Orange County’s “Black Dirt” farming region is one of the largest growing regions in North America and renowned as the home of Orange County Onions. The area was originally called the “drowned lands” until it was drained to create the fertile farmland it is today. More mastodons have been unearthed here than anywhere else in the world.
Long flat straightaways lead you past acres of ebony soil flaunting green onion sprigs in spring and bright orange pumpkins in fall. Numerous farm stands sell fresh produce, while nearby wineries and restaurants serve up the local bounty. This jaunt can be an especially delicious experience.
From downtown Warwick, proceed south on Route 94 for approximately 1 mile. Turn right on County Route 1A to County Route 1 for approximately 4 miles. Turn right on Little York Road for 1 mile to visit the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery. Sample their delicious fruit brandies, liqueurs, wines and hard ciders. Also available for tasting are products from the Black Dirt Distillery, including Black Dirt Bourbon and Black Dirt Apple Jack. Grab a bite in the on-site Pané Bakery Café or seasonal Black Dirt Grill, both open weekends. Visitors can pick apples and pears in their picturesque orchard during the fall harvest season.
Turn left out of the winery onto Little York Road. Zip straight across County Route 1, and then turn left on Amity Road to arrive at the Zagat-rated Crystal Inn. This hidden gem serves an eclectic menu featuring fresh local fare.
Make a left back on County Route 1. Check out the fresh local produce at JADS Farm Market, open April through December. At the intersection, head northeast onto Pulaski Highway. Proceed to the Quaker Creek Store 3 miles ahead on the left. It’s such a great source of Polish specialties and meat products that it has drawn national attention from renowned chefs. Enjoy a quick bite at their deli and stock up on homemade kielbasa and more to enjoy at home.
Continue 2.4 miles northeast on Pulaski Highway, then turn left on Maloney Lane to arrive at the Orange County Distillery. Step right inside the rustic barn to taste the spirits distilled from the produce grown right there on the farm. A map in the tasting room shows you exactly where the sugar beets used to make their vodka were planted. Right outside the barn, get a close up view of the scenic black dirt fields.
See more of the beautiful Black Dirt scenery when you turn right back onto Pulaski Highway and then left 1.7 miles ahead on Big Island Road. Go over a small bridge (Quaker Creek) and take the first left onto Round Hill Road. Next, turn left on Roe Street. Another left will bring you to County Route 25/Meadow Road. Continue on County Route 25 which becomes Pumpkin Swamp Road.
For a fun diversion, turn right at the end of Pumpkin Swamp and follow Pulaski Highway (Orange County Route 6) east for about 7 miles. At the stop sign, turn left on Route 17A toward the Village of Goshen. Take a self-guided walking tour past historic monuments, buildings and watch standardbreds training at the Goshen Historic Track. Allow an hour to see the exhibits at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame where you can take a 3-D simulated sulky ride before getting back to your own ride.
Stay overnight at the Comfort Inn-Goshen on Hatfield Lane or lodge in one of the quaint Bed and Breakfasts along the route. Julia’s is right next door to the Warwick Valley Winery and Meadowlark Farm B&B is less than 5 minutes off Big Island Road.
From Goshen, pick up Route 17M or the Quickway (Route 17) to head back toward New York City. To retrace your steps through scenic Black Dirt country, take 17A west back to Pulaski Highway and proceed approximately 10 miles. Turn left at the intersection with Orange County Route 1, then drive to the intersection with Route 94. Turn right to pick up Route 17A south on the left. This heads over Mount Peter and intersects with Route 17M near Tuxedo.