Located on a bluff high above the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie, New York, you’ll find the fabulous Franny Reese State Park.
Franny Reese State Park first opened to the public in 2009, making it one of the newest state parks in New York, and was created to preserve this land from development. The park is best known for its incredible view over the Mid-Hudson Bridge, but it’s also home to a beautiful forest and some really cool ruins.
Wanting to see this neat park, I checked it out on a beautiful autumn day.
Getting to Franny Reese State Park
Franny Reese State Park is located in Highland in Ulster County, New York, just across the river from Poughkeepsie. There are two parking areas from which you can access the park, though only one is actually in the park itself.
This main parking area is on the southwestern end of the park and can be accessed via a short gravel road in a residential area. Given this road isn’t paved, it’s unlikely that it’s maintained in the winter months. It is, however, in good condition, so other than being narrow, you should have no issue getting a standard car to the parking lot.
This parking area can be found at the following coordinates: 41.699147, -73.963728.
There is a second parking area on the northern end of the park within Johnson-Iorio Memorial Park right at the western end of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. This parking area can be found here: 281 Haviland Rd, Highland, NY 12528.
You can also walk into this park from the western end of the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park. This is via the 3.6-mile Walkway Loop Trail that uses both the pedestrian bridge and the Mid-Hudson Bridge to form a loop that passes through Johnson-Iorio Memorial Park.
Note that while the trail to the overlook is a bit shorter from Johnson-Iorio Park than it is from the main parking area, it’s also much steeper.
Hiking in Franny Reese State Park
Franny Reese State Park is home to about 2.5 miles of trails that are segmented into three different trails: the yellow trail, the white trail, and the blue trail. The hike I did here hit the park’s main highlights and was around a mile in length, while hiking a portion of all three trails.
The park’s trails are old carriage roads that once traveled through this area, so they are wide and easy to follow, and all of the trail junctions I encountered were well marked.
Starting from the park’s main lot off of Macks Lane on the southwestern edge of the park, the yellow trail goes past the information sign and runs about nine-tenths of a mile to Johnson-Iorio Memorial Park. The information sign has some interesting details about the area, so it’s worth taking a moment to read.
As you start the hike, you’ll soon notice short stone walls alongside the trail. This trail is slightly downhill and rocky in spots but is a pleasant walk through the woods.
After about half a mile of walking, you’ll come to the first of two turn-offs for the white-blazed trail. Known as the Ridgeline Trail, this trail is about 1.75-miles in length and does a loop returning to the yellow trail just a few feet further downhill.
Skip this trailhead and continue walking on the yellow trail.
When you get to the second turn-off for the Ridgeline Trail on your right, you’ll see the incredible ruins of an old mansion.
This mansion was built by Charles Roberts, a local dentist, in the late 1860s or 1870s. It was in use by his daughter until she died in 1949, and the home sat totally abandoned from that point on.
Only portions of the stone walls remain, but it’s very evident that this was a gorgeous home during its heyday.
Note that there is a wooden fence around the ruins that you are required to stay behind. Please make sure to follow the rules (all ruins photos in this article were taken from the trail).
At this point, I recommend turning down the white trail. A short diversion of about 100 yards on this trail will allow you to pass two more ruins that were outbuildings for the main house and are also interesting to see.
At the third ruin, is the first of three marked vistas along the Ridgeline Trail. However, they are so overgrown that there is nothing to see, though I suppose they could be decent when there are no leaves on the trees.
Because of this, unless you are looking to add an additional two-mile hike to your visit to Franny Reese State Park, I recommend retracing your steps at this point back to the yellow trail.
Once back at the yellow-blazed trail, turn right to continue hiking along this trail.
Soon, you’ll come to the first of two intersections with the blue trail. This trail is the one that leads up to the vista overlooking the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Like the white trail, this trail does a loop back to the yellow trail a short distance further down.
I opted to do the loop with the blue trail in a counterclockwise direction, so I chose to continue the very short distance further down the yellow trail to the second intersection with the blue trail.
At this point, turn left onto the blue trail and go up the stone steps and short hill that will wind its way to the overlook after about 5 minutes of hiking.
The Mid-Hudson Bridge Overlook is quite wide and there are a fair number of benches set up here. However, despite this park only having opened in 2009, the trees here are quite tall, which sadly means that it’s hard to see the bridge and the rest of the view from most of the vista. However, at the far end (on the left if facing the railing at the edge of the clearing), there is a really nice view.
From there, you can see the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the Hudson River, and the city of Poughkeepsie in the distance. And, while even this portion of the view could use a good tree trimming, the view here is really great, and I very much enjoyed watching the cars crossing the bridge seeming right below me.
Once you’ve had your fill of the view, continue following the blue trail as it will eventually loop back around to the yellow trail. Once you reach the yellow trail, turn right for the half-mile hike back to your vehicle.
Overall, Franny Reese State Park isn’t the largest or most beautiful park in this area of New York. However, the fact that within a relatively short hike you can get out in nature and see some really cool ruins and a great vista make this a park that’s definitely worth visiting if you find yourself exploring the eastern edge of the Catskills region.
For more information, check out the official page for Franny Reese State Park which has a great trail map.