For years I wondered about the rusting, abandoned old hulk of a railroad bridge that spans New York’s Hudson River between Poughkeepsie on the east bank and Lloyd on the west, about 70 miles north of Manhattan. Like a stark stretch of fishnet stocking linking the two shores, the underdeck truss bridge, built in 1888, was devastated by fire in 1974. Left to deteriorate for more than 30 years, the bridge symbolized the decline of Poughkeepsie itself.

No longer.

On October 5, the bridge reopened as a recreational pedestrian skyway, the Walkway Over the Hudson. And considering that this year marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s “discovery” of the river, the timing couldn’t be better. With my wife, kids, and our dog, Pepper—alongside thousands of others on that sunny Sunday—we walked the 1.5 miles from the entry point in Poughkeepsie to the forested terminus on the other side. How fun and disconcerting it was to be up in the tree canopy on the land portion of the bridge. How silly we felt (but we did it anyway) as we waved to the boaters whizzing below us on the over-water section.

The pathway is smooth concrete, so it’s accessible even to those with limited mobility or pushing a baby stroller. Although bikes and skateboards are allowed, the crowds were so huge on the opening weekend that it was difficult for skaters and bikers to maneuver. “The crowds exceeded all our expectations,” says Theresa Gill, a board member of the nonprofit Walkway Over the Hudson, which owns the span. “It was great.” Even the town of Poughkeepsie is seeing a simultaneous revival, especially along its historic waterfront, where you’ll find shops, restaurants, parks, and riverside pathways.

The one problem we discovered is that once you cross over to Lloyd from the Poughkeepsie side, there’s nothing to do but turn around and retrace your steps. No cafes, no beer gardens, not even a deli. (More diligent walkers than us might consider continuing on surface streets for another mile or so to the shops in the hamlet of Highland.) But Gill says plans are in the works to have vendors both on the span itself and at either end: “We really expect to see lots of improvements. Benches, food vendors, flower pots. It’s going to be very nice.”

It’s pretty nice as it is. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the new Walkway is a stunning addition to the attractions of Upstate New York. And as the fall foliage in the Hudson Valley begins to reach its peak, I can think of no better place to be than high above the river on a sunny day, a light breeze blowing, surrounded by the ochres, yellows, golds, and reds of the tree-thick hills on either side. And below you, a few jolly boaters, waving back.

Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.