Pretty much everyone in NYC is needing some time outside right now, and an urban hike can go a long way towards burning off some energy and clearing the mind—for kids and adults alike. You don’t need to leave the city to go for a trek. Whether you want to take your tot on a short starter hike or explore with older kids, here are some of our favorite places to hike in NYC, including large parks, riverside walks, an historic cemetery and more secluded spots.
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Discover the “Secret” Tribeca Boardwalk
The massive West side park’s recreational facilities are closed, but you can still bike, walk and run here if you do it safely. (Although know that the New York City Police Department is now on site at this popular spot making sure people are practicing social distancing and monitoring crowd density.) This 893-foot boardwalk in Hudson River Park is a secluded path that runs from Watts to Laight Street. This special section of the Greenway features a planked wooden floor as well as breathtaking gardens, trees and natural grasses. There is also an unobstructed view of One World Trade Center. Enter park by crossing West Street at Watts or Laight Streets.
Take an Historic Walk in Green-wood Cemetery
Before you recoil in horror at the idea of taking a stroll in a cemetery, know that this 478-acre, National Historic Landmark founded in 1838 is a place of beauty, history, art and tranquility. (Its fans are legion.) The historic Revolutionary War battle The Battle of Brooklyn happened here, it’s the final resting place of many luminaries including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein and even the guy who invented to hot dog. The cemetery is also home to a wide array of birdlife. Green-wood has educational resources online, including this scavenger hunt that’s great for exploring the greens with kids.
Note: As a public service to the community, Green-wood has extended its hours and kept all of its entrances open. However, visitors must practice social distancing and follow cemetery rules (no bikes, no picnics, no picking flowers). A stern warning was issued recently after some visitors did not abide by the rules, and the possibility of closing the cemetery to the public was raised. So, go, but be respectful.
Climb the Giraffe Path
A six-mile trek (named for its giraffe neck-like shape) is a hike that explores the very north tip of Manhattan above Central Park. The walk takes you through several of the city’s parks: Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Highbridge Park and finally, Fort Tryon Park, home to a lovely heather garden (shown here) and of course, The Met’s The Cloisters. Do it all or pick a section to tackle on its own. While not an official trail—it’s sort of informally patched together—it does have its own map, beautifully produced by CLIMB (City Life is Moving Bodies) NYC, which you can find here.
Hike the Kazimiroff Nature Trail
Want to let your little Tarzan loose in the wilderness? Take a trip to the Bronx. The Kazimiroff Nature Trail in Pelham Bay Park is a beautiful sanctuary for nature lovers big and small. You can either take the full two-mile hike through 189-acre Hunter Island, or opt for the shorter 30-minute loop. Either way, the path winds through shrubland, rocky shores and wetlands, offering fantastic views of Long Island Sound. Expect to see plenty of wildlife, including geese and small crustaceans; the kids will also get a chance to collect seashells and explore Orchard Beach. While you’re on the Island, look for large boulders left behind after the last ice age nearly 15,000 years ago.
Venture into the Ravine in Prospect Park
There’s something about old arches, romantic bridges and steep waterfalls that sparks the imagination. Venture into the center of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to the Ravine for some fun exploring. Along the way, you’ll want to see the Nethermead Arch and the Rock Arch Bridge and travel through Brooklyn’s only forest. The highlight of the trek is Ambergill Falls — yes, a waterfall— a sight you’d never believe you could find in NYC. Ordinarily, you could pick up a map at the Prospect Park Audubon Center, but you can see one here as well as here.
Explore the Trails in Alley Pond Park
Nestled in Little Neck Bay in Queens, this expansive park offers a variety of trails for young hikers that include forests, swamps, tidal flats and expansive meadows. We recommend taking a trip to the north end of the park, where you’ll find spectacular marsh views.
Trek the Greenbelt Nature Center Trail
The one-mile Nature Center Trail at the Greenbelt Conservancy in Staten Island is so picturesque, you’d think it came right out of a fairy tale. Your little bookworms will have a blast pretending they’re on a quest or trying to dig up hidden treasure. The site includes footbridges, tulips in spring, wildlife and tall birch trees and the trail is designed for novice hikers, so you shouldn’t need to offer piggyback rides or strap on an Ergo. (For very young hikers, check out the shorter section of the path called the “E Trail”.)
—Michelle McIvor Cohen