Great Hikes Around New York City
Hikes Near the Big Apple
By Margaret Gaby
Skip Card grew up around Washington State. He began exploring the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. He has gained an interest in mountaineering climbing most of the peaks in the Northwest including the 14,410 -foot Mount Rainier. He has written for The News Tribune, the New York Post, Outside to New York Family.
He is the hiking guide for Best Rain Shadow Hikes: Western Washington as well as several other publications. He has won many awards to his writing. Today, he writes for the website Inside-Schools.org where he reviews the New York City public schools and writes the “Elementary Dad” column. He lives with his family in Woodstock,NY doing weekend hikes.
Great Hikes Around New York City: Travel Book Excerpt
They may not know it but New Yorkers are Hikers. They walk 20 blocks to their work and then up five flights of stairs. However, few of them will be willing to go on a hike. They claim that they do not have the time, are conditioned enough and that there’s no where to hike near the city (among other excuses). The writer of this book explains that that is not the case. He has made the the book to adhere to the busy time constraints of the average New Yorker.
Here are 3 interesting hikes order from easiest to hardest to hike within 2 hours of New York City.
Central Park from End to End
This hike is 4.1 miles one way, rated easy, and takes about 2 and half hours to complete. The highest elevation is only at 110 feet making this is a nice stroll in the park in one of America’s finest urban parks.
The 843 acre rectangle that is Central Park attracts many visitors who like to enjoy a walk, “a diverse oasis where crisscrossing footpaths wander amid stately trees, flowering plants, flowing creeks, placid lakes,and handsome bridges” (32). Although, this park is almost entirely artificially constructed it still provides a great wilderness for park-goers to enjoy.
This hike begins at the park entrance near Columbus Circle, the confluence of Broadway, eighth Avenue, Central “Park West and Central Park South. Then goes past the 450 million year old example of Manhattan Schist, the park’s dominant bedrock. This shows similar scratches found on that of the Wisconsin glacier.
Among snack bars and cyclists you’ll find the 15 acre grassy lawn of the Sheep Meadow. Crossing the street at Cross Terrace Drive will lead you to Cherry Hill. Here you will also find the 22 acre artificial lake. After you go down a path you will cross the arched 142- foot Bow Bridge.
Soon you will come to the Ramble, 38 acres of wooded full of crisscrossed paths. Here is where 230 species of birds have been spotted. After visiting birds you will find the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the 1.58-mile jogging track and Central Park’s great Ravine. You will pass under the imposing Huddleston Arch built in 1866 from rough cut boulders and kept together without cement. Here some paths will lead you to Frederick Douglas Circle.
To return to Columbus Circle tired hikers can opt to take B and C subways of the M10 buses. Otherwise, one can turn south and wander back to the starting point.
You will surely have a delightful time in Central Park.
The Appalachian Trail (NY Section 5)
“This lonely, isolated trail packs two peaks within a compact 4.8 scenic miles”.
This moderate hike takes about 3 hours with the highest elevation being at 950 feet. This is a relatively short stretch of the Appalachian Trail (AT) is inaccessible by public transportation or overnight shelter is often combined with adjacent trails to make
longer trips. If hikers arrange for a pickup at the southern end will get to see great views of the Stormville and Hosner mountains.
The hike starts a Route 52 and follows the AT as it rapidly begins a steep, switchback ascent to the twin peaks of the Stormville mountain. In an half a mile reach the 1,056-foot northern summit, the highest point in this section of the AT. After this descend and skirt the 1,053-foot southern peak. From here you can gaze over I-84 to the land stretching east of the Hudson River.
The trail descends steeply down switchbacks to Hosner Mountain Road (1.6 miles from the trailhead). Then ascend the 0.8 mile summit ridge of Hosner Mountain. Afterwards, you get to see the Fishkill Plains through the trees beyond the intersection of the Taconic Parkway and I-84.
After 0.5 there is a junction with an optional detour that leaves the main trail for 0.5 miles. The AT levels off and hugs the flank of the mountain about 200-feet below the summit. Rock steps lead to wide vistas. Then the trail starts up descend and although there are occasional views the trail gets pretty rocky and goes into thick hemlock and hardwoods.
After this steep descent you will emerge from the trees onto the paved road just above the Taconic State Parkway (near the Miller Hill Road underpass). Hopefully, you will have a ride waiting.
Bear Mountain (part of Bear Mountain State Forest near Fort Montgomery)
This is a popular trail. “Follow the Major Welch Tail up tot hr 1,305 foot summit, then descend via the historic Appalachian Trail.”
It’s a strenuous hike of 4.1 miles round trip and takes between 2-3 hours to complete with the highest elevation at 1,165 feet.
This is a popular hiking destination. That being said there is a road that goes up the mountain all the way up to the summit. Along with that comes SUVS, screaming children,big men in shorts and cheap cologne. By hiking your way up you will have earned your view of the great vistas.
Begin your hike at the historic Bear Mountain Inn that was built in out of stone in 1915. After following paved paths cut behind the inn and go around the playground to the boat-rental house on the western shore of the Hessian Lake (named after the bodies of 250 Hessian mercenaries were chucked into the lake after a 1777 battle).
Pickup the Major Welch Trail that is marked with red dots with a white background and follow the markers north along the shoreline. The broad profile of Anthony’s nose, another popular hiking site in Eastern Hudson, rises in the east across the Hudson River. After a mile you will reach Bear Mountain’s flank.
A Rocky Climb
After turning left, Major Welch abruptly turns into a “no-nonsense ascent” on a line up with Bear Mountain’s north face. Hikers then scramble up 0.7 miles of 700 vertical feet of steep dirt, stair-step boulders, exposed roots, gnarled trees trunks (used as grips) and sloping bedrock.
Be careful with your footing but also take advantage of the increasingly improving views. Soon you will see the prominent bare peak of Popolopen Torne rising above Hell Hole (chasm). You can see great views of the Hudson Highlands and the Hudson River.
The uphill hike ends soon after it crosses the paved Perkins Memorial Drive, rising above Bear Mountain’s broad summit. Improvements completed in 2011 have made the trail so flat that it can be accessed by wheelchairs.
Follow the wide slab of crushed rock past blue markers to the junction with the Appalachian Trail which is marked with a long vertical white bar.
The two trails continue together over the next 0.4 mile, past the summit picnic area to a climax at the parking lot at the top of Bear Mountain (1,305 foot peak). Here you will see Perkins Tower, a five story observation platform offering 360 degree views of the Hudson River Valley. If it is a very clear day one might even catch a glimpse of the New York City Skyscrapers.
After the observation tower continue on the Appalachian Trail across the parking lot to exposed bedrock where many day trippers stop to take a drink. The final 1.8 miles are basically downhill and there won’t be anything too remarkable.
Follow the AT as it descends into trees. This is a heavily traveled area with many social trails. Improvements went underway in 2011 that will soon reroute the path. The trail crosses the paved Scenic Drive. When it reached the road a third time AT trail veers right and follows the asphalt a quarter mile south past a high peak view point (views of Hudson River and Iona Island). Soon the AT resumes it’s downhill course through the trees.
The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference transformed the once steep, rutted path into a showcase of crushed rock, boulders more than 700 broad steps made of hand-chiseled granite. This tends to give hikers the feeling that they are descending the stairs of a great medieval fortress.
This scenic route lasts.9 miles until you end up in the paved road near the boat-rental cabin and the inn.
Bear Mountain is one of the great hiking spots for its great trails and views.
Buy this book on Amazon:Take a Hike New York City: Hikes Within Two Hours of Manhattan
Read more articles about New York state on GoNOMAD