It’s no secret that New York City has a comprehensive transit system that can get you to any of the five boroughs and beyond with ease. There are also plenty of taxis and rideshare options that also help you get around town. But why drive when you can explore the city on foot or by pedal? You get the opportunity to see things you might otherwise miss as a passenger in a train or car. Make sure to exercise caution when traveling by shanks’ mare or velocipede as injuries can easily happen in New York City’s legendary traffic. Here’s a look at some NYC adventures for walking, hiking, or biking.
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The Bronx River Greenway
The Bronx River Greenway is the only freshwater river in all of NYC and has undergone a full habitat restoration. The industrial waste has been removed from the river and an eight-mile trail follows along its course that’s perfect for hiking or biking. Find a spot to jump into the river and cool off as you traverse the trail or stop at the many parks along its length. The Bronx Zoo, Bronx Park, and New York Botanical Garden are easily reached from the Greenway and makes for a fulfilling experience. The best way to get to the trailhead is to take the 5 train and get off at 241st Street, the last stop for the train.
Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park is also located in the Bronx and is the largest park in all of New York City. It’s more than three times the size of Central Park and features a hiking trail known as the Kazimiroff Nature Trail. The trail is about two miles in length and offers a 30-minute loop or a 45-minute path that traverses through diverse landscapes. Walking through the trail makes you feel like you’ve completely left NYC and landed somewhere in New England with the rocky coastline, view of the Long Island Sound, forests, and the historic Bartow-Pell mansion. The Pelham Bay Park subway station on the 6 train brings you right to the park.
The Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, not to be confused with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is a 40-mile path for bicyclists and pedestrians that connects Coney Island on the south end to Fort Totten in the north. It’s made up of connecting paths and parks with most of the pathways separate from roadways. The beauty of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway is that you can pick and choose which sections you want to walk through instead of getting on at one point and staying on the trail. Some of the best scenery is found between Flushing and the Throgs Neck Bridge. One section of the trail follows the now-abandoned Vanderbilt Motor Parkway which passes through wooded areas, over and under roads, and through backyards of neighborhoods. The irony is that the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was built for the use of cars, but is now used by walkers and bikers.
The Giraffe Path
If you don’t have time to get away from Manhattan, but you want to explore on foot, check out the Giraffe Path. Hike the Heights mapped out the 6-mile path that stretches between The Cloisters in Fort Tyron Park at the north end and Central Park at the south. What makes the path so interesting is that it passes through multiple parks and offers challenging terrain in the form of stairs, gravel paths, hills, and paved paths. If you start at the south end in Central Park, you’ll climb 200 feet above sea level when you reach The Cloisters at the north end. And if you’re curious, the path gets its name from its giraffe-like shape.
The Greenbelt is located on Staten Island and consists of almost 3,000 acres of land. There’s a total of five trails of varying difficulties and lengths. Want to stand on the highest point in NYC? Take the Yellow Trail from Forest Hill Road near the Staten Island Mall and follow the eight-mile path to Todt Hill. The trail passes through wooded lands and is unpaved which means sturdy shoes or boots and bug spray are needed to stay comfortable. For those who want more scenery and less challenge, the Blue, White, and Red trails offer easy/moderate hikes of differing lengths. Perhaps the best part of hiking the Greenbelt trails is the sense of isolation and peace from the hustle and bustle of nearby civilization. The Staten Island Ferry stop offers multiple bus routes that stop near The Greenbelt.
Hudson River Park
The Hudson River Park was created from landfill, reclaiming the land after a couple of centuries of industrial use, and taken from land that wasn’t used by the construction of the West Side Highway. It starts at 59th Street and ends at Battery Park. Paths for pedestrians and bicyclists stretch along the entire length of the park. It’s worth noting that the Hudson River Greenway is known as the busiest bike path in the United States. Be prepared to deal with bike traffic if you decide you want to rent a bike to enjoy the five-mile stretch of paved pathway. Walkers share the path with bicyclists which also means exercising caution in order to avoid a collision. The Hudson River Park offers views of the skylines, plenty of rest stops, beautiful landscaping and public restrooms in strategic locations.
New York City has a reputation for being a concrete jungle with Central Park its only softening feature when the opposite is the truth. There are hundreds of thousands of acres devoted to parkland, trails, and conservancy located throughout the boroughs. Check them out and let their beauty reshape the imagery of NYC as home to endless canyons of high rises.