New York City defines the public’s conception of New York State. However, there’s much more to the New York megacity and the surrounding areas than the soaring skyscrapers and urban landmarks. One of the defining geographical features of the state is the Hudson River, which cuts directly through the landmass like a north-south knife. It flows south from the Adirondack Mountains through the Hudson Valley—which lies at the southernmost part of the waterway—and into the Atlantic Ocean near New York City proper.
Since the river runs vertically, the Hudson Valley exists in tiered divisions consisting of three main areas: the Upper, Middle, and Lower Hudson. Each of these roughly square regions contains smaller counties that straddle the Hudson River’s east and west banks. Here’s an introduction to Hudson Valley’s counties.
The Upper Hudson caps the Hudson Valley with Greene, Columbia, Albany, and Rensselaer Counties. The Catskill Mountains and large agricultural areas expand across the region, making it quite a spectacular mix of lush mountain scenery and forested farmland.
Though Greene County’s name hails from Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene, the name does fairly represent the area’s landscape. Full of beautiful green slopes, Greene County accounts for a significant swath of the northern Catskills. Much of Greene County is rural, hailing back to when lawmakers founded the county at the turn of the 19th century.
Nestled between the Catskill Mountains and the rural, mountainous Berkshires, Columbia County is full of villages and towns that are very popular vacation destinations. Due to its picturesque landscapes and beautiful natural features, this area hosts dozens of outdoor recreational activities. Ski slopes, golf courses, hiking trails, and racing tracks all run throughout this region of New York. The next time you plan a vacation in the northeast, check out the sights in Columbia County.
As the name implies, Albany County is home to New York State’s capital city, Albany. Apart from operating as the governmental epicenter for this sprawling New England state, Albany is also a hub for banks and international trade. Non-natives might associate administrative authority with New York City, but Albany is the true seat of power. Though the division might confuse outsiders, the dichotomy is not unfamiliar to Americans. For example, the city of Chicago is a political and urban powerhouse in United States politics; however, Springfield is Illinois’s capital city, not Chicago. Despite the competing urban centers, Albany is a beautiful county that New Yorkers and tourists alike can enjoy.
In keeping with the Upper Hudson’s natural beauty, Rensselaer County is home to a wonderful mix of urban charm and pastoral areas. With dozens of parks and miles of trails, Rensselaer offers the outdoors on a silver platter. One unique feature of this area is its hundreds of lakes and ponds. These bodies of water dot the county, with the Hudson River on its western border.
Following the water flow down the Hudson River, you come to the section known as Middle Hudson. Here, you’ll find four more marvelous counties. Middle Hudson also boasts two main mountain ranges: the Shawangunk Ridge and the Catskill Mountains.
This area also houses many historic areas, many of which connect to the events of the Revolutionary War. In fact, the fighting on the Hudson Highlands kept the British Navy from accessing waterways between Canada and New York City. Here’s a closer look at these Middle Hudson counties:
Putnam County is known for its lakes, farmland, villages, and protected heritage sites. These diverse areas lend themselves to fun and exciting outdoor excursions such as hiking and boating. If you live in the urban center of New York City and want a day out on the lake, then Putnam County is your waterskiing, sunbathing, and boat-riding getaway. Putnam’s wildlife sanctuary, conservation center, and museum-like foundry preserve give an insider look at the natural history of the region. If you’re willing to travel an hour north of Manhattan, then check out Putnam County.
Orange County is a famous moniker in United States geography. There are eight distinguished Orange Counties across the nation, but Orange County, NY, was the first. Speaking of firsts, Orange County is home to the first section of the Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain, which hikers claim is the most beautiful stretch of the 2,000-mile route. This spectacular county even includes the nation’s oldest tree.
If you want to explore another corner of Middle Hudson, then you ought to check out Dutchess County. From a haunted history trail to the lifelong home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, there’s plenty to see. Once you hit those historical sites, you can get a peek into the high life with a trip to the Vanderbilt Mansion and then enjoy a fantastic dining experience at the Culinary Institute of America. If you want to explore more, you can always take a stroll on the walkway over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie.
Similar to the other counties in the region, Ulster County sits in the vicinity of the Catskill Mountains and Shawangunk Ridge. The water- and forest-based recreational activities draw guests from all around the country.
Last on the Hudson River journey comes the Lower Hudson, which encompasses Westchester and Rockland Counties. From historical estates such as Kykuit to kayaking sites, the Lower Hudson has it all.
Westchester County is one of the most densely populated areas outside of New York City proper. With Putnam County to the north and New York City to the south, this county spans the wildly rural and thoroughly urban. If you want quaint villages as well as five-star dining, then this is the place for you.
Sandwiched between the Hudson River and the Ramapo Mountains, Rockland County is a final rural oasis before the busyness of the New York City hubbub. If you want to go bird-watching or picnicking, you can find hundreds of cozy spots to set up for the day. You can also explore the Palisades Center, one of the largest malls in America.
This introduction to Hudson Valley’s counties can only scratch the surface of all the natural, historic, and cultural beauty awaiting travelers to the region. Should you need any help moving in or out of the Hudson Valley, our team of movers in Poughkeepsie, NY, offers full-service aid. Reach out to us today to make plans for your new adventure in the Hudson River Valley.