You don’t need to get out of Manhattan to get into nature. I figured just as much on my second month in New York, fresh off the boat from the hiking paradise that is Hong Kong…
Duration: 2-3 hours
Distance: Depends which trail you choose (details below!)
Alone in New York for the most part, I scoured the internet for hiking groups to join in order to get back into my weekend hiking habit. My criteria: (1) free / cheap, (2) near-ish, (3) not too much of an awkward crowd.
I zeroed in on the NYC Parks hikes, which offered events in which “Urban Park Ranger hiking guides introduce you to the hidden gems of New York City.” This is my review of the hike we did at Inwood Hill Park.
Three trails to choose from
You can do one, or all!
BLUE TRAIL (1.7 Miles) This moderate trail is perfect for those looking for a long hike on paved paths through the woods. An initial incline pays off with lovely views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades at the Overlook Meadow.
ORANGE TRAIL (1.3 Miles) This moderate-vigorous hike will take you off the paved paths through the heart of the park’s Forever Wild forest with views of Spuyten Duyvil Creek and the Hudson River.
WHITE TRAIL (1.2 Miles) This easy trail on paved paths provides fantastic views of the Hudson River and Spuyten Duyvil year-round. The trail guides you up a flight of stairs and into the woods, where you can enjoy the calls of songbirds and a variety of woodland plants.
Download the map and see all the details here.
I was actually late for the hike with the NYC Parks Ranger that day – so instead, I grabbed brekkie on the go from the farmer’s market and decided to set out by myself. Who knew, maybe I could catch up with the group?
I decided to take the orange trail, and quickly found myself in the woods, amidst gorgeous fall foliage. some parts of the trail were so remote that I was the only one around; others were populated by pet-walkers, joggers – even a cosplay group?!
I had to intuitively figure out the trail markers, which I wasn’t used to, and realized the markers were nothing but paint smears on tree barks or stumps, rocks, etc – to be as unintrusive as possible, I guess? Sometimes trails would converge and there would be several different-colored trail markers on the path. But once you get the hang of them, it will be easy enough to navigate.
By some stroke of luck, I found the hiking group at Overlook Meadow! How did I know it was them? The ranger of course! He was in complete ‘ranger’ gear I would only ever see in movies before, but bear hat and all are so iconic you couldn’t mistake them.
I rarely ever join guided hikes, but it was definitely worth going on one like this. The ranger could name – or at least make an informed guess – almost every bird or tree specie we would point out. Not being familiar with North American flora and fauna, I immensely appreciated that.
Who else was in the group? I pre-registered for that hike in particular, and was selected in a ‘lottery’. Apparently, the popular ones get full and fast. However, although 20 people registered for the hike that day, only five (5) of us showed up. Maybe they missed the starting point like me, or were discouraged by the day’s unpredictable weather? (It was cloudy, then SNOWED, then the sun came out!)
I believe my hike stated a ‘moderate’ pace, but it was super easy tbh. I’m going to try and do a ‘vigorous’ hike and get back to you here if it’s really as strenuous as they say?! Although 10 miles in 3 hours sounds like no joke…
Interested in joining a hike? Let’s do it! Here’s the complete list from NYC Parks. I plan to go on as many vigorous / longer ones as I can before the deep freeze…