With historic mansions, scenic pastoral landscapes, and quaint towns, it’s easy to understand why New York’s Hudson Valley has long been an escape from the hustle and bustle of New York City. But of all the amazing things to see and do in the Hudson Valley, my favorite experience just might be hiking with an alpaca at Clover Brooke Farm in Hyde Park. If hiking with an adorable animal that looks like a cross between a camel and a goldendoodle sounds fun to you, here’s what you need to know before you go.
Note: My visit to Clover Brooke Farm was hosted. All opinions are my own.
Where Is Clover Brooke Farm?
Located about two hours north of New York City and within 15 minutes of the Vanderbilt Gilded Age mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Summer White House,” and the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady, Clover Brooke Farm sits along a tree-lined road in Hyde Park, New York.
After a career as a school administrator, Andrea Parent-Tibbets and her family moved to this quaint town of 21,000 people and settled into a 25-acre farm established as a homestead in the 1850s. Centered around a beautifully restored red barn, Farmer Andrea manages an adorable menagerie of sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, rabbits, and, of course, alpacas. Not only is Clover Brooke Farm a woman-owned and woman-operated business, but it is a proud member of the New York State Grown & Certified program and embraces environmentally responsible practices.
Pro Tip: There is another Clover Brook Farm (no “e”) about 30 miles away in Pawling, New York. Be sure you have the right destination set in your map app or GPS before you start driving!
Planning For Your Alpaca Hike
The llama and alpaca hiking experience at Clover Brooke Farm takes place no matter what mood Mother Nature is in that day. So be sure to check the forecast for sun, rain, wind, or snow, and dress appropriately. With the exception of a brief stop in the gift shop at the end of the event, the experience is completely outdoors.
When hiking with llamas and alpacas on a warm sunny day, be sure to slather on sunscreen, wear a hat, and pack plenty of water before heading to the farm. For slightly cooler, windier, and wetter weather, consider a raincoat or windbreaker. And if snow is forecast, be sure to bundle up in layers, including a warm hat and gloves.
Whether it’s below freezing or approaching a heatwave, be sure to wear proper footwear like snow boots, rain boots, hiking boots, or another pair of sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. While the llama and alpaca hike doesn’t involve splashing through streams or clomping through mud, you are likely to encounter soft pasture ground, occasional muddy spots, and scat.
Pro Tip: The only restroom facility available for guests at Clover Brooke Farm is an outdoor compostable toilet. If you or anyone in your hiking party finds the accommodations a little too rustic, then be sure to use the facilities elsewhere beforehand.
Hiking With Llamas And Alpacas
You’ll want to be a little early to your llama and alpaca hiking experience because Farmer Andrea works hard to start the event on time. With friendly barn cats participating in the fun, your hike begins in the pasture surrounding the old barn, where you’ll meet some of the farm’s other critters, including wooly sheep and bleating goats.
Then you’ll learn a few fun facts about alpacas. For example, although they look similar, alpacas are not the same as llamas. And despite being camelids — like camels and llamas — alpacas don’t have hooves. Instead, they have soft pads and nails that more closely resemble a dog’s foot. (Maybe there is a secret genetic connection to goldendoodles after all!) If there are any baby alpacas (called crias) in the herd you’ll also get a chance to ooh and aah over them in the pen.
Once the llamas and alpacas have been harnessed and leashed, it’s time to set out on the one-mile hike through the woods and over the rolling hills of Clover Brooke Farm. You’ll quickly discover that llamas and alpacas walk easily on a leash. In fact, after I announced that my alpaca hiking buddy, Ringo Starr, was easier to walk than my goldendoodle, who pulls like a mule on his leash, all of the dog owners in my hiking group said similar things about their four-legged besties back at home.
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting the Hudson Valley with a pet, your four-legged bestie is not allowed at the farm, not even in your vehicle, so be sure to make other arrangements before you visit Clover Brooke Farm.
Instagrammable Moments And Other Photo Ops
From a variety of cute critters to a picturesque old red barn, you’ll discover many photo ops on your llama and alpaca hike. A whiz with the farm’s Instagram account, Farmer Andrea pauses at a particularly scenic spot along the route to ensure that all guests have the opportunity to take plenty of pics with their four-legged hiking partners.
Wrapping Up Your Alpaca Hike
While alpacas are raised for meat in their native South America, Farmer Andrea (and most alpaca farmers in North America) raises them for their luxurious fur (and occasional hiking company). Known as fiber, alpaca hair is one of the most amazing natural materials on earth. It’s been described as finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down, and more breathable than thermal knit. And if that doesn’t sound magical enough, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and water-resistant. That means socks, sweaters, and scarves knit from silky alpaca fiber feel lighter than wool but warmer than cotton in cool, damp climates. And it won’t make you itch like some wools can!
At the end of the 90-minute llama and alpaca hiking experience, I highly recommend a stop at the farm gift shop. Here you can find skeins of alpaca fiber, clothing and accessories knit from alpaca fiber, honey collected at the farm, and other unique local gifts. And now that you know how magical alpaca fiber is and you’ve bonded over a lovely walk in the woods with one of the producers, you won’t want to miss that!
Would I Hike With An Alpaca Again?
Absolutely! Hiking with a long-necked, doe-eyed alpaca was so much fun! It took my mind off of pressures at work and the state of the world. And for a short while, all that mattered was the beauty of Upstate New York in the fall, engaging with fellow hikers, and enjoying the unique experience of hiking with an adorable alpaca.
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