Not all New Yorkers realize how much natural beauty surrounds the jungle of steel and concrete we call home. With spring finally setting in, those blue skies and balmy breezes are surely enough to get anyone excited for the great outdoors. When even Central Park won’t make the cut, it’s time to start looking outside the city.
If you want to dip those sneakers into the world of hiking without fully committing, the Appalachian Trail is a great place to start. Hikers can reach the Appalachian Trail by taking the Metro-North Harlem line out of Grand Central to the Appalachian Trail station on weekend mornings. The train ride is only an hour and a half and will take you directly to the trail, which is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world at 2,190 miles long. The Appalachian Trail is especially great for beginners, who can choose their pace and take in the surrounding beauty of the mountains and water.
Another option for less experienced hikers is Arden Point and Glenclyffe, a relaxing, easy trail that passes over the Hudson River and follows a historic road used by Benedict Arnold as an escape route during the Revolutionary War. The panoramic view over the Hudson is absolutely breathtaking with the wooded hills surrounding the glistening water. Getting to Arden Point and Glenclyffe is equally easy, since hikers just have to take the Metro-North Hudson line from Grand Central to the Garrison station, which only takes a little over an hour.
If you’d like to work up a bit of a sweat, the Blue Mountain Reservation Loop is a trail for the intermediate hiker. Like the name suggests, it’s a 12-mile loop that ascends to viewing platforms where you can see the Hudson River and a pond that would inspire the likes of Thoreau. However, this trail is heavily used by cyclists on the weekends and few intersections that are clearly marked, so having a map is essential. This trail is a 1-mile walk from the Peekskill Metro-North stop, which takes a little less than an hour to get to from Grand Central.
Another trail for the semi-experienced is the Indian Rock/Wanaque Ridge Trail Loop. It’s a 5.5-mile hike that climbs its way up to Ramapo Lake and along the ridge of the Ramapo Mountains. This trail involves moments of steep climbing but is rich with Native American history. Along the way, there are depictions of Native Americans in traditional garb painted on Indian Rock. To access this trail, take the NJ Transit #197 bus out of Port Authority to Ringwood Avenue and Second Avenue in Wanaque. The bus takes less than an hour and a half to get there, and it’s about a mile-walk to the trail from the bus stop.
Finally, for the seasoned hiker who wants a true challenge, there is no better trail than Breakneck Ridge. If the name hasn’t scared you off yet, get to hiking quick because the trail might be closing for repairs as soon as sometime this month. The 9.6-mile loop is notorious for its steep climbs and the trail itself is considered the most strenuous trail in the East Hudson Highlands, according to the NY-NJ Trail Conference. Hikers will be expected to rock climb as they ascend but the views are well worth the work. Breakneck is accessible from the Metro-North Hudson line, which has a Breakneck Ridge stop that takes an hour and a half to get to.
Whatever trail you decide, hiking is a phenomenal way to get in touch with nature and get a taste of adventure!