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The 4 Best Hiking Trails In New York City

April 17, 2012 1:00 PM

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Hiking Trails (File Photo)

Many may think of Central Park as one of the few places nature lovers will find an oasis in New York City. But, there are many other places to hike and explore throughout the boroughs.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

jamaica bay The 4 Best Hiking Trails In New York City

(credit: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge)

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Part of Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge consists of multiple trails throughout its 9,155 acres. Throughout diverse habitats, such as saltwater marshes, upland woods and fields, and two large fresh water ponds—the East and West ponds— Jamaica Bay offers the opportunity to see different birds each season. Approximately 330 species of birds have been recorded at the refuge since 1925. Be sure to dress properly — the wet marshes and various woods mean waterproof shoes and long sleeves and pants are a must.

Midwood Trail

naturetrail The 4 Best Hiking Trails In New York City

(credit: Prospect Park)

Midwood, Brooklyn’s oldest remaining forest, was preserved by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux when they designed Prospect Park. The trail, which begins and ends at Prospect Park Audubon Center, is an easy three-quarter of a mile walk through the towering trees of Midwood. With a huge variety of birds and other animals, this sanctuary will make visitors forget they’re in New York City’s most populous borough.

Greenbelt Trails at La Tourette Park and Golf Course

greenwood trails1 The 4 Best Hiking Trails In New York City

(credit: Greenwood Trails) and natives tend to not realize all that Staten Island has to offer — and it’s only a 30-minute ferry ride from Manhattan. The Greenbelt Trails will appeal to a range of hikers from beginners to the more experienced. Those looking for a challenge will prefer the eight-mile Yellow Trail, which brings visitors through Reeds Basket Willow Swamp. Those looking for a relaxed experience will enjoy The Nature Center Trail, where they can view a native fern garden shrouded in tulip, beech and birch trees.

Cass Gallagher Nature Trail and John Kieran Nature Trail

van cortlandt park The 4 Best Hiking Trails In New York City

Van Cortlandt Park (credit: NYC Department of Parks & Recreation)

Located in the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park, which stretches over 1,000 acres, these two trails showcase the wetlands and forests throughout the park. The 1.4-mile Cass Gallagher Trail, located near the stables, will appeal to hikers looking for a more challenging hike, while the 1.25-mile John Kieran Trail, which provides a tour of the freshwater wetlands and the lake, is exactly what novices would want. Visitors can easily experience both as the trails are connected by the John Muir Trail.

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  • Diane Nunez

    The Bronx and Staten Island have more to offer in parks. What about Pelham Bay Park, Crotona Park and the park by the Bronx Water Works near Harris Field by Lehman College. The Bronx is the borough of Parks and Universities it direrves better press after all the entire Bronx is not the ghetto and pj’s like the Yankee Stadium Area. Steinbrenner does not own the Bronx and he took away a beautiful 1/4 mile running track to build his overpriced stadium that the neighborhood people can not enjoy because it is too expensive for those who have not been displaced by the construction and driven out by the noise and gentrification of the court house area of the Bronx.

  • bob odell

    I’d like to add I really like Hunter Island, which is off of the Orchard Beach city park in the Bronx. The trail is nice, but total creepos lurk in the woods, and I think it’s possibly a place for certain closeted types to meet each other – though that seems outdated in a day and age of acceptance and so close to NYC. Perhaps people just like to lurk and be creepy and relieve themselves in public still.

  • James

    I agree with Ellen, don’t go my yourselves. Bring a companion. I have hiked the Staten Island trail by myself and with my wife. Even though I am a male, I have come across some individuals which made me wonder whether they live or are camping out in the woods. I have also encountered loose dogs belonging to inconsiderate hikers nowhere in the immediate sight until later. This was / is terrifying and certainly not cool. Lastly, the painted markers in many of the Staten Island trails are faded and / or non-existent. Be careful.

  • Ellen

    If you want to hike around town or city then please hike along these trails with other people and not alone.

  • Allen

    Yeah, let’s go get mugged in a park.

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