June 19, 2022 – Valley Cottage, NY
Length: Approximately 3.3 miles
Max elevation: 161 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 66 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Buy Maps (Paper & Avenza): Hudson Palisades Trails Map #111
Free Web Map: Rockland Lake State Park Map 2021
Trailhead parking: Rockland Lake Rd, Valley Cottage, NY 10989
Fee: $10.00 per vehicle Day Use (in season) – Empire Pass Accepted
Ample parking is available – Restrooms on site
The park is open year-round, from daylight to dusk.
Please Note: May 1 to September 30th, dogs not permitted in the Park. October 1 to March 31, dogs permitted in the Park but not on bike path or improved walkways.
Rockland Lake State Park is located in the hamlets of Congers and Valley Cottage in the eastern part of the Town of Clarkstown in Rockland County, NY. It consists of 1,133 acres, including a picturesque 256-acre fresh water lake, circled by a 3.2-mile paved multi-use path. The lake is located on a ridge of Hook Mountain above the west bank of the Hudson River. The Park includes a large public swimming pool, golf courses, tennis courts, picnic benches and charcoal grills. Many picturesque areas can be found surrounding Rockland Lake that provide significant scenic vistas of the lake, flora and surrounding topography.
Rockland Lake State Park is very heavily used during the summer season for picnicking, swimming, walking, bicycling, golfing and field activities. On warm summer weekends and holidays, the park is often filled to capacity. It has two 18-hole golf courses, a Championship Golf Course and an Executive Golf Course.
Rockland Lake State Park is a mix of developed and undeveloped lands, including the 256-acre lake and a forested wetland. It has been designated a Bird Conservation Area (BCA) and Birding is a popular activity at the park.
Rockland Lake, Hook Mountain, Nyack Beach State Park, and Haverstraw Beach State Park are together nearly 2,000 acres of public land. The four adjacent state parks are linked together by hiking and biking trails and function as one park system.
The park complex is located in the Palisades Region that is jointly administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).
Rockland Lake, because of its clean spring fed water and proximity to the Hudson River, New York City, and international shipping lanes, became the undisputed leader in the ice harvesting industry, and the Knickerbocker Ice Company was formed in 1831.
What began as a single warehouse to store the ice blocks neatly cut into 20” x 40” rectangles soon became three massive structures capable of containing over 100,000 tons of ice. As ice was harvested, it was conveyed to Rockland Landing by a sort of “escalator” and loaded onto riverboats. The Knickerbocker Ice Company at one time employed four thousand men. Icehouses measuring more than 350 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 50 feet high, each with up to a 100,000-ton capacity, were situated at the northeast corner of the lake.
With the advent of electricity and refrigeration., artificial ice replaced the natural kind, and home freezers meant supply could rise and demand fall. The Knickerbocker Ice Company closed in 1924. In 1926, one of the icehouses caught fire during demolition, and the fire spread and destroyed much of the village of Rockland Lake. The foundation of the ice company remains today, but not much else exists to remind us of this once-flourishing industry.
On July 24, 1958, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) acquired the first property to create Rockland Lake State Park. This consisted of the 256-acre lake and 225 acres of adjacent land. The $735,000 acquisition was generously donated by PIPC Commissioners W. Averell Harriman, George W. Perkins, and Laurence S. Rockefeller. The State of New York (NYS) provided a matching appropriation for this gift. By December 31, 1964, with further Commission gifts totaling $223,000, and Park and Recreation Bond Issue allocations of $1,040,925, a total of 1,035 acres had been purchased. Since that time, an additional 98 acres has been acquired for a total of 1,133 acres.
The 10-foot wide, paved pathway stretches 3.2 miles as it fully circles the lake. Accessible to wheelchairs and shared by bicyclists, hikers, rollerbladers and joggers, the trail passes swimming pools, golf courses, ballfields and picnic areas as it follows the lake’s shoreline. Parking areas are spaced around the lake, giving access to restrooms and opportunity to visit the park’s nature center. The paved loop is open to hike year round and offers access to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails in the winter.
Short trails with a combination of wooden boardwalks and footbridges, can be found at the Nature Center. Located at the northern end of the lake, between Parking Field #6 and Parking Field #1, it certainly merits a visit.
I have visited Rockland Lake State Park many times throughout the years, starting when I was a kid. It’s a beautiful area that has many things to enjoy on any given day. If you are seeking solitude, this is not the place for you. At anytime during the year, you will encounter people walking the paved path or engaged in any other type of outdoor activities. Still, there is enough to do and see that it is worth a visit.
We visited the park on Father’s Day with the temps in the high 50’s/low 60’s and somewhat windy. The northern end of the lake (around Parking Field #1) was much more populated than the other areas.
We parked at Parking Field #6, but you can park your vehicle at any one of the half-dozen parking fields, where you’ll find the opportunity to use a restroom, get in some pre-walk stretching at the picnic tables or follow your walk with a swim (in season), game of tennis or round of golf.
We took a leisurely walk, clockwise around the lake, stopping at the Nature Center to explore their trails. There are plenty of ducks, geese, swans and wading birds to keep things interesting. The track for the Nature Center Trails is not shown below as the image was from a previous visit when the Nature Center was closed.
From Parking Field #6, follow the paved path clockwise along the lake. Immediately to the right, there are open views of the lake.
As the path heads around to the northern end of the lake, it crosses a wooden footbridge over the East Branch Hackensack River, the lake’s outlet stream. Shortly after crossing the bridge, the path reaches the Rockland Lake Nature Center. You may want to take a detour and explore the recently installed boardwalks and bridges.
The Rockland Lake Nature Center, which opened in 1965, provided a wide variety of educational opportunities for patrons. Due to budgetary constraints, park staff removed the animal exhibits and closed the Center in the early 1990’s.
With renewed funding, the park reopened the area in 2005 with new natural and cultural exhibits about the park’s resources. The nature center is supervised by Trailside Museum and Zoo at Bear Mountain State Park and staffed with Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps interns.
In 2016 Rockland Lake State Park received $150,000 in state funding to replace the deteriorated 1,300-foot boardwalk trail at the Rockland Lake Nature Center. The work was completed in 2019.
It’s a short, but entertaining walk along the recently reconstructed trails.
Several boardwalks, wooden footbridges and nature trails travel through a forested wetland located behind the Nature Center
The lake’s outlet stream flows through the wetland and under three park roads before leaving park property.
The Lakeside Loop Trail goes out to a viewing platform overlooking the lake and returns to the start.
An old stone fountain, a reminder of what this area once was. In the 1870’s, the site of the present day nature center, was known as Sylvan Grove, an 11-acre picnic and amusement park, with facilities for picnicking, dining, playing baseball, fishing, boating, swimming, stables, and amusement rides.
Turn right after leaving the nature center to continue the clockwise loop around Rockland Lake. At the next intersection, turn right again, heading alongside the pool area and towards the lake.
You may be greeted with the sight of a Great Blue Heron as you stroll by the shoreline. Despite their impressive size, Great Blue Herons weigh only 5 to 6 pounds thanks in part to their hollow bones—a feature all birds share.
Thanks to specially shaped neck vertebrae, Great Blue Herons can quickly strike prey at a distance.
Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen.
The busiest section of the park seems to be the area around Parking Field #1, which is near the pool and the main facilities.
As the paved path wraps around the northern end of the lake and runs along its eastern shore, there are more shaded areas.
A tree grows around the stone foundation of one of the old ice houses.
The crumbled stone walls are the last remnants of the ice houses that used to store the ice between harvest and shipment.
Soon, you can see the quarried face of Hook Mountain appear above the tree-line.
The paved path passes several other parking fields and picnic areas as it makes its way along the western shore of the lake.
The walk ends where it began, at Parking Field #6. If you decide to park elsewhere, just remember which parking field you left your vehicle.
Some pleasant sights before taking off.
A beautiful park that is well maintained and has many points of interest. Keep in mind that Rockland Lake State Park is one of the most popular state parks in the Hudson Valley and often fills to capacity in the summer months. You have to choose the right time to visit to avoid the congestion or being turned away. Worth a visit with the family/kids, who will enjoy the many things it has to offer.
Rockland Lake, lots of bird activity, scenic landscape, many points of interest.
Can get crowded during the summer months.
Take a walk!
- Rockland Lake State Park
- Palisades Parks Conservancy
- Rockland Audubon Society
- The Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain
- Hudson Valley’s Ice Harvesting Heritage