Writing this on a cold-but-snowless day seems a little premature; however, we can all search our memory banks for mental pictures of the white stuff and recall how thrilling it was as kids to be out in it for hours on end, until our toes and fingers froze. And we all know that eventually we will get dumped on with great billowing piles of snow that could last all winter long. So it’s time to make ready: Get out your sleds, prep your boots and mittens, stock up on cocoa-making ingredients and listen to the weather report so that your family doesn’t miss a day of flurry fun.
Where do you go for the best cheap seasonal thrills? Sledding at Dutchess County historical sites has become a tradition amongst many Hudson Valley families. Two of note are the Mills Mansion lawn at Staatsburgh State Historic Park and Burger Hill Park, now owned by the Winnakee Land Trust in Rhinebeck. Burger Hill is encompassed by 76 acres of open meadows offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the region, including the Shawangunk Ridge, the Catskill and Taconic Mountains, Stissing Mountain and the Berkshires to the northeast. With a 550-foot-high hilltop, Burger Hill makes for excellent sledding – and some laborious schlepping back up in between slides down.
The hill at Mills Mansion in Staatsburg is open daily and offers free sledding in grand 19th-century style. The serene wooded area surrounding the historic home offers glimpses of the river that can pique the imagination. How grand its residents must have felt to occupy this glorious site!
Like they did, you will have to rough it to play here: no bathroom facilities, no concessions. Also, no detrimental sledding equipment – toboggans, snowboards or sleds with metal runners – is allowed, in order to protect the lawn underneath the snowpack. And at either wintry destination, be thoughtful of the environment and pack out everything that you take in.
Burger Hill is located 2.5 miles south of the Route 9 intersection on Route 9G in Rhinebeck, between Kerr Road and Violet Hill Road. For inquiries about Burger Hill Park, contact the Winnakee Land Trust at (845) 876-4213 or visit www.scenichudson.org or www.winnakeeland.org. Staatsburgh State Historic Park is located on Old Post Road in Staatsburg. Call (845) 889-8851 or 889-4100 or visit https://nysparks.com/parks for further information.