Croton Point Park – Underhill Wine Cellars

January 7, 2017 – Croton-On-Hudson, NY

Difficulty: easy

Length: approximately 3.5 miles

Route type: circuit

Map: free downloadable

 

Croton Point Park is a 508-acre park situated on a peninsula on the east shore of the Hudson River. This park offers year-round events and activities and has facilities for camping, hiking and swimming. The park, rich in natural and human history, is also the site of historic wine cellars that are thought of be the oldest in New York State and possibly America. The trails here are short and spur like, but during the off season there is minimal foot traffic except for locals, dog walkers and bird watchers.

Due to the impending snow storm, I chose to do this hike because of its close proximity to where I reside. The original hike I had planned was in Beacon, NY (stay tuned), but decided it would be better to stick closer to home. I was also alerted to the fact the the wine cellars, which were the highlight of this hike, were unsealed and entry was possible. I only learned of this the day before the hike so not knowing how long they would remain unsealed, I decided that we would hike the park and check it out. I have visited this park many times over the years, but had never explored it. The cellars piqued my interest, but I wasn’t sure where they were located or if they were accessible.

The temps for this Saturday morning hike was in the high teens – low 20’s with snow possible. We arrived at the park at about 8:30 am and proceeded to park in the RV parking area. We checked out the Treaty Oak Monument which is located right where we parked. A little history lesson as we began our hike.

Treaty Oak Monument

Treaty Oak Monument

This spot marks where a peace treaty was signed in 1645 between the Dutch and the Kitchiwank Indians.

Treaty Oak Monument

Treaty Oak Monument

We proceeded to walk past the gate, onto the park road which was closed to vehicular traffic.

park road

park road

We walked along the road, passing an early morning wildlife photographer carrying a tripod.

park road

park road

In a short distance, we came to the entrance of one of the wine cellars. I was taken aback a bit when I saw that it was boarded up.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

The Underhill family was one of the earliest and most prominent in Westchester County’s history. Robert Underhill purchased Croton Point in 1804, and his son Richard eventually developed the property into a very successful vineyard and winery, with underground wine cellars built into the hillside on the property. Underhill and his sons’ grapes won many awards, and the family was known both for promoting the American grape industry and for developing new varieties of grapes. By 1873 the vineyards had fallen into decline, as the family turned its interest to the local brick industry. The wines remaining in the vaults were sold by Thurber & Co. of New York.

Just off to the left of the boarded up entrance, was another entrance which isn’t really visible from the road. I walked over to it and saw that is was “unsealed.” From the information I had received, I was under the impression that the park had made it accessible for entry. That didn’t seem to be the case.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

Nevertheless, I peered inside with my flashlight to make sure there weren’t any critters lurking around in there. It was a tight fit, but after removing our backpacks and donning our headlamps, we ventured inside. It was very dark and remarkably free of trash and graffiti.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

From what I read, they used to store 30,000 barrels of wine here. There is a set of stairs that leads down to another room which we explored.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

I peeked around the corner, illuminating the room with my headlamp, making sure the coast was clear. I didn’t want to bump into any creatures or humans who may have made this their home. As it turns out, the stairs lead to the wine cellar that is behind the first entrance which was boarded up.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

In all there are 4 rooms in total. There are 2 rooms that are accessible from each entrance, with the stairs dividing the pair of rooms from each other. We walked towards the front to examine the arched entry into the 4th room.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

Each room was rather large, although I don’t know the dimensions.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

From what I read, tours are offered periodically throughout the year. I prefer the self guided tours myself. We captured some images of these historical wine cellars and made our way back up the stairs.

Underhill Wine Cellar

Underhill Wine Cellar

Once back out in the January chill, I noticed a trail that led out towards the river. We followed that short trail and were now standing on a sandy/snowy beach.

sandy beach

sandy beach

We retraced our steps back onto the park road heading south towards Teller’s Point, the southernmost area of the park. Just before reaching the point, we came to some cabins that were closed for the season.

cabins

cabins

As we neared the point, the strip of land we were on became more narrow and there were views of the river on either side. We walked by four large and very old Yew trees that were planted in the mid 1800’s.

Historic Croton Yew

Historic Croton Yew

The informative sign described the significance of the trees and also stated that they were on the NYS Historic Tree Registry.

Historic Croton Yew

Historic Croton Yew

We reached the end of Teller’s Point which had a somewhat steep drop off. Snow flurries began around this time, but it was barely noticeable.

Teller’s Point

Teller’s Point

From The Point we had a nice view of the Tappan Zee Bridge, both old and new.

Tappan Zee Bridge

Tappan Zee Bridge

We also had a closeup view of Hook Mountain.

Hook Mountain

Hook Mountain

We turned around and retraced our steps until the park road split. There we veered left, still following the road until we came to the pool area. It almost felt like being in an abandoned resort. We passed by the inground pool.

inground pool

inground pool

We only saw a few people up to this point and that is always a plus. In warm weather the park sees a lot of traffic so we picked the right time to visit. The pool house seemed like it had seen better days. Part of the pergola was collapsed on the left side.

pool house

pool house

We wanted to stay as close to the river as possible, so we veered left at every junction and ended up on a dirt road.

dirt road

dirt road

Then we crossed a field and walked along the seawall.

Croton Point Park

Croton Point Park

We walked to where the seawall ended then cut through a short trail onto a field. There we saw another historical marker with a little bit of history.

Revolutionary War marker

Revolutionary War marker

British spy Major John Andre was supposed to have made his escape with the plans of West Point on the British sloop Vulture laying at anchor off Croton Point. Members of the Westchester Militia spotted the ship. The Militia members brought a cannon in from Verplanck’s Point and were able to damage the ship which then sailed away before Andre could reach it. Andre had to find a land route and he was subsequently apprehended in Tarrytown.

Revolutionary War marker

Revolutionary War marker

We walked up the hill towards the nature center and jumped onto the paved road. Walking past the nature center, this area is known as Enoch’s Nose, we came to a short trail that led down to the river.

steps to the river

steps to the river

As we neared the base of the slope, we saw a large link chain that crisscrossed the trail. I would have to guess that it was placed there to decelerate erosion of the hill.

chained trail

chained trail

By now the flurries increased and visibility was poor. The fog didn’t help much either, but it was still nice. I have been to this area of the park numerous times before and have always enjoyed this spot.

Enoch's Nose

Enoch’s Nose

We made our way back up past the nature center and stayed left, walking down some steps and passing an old storage garage. We descended the hill until we reached some wooden steps and continued down to the field below.

wooden steps

wooden steps

The snow was now coming down as we walked along the river. We headed towards the beach concession stand and took a look around.

Croton Point Park

Croton Point Park

I don’t know if this area is still used during the summer, but it was in a state of disrepair.

Croton Point Park

Croton Point Park

Croton Point Park

Croton Point Park

I didn’t see any lifeguards, but I wasn’t in the mood for a dip either.

Croton Point Park

Croton Point Park

My intention was to do a loop of the perimeter of the park with some wandering thrown in. With the snow now falling heavily, I didn’t want to wait too long to hit the road. We ended up crossing the main park road and cutting across the field to head back to the vehicle. Along the way we passed a three story brick barn.

brick barn

brick barn

We got back to the vehicle and after a cup of hot chocolate, we headed out. The ride home wasn’t too bad and I am glad we left when we did. It kept snowing pretty steadily for hours after we were back at the homestead. I made my famous Split Pea with Ham soup in the slow cooker and that surely hit the spot. Stuffed Mushrooms and Bananas Foster went down nicely as well. I truly hope that you enjoyed the hike and please don’t forget to follow my blog. Feel free to leave a comment and/or any suggestions. Until next time folks, now get out there and take a hike!

Pros: Historical features, Hudson River, wine cellars, easily accessible.

Cons: Gets crowded in warm weather, no real trails.

Take a hike!

Take a hike!

 

 

 

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