If you’re looking for a great way to spend a spring day walking and hiking with some of the best views that Dutchess County has to offer, look no further than Ferncliff Forest and Poets’ Walk, both located off of River Road in Rhinebeck and Red Hook, respectively.
FERNCLIFF FOREST is an old-growth forest preserve that sits on 200 beautiful acres just outside of the village of Rhinebeck. It offers a network of pleasant hiking and walking trails through deciduous and hemlock trees, the most popular of which leads to a fire tower that sits 430 feet above sea level—and it just might be the best place to watch the sunset in the Hudson Valley. Upon reaching the top of the tower, you’ll be met with impressive views of the Catskills, Hudson River, and the Kingston–Rhinecliff Bridge.
Trail maps are available at the kiosk at the trailhead, and trails are marked with color-coded blazers. From the parking lot, it’s a short walk up the trail to South Pond, where there are plain-text signs pointing you in the direction of the tower. The trail is fairly easy, with a gentle incline leading up to the tower. From the tower, you can choose to either return down the same trail, complete the 2.2-mile-loop around the forest, or explore the other nearby trails.
A short drive north from Ferncliff Forest on River Road will take you to another classic Dutchess County walk: POETS’ WALK in Red Hook. Protected by Scenic Hudson, the picturesque landscape of Poets’ Walk has been inspiring artists, writers, poets (hence the name), and other visitors for years.
The park consists of hard-packed dirt trails and gravel paths that travel through open fields and forest, offering fantastic views of the river and mountains. There are over 2 miles of trails, all of which are well-marked and very easy to follow.
From the parking lot, follow the path half a mile to the Overlook Pavilion—a rustic-looking gazebo that’s a perfect resting point for enjoying the views. The trail then splits into two from the gazebo. It’s the beginning of a short loop, so it doesn’t matter which way you choose to go—you’ll end up back where you started. Along the way, you’ll descend into the woods and eventually arrive at a scenic lookout, which faces the river and offers a panorama of the Kingston–Rhinecliff Bridge. This walk is not strenuous, and it’s pet-friendly, making it a good choice for a short spring outing.