The New Jersey River Road Loop ride is known mostly for its “training” value, but it is also a great place to picnic, enjoy river views, and spot wildlife, including bald eagles.
When city cyclists go “over the bridge,” Henry Hudson Drive (aka River Road) is probably the first place they ride. They go for good reason. The road is 8.4 miles long and chances are you’ll see more bicycles than cars, and even then, you’ll see only a few cyclists. Fitness types love the mile-long hill at the northern end of the drive. And 9W, the road you’ll be riding on most of the way back has a huge, decently-paved shoulder and rolls with few lights, intersections, or driveways.
The ride details.
While this ride (New Jersey River Road Ride) is definitely not flat, River Road is such a pleasant place to ride; most people we know will go out here even when they’re feeling beat. The views are awesome, whether it’s seeing the bridge shooting out of the ground and overhead, or looking across at the settlements known as Upper Manhattan, The Bronx, and Yonkers across the majestic Hudson River, checking out the waterfalls en route, or watching hawks cruise above.
One cool, scary feature of riding along River Road is the park you’re riding in. You’re pretty much riding next to a steep rock wall on one side and a steep drop-off to the river on the other. The conditions seemed to have stopped development, but that’s not really the story. The land was in private hands and quarried and logged and there were little villages, but the property was bought up and turned over to the state. I don’t know if it’s because of all the work done in the area in the 19th century or just the result of the geologic conditions, but landslides are not an uncommon occurrence. Not enough that you should be worried about getting caught in one, but enough that they do lead to occasional road closures.
Personally, I like that nature overwhelms a place so close to New York City, where man has totally dominated for years.
9W, the road you’ll be taking back, is the closest thing to a country bicycle highway in the area. With generous shoulders and few intersections, it’s very easy to ride here with minimal concern of or interference from car traffic. Come out to 9W on a summer weekend morning and you could see hundreds of cyclists pass. Many are headed to Nyack or Piermont (we have a ride that goes to both places).
Eats on the ride.
This ride almost entirely bypasses commercial establishments. There are vending machines by the bathrooms in Palisades Park and Alpine. There’s a café that’s open in the spring and summer at the Englewood boat basin. And the Strictly Bicycles shop on the route in Fort Lee has the standard cyclist fare as well as a coffee bar. If you venture to downtown Fort Lee, it’s easy to find excellent Asian fare, as well as bagels and bars.
Side Trip, if you’re looking for one.
The Kearney House, located at the far end of the Alpine Boat Basin, is a home from the 18th century, and a pleasant little diversion from riding as well as an excellent regional history lesson. TL/DV: Washington and his men crossed the Hudson here at night. Open May through October on weekend afternoons.
Specs (New Jersey River Road Ride)
Distance: 16.6 miles (remember to add in your round trip to the bridge)
Start/Finish: New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge bike path.
Terrain: Very hilly with a variety of road surfaces. River Road can have boulders and branches and lots of divots. Traffic can be non-existent for more than half the ride.
Note: This is a way to dip your wheel in the huge pond of Jersey riding. It’s a great refuge ride, a ride where you can really be alone in nature.
Ride Rating: @@@
Includes: A PDF with intelligence, a GPX file to upload to your bike computer or mobile device, and a trail map.