Part of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Van Cortlandt Park. Image via imjustwalkin
Hiking in New York City? Yep, you can do that. It’s not always necessary to drive out into the middle of nowhere to find the solitude of a forest or trail – you can find it right here in New York City and in any of the five boroughs. Most of the trails go back to the Native Americans era and were formed thousands of years ago by natural processes, maintained now by the NYC Parks Department. All you need to do is gather up your gear and hop on train or bus to get there!
So before winter arrives, check out these peaceful nature trails, which are perfect for explorative walks, jogs or bike rides.
Van Cortlandt Park’s Cass Gallagher Trail.
Van Cortlandt Park, accessible by the 1 and 4 trains as well as several Bronx line buses, was once occupied by the Wickquasgeck Indians and is New York City’s fourth largest park. A popular site for cross country races, this park is home to several ideal nature trails. All of these trails are between 1 to 1.6 miles long, with the exception of the cross country ones.
For a hike on the challenging side, try the moderate-difficult Cass Gallagher Nature Trail near the horse stables. For a more moderate experience, try the John Muir Trail, which is the only trail to cross the park from east to west and will allow you to see the park’s diverse kinds of trees and the Croton Aqueduct. An easy-moderate hike can be found along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, which is a segment of the 41-mile-long aqueduct that transported water from the Croton Dam to New York City in the 1800s.
The easier John Kieran Trail, near the golf course, meanders through the park’s lake and freshwater wetlands area, passes Tibbett’s Brook over a wooden bridge ideal for birdwatching, and loops with the Parade Ground. There’s also the easy-level Putnam Trail, which is part of a larger trail that runs up to Brewster, Putnam County and contains native hardwood hickories and used to be a railroad route that was in the park in the 1980s.
If you see (or smell) signs of horses along the way, don’t be surprised; Van Cortlandt Park also has Bridle Path, which also used to be part of a railroad route, for horseback riding.