Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

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Important Message for Equestrians: Please read before bringing your horse to the Park.

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

Visitors will delight in the ever growing haven of open space in Westchester County known as Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Approximately 30 miles from the hustle and bustle of New York City, the Preserve is an idyllic spot for strolling, jogging, horseback riding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. With 180 recorded species of birds and its IBA (Important Bird Area) designation by the National Audubon Society, the Preserve is a must visit area for birders. In season, licensed anglers enjoy fishing for bass in the 22 acre Swan Lake and for brown trout in the Pocantico River.

In addition the beauty of the Preserve inspires many artists and photographers to memorialize its scenic vistas. While in the park, stop in the Preserve's Gallery across from the Visitor Center. Its rotating exhibits feature the art of local artists. Within walking distance are the Preserve's nearest neighbors - The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit farm and educational center designed to demonstrate, teach and promote sustainable, community-based food production and Blue Hill restaurant.

These numerous outdoor opportunities exist due to the foresight and generosity of the Rockefeller family. The Preserve land is comprised of a portion of the Rockefeller family estate in Pocantico Hills given to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in 1983. Since the Preserve's inception, additional bequeaths have extended its size to over 1,400 acres.

The most notable feature of the Preserve is the system of carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Designed to complement the landscape, the carriage roads, many of which are accessible, allow visitors to experience and enjoy the natural wonders of the area. These scenic paths wind through wetlands, woodlands, meadows, and fields and past streams, rivers, and lakes while traversing wood and stone bridges. One road passes by the foundation of Rockwood Hall, once the 220 room home of William Rockefeller. Its Olmsted designed landscape with its panoramic view of the Hudson River remains a spot of beauty for all who visit. Trail maps (with distance and grade descriptions) of all the carriage roads and equestrian permits are available at the Preserve Office. Swimming, biking, snowmobiling, camping, and open fires are strictly prohibited.

Looking for volunteer opportunites at the park? Visit: rsppvolunteers

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
  • Bird Feeder Area-located next to the art gallery, many birds frequent the feeders in all seasons
  • Fern Garden-located at the entrance, this garden is volunteer maintained
  • Peony Monument-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.

 

Household pets only; must be on a leash not more that 10 feet long. Pets are not permitted in buildings.

Hours of Operation

  • The Preserve is open year round, from 7am to sunset. The office hours are from 9:00 AM- 4:30 PM, closed Christmas Day.
  • Day Use Activities: Hiking, recreational running, bird watching, snowshoeing, XC skiing, sledding, snowboarding, photography, painting, geocaching (with permit), all allowed in season.
  • 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.

Your key to all season enjoyment of state parks is our season's pass. For $65, the Empire Passport provides you unlimited day use vehicle entry into most of our parks. Apply on-line or call your favorite park for more information.

  • 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

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.

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. 

Sat 09 Jul
"Wild Bees of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve" Art Exhibit
Saturday, July 9, 2016 until Sunday, August 7, 2016 09:00 AM - 04:30 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
(914) 631-1470

Paula Sharp & Ross Eatman have conducted a two-year project photographing and identifying bees at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve and neighboring Stone Barns. Their dazzling images will be on exhibit at the Preserve's art gallery daily from 9am-4:30pm. Scientific and descriptive information will be included. $6 parking fee applies.

Meet these dedicated artists and conservationists at a reception, Sunday, July 10th, 1-3 p.m., and learn about the fascinating lives and behavior of some native pollinators. One of Sharp's recent photographic projects took her to the Brazilian Amazon to document rampant deforestation and burgeoning agribusiness. Eatman is an adept macro and nature photographer as well as an accomplished photographer of night and street imagery.

Get Directions

Did You Know? Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park travels through the Preserve for 0.9 miles.

Amenities, Activities & Information

  • Amenities
  • Bridle Path
  • Interpretive Signs (Accessible)
  • Museum/Visitors Center (Accessible) * Visitors Center
  • Nature Trails (Accessible)
  • Picnic Tables (Accessible)
  • Scenic Views
  • Self Guided Tours (Accessible)
  • Activities
  • Audio-Visual Programs (Accessible)
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Hunting (Accessible)
  • Recreation Programs
  • Sledding
  • Snowshoeing Trails
  • X-Country Skiing