A Dash of History With the Snow: 3 Historic New York Sites for Cross Country Skiing and Hiking

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    Winter weather may inspire some to hibernate indoors and dream of a crackling fire but if you embrace the crisp air and want a dash of history with your outdoor activity, we’ve got three sites where you can admire some historic architecture while gliding through scenic landscapes on your cross country skis.

    All three are New York State parks that are three hours or less from Brooklyn and all do-it-yourself in nature — make sure to bring your own skis and supplies as there are no rentals to be found. However, if you don’t have skis stored in your tiny Brooklyn pad, these are also great sites for a winter hike.

    cross country skiing new york state parks historic sites

    Photo via Big Old Houses

    1. Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve
    A peninsula in the Long Island Sound made for a scenic setting for the estate of department store heir Marshall Field III in the 1920s and now makes for a lush 1,500-acre state park. Opened to the public in the 1960s, the diverse landscape includes woodlands, meadows and beaches with plenty of trails for exploration. While the bridle and bike paths are ideal for summer, there is plenty to explore in the winter, with cross-country skiing trails and guided hikes.

    Field’s house survives (with some 1950s alterations) but is not open to the public. However, you can see the exterior as well as visit the outbuildings that are now used for park programs, including the historic dairy complex and the polo barn. Adjacent to the park is the circa 1711 Henry Lloyd Manor House, operated by the Lloyd Harbor Historical Society and open for special events.

    How to Visit
    Address: 25 Lloyd Harbor Road, Huntington, N.Y.
    Hours: The park is open seven days a week year round from sunrise to sunset. Winter hours for cross country skiing are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Admission: There is a vehicle fee at most New York State Parks, although many are free during the winter months. For more information on fees, trails and programs, click here.
    Directions: Huntington is about a 2.5 hour drive from Brooklyn via I-495 E.

    cross country skiing new york historic sites

    Photo by Sean Sawyer via The Olana Partnership

    2. Olana State Historic Site
    The visual feast that is Olana, the 1870s home and studio of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church, is sited in a landscape designed for picturesque rambles and sweeping views. The 250-acre property offers five miles of former carriage roads that wind through a woodland landscape, leading toward vistas planned by Church. In the winter, the carriage roads are open for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, a wonderful way to experience Church’s vision from a new perspective.

    If you want to get off your skis and enjoy some art, Jesús Rafael Soto’s oversized sculptural work ‘Penetrable’ is on view in the landscape, and the main floor and studio of the house are open for tours.

    How to Visit
    Address: 5720 Route 9G, Hudson, N.Y.
    Hours: The grounds are open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset year round — this means about 5 p.m. in the winter. Cold-weather hours for the house are Saturdays and Sundays from January 6 to March 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are required for all interior visits and they sell out quickly. For more information, click here.
    Admission: Access to the grounds is free; winter house tours are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free for children under 12.
    Directions: Take Amtrak to Hudson, then a taxi (about a 10-minute ride). By car, Olana is about 2.5 hours from Brooklyn via the Taconic State Parkway.

    cross country skiing new york state parks historic sites

    Skiers at a New York State Park. Photo via New York State Parks & Historic Sites

    3. Rockefeller State Park Preserve
    Our last pick requires a bit of imagination as only the foundations remain of the once-grand estate Rockwood Hall. Rockwood was the home of William Rockefeller, who purchased the 200-acre estate in 1886, eventually expanding the land holdings to more than 1,000 acres. His 204-room stone mansion stood perched above the Hudson on massive foundation walls of granite. The house was demolished in the 1940s but the foundation walls remain, and the original carriage roads offer a scenic loop around the former estate.

    In addition to the mansion pathways, there are numerous trails in the more than 1,400-acre preserve that encompass fabulous views and connections with history, including paths on the Old Croton Aqueduct trail and trails that wind past the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

    How to Visit
    Address: 125 Phelps Way, Pleansantville, N.Y.
    Hours: The park is open seven days a week year round from sunrise to sunset.
    Admission: There is a vehicle fee at most New York State Parks, although many are free during the winter months. For more information on fees, trails and programs, click here.
    Directions: Take Metro North to Tarrytown and then a taxi (about a 15-minute ride) to the park entrance to pick up a trail map or to a parking lot located near the Rockwood Hall Loop. By car, Rockefeller State Preserve is about 1.5 hours from Brooklyn via I-278 E.

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