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
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, 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
nycgovparks.org/parks/R013/Visitors 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
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.