Posts Tagged ‘hikes’

Alley Pond Park

June 14, 2013

Over 600 acres, this park is the second largest in Queens – it’s so large it has its own golf course. Before you grab that super duper golf club, I do have to point out that it’s limited to a driving range and miniature golf. This park has a dizzying array of recreational spots. In addition to golf, you’ll catch folks enjoying a game of baseball, tennis, soccer, football, handball, basketball, even cricket! There are also plenty of wide open lawn spots for barbecues and picnics.

Look at these guys playing cricket in super white!
Alley Pond Park

Much of the park still holds value as an active ecosystem with wetlands and forests. In fact, it’s considered the most ecologically diverse park owned by the city. If you are a bird watcher, you’re in for a treat. The park hosts hundreds of thousands of migrating birds twice each year, from loons to warblers.

So let me segway into the hiking here. There are several easy trails you can take in the park. They’re nice and shady, with changes in elevation via concrete or dirt steps. When you take these trails, carefully avoiding the ones alongside the highway, you actually feel like you’re somewhere else far from the city.

Alley Pond Park

I debated whether or not to show you this next picture, but in the interest of making people aware, I decided to do it. These are the kettle ponds, clustered in a set of three, along several of the trails. They’re stinky and full of bright green algae. Avoid if you can. One of them is called Turtle Pond, but alas, I didn’t stop long enough to look for any. Yes…it was that stinky!

Alley Pond Park

One other thing that I’d like to point out that’s unique to this park is its Adventure Course. It’s a program for people to get together in teams and compete in an obstacle course. You must register beforehand and you don’t need to bring a group to participate. If you come alone, they will assign you to a team. As you can see in the pics, it’s a course that tests your endurance and fear of heights, among other things. It also includes a zip line somewhere (couldn’t find it).

Alley Pond Park

Alley Pond Park

I think the Catamount treetop course Upstate is much more challenging, but if you like the idea of a free day of muscle-building at a local park with strangers (or friends), this may be up your ‘alley!’

Alley Pond Park is in Douglaston/Little Neck. It’s more easily accessible by car, but you could take the 7 to Main Street and then the Q27 from there. Dogs and bikes are allowed. For bikers, there is a bike path from here that takes you all the way to Flushing Meadows Park.


Rockland Lake State Park

May 17, 2013

Through much of the 19th century, Rockland Lake was a hub for ice harvesting.  The spring-fed water was ideal for creating clean ice, and many ice houses lined the lake. Today, people enjoy the lake for other reasons. There is a 3-mile bike and jogging path that circles the lake, with multiple vantage points and benches from which to commune with nature. You can also go fishing or boating on the water. My main enjoyment came from spotting the various birds that migrate here – Canadian geese, swans, egrets, and your run-of-the-mill ducks.

Rockland Lake State Park


Geese crossing

Rockland Lake State Park


Rockland Lake State Park


Rockland Lake State Park


Beautiful birds by the Nature Center

Rockland Lake State Park


Rockland Lake State Park


Rockland Lake State Park


Rockland Lake State Park

The park is west of the Hudson River in Rockland County – about a 45 minute drive from Manhattan. Admission is $8 per car. Dogs are not allowed in the park during the warmer months.

Washington Crossing Park

October 28, 2011

We visited New Hope this past weekend in hopes of seeing the start of some fall colors. We were lucky to have good weather and we did manage to see some changes in color. New Hope lies next to the Delaware River and is a small town that seems to know what a good thing it has going for it. It is surrounded by nature, most notably the huge Washington Crossing Park that is located on both the PA side and NJ side of the Delaware River. In PA, it is called Washington Crossing Historic Park. In NJ, it is called Washington Crossing State Park. For this post, I am treating them like they are one large park with the river running through it. As you can guess, George Washington crossed from one side of the river to the other in the vicinity.

If you are interested in making a day trip of it, you may want to strategize beforehand where you want to go in the park because there is a lot of ground to cover. The park on the NJ side is much larger, but the PA side has a tall tower called Bowman’s Hill Tower with amazing views of the surrounding area.

Bowman's Hill Tower

Bowman's Hill Tower

Before you cross over to the NJ side, take a pause by the bridge for a spectacular view of the Delaware River.

Washington Crossing Park

We did not do as much exploring as we would have liked on the NJ side because it was getting late. Here is one shot I managed to get before the sun set.  This is a great place to have an afternoon picnic!

Washington Crossing Park

If you find yourself with some free time, you may be interested in doing a self-guided tour of the 12 covered bridges in the area around New Hope. We started to do the tour but ended up changing our minds. The Van Sant Bridge below is supposed to be haunted.

covered bridge

If you are interested in seeing New Hope, take a stroll down the canal towpath that parallels the river. It is normally a true canal with water flowing, but due to the hurricane, I believe they put in a dam upriver as they make their repairs. Still, it is something to do if you are in town. A lot of folks walk their dogs and bike down the path.

canal towpath

I do not recommend staying in New Hope overnight. The town itself is very touristy with shops that cater to those who like antiques or are into what I call travel shopping. It is also extremely crowded during this time of year with masses of people waiting to cross the street at every corner.  We visited Lambertville on the NJ side as well and it is less touristy but still very crowded.

To get to Bowman’s Hill Tower, take I-95 to Exit 51. (This exit is between the Newtown/Yardley exit and the Trenton exit.) When exiting the ramp, turn onto Taylorsville Road toward New Hope. (From the south this will be a left turn and from the north a right turn.) Follow Taylorsville Road to Route 532. There will be a traffic light at this intersection. Proceed through the traffic light, remaining on Taylorsville Road. When Taylorsville Road ends, turn left onto Route 32. Proceed 2 miles to Lurgan Road to the tower. Travel time from NYC to New Hope is about 2 hours.

Connetquot River State Park

September 17, 2010

This post is from guest writer Jeff Orlick, sharing one of his favorite outdoor spots in Long Island.


The entire grounds is huge – almost 3,500 acres of open space with many open trails and habitats. In some other parks, the trails are made for you – created by park rangers or pioneers and their followers hundreds of times. Here, it’s basically an open field, the shrubbery high above your head. It’s great for exploration of nature and yourself.





There’s also the main building which could be a lot more fun if there were a game room, but it will do as just a gift shop.

twig pencils

There are so many trout here! They catch them about every other time they cast. It looks like so much fun compared to the ocean where we are lucky if we catch one. Do they eat them? They don’t look too appetizing. Slimy things…

At one time they had a hatchery. I’m not sure why, but the effect of it was that it became a haven for rubber boot fishermen. There was a sickness with the fish and the hatching was interrupted. I hope they return soon.


Directions from western Long Island: Southern State Parkway east to exit 44 (Sunrise Highway), east to the Preserve. From eastern Long Island: Sunrise Highway west to Oakdale. The Preserve is located on the north side of Sunrise Highway, just west of Pond Road.  For more information, click here.

Westmoreland Sanctuary

July 9, 2010

Westmoreland Sanctuary was established in 1957 as a not-for-profit organization focused on environmental education and wildlife preservation.  The sanctuary offers 13 hiking trails, one branching off into another, so that you can tack on as many trails as you want to customize your hike.  Virtually all of the trails are less than a mile long, so you will want to do at least three.

The area is full of meandering stone walls and thick forest.  You can come here at high noon and still be in shade for much of your hike.  The abundant chipmunks appear to live in the stone walls, hopping in and out between the cracks with ease.  There are also several lakes to visit, although on the day that I was there, the bugs had the same idea, so I steered clear of the wet areas.

For this post, I came up with a different idea about how to portray this place.  I realized after awhile that taking pictures of trees wasn’t cutting it.  Because the forest is so thick and green in the summer, its real beauty is in the details.  Below is a composite of images that should give you an idea of what’s in store for you.

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary

Westmoreland Sanctuary is located on Chestnut Ridge Road in Bedford Corners.  It is open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk, and there is no admission fee.  Dogs are not allowed.  Click here for the most current trail map.  For driving directions, click here.  You may also want to bring bug spray if you plan on visiting the lakes.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

April 23, 2010

I am not an avid bird watcher, but I do appreciate that where there are wild birds, there is usually gorgeous nature to be found.  Who would have thought that nature such as this can be found in Jamaica, Queens?  The refuge provides an easy hike through marshland that should be relatively safe and dry during the drier months.

There are actually two separate hiking trails here.  I recommend the less marshy west pond trail.  It’s a 2 mile loop on a well-maintained gravel-y road.  You will see more bushes and other ground covering than trees here, which gives you a great view of open sky.  You might even forget that you’re in the city except for the occasional airplane taking off in the distance from nearby JFK.

You will need a trail permit, so your first stop is at the visitor center.  They will issue you a permit and give you a trail map.  You will likely not need it, but it makes for a good souvenir.

As you make your way into the trail, you will come across lots of these bird houses.  Each one is customized to a particular bird species.  It’s very interesting how some are much larger than others.

The main attraction, at least for me, is close to the beginning of the trail.  These birds could be mistaken for eagles from afar, but they are actually ospreys.  They are huge birds that just take your breathe away.  I had to zoom to get a good shot of them.  Their nest is a lot farther away than it appears in the pic.

Farther in you’ll come across lots of lakes and inlets inhabited by ducks.

This particular spot was the duck riviera.   They were all quacking away enjoying their time in the sun.

I was looking forward to some turtles, but came across this sign instead.  Turtles can be camera shy too.

Further in, I caught a lonely egret (?) in the marshes.  It makes me wonder where these birds are migrating from.

In the middle of summer, there were plenty of colorful wildflowers to ogle.  Watch out for the bees though.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s best to come here during the drier months- summer to fall.  Otherwise, you will need waterproof boots and plenty of mosquito repellent.  The easiest way to get here is by car, but you can also take the Q53 from the Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights station.  It’ll drop you right off at the entrance.  Dogs and bikes are not allowed, and there are no spots where you would want to sit down and picnic.  Due to the lack of shade, be sure to bring a hat, and definitely bring binoculars if  you want to see some birds up close.

For current information on hours, click here.

Palisades Interstate Park

March 25, 2010

Do you remember the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride?  The cliffs here remind me of that. They’re pretty wily and not for the faint of heart.  There are several trails you can choose to tackle here, depending on your energy level and expertise.  There’s a rough and tumble trail on top of the cliffs called the Giant Stairs, which only experienced hikers should do.  I’ve never done that one.  Then there’s the Long Path, which is also on top of the cliff, but much safer and requires less skill.  I’ve done that one and don’t recommend it, only because it’s next to the highway and you hear the cars whizzing by all the time.  I’m devoting this week’s post to the Shore Trail that is at the base of the cliffs.  I consider this the gem of Palisades Park and an easy hike.

First off, it’s important to note that this is an 8-mile one-way trail.  If you’ve got 4 hours and lots of energy, you will need some transportation stationed on the other end to pick up your exhausted self.  What I did was walk 1.5 hours into the trail and then walk back the way I came to create a good 3-hour hike.  You can customize this hike as you choose.

This is a pretty good pic that summarizes what you will see along the trail. The ducks are optional.

Further in, you’ll encounter small beaches. Beware of ticks if you sit down anywhere. They’re quick buggers.

Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the wildlife, including strange caterpillars.

At some point, you’ll come across this clearing where you can plunk down a picnic basket and have yourself a nice lunch with a breeze coming off the Hudson.

This clearing is also home to the remains of a settlement.

What I like about this place is that you’re reminded that you’re in civilization because of the buildings just across the river, but everything’s so far away you can admire the view without any of the noise to go with it. It’s like you’re on your own island.

To get here, you can drive or take the bus. For the bus, take the Rockland Coach bus at the Port Authority.  Several of its routes stop at Closter Dock Road.  Click here for current routes and schedules.  If you’re driving from the city, take the upper level of the George Washington Bridge to the first exit, Palisades Interstate Parkway Northbound. There are no hiking fees but you do need to pay for parking.  Dogs are allowed but bikes are not.  There are ticks here, so wear light colored pants and long white socks so you can spot them if they crawl on you.  Click here for a current status of the trails.  Some parts are closed during certain seasons.

Mianus Gorge

March 13, 2010

This is one of the most scenic hikes you will find close to home.  If you don’t have a car, it is worth convincing a friend who has a car to do this hike with you.  The 5 mile round trip hike is of medium difficulty (for a city dweller) and will take you about 3 hours to finish going at a slow pace.  It involves a good amount of uphill and downhill work that requires sneakers that fit snuggly.  When you’re done with this one, you’ll be a bit sore, but it would have been worth it.

There are several colored trails that intersect with each other.  You will definitely need to pick up a map at the start of the trail.  The more scenic route going in is the Green trail, which runs parallel to the Mianus River.

The forest provides plenty of shade along the hike…

…enough so that colorful mushrooms may surprise you underfoot.

This is a very quiet forest with no intrusion of city noise.  You may even find yourself the only hiker in the mornings.  It’s a bit eerie not to see civilization, but you are reminded of it when you see how the trail has been carefully maintained for you and then come upon a stone fence that was built ages ago that has now been left to its own devices.

I would recommend coming here in the fall when the leaves are changing color.  To get here, drive up the Hutchinson River Parkway to CT until it turns to Merritt Parkway.  Take Exit 34 onto Route 104 and drive a bit over 7 miles.  Turn left on Millers Mill Road, cross the stone bridge over Mianus River, and turn left onto the unmarked Mianus River Road.  Go less than 1 mile and turn left into the parking lot.

Hiking is free and so is the parking.  No dogs or bikes are allowed.  For current information on hours, click here.