New York has thousands of acres of parkland and greenspace, including hiking trails galore. Below are our five favorite parks for hiking and serious strolling. Have fun! By Jessica Allen.
About eight miles of the 23-mile-long Bronx River flows through the Bronx, and you can watch it go along the Bronx River Greenway, a huge swatch of greenspace for pedestrians and bikers. The Bronx River Alliance offers three mapped walks, including one that takes you from a copse of trees planted to honor the victims of 9/11, through landscaped parkland and into an old growth forest -- one of the last remaining in the city. The alliance even leads scheduled walks with a guide, on the second Saturday of the month. You just might spot a snowy egret (pictured).
Want to experience New York as it once was? Head to Inwood Hill Park in northern Manhattan, and scramble around caves, divets and other rocky outcroppings, left behind by glaciers and used by the Lenape (the area's original inhabitants.) If you're really and truly lucky, you might espy a bald eagle (in 2002, the Urban Park Rangers began a bald eagle release project here), but the New York Audubon Society estimates that 150 different species fly the park's friendly skies each year. Along with birds, you'll see the New Jersey Palisades, the Hudson River, the Sputyen Devil Creek, and the Henry Hudson Bridge.
Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is just that: a wildlife refuge. More than half of all the bird species in the Northeast have been spotted at this huge park in Queens, making it a must-visit on every birdwatcher's bucket list. But you can also admire butterflies, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs around. Note: to hike the trails, you need a free walking permit, available at the Visitor Contact Station. Check the calendar for all kinds of cool programs too.
More: Overlooked Central Park
Inside Pelham Bay Park you could fit not one, not two, but THREE Central Parks, making this Bronx destination the city's largest park. As you'd expect, there are tons of things to do, from horseback riding to lounging along the Long Island Sound, to playing golf at one of the park's two courses. Hiking trails abound. The Kazimiroff Nature Trail, to name one, offers short and long excursions around Hunter Island sanctuary. You'll pass by beaches, forests and wetlands.
All told, Staten Island's Greenbelt encompasses some 2,800 acres in the middle of the borough. That's a whole lot of park -- and a whole lot of hiking. The Blue Trail, for instance, goes up and over Todt Hill, a hefty hunk of rock and the highest natural point in the city, while the Red Trail is a short loop that takes you through the Lighthouse Hill neighborhood -- complete with views of an actual lighthouse built in 1912. The Nature Center Trail, an even shorter loop, lets you experience a native fern garden and tons of wildflowers (this trail also has a leg specially created for children)
Jessica Allen writes about New York
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