By Jak Burke
NYC is unique amongst many modern cities in that it has uniquely preserved its open spaces. Now maintained by NYC Parks some 29,000 acres of land – around 14% of the city – ranging from beachfront to community gardens, parks, athletic fields, nature centers, public pools and monuments can be freely accessed by New York families. At this time of the year, as temperatures fall, our thoughts naturally turn to getting outside while we still can. Winters in New York can be brutal for new parents keeping us trapped in our homes. With this mind, it’s good to know where we can hike in all 5 boroughs. Here are 5 hiking trails:
Inwood Hill Park. Length 2 miles.
This is one of my favorites. This area is the last original forest remaining in Manhattan and when you hike through the trails and wind upwards to an elevated height – you do get a sense of what the first American Indians felt and experienced while they watched the waters of the Hudson River as they hunted. It’s not a long hike and you can wander down into the playing fields, a nature reserve center, an enclosed playground. I like to reward myself after a hike by visiting The Indian Road Cafe an amazing farm-to-table family friendly restaurant, cafe and bar.
Entrance at 215 street. Subway stops A train 207, and 1 train 215.
Salt Marsh Nature Trail at Gerritsen Beach. Length 0.8 miles.
A great hike for ornithologists and amateur bird lovers alike. Egrets, Herons and Geese make this a local habitat all year round. This trail takes the hiker through preserved salt marshes that were once widespread and indigenous to NYC prior to European settlement. Look out also for crabs and fish breeding areas.
3301 Avenue U, Brooklyn, NY 11234. Subway stops Neck Road, Avenue U, Sheepshead Bay.
Tulip Tree Trail at Alley Pond Park. Length 0.7 miles.
Named after a 450-year old tulip tree considered by many to be the oldest living tree in NYC. That’s worth a visit alone! This is another primordial forest which leads to views of the natural salt marsh.
Little Neck Bay, Queens, NY 11364. Train to Bayside, take cab or Uber to 73rd avenue.
John Muir Trail at Van Cortlandt Park. Length 1.5 miles.
This is the city’s third biggest park. It features tulip trees, open meadows and vantage points to observe local wildlife.
“Travel through three ecologically distinct forests on this 1.5 mile route, the only trail in Van Cortlandt Park to traverse the park from east to west. The trail will lead you through park’s Northeast Forest, home to red oak, sweetgum, and tulip trees, as well as a frog-filled marsh; the Croton Woods and its sugar maple and hickory trees, as well as the Old Croton Aqueduct; and the hilly Northwest Forest, home to stately tulip, oak, and hickory trees.”
Enter either at Broadway & Mosholu Avenue or Van Cortlandt Park East & Oneida Avenue. Subway stops Van Cortlandt Park 242 St, 1 train 238 St.
Greenbelt 4 trails. Total length 28 miles.
4 major marked trails wind though the Greenbelt. Area also boasts a Nature Center and carousel. Dogs on leash.
“In addition to the many activities offered, the Greenbelt affords the opportunity to observe the local flora and fauna. Spend your time exploring the assortment of plants that call Staten Island home, including red maples, highbush blueberries and patches of skunk cabbage. The Greenbelt also houses a significant amount of wildlife, such as muskrats, frogs, turtles, snakes, deer, geese and several types of fish—some of which can be seen up close as part of the catch-and-release program here. Birdwatchers can revel in the many avian species that can be found in these parts, like blue herons, woodpeckers, migrating colorful warblers, juncos, white-throated sparrows, finches and owls.”
The Blue Trail [11.1 miles] makes a large u-shape, but has a connector that can make a shorter loop. One trail head is at Forest Ave. on the north side of Clove Lake Park. The other is on Brielle Ave. near the Sea View Hospital. This trail follows a multitude of surfaces and landscapes, including several roadwalks, along it’s route.
The Red Trail [3.1 miles] is a “lollipop” trail with an access trail attached to a loop. It passes almost entirely through woodlands. The trailhead is at St. Patrick’s Place and Richmond Road in Historic Richmond Town, a village whose architecture represents 300 years of American history.
The White Trail [5.9 miles] runs north-south. It has a northern trail head on Victory Blvd. north of Willowbrook Park and connects to Great Kills Park at it’s southern terminus.
The Yellow Trail [7.4 miles] trail heads are on Spring St. in the northeast and Forest Hill Rd. on the west side.
Staten Island is accessed by ferry from Battery Park in Manhattan, the Verazzano Bridge from Brooklyn, and the Goethals Bridge from New Jersey. From the Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, several buses service locations in the Greenbelt. Street address: 700 Rockland Ave., Staten Island, NY 10306