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North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line


The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north. 

Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line

One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red. 

Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson

Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.  

Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings

Still, October is a great time for a walk. Exploring the villages along the Hudson line may be accomplished on foot, and many cater to visitors with signs and maps indicating the village’s main attractions. Visiting them may require an initial physical strain because they are situated at a higher elevation, but in many cases, their waterfronts provide plenty of things to see and do without too much climbing. 

This post shows some of the sites of attraction near the train stops in Hastings-on-Hudson, Peekskill, and Beacon.

Former studio of sculptor Jacques Lipchitz in Hastings

Hastings-on-Hudson, a village twenty miles north of Midtown, provides a good gateway to an autumn walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. Getting up to the trail does involve some effort, an uphill walk for two or three blocks. Once there, the attractions are worth the effort. Near Draper Park on Aqueduct Lane, be on the lookout for an unusual modernist structure. This was once the studio of sculptor Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973), a Cubist sculptor who decided to make his home and studio here after walking the trail.

Draper Park

Hastings-on-Hudson was once a hotbed of astronomy. John William Draper (1811-1882), a NYU professor of chemistry, took the first clear photograph of the moon, a daguerreotype, in 1840 from the university’s rooftop observatory on Washington Square. (See the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2019 moon exhibit for reference.) 

The Draper home in Hastings, now the Hastings Historical Society

In 1847, after receiving great acclaim for his work, Draper bought twenty acres in Hastings-on-Hudson for his growing family. His son, Henry, followed in his father’s footsteps and built an observatory on the property. From here, Henry took increasingly clear photographs of the moon, and he and his wife Mary Anna built a second observatory. The two went on to take spectrum images of nearly a hundred stars. The Draper home became a tourist attraction for astronomy buffs and celebrity inventors, including Thomas Edison and Samuel F. B. Morse. The structure now serves as home to Hastings Historical Society.

The Newington-Cropsey estate in Hastings

In the village, be sure to stop at the bridge on Warburton Avenue for a bird’s eye view of the Newington-Cropsey lands, once home to Hudson River School artist Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900). Not coincidentally, Cropsey specialized in the Luminist possibilities of autumn colors and light. While the foundation grounds and museum are temporarily closed, the view of his estate from afar makes for a fulfilling day trip vision. 

Railroad crossing in Peekskill

After sampling Hastings, board the train north to Peekskill for a peaceful exploration of the waterfront. Once a busy industrial site, home to the predecessor for Crayola, the city of Peekskill has come to develop a mountain town vibe. 

The Taco Dive Bar in Peekskill

With its proximity to prime hiking destinations such as Anthony’s Nose, Bear Mountain State Park, and the Appalachian Trail, Peekskill is a favorite for post-hike activities. Peekskill Brewery, adjacent to the train station and waterfront, is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Taco Dive Bar, with plentiful outdoor seating, is even closer to the train.

Fireman’s Memorial, Peekskill Landing Park

Or, bring the take-out tacos to Peekskill Landing Park and enjoy a sunny autumn day on the waterfront. The park is home to many fine sculptures, including the Fireman’s Memorial, dedicated to 911 responders, and Carole A. Feuerman’s “The Golden Mean,” a polished bronze diver.  

Carole A. Feuerman’s “The Golden Mean,” a polished bronze diver, Peekskill Landing Park

The train ride from Peekskill to Beacon passes by many historic sites and landscapes such as West Point, across the river from the Garrison stop, and the imposing Storm King Mountain with its 1,300-foot elevation from the base of the river.

Storm King, as seen from the train

The Beacon waterfront may be a good place to wrap up the adventure. As with most of the stops on the Hudson line, a sole stop in Beacon could provide plenty of adventures for a day trip. Art fans from the city often spend hours at Dia:Beacon, the enormous converted Nabisco factory that now houses a great collection of contemporary site-specific work. Hikers frequent the steep paths up Mount Beacon for views of the Hudson Highlands and the Catskill Mountains.

 A stop on the Hudson River School Art Trail

For this trip, an easy walk from the Beacon train stop to Long Dock Park leads to a stop on the Hudson River School Art Trail. (https://www.hudsonriverschool.org/) The Thomas Cole National Historic Site developed this project in partnership with Olana, the home of Frederic Church. The stop in Beacon celebrates the popularity of Storm King Mountain in Hudson River School paintings.    

Long Dock Park in Beacon

Taking a trip on Metro-North doesn’t need to be planned entirely in advance. Whimsical choices can add a little excitement and interest to any excursion. For this trip, I decided to buy a one-way ticket to Hastings-on-Hudson on the Metro-North and then see how I felt after seeing the sights. I proceeded to Peekskill and then to Beacon in such a manner. 

Waiting for the train in Beacon

Other day trips could include a different set of stops - perhaps Irvington, Garrison, and Cold Spring on a Saturday, or Dobbs Ferry, Ossining, and Poughkeepsie on a Sunday. Closer to Halloween, the Tarrytown and Philipse Manor stops would make a good choice for a cemetery walk in Sleepy Hollow. 

Weekend days are the best, because more businesses and restaurants are likely to be open. Expect to change trains in Tarrytown or at the Croton Harmon station and listen for any track changes. Download the Metro-North's apps for train times and tickets to start planning for the weekend. 

Images from Sunday, October 4.

Related Posts on Walking Off the Big Apple:

• Think these places are too far away from New York City? Not if you live in Upper Manhattan.  See this related post, “When the Mountains are Closer: Day Trips from Upstate Manhattan.” For residents of Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood, a trip up the Hudson River is often faster than a trip to Brooklyn or Queens.

More on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail:

In Washington Irving Country: A Walk Between Irvington and Tarrytown on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail 

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail 

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