December 31, 2017 – Garrison, NY
Length: Approximately 2.1 miles
Max elevation: 237 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 253 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Trailhead parking: 113 Indian Brook Rd, Garrison, NY 10524 (room for 8 cars)
Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary is a unique and beautiful tidal marsh. It is located in Putnam County, New York on the east shore of the Hudson River, just south of the village of Cold Spring. The hiking trail leads to a boardwalk and there are benches to take in the marsh habitat, it’s wildlife, and an unmatched view of the surrounding Hudson River Highlands.
Indian Brook Falls is where the Indian Brook plunges from a 40 ft. cliff into a rocky pool nestled in a small gorge. The picturesque waterfall then flows southwest and joins the Hudson River near Constitution Marsh.
I have visited both the falls and Constitution Marsh on numerous occasions. I have always enjoyed the walk to the Hudson River and the boardwalk over the marsh, with its views of the Hudson Highlands it’s a nice payoff with little effort. Since this would be our last hike of 2017 and the temperature was in the mid teens, I thought that we should keep it short, but with some inducements to make us brave the frigid weather. At just over 2 miles, it was the perfect hike to do on an extremely cold day.
We got a late start due to the cold. It was in the single digits early on, so we waited until it warmed up to a blistering 12 degrees and arrived at the parking area at around 11:30 am.
There is only room for eight cars and in warm weather the lot can fill up quickly. There is no parking along the road anywhere else and cars will be ticketed and/or towed.
The ground was slick and icy so we wore our microspikes for better traction. We began by walking down the entrance road of Constitution Marsh.
The road is closed to vehicular traffic from visitors and is the start of the blue-blazed trail, note the blue markers on the sign.
The trail winds down the hill, with several private residences on the right and the ravine with Indian Brook to the left.
In a short distance, the trail passes through the actual entrance to Constitution Marsh.
After passing the entrance, the trail begins a steady descent towards the Hudson River. It’s a nice walk down, but the walk back up the hill will get your blood pumping.
At the bottom of the hill, the blue trail turns right just before the nature center.
The trail then passes an informational kiosk.
The blue trail then crosses a small wooden footbridge and turns left and begins to head in a westerly direction.
The trail is well marked and in a short distance, the Hudson River is visible through the trees.
The trail then curves around the base of a rock formation, climbs a few stone steps and continues to climb over rocks……
as it curves around and makes its way up the rocky hill.
At the top of the brief climb, there is a wooden bench to sit and enjoy the view.
The trail then continues north as it descends towards the marsh.
At the base of the descent, the trail reaches the start of the boardwalk.
As we stepped out on the boardwalk, the Hudson Highlands come into full view, with Storm King Mountain on the left and Breakneck Ridge on the right, visible in the distance.
The boardwalk weaves through the marsh, branching off in different directions with viewing platforms in several spots.
I have been here before and have seen giant Snapping Turtles, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Bald Eagles and hawks. On this day all we saw was the frozen marsh.
After enduring the bitter cold for a while, we began heading back. Just before crossing the small footbridge near the nature center, I saw a yellow-blazed trail that began there. I followed it up a short distance until it ended near a stone wall by private property. I retraced my steps back to the footbridge and then began the steep walk up the road. My usual thought whenever I walk up this hill is, “I don’t remember it being this steep.”
Back at the car, we warmed up with a little hot chocolate and I was ready to check out Indian Brook Falls. My colleagues were too cold and didn’t want to get out of the warm car. I was on my own for this portion of the hike. I then walked east, up Indian Brook Road.
After walking under the bridge that carries NY 9D above, I walked over to the two stone columns with the rusty gate and walked around.
Part of the Hudson Highlands State Park, Indian Brook Falls gets a lot of visitors in warm weather. Neighbors have complained about the crowds, illegal parking and trash for years. Some have even called for the falls to be fenced off and closed to the public. If visiting here, please obey all rules that are posted and please respect this beautiful place or we may lose it.
The trail to the falls travels on an old road that curves to the right.
Down in the ravine, near the edge of Indian Brook, there is a ruined structure.
After crossing the stone bridge over Indian Brook, I turned left and descended towards the brook. Here is where the green blazes appear. I didn’t see any prior blazes, but I could have missed them.
The trail follows the edge of the brook as it heads east.
In one spot the trail seemed to disappear. I couldn’t remember if it went up the hillside or continued ahead. As it turned out, the water level rose and froze over so I had to walk on the ice. I was wearing my microspikes so I felt secure as walked on the ice by the edge of the gorge.
The Indian Brook Falls Trail ends near the falls and as I approached its terminus, there was a photographer with his tripod capturing some images.
There is a Native American tale about Indian Brook Falls involving the Wappingers tribe. A Wappinger named Manteo fell in love with a captured Dutchman and pleaded he be spared so she could marry him. But one day he saw a Dutch-flagged ship and made a swim for it. Bereft Manteo eventually flung herself from the top of Indian Brook Falls, drowning in the pool below.
In August 1834, Washington Irving led an evening jaunt here after a dinner party at the Cold Spring home of his friend Gouverneur Kemble. As one guest later recalled, Irving provided “elegant and playful” commentary as they “wandered among the rocks of that beautiful and secluded dell.”
I stood admiring the falls for a little while, forgetting all about the frigid temps. I suddenly thought to myself, “this is why I love the Hudson Valley.”
Several couples came along as I stood there, so I decided to leave and let them have this idyllic spot to themselves. I retraced my steps along the brook, glad that the ice was solid enough that I didn’t fall through.
Walking back along Falls Brook, I got a good view of the stone bridge over the brook. The road that travels over that bridge heads southwest up the hill to Saint Basil Academy.
I climbed back up to the road and turned right and crossed back over the bridge.
I headed out to Indian Brook Road and began walking down the hill. Through the trees up on a hill, I saw an odd looking structure. I decided to bushwack up the hill to check it out. It turned out to be the ruins of an old wooden water tank/cistern.
I then proceeded down the hill to the road and back to the parking area where the hike began.
If you visit Indian Brook Falls, please be mindful of the limits of this treasured place. We can continue to enjoy this place responsibly by keeping our visit fairly short to allow others to park in the limited spaces available.
Pros: Waterfall, Hudson River views, scenic Hudson Valley.
Cons: Gets crowded in warmer weather.
Take a hike!