New York City may be known for its metropolitan delights, but there are several places in the city where you can access quiet, natural landscapes and peaceful walking and hiking trails. If you want to stretch your legs and get away from the commotion of NYC, these destinations can transport you to areas that feel far from the city.
Bronx River Greenway
Image via Flickr by ricky from left field
The Bronx River Greenway as a whole will span 25 miles when completed, 20 of which are currently in place. The portion that passes through the Bronx is a 9-mile trail that gives you access to the city's only freshwater river. When complete, this trail will extend to 12 miles. It's divided into three sections, each of which offers a satisfying hiking experience:
- Muskrat Cove to the Bronx River Forest: This 3.25-mile portion begins in the cove that's named after its muskrat inhabitants. It passes the railroad tracks and goes on to Shoelace Park, the Bronx River Forest, and Bronx Park East.
- Bronx Park East to West Farms: This 2.3-mile trail passes through the Waring playgrounds, New York Botanical Gardens, and the waterfalls at River Park.
- West Farms to Soundview Park: This 4-mile path passes the Bronx River Art Center and Gallery, Drew Gardens, Starlight Park, Concrete Plant Park, and Hunts Point Riverside Park, ending at Soundview Park.
Kazimiroff Nature Trail
If you want a break from the bustle of the Bronx, the Kazimiroff Nature Trail in Pelham Bay Park can provide a quiet escape. Pelham Bay Park is itself an outstanding destination, with 13 miles of shoreline and a total of more than 2,760 acres of space. The Kazimiroff Nature Trail meanders through 189 acres of woodland, meadows, and marshes on Hunter Island.
You can choose from the Red Trail, which takes about 30 minutes to walk, or the 45-minute Blue Trail. These trails are around a mile each, making them ideal for short family outings. There are also several offshoots from the trails that give you room to explore, while small beaches along the way offer enticing places to rest.
Located in Upper Manhattan, the Giraffe Path takes you through the only natural forest that remains in New York City. The trail spans 6 miles, beginning at the northern boundary of Central Park and crossing through Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park, Jackie Robinson Park, and Highbridge Park, climbing to an elevation of almost 200 miles at its endpoint at Fort Tryon Park. This path takes its name from the giraffe-like shape that it follows.
The Giraffe Path is a crucial part of the annual Hike the Heights event in New York. This community hike begins in Central Park, picking up additional hikers at each of the parks along the way. The event ends at Highbridge Park, where a community celebration features food, games, music, and art.
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail is 26.5 miles long with portions that are crushed stone, gravel, grass, and dirt. This extensive trail passes through many different parks, including:
- Croton Gorge Park
- Black Rock Park
- Nelson Park
- Village Park
- Rockefeller Park Preserve
- Village of Sleepy Hollow
- Douglas Park
- Zinsser Park
- Reynolds Field
- Draper Park
- Lenoir Preserve
- Untermeyer Park and Gardens
- Tibbetts Brook Park
As you explore the trail, you can see some evidence of its namesake in the remains of the aqueduct at the New Croton Dam. There are 21 remaining ventilators reaching 10 to 14 feet in height and spaced about a mile apart. You'll encounter several small towns along this trail as well, including Crotonville, Ossining, and Sleepy Hollow, which make for an interesting adventure.
Staten Island Greenbelt
Though small in size, Staten Island is rich in parks, which comprise a third of its acreage. The Greenbelt Trail System includes:
- Blue Trail: 12.3 miles one way, moderate.
- White Trail: 7.6 miles one way, easy/moderate.
- Red Trail: 4-mile loop, easy/moderate.
- Yellow Trail: 8 miles one way, moderate/difficult.
- Nature Center Trail: 1-mile loop, easy.
These trails traverse the Greenbelt Conservancy's 2,800 acres of woodlands and wetlands. Deer, frogs, turtles, birds, and other wildlife are abundant throughout the Staten Island Greenbelt trails, which feel a world away. The trails are open from dawn to dusk, but some parking lots close at 5 p.m., so you should plan accordingly.
The Brooklyn-Queens Greenway is 40 miles long, running from Coney Island in Brooklyn to Fort Totten in Queens. There are several trail sections and loops worth exploring within this expanse:
- Coney Island: 5.5-mile loop around Coney Island.
- Ocean Parkway: 5.9 miles one way past Gravesend Cemetery, Borough Park, and Ditmas Park.
- Prospect Park: 3.2-mile loop past the Prospect Park Zoo, carousel, and playgrounds.
- Eastern Parkway: 2.5 miles one way past the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Children's Museum.
- Highland Park/Ridgewood Reservoir: 6.6 miles one way past historic cemeteries and neighborhoods.
- Forest Park: 3.5 miles one way past Strack Pond, Seuffert Bandshell, and Forest Hills Gardens.
- Flushing Meadows-Corona Park: 5.2 miles one way past the Queens Zoo, Queens Museum of Art, and Hall of Science.
- Kissena-Cunningham Corridor: 5 miles one way past Queens Botanical Garden and Kissena Park.
- Alley Pond Park to Fort Totten: 9.6 miles one way through Little Bay Park and Fort Totten Park.
Eastern Queens Greenway
The Eastern Queens Greenway was developed by a coalition of neighbors working to create a safer route to connect the parks of Eastern Queens. This trail offers a picturesque 15-mile pathway that extends from Flushing Meadows to Throgs Neck Bridge. Along the way, you'll pass by both residential backyards and dense parklands. The trail offers access to Flushing Meadows, Alley Creek Park, Alley Pond Park, Oakland Lake Park, and Joe Michaels Mile.
We love these destinations for their peaceful ambiance and rejuvenating feel. Hiking trails like those listed here prove that New York City truly offers a little bit of everything. Do you have some favorite trails in the city that we missed? Drop us a line so we can add them to the list and share your top highlights with others.