bring cash and stay in the cash only lanes at toll booths.  

Tip for renting a car: Car rental prices vary based on pick-up location. As a general rule, the farther you get from Manhattan, the cheaper the rental. NYC travelers can save big bucks by taking a train somewhere north of Manhattan, like White Plains, to pick up a car. 

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assenger takes in view from the Amtrak train.
To avoid traffic, consider taking a train ride to the Hudson Valley © Kris Davidson / Lonely Planet

Train

Train travel can be a cost-effective and comfortable alternative to driving, but only if you’re visiting a destination that caters to car-free visitors.   

Between Metro-North Railroad, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, there are three major train lines that serve the region. 

The Hudson Line, which runs between Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal and Poughkeepsie, travels along the Hudson River’s east side. Tarrytown, Cold Spring and Beacon are the line’s most stroll-friendly towns. 

On weekends and holidays, hikers can take advantage of a stop at Breakneck Ridge - one of the Hudson Highlands’ most challenging trails. Autumn trips along this route are particularly picturesque. Nab a seat along the train’s west-facing windows for hours of non-stop leaf peeping. 

For access to the Hudson Valley’s eastern border, take the Harlem Line, which runs from Manhattan to Wassaic. This is the only train line in the country that stops along the Appalachian Trail. Pawling, a quaint town with a compact Main Street, is this line’s best stop for non-drivers. 

Best free things to do in the Hudson Valley

To reach Hudson, one of the region’s trendiest and most walkable destinations, take Amtrak’s Empire Service via NYC’s Penn Station (tickets start at USD$39). This breezy 2 hour and 15 minute ride is often faster than driving from Manhattan. The train station is a five-minute walk from all the action on Warren Street. 

Trains are less ideal for visiting the Hudson River’s west side. New Jersey Transit’s Port Jervis Line, which travels through NYC’s Penn Station, stops in Tuxedo (near Harriman State Park) and Cornwall (a five-minute cab ride from Storm King Art Center) - but most destinations on this side of the river are hard to navigate sans car. 

Many tourist attractions provide shuttle services for train travelers heading north from NYC, including Storm King Art Center, John D. Rockefeller’s Kykuit estate, Harriman State Park and Magazzino Italian Art, to name a few. 

Tip for purchasing train tickets: Download the MTA eTix app to purchase Metro-North tickets in advance. New Jersey Transit and Amtrak also have easy-to-use apps. 

Signs for the NYC Greenway and Empire State Trail on a bicycle path in Riverside Park, Manhattan, New York City.
The Empire State Trail is a 750-mile path that connects New York City to the Canadian border © The Curious Eye / Shutterstock

Bike

Thanks to a network of paved cycling paths winding from NYC to Albany, it’s possible to travel around the Hudson Valley on two wheels. The Empire State Trail, a 750-mile multi-use path connecting NYC to the Canadian border, glides through the region on a 210-mile section known as the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail.

While pedaling the entire trip is best suited for experienced bikers, it’s possible to divide and conquer small sections at a time. 

For NYC bikers in search of a rewarding Hudson Valley day ride, consider heading north along Route 9W from the George Washington Bridge to Nyack. Between spring and autumn, serious cyclists take this 40-mile round-trip trek to enjoy Nyack’s small-town charms and get a boast-worthy leg workout. 

Bus

Traveling by bus is the most direct way for car-less visitors to access the Hudson River’s west side. Shortline, Trailways and Greyhound connect NYC’s Port Authority to towns throughout the region. But choose your destination wisely. Unless you plan on renting a vehicle upon arrival, you might be stuck using cabs to get around. 

Kingston is the west Hudson’s easiest town to navigate on foot; the buzzy historic district is a five-minute stroll from the Trailways bus terminal. For urbanites in need of a quick nature fix, Shortline offers roundtrip rides from NYC to Bear Mountain State Park ($28.70) and Storm King Art Center ($52, including admission to the museum). 

Best time to explore the Hudson Valley 

Colourful deciduous trees growing on the Appalachian Trail
To explore the best of the Hudson Valley's hiking trails, head to the Appalachian Trail © amedved / Getty Images

Hike 

The Hudson Valley is cross-hatched with hiking trails, but if you want to see the entire region on foot, stick to the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT - a 2190-mile path from Georgia to Maine - enters New York near Lakeside, New Jersey then crosses the Hudson Valley before heading into Connecticut roughly 93 miles later. 

Day hikers can join the AT at multiple points, but the most noteworthy segment passes through Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park. This section, completed in 1923, is the trail’s oldest.  

Ride shares and taxis

Uber and Lyft both operate in the Hudson Valley, but securing a ride in remote locations can be tough due to a lack of drivers and spotty cell service. Schedule rides in advance to ensure there’s an available driver nearby.

Local taxi companies operate near most train and bus stations in large towns. Call ahead if you need a ride - you won’t be able to hail a taxi on the street. 

The best things to do in the Hudson Valley 

Accessible transportation in the Hudson Valley

All public buses and trains serving the Hudson Valley are ADA compliant, but navigating certain stations can be tricky. If time permits, contact the bus or rail line prior to traveling and ensure you get the help you need. Metro-North’s Call Ahead Program alerts train crews of passengers who ask for in-station assistance, and Amtrak gives customers the option to request accessible services when making a reservation. In most cases, travelers with disabilities can receive discounted tickets. 

If you’d rather drive, it’s possible to rent wheelchair-accessible vans at a few spots in and around the region. Bussani Mobility, located near the Mamaroneck Metro-North station near NYC, offers pick-up at their local train stop, JFK and Westchester County Airport. Mobility Works rents accessible vans in Albany. 

Most importantly, plan your trip around accessible destinations. Well-paved streets in Hudson and Beacon are easy to navigate for travelers with mobility devices, and many sites - including Poughkeepsie’s Walkway over the Hudson and the Hyde Park home of Franklin D. Roosevelt - are wheelchair accessible. If you’re unsure about a site’s accessibility features, call before visiting and ask. Dutchess Tourism’s Accessible Travel Spotlight Series is a worthwhile trip-planning tool for the mid-Hudson region.

For general information on accessible travel, visit Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel Resources.

You might also like: 
The best places to visit in the Hudson Valley
Top things to do in New York State 
The best time to visit New York State   

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