Shoes On: Cycling to Yorktown Heights

Author:

Category:

With any trip I take, I aim to be as climate-friendly as possible. While I can’t avoid travel (my loved ones are spread far and wide), I can do my absolute best to avoid planes, cars, and other forms of high-emissions travel. In cities I like to try local foods, walk, and bike as much as possible. Not only is walking and biking better for the climate, but I find that I end up seeing a lot more of the city that way.

Timeline

Saturday

  • 7:30 am, I got on the A, C, E, B, D, F, M to W4th St.
  • 8:00 am, I got off the subway and biked a few blocks toward the West Side Highway/Hudson River Greenway.
  • 8:15, I met up with my friend and we set off on our journey.
  • 6:00 pm, I arrived at my accommodation in Brewster, NY.

Sunday

  • 11:00 am, I got on my bike to head to the Brewster Train station.
  • 11:48 am, I caught the MetroNorth Harlem Line towards Grand Central Station.
  • 1:19 pm, I arrived at Grand Central Station. 

This was, without a doubt, one of the most ludicrously audacious trips I have ever taken. With very little planning, my roommate and I decided we could bike 68 miles from Christopher St in Manhattan to Brewster in the Hudson Valley. Our plan was to catch the MetroNorth back the next day. Surprisingly, it went quite well and, despite some sore legs, I learned a few lessons that I can pass on to you. Read on for a Shoes On guide to cycling Yorktown Heights from NYC! An updated (and better) timeline is added at the bottom. Learn from me and have an even better trip than we did.  

Lesson #1: Learn to look for handicap signs in Subways. Taking a bike through a Subway without an elevator is entirely possible, but is not enjoyable. Bikes can fit in the elevators, it just takes a little back and forth across platforms to make it through. Most stations in Manhattan are wheelchair accessible and therefore easier to maneuver with a bike in tow.  

Our journalism has been and always will be free.

For as little as $5 per month, you can help us continue to deliver stories that shine light on a better world. Contribute Now.

Once out of the Subway, it was relatively easy to bike through the West Village in the early morning. Very few cars on the road meant that my (limited) road biking experience was not a hindrance. We got on to the Hudson River Greenway at around 8:15 am and began our journey. Cycling along the Hudson River in Manhattan is gorgeous. We had a stunning view of the George Washington Bridge and experienced a rare peaceful moment in an otherwise bustling city.

A view of the George Washington Bridge from the Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

Lesson #2: Don’t do this trip in the order I did it, do it backwards. The route from New York City up to the Hudson Valley is entirely uphill. Not kidding, our legs had no breaks. It wasn’t a major uphill, but the slight incline the entire way got rather tiring. I’m sure a person who cycles more often than we do would have a fairly easy time with this, but for two untrained cyclists, it was a bit of a stretch.

A screenshot of the elevation map provided by Strava. Screenshot: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn
A screenshot of the final stats provided by Strava. Screenshot: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

Lesson #3: Attach your phone to your handlebars. Part of the success of this trip, actually, was getting a phone holder for my bike and bringing a portable charger. The route we were on is called the Empire State Trail, and while a majority of it is composed of protected bike lanes and bike trails, there was about a three-mile section at the tip of Manhattan that was on the road. Google Maps has a bike feature which was incredibly helpful here. Luckily, the streets were quiet, and as soon as we crossed the bridge from Manhattan into the Bronx, we entered Van Cortlandt park and again were on a protected path. Having the directions right in front of me made it very easy to navigate.

Another win was having a speaker that we fit into one of our bike water bottle holders. We listened to music and kept ourselves motivated as we rode along the mostly empty pathways. 

The majority of the ride was on a wooded paved trail, but a highlight was this bridge that we passed over in Ossining.

A bridge we crossed on the Empire State Trail in Ossining, NY. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

About 25 miles in, we took a slight detour off the trail to stop at the Ardlsey Market Fresh & Deli. We picked up some deli sandwiches, used their bathroom (it's clean!) and continued on our way. We finally stopped for lunch about 10 miles later, around noon. Along the trip we stopped a few times to make sure we had enough fuel and energy to keep us going — the number of calories burned was no joke. We also stayed vigilant about applying sunscreen.

Lesson #4: Stop in Yorktown Heights, or start there. Our original plan was to bike all the way to Brewster, NY. We did make it, but realized that maybe it was a bit too ambitious. The final miles in Brewster were on a highway, had no bike paths, and were super steep. It was not the glorious end to our bike ride that we imagined. Stopping in Yorktown Heights would have been much better. We stopped in Yorktown Heights for an afternoon snack around 3:30 pm at the Trailside Cafe. True to its name, it is a cafe on the Empire State Trail — nearly impossible to miss. If we had cut our ride to just Yorktown Heights, we would have saved ourselves another 25 miles of biking, and some rather stiff legs.

The Trailside Cafe in Yorktown, a view from the Empire State Trail. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

Yorktown Heights and the surrounding area has much to offer by bike, the only catch is that you would have to bike about 8.5 miles the next day to catch the MetroNorth back from Mount Kisco. Really, any area in the Hudson Valley near the MetroNorth is nice for this trip. Accommodations are really just to recharge and sleep before the next day. 

Without further ado, here is a new trip plan for the savy person. 

New and Improved Timeline: 

Saturday

  • 12:00 pm, get on a subway to Grand Central Station.
  • 1:09 pm, catch the Harlem Line MetroNorth train towards Wassaic.
  • 2:14 pm, get off at Mount Kisco station and bike 8.5 miles from Mount Kisco to Yorktown Heights.
  • 4:00 pm, arrive at accommodations.

Sunday 

  • 8:00 am, bike to the Trailside Cafe and enjoy breakfast. 
  • 9:00 am, begin the bike ride along the Empire State Trail towards Manhattan. 
  • 3:00 pm, arrive at the Christopher St entrance to the Hudson River Greenway and head home via the Subway. 

The Calculations (Cost and Carbon) 

Stopping to eat a sandwich from the Ardsley Market Fresh & Deli while along the Empire State Trail. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

Cost: $95.50 each (not including accommodations or food)

  • Subways: $5.50
  • Train from Grand Central to Mount Kisco: $15
  • Bicycle phone holder: $25 from REI
  • One night AirBnb $100 for two people

Carbon: These calculations are approximations using several different calculators. The figure is meant to represent how travel can be clean compared to air travel. While it’s important to consider our personal carbon footprint, it’s more important to show governments and businesses what we care about — if more people chose to walk, bike, take public transportation, and use the train, then more infrastructure will be put into place to make those options easier. Plus, it ends up being pretty cost-effective to eschew planes and cars.

  • For about 40 miles of travel with MetroNorth, we used 3kg of CO2 each 
  • For about 20 miles of subway/public transportation travel, we used 1 kg of CO2 each
  • For a 1 night stay in a different home, we used about 10 kg of CO2 each. making our total for two people about 14 kg of CO2 each. One 45-minute drive uses 15kg of CO2 (that wouldn’t have taken us halfway to our destination). 

This article is part of our new series, “Shoes On,” all about travel from NYC using trains and other forms of clean transportation. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest destinations, right to your inbox. 


Latest Stories

Get Outta Here: All the Trips by Train from New York (That I Could Think of)

Take a car-free vacation! Use New York’s impressive train access to visit a body of water,...

A Conversation with Brooklyn-Based Artist Duke Riley

Duke Riley has been collecting trash that washes up on the Brooklyn waterfront for years. Now he’s turning it into art.

Hochul Put the Brakes on Congestion Pricing

As many New Yorkers gear up for summer travel, Gov. Kathy Hochul is putting the brakes...

Your June Greenmarket Guide

June brings the start of the summer produce bounty.  Color comes into our markets with beets, strawberries,...

Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil is the Editor of Bluedot Living Brooklyn, and the Managing Editor, Special Projects, for the Brooklyn Eagle. When she's not writing, you can either find her outside — in the rain, shine, snow, or cold — or inside baking bread. Find her on twitter @mkeil16.
Read More

Related Articles

1 COMMENT

  1. This is all very helpful, as we generally take our bikes on the LIRR and get off at various locales (near the beach on the North Shore, often), but wonder about bringing bikes on MetroNorth. Are there sections that accommodate bikes? Do you need a permit?
    Thanks

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here