Crisp air and technicolor foliage. Yes, fall is a great time to take a walk in the park and enjoy the changing colors and and temperatures. Instead of heading upstate or out of state, you could enjoy one of the marked hiking trails in 30,000 acres of NYC parks, for FREE.
These five top destinations, one in each NYC borough are, recommended by the NYC Urban Park Rangers.
Bonus – each one of these is accessible by public transportation, either subway or bus, or a combination. Be sure to bring your camera, and binoculars for bird-watching. New York City is on the Atlantic Flyover, the “highway” migrating birds use between north and south, so there’s ample opportunity to see visiting birds as well as year-round residents.
SEE ALSO Best NYC parks for fall foliage
Manhattan – Inwood Hill Park
The Inwood Hill Park Hiking Trail is at the northern tip of Manhattan, where Peter Minuit purchased the island for that legendary $24 worth of trinkets. You’ll be walking through the last natural forest in Manhattan, and treated to picture postcard views of the Hudson River. Allow two hours to complete the trail, which is about two miles. And be sure to stop at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, a Revolutionary Era stone building, a few blocks away. You can rest from the hike in the lovely garden out back.
Brooklyn – Gerritsen Beach
Most of NYC’s salt marshes have been paved over for development, so it’s a treat to be able to commune with egrets, herons and other birds at Salt Marsh Nature Trail. This trail is about one mile long, past prairie grass and along the Gerritsen Beach shoreline toward Jamaica Bay.
Queens – Alley Pond Park
Take the Tulip Tree Trail to see the park’s most famous resident, a 450-year-old tulip tree considered the oldest tree in New York, which stands in an ancient forest. There’s also a wonderful view of the park’s natural salt marsh.
Bronx – Van Cortlandt Park
The John Muir Trail is named for the 19th Century naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, and early advocate to preserve wilderness in the United States. He also was a friend of fellow environmentalist President Teddy Roosevelt, and influenced him to create the National Park System. Along this 1.5 mile trail you’ll see find meadows and forests, and pass remains of the Old Croton Aqueduct, which used to supply water to a growing New York City. Be sure to visit the Van Cortlandt Mansion, which dates from 1758, one of several NYC historic homes that are now museums.
Staten Island – Greenbelt
Everything else on this list is – literally – a walk in the park. The Yellow Trail is a real hike, but worth the effort for NYC skyline views from the top of Todt Hill or Moses’ Mountain, where you might catch a glimpse of bald eagles. It’s an eight mile day-trip, that also passes through Basket Willow Swamp, a 47-acre patch of purple willow planted in the 1800s to grow the reeds for basketmaking.
NYC’s Urban Park Rangers also lead FREE hikes, bird-watching walks, night sky viewings and more, in parks in all five boroughs. Check the schedule here.