Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

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Address
125 Phelps Way
Pleasantville, NY 10570
Latitude 41.112919
Longitude -73.836517

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Pet Policy

A maximum of two pets are allowed in day use areas unless prohibited by sign or directive. Pets are to be supervised at all times and either be crated or on a leash not more than 6-feet in length. Proof of rabies inoculation shall be produced if requested by staff. Pets are not permitted in playgrounds, buildings, golf courses, boardwalks, pools and spray-grounds or guarded beaches (this does not apply to service animals).

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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Important Message for Equestrians: Please read before bringing your horse to the Park.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve offers quiet countryside walks of all lengths through forested hills and valleys surrounding sunlit pastoral fields. Thirty miles north of New York City, the property is the former Pocantico Hills and Rockwood Hall country estates of John D. Rockefeller family and William Rockefeller. Since 1983, the Rockefeller Family has generously donated over 1771 acres to the State of New York to safeguard these lands for present and future generations. Managed by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Preserve is open to the public year-round, sunrise to sunset.

The trails of the Preserve are crushed stone carriage roads laid out by John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Jr. in the first half of the 20th century. Designed to complement the landscape, the 45 miles of scenic carriage roads are wide and easy to walk. Popular for walking, riding, jogging, and carriage driving, combinations of trails lead through varied landscapes and past natural and historical features, such as Swan Lake, the Pocantico River with its wood and stone bridges, gurgling streams, colonial stone walls and rock outcroppings. Trail maps of the carriage roads are available at the Preserve Office.

The Preserve is primarily hardwood forest dominated by huge oak, tulip poplar, maple, and beech trees. The forests, fields, streams, and wetlands support a high diversity of native species of resident and migratory birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish and aquatic species, some of which are in decline and now uncommon in Westchester County. With 202 recorded species of birds and its Important Bird Area designation by the National Audubon Society, the Preserve is a must-visit area for birders. Over 100 species of native wild bees frequent spring and summer wildflowers. In the fall, Monarch butterflies stop to feed and lay eggs during their southward migration. An on-going environmental stewardship is underway to favor native biological diversity.

Rockwood Hall is a distinct bucolic section of the Preserve with commanding views of the Hudson River and Palisade Cliffs. Between 1886 and 1922, William Rockefeller's estate was 1000 acres with a 202-room mansion, a working farm, and a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape design. While the house and buildings are now gone, massive rock walls around the former house site and extensive grassy fields with magnificent specimen trees harken back to the heyday of the estate during the gilded age.

While in the preserve, stop in the Preserve's Gallery by the entrance where rotating exhibits feature contemporary art and natural history exhibits. In the entrance courtyard between the Gallery and Preserve office is the Tree Peony Garden.

Please Note: Bicycles, mechanized vehicles, drones, metal detectors, snowmobiling, camping, and open fires are strictly prohibited. Dogs must be leashed.

Permits Required:

  • Organized running groups with over 7 people
  • Geocaching
  • Scientific research
  • Film shoots
  • Fishing
  • Equestrian


Volunteer Opportunites

From NYC by train: Metro North Hudson Line to the Tarrytown Station. From there you can take a short taxi ride from train station to the Preserve Office on Rt. 117 in Pleasantville. At the Preserve Office you can obtain a map and other important area information.

Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near the park preserve:

  • 13 Bridges Loop Trail-1.9 miles of even to moderate grade, leading to 13 bridges on the wandering Gory Brook
  • Fern Garden-located at the entrance, this garden is volunteer maintained
  • Tree Peony Garden-located next to the art gallery, these beautiful flowers were donated by a town in Southern Japan (the town of Yatsuka in the Shimane Prefecture).  The peonies bloom every spring in late April through early May.
  • Swan Lake-located a short walk from the art gallery, a 22-acre lake
  • Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site-located 15 miles south, a museum of history, art and architecture, as well as host to community organizations, meetings, educational programs and special events.
  • Rockefeller Art Gallery-gallery of two-dimensional arts.  Rotated every six weeks.  See the calendar of events for the most updated exhibit.
  • Rockwood Hall-it was once the county estate of the late William M. Rockefeller
  • Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park-0.9 miles of the Old Croton Aqueduct travel through the preserve.

 

Pet Policy: A maximum of two pets are allowed in day use areas unless prohibited by sign or directive. Pets are to be supervised at all times and either be crated or on a leash not more than 6-feet in length. Proof of rabies inoculation shall be produced if requested by staff. Pets are not permitted in playgrounds, buildings, golf courses, boardwalks, pools and spray-grounds or guarded beaches (this does not apply to service animals).

Hours of Operation

  • The Preserve is open year round, from dawn to dusk. The office hours are from 9:00 AM- 4:30 PM, closed Christmas Day.
  • Picnicking: Extremely limited. No picnic pavilions on premesis.

    There is no picnicking allowed in the area of the carriage trails--the area that begins at the visitors' center and spreads both east and west. There are, however, several picnic tables opposite the equestrian parking lot which is just before you enter the general parking area. The public may use those tables.

    At Rockwood Hall the public may picnic on the grounds, however no open fires are permitted. There are no restroom facilities available at Rockwood Hall.

  • Equestrian use and carriage driving is allowed by permit only. Please contact the Preserve Office for details.
  • Freshwater fishing is permitted in season. State permits required. Please register each season at the Park Office.

Fees & Rates

Most New York State Parks charge a vehicle use fee to enter the facility. Fees vary by location and season. A list of entry fees and other park use fees is available below. For fees not listed or to verify information, please contact the park directly.

The easy-to-use Empire Pass card is $80- and your key to all-season enjoyment with unlimited day-use entry at most facilities operated by State Parks and the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation including forests, beaches, trails and more. Purchase online or contact your favorite park for more information. Learn more about our Admission Programs including the Empire Pass.

  • Vehicle Entry Fee (VUF)
  • $6.00 per vehicle 
    Bus permits: $35 for non-profit orgs, $75 for commercial - per visit

    Collected:
    Daily, year round. 8:00am - 4:30pm

    Golden Park Pass for NYS seniors 62 and over.
    Simply use your NYS driver's license at the pay stations for free vehicle access Monday-Friday

    *Collected via automated pay station.

  • Equestrian Permits
  • Annual Equestrian Permit: $40 plus empire passport for vanning horses
    One Day Pass Equestrian Use Permit: $15 plus vehicle entry fee

    Trailer & horse: $80 season/empire pass; $6/visit

Maps

Digital Maps

New! Download this park's digital map to your iOS Apple and Android device.

Highlights of Rockefeller State Park Preserve:

  • Despite being less than an hour from Manhattan, the park's wooded valleys still offer the peace and quiet described two hundred years ago by Washington Irving in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He wrote, "Not far from (Tarrytown), perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquility."
  • RSPP encompasses forested hills and valleys cut by the Pocantico River and several streams along with a pastoral landscape of hayfields and pastures. The beech-maple, oak-hickory, and mixed hardwood forests contain towering trees, some over 150- 200 years old. Hemlocks can be found at the base of the cool slopes along the 13 Bridges and Witches Spring Trails. These forests are rich in wildlife that nest and feed in old trees with snags and hollows, such as bluebirds, owls, woodpeckers, wood ducks, and flying squirrels.
  • To highlight its value as natural area, Rockefeller is designated by the State as a "Park-Preserve." Park preservation areas identify and conserve and protect portions of state parks that possess outstanding ecological values, including assemblages of flora and fauna that are unique or rare in the state. A park preserve allows passive recreation use within the park.
  • Mixed flocks of warblers pass through in waves during the spring and fall, leading one birder to call the park "warbler heaven." Over 34 species of warblers have been recoded here, including two uncommon species for the Hudson Valley, the Kentucky and worm-eating warblers; the latter nests on the ground in the deep forests of the park.
  • Swan Lake, in addition to being extremely scenic, has a fragrant diversity of shoreline wildflowers, such as swamp azalea, tall meadow rue, sweet pepperbush, and swamp milkweed, and rafts of fragrant water lilies. The lake attracts diverse waterfowl including migrating buffleheads, hooded mergansers, and diverse waterfowl, including the occasional loon.

Look and listen for these birds at our Park:

Everyone is a Steward: Be a Rockefeller State Park Preserve Hero!

  • Know the rules and concerns for the area you'll be visiting.
  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Respect other visitors and their experience. Avoid excessive noise.
  • Share the trail. Keep to the right except to pass. When in doubt, give the other user the right of way. Warn people when you are planning to pass.
  • Respect wildlife and observe from a distance
  • Use extra caution when using headphones. You may not be able to hear warnings.
  • Don't litter.
  • Hike on established, durable trails.

For more information, please read our Trail Tips!

Ask a Naturalist!

Q: What is the black bird with the long neck sitting on the log in the lake?

A: That is a cormorant, a fish eating bird species. Cormorants stop to dive for the fish in Swan Lake during their annual migration. They spread their wings to dry out after swimming, because they do not have oil on their wings like ducks do.

Q: Can you see the Hudson River from the Park?

A: Yes, there are spectacular views of the Hudson River and Palisades from the hilltop at Rockwood Hall. This is also a good place to view bald eagles in the winter.

Q: Are there fish in the lake and rivers?

A: The warm waters of Swan Lake support large-mouth bass, crappie, pumpkinseeds, bluegills, and bullhead catfish. Pocantico River is habitat for caddis fly larvae, which are the favorite food of the stocked brown trout. Trout fishing season is from April 1 to October 15. In SwanLake, fishing season runs from the third Saturday in June to November 30. Fishing Guidelines

Q: Do I have to worry about ticks?

A: RSPP carriage roads serve as wide trails so visitors do not brush against tall grass and brush, the habitat of ticks. Over 55 miles of carriage roads enable visitors to safely and easily access most parts of the park-preserve. However, you should still check your skin and clothing for ticks after being outdoors. Showering soon after being outdoors gives you an opportunity for a full body tick check and can help wash off unattached ticks. If you find a tick, you should remove it and speak with you doctor if any signs of illness occur.

Q: What is the vine with the mottled turquoise blue berries?

A: It is Porcelainberry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), an ornamental vine with grape-like leaves that was introduced to the US from northeast Asia in 1870. Spread by birds, it is now very abundant and forms thick walls of vines draped on trees in the park and along Westchester parkways. It is considered to be an invasive species that outcompetes many native wildflowers, trees and shrubs.

More Interesting Facts about Rockefeller State Park Preserve:

Folklore:

  • Buttermilk Hill, a high rocky ridge at the northeastern part of the preserve, is said to get its name from the turbulent period of the American Revolutionary War, when local farmers hid their dairy cattle on the ridge to protect them from marauding soldiers. The hill is referred to in an adapted Irish song:

   Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill,

Who should blame me cry my fill?

And every tear would work a mill,

Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Flora:

  • Rockefeller State Park Preserve boasts 1,775 acres of forests, fields, a lake, and wetlands, including nearly 260 acres of Oak-Tulip Tree Forest, a vulnerable habitat type in New York State.
  • Rockefeller is home to at least twelve endangered plant species. Many of these support endangered pollinators and threatened grassland wildlife.
  • The Big Tree Trail is part of the Old Growth Forest Network. The forest in this part of the park dates back to at least 1860 and is characterized by towering tulip trees as tall as 157 ft tall.
  • On Witch's Spring trail, look out for New York State's tallest Black Oak tree at 132.1 ft tall, and the state's tallest White Oak tree, at 130.2 ft tall. On Pocantico River trail, you can find the state's tallest Mockernut Hickory and Scarlet Oak trees, at 120.3 and 119.9 ft tall respectively. All trees measured by the Eastern Native Tree Society as of 2021.
  • Ferns are a conspicuous part of the flora in RSPP. Most ferns prefer moist shaded areas, but a few, such as hay-scented fern, grow in open sunny areas on relatively dry soil, and the marginal woodfern is found in crevices on dry rocks. To date, 22 species of ferns and fern allies, fern-like seedless plants, have been found in the Preserve. Pocantico River Trail, Brothers' Path, 13 Bridges, and Eagle Hill Trails support the greatest diversity of ferns in the preserve.

The Rockefeller State Park Preserve, opened in 1983, and was made possible through the farsighted and generous gifts of the Rockefeller Family and the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund.  Originally designed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the Preserve initially encompassed 743 acres.  In 1998 the 80 acres of William Rockefeller's estate on the Hudson River, Rockwood Hall, as added to the Preserve.  Over the years, more acres were added by the generous donations by the Rockefeller family bringing the Preserve to its current 1800 acres and nearly 55 miles of carriage roads (2022).


The property spans from the Hudson River on the West to the Saw Mill River Parkway in the East, including the hamlet of Pocantico Hills in the village of Sleepy Hollow, which is in the town of Mount Pleasant.  It is operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

The visitor's center, opened in 1994, was designed by New York architect Lo Yi Chan.  It contains changing art exhibitions of natural, cultural, and historic interest.  It is also used for programmatic workshops and available for public rent to small interests.

The Preserve was fashioned after the public landscape ideals inherent in Central Park and British carriage trail parks, at the turn of the century.  JDR, Jr's objective was to create a "civilizing" environment which would renew the individual's connection to nature by revealing a treasure store of beauty whose bounties were enhanced by the hand of man.

Accordingly, the Preserve is characterized by a variety of habitats—woodlands, meadows, wetlands, and a 22 acre lake.  The carriage trails, which intersect with family land, lead visitors to shady river lanes, intimate wooded paths, and panoramic vistas. 

Following the tragedy of September, 11th, a Town in Shimane Prefecture, Japan wanted to express a gesture of healing and solidarity towards the United States.  They sent the Rockefeller State Park Preserve a gift of 500 peonies from Yatsuka Cho. The Peony is considered Japan's "most noble of flowers".  The gift was intended to promote the healing process and to symbolize the blending of two cultures by placing the Japanese flowers on American soil. The Friends of the Rockefeller Preserve initiated a major landscaping project around the gateway to provide a worthy site for this generous gift.  Mr. Yatsuka Cho graciously sent over Japanese gardeners to plant the flowers and to teach the Preserve Staff how to care for them.  The cost of the Gateway Preserve Project was generously underwritten by the Friends Board of Directors, the Rockefeller Family, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, and donors from surrounding communities.  The result is an inviting entrance that serves as a gateway to our entire peaceful Preserve and exemplifies the beauty of people coming together in a time of need. 

In July 2020, carriage roads in the Rockefeller State Park Preserve were officially listed to the National Register of Historic Places. The Preserve's carriage road system includes more than 55 miles of crushed stone carriage roads laid out by both John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Jr. during the first half of the 20th century. Built as a means by which the estate's scenery could be enjoyed by the Rockefeller family, much of the road system was also made available to the public at an early date. Today the public continues to enjoy access this system which are especially popular destinations for walking, jogging, horse-riding and other passive recreation.

In April 2022, a section of the Preserve's forest, Big Tree Trail, was formally inducted into the national Old-Growth Forest Network. Rockefeller State Park Preserve contains 1775 acres of preserved land, of which about 1450 acres are forest. Much of the mesic woodlands are oak-tulip, a forest community considered imperiled or vulnerable by the New York Natural Heritage Program. These successional forests contain 150-ft tall tulip poplars, the tallest black oak in New York State at 132 ft tall, and countless other over-100-ft trees. This area of the park has likely been regenerating to mature forest since William H. Aspinwall bought it as parcels of farmland in 1860. Since at least 1886, when John D. Rockefeller began acquiring these properties, this land has been preserved and maintained for passive recreation through its private and public ownership. The towering tulips of Big Tree Loop are likely to be untouched since Aspinwall's time.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve (RSPP) has a deer management program (DMP). This DMP employs a multi-faceted approach to reduce the impacts of excessive deer browse on native flora, with the broader intent to conserve the integrity of RSPP's ecosystems. 


One component of our DMP is a strictly-managed bowhunting program of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Our bowhunting program is not open to all members of the public and participation is acquired through a stringent selection process. In compliance with Westchester County regulations (WMU 3s), only select bows are allowed to operate on the property. It is not legal to hunt with a crossbow or firearm within Westchester County, including the preserve's property. All hunting on the preserve must be conducted from a tree stand or saddle that first requires inspection from the program manager and hunting committee. No other wildlife species aside from deer are allowed to be harvested on property. 

The duration of our managed bowhunt abides to state and county regulations (WMU 3S), with permitted hunting activity being limited to the months of October through December (with some possible exceptions to early-season declarations). The extant location of the designated hunting area is limited to the easternmost side of the preserve. The trails within this area will be posted with signage to inform the public of approved hunting activities and to clearly denote boundary limits to approved participants within the DMP. No hunting activity is permitted outside of the aforementioned seasons or designated areas. 

For more information on RSSP's DMP or its managed bow-hunting program, please contact the program director or review the supportive document, Bowhunting – General rules and guidelines

Sat 13 Aug
Painting En Plein Air
Saturday, August 13, 2022 09:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Experience nature through painting! Learn the watercolor technique under the guidance of award-winning artist, Anne Johann, as you absorb the beauty of the landscape before you. You may bring your own supplies if you have them; if not, supplies will be provided. Recommended supplies include: a watercolor set, paintbrushes, watercolor paper, pencil, eraser, and a couple small jars of water. Bring water to drink and a lightweight chair that you can carry to the site. Cost: $8 per class + Eventbrite fees. Max: 10 people. Photo courtesy of Anne Johann. RockefellerStateParkPreserve.org/events.
Sat 13 Aug
Tackle Anything: Learn to Fish!
Saturday, August 13, 2022 09:30 AM - 01:00 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Join Nicole Byrnes in this family-friendly event and learn about the positive aspects of fishing from both an environmental and mental health perspective. After a brief educational session, attendees will be guided through a fishing session at Swan Lake, rods and artificial lures will be provided. This program is intended for a youth audience. All individuals under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a guardian at least 21 years of age, but please only register those who intend to participate. For those interested in fly fishing, visit our table in the courtyard to chat with Len Savanella about the basics including equipment, best practices, and locations to fish in our area. You can also observe Len tying flies, which is an art form in and of itself! Max: 10 people per session. Cost: FREE. PLEASE NOTE: individuals over the age of 16 intending to fish must have a New York State fishing license, which can be acquired on the DEC's website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6091.html (Those under the age of 16 do not require a fishing license.). Available 9:30 – 11 [or] 11:30 am – 1 pm.
Sun 14 Aug
Birdwatching with the Saw Mill River Audubon Society
Sunday, August 14, 2022 07:00 AM - 09:00 AM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Get to know our feathered residents! Join experts from the Saw Mill River Audubon Society on a bird walk around the Preserve. Great for all levels of birding experience, beginners welcome! Rain or shine except if very low temperatures, heavy precipitation, or high winds are forecasted and/or if travel is not advised. If so, you will receive a cancelation email two hours before the scheduled walk. Completed vaccination required. Bring a mask in case of close contact with other visitors. Ages 8+. Cost: FREE. Max: 25 people. Photo courtesy of Kevin Kelly. Please register at: sawmillriveraudubon.org/register-trips/
Sun 14 Aug
Nature Under a Microscope
Sunday, August 14, 2022 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Discover the micro-world that exists beneath your feet! Observe leaves and insects under a microscope, as well as rocks, flower petals, feathers, and more! Samples will be provided, but you are encouraged to bring your own as well. Capture photos to take home with you using a special attachment on the microscope. The program will be held in the art gallery at the Visitor's Center, rain or shine. Appropriate for ages 6+. No pets please. Cost: $3 + Eventbrite fees. Max: 16 people. Photo courtesy of Kim Fendrich. RockefellerStateParkPreserve.org/events
Wed 17 Aug
Sunset Yoga at Rockwood
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 06:30 PM - 07:30 PM
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Relieve stress during an outdoor yoga session with instructor, Shivani Singh. Explore the connection between breath and movement and learn the fundamentals that will help keep your practice safe and sustainable. Classes are appropriate for all levels of experience, ages 18+. Please wear sunscreen, bring a yoga mat and water, and arrive 15 minutes early. Be prepared to walk 10 minutes to the site. Cost: $5 per class + Eventbrite fees. Max: 20 people. Photo courtesy of Shivani Singh. RockefellerStateParkPreserve.org/events.

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