Where to hike near New York City
You can maneuver through the tourists on Broadway, but can you master the Mohonk Scramble? See New York City-and beyond-from a different side, guided by these six hiking groups.
Tue Jul 7 2009
Urban Escapes: Mohonk Scramble
NYC Parks & Recreation’s Urban Park Rangers
Who they are: Tucked away in ranger stations and nature centers in select city parks, the Urban Park Rangers regularly lead hikes and orienteering outings in all five boroughs. “I’d recommend beginners start with a Salt Marsh Nature Walk in Brooklyn’s Marine Park, Prospect Park, or Staten Island’s Clove Lakes Park, which all have both long and short trails to choose from,” suggests Ghanim Khalil, a ranger at the Blue Heron Nature Center (222 Poillon Ave between Amboy Rd and Hyland Blvd, Staten Island; 718-967-3542, preserve2.org).
Sign up now: Check out the Saturday 11 Cass Gallagher Hike through the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park (meet at Mosholu Ave and Broadway; 11am, free). During the 1.4-mile moderate-to-difficult hike, you’ll be surrounded by seasonal wildflowers such as white wood aster and daisy fleabane. Or try the five-mile Sunday 12 Speed Hike in peaceful Inwood Hill Park (Enter park at W 218th St and Indian Rd, 212-304-2365; 10am, free)—hardy trekkers will be rewarded with views of the Hudson River and the Palisades from an overlook in the middle of the trail. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot red-tailed hawks and loons as you wind your way through the 136-acre natural forest.
Do this afterward: Sugar up with a slice of the namesake treat ($2.25) at Lloyd’s Carrot Cake (6087 Broadway between Manhattan College Pkwy and 246th St, Bronx; 718-548-9020, lloydscarrotcake.com).
Who they are: This nonprofit environmental group is best known for its annual Great Saunter around the full perimeter of Manhattan in May, and is dedicated to preserving and exploring the metro area’s waterways.
Sign up now: Congregate at 10am on July 18 for a three-mile Brooklyn Bridge--to--Governors Island walk (meet in front of Long Island University, Flatbush Ave at DeKalb Ave; $3 for nonmembers; free for members). You’ll grab the free Governors Island ferry to the City of Water Day celebration (cityofwaterday.org; 10am--4pm, free), a pastiche of tours, concerts, kayak lessons and more.
Do this afterward: Head to Tribeca on the way home, and sip your way through a bottle of international wine at Anotheroom (249 West Broadway between Beach and North Moore Sts; 212-226-1418, theroomsbeerandwine.com).
Who they are: This ten-guide-strong (and hiring) company was launched by Maia Josebachvili a year ago as a young professional’s escape from the daily city grind. “It’s a community,” says Josebachvili. “We work hard to establish and build friendships with our Escapers.” Offerings include hike/yoga combo trips, rock climbing, full-moon night hikes, and even whitewater rafting.
Sign up now: On Sunday 12 (meet at 96th St and Broadway; 8am, $65), vans will cart hikers (athletic beginners welcome) upstate to the Mohonk Scramble in New Paltz’s Shawangunk Mountains, home to 1,400 known species of plants and animals. Two guides lead the seven-to-nine-mile trip, which culminates with a BYO lunch at the top of Mohonk Mountain. Be sure to bring a backpack loaded with water and more snacks—raisins, nuts, sandwiches—than you think you’ll need to recharge.
Do this afterward: You and your fellow UEers won’t have to trek to the Bull Moose (354 W 44th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves, 212-956-5625)—you’ll be dropped of for happy hour. “It’s a total dive that has great beer and food specials,” says Josebachvili.
Wild Earth Adventures
Who they are: A hiking club that’s 350 members strong, WEA is run by president and founder Charlie Cook, who has hiked an estimated 50,000 miles. “People don’t realize there are thousands of miles of trails within an hour or two of the city,” he says. Cook leads every last one of WEA’s wilderness-camping, multiday, and backpacking trips year-round, rain or shine. Participating in one will cost you $110, but a one-to-three-year membership ($95--$215) drops fees to as low as $45 per trip. Reservations are required for treks.
Sign up now: WEA provides round-trip shuttle vans from the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St; 212-769-5100, amnh.org) to your destination. On Sunday 12, meet on the front steps of the museum at 7:15am, and let Cook show you around the East Kill Creek in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The leisurely six-mile hike is suitable for beginners, with plenty of breaks over the course of the day. You’ll pass through open meadows; enjoy a BYO lunch at a hidden, little-known, nameless waterfall; and see deer and porcupine before being dropped off at the MNH around 6 or 7pm.
Do this afterward: If you can handle five more city blocks of walking, refuel with Yemenite-Israeli takeout, like turkey shawarma ($9.72) from Alibaba (515 Amsterdam Ave at 85th St, 212-787-6008).
Who they are: This mixed-level social adventure club of young adventure-seekers hosts hiking, kayaking, sailing and rock-climbing excursions, plus international trips. “We recommend that beginners do a few of our local hikes first,” says founder and guide Igor Bass. Next up is Machu Picchu (Aug 14--23; $2,095 including all flights and transfers, $400 deposit due by July 10). Hardy adventurers will hike the Inca Trail, paraglide and go whitewater rafting. For local trips, three vans make pickups at locations around the city: 79th Street and Lexington Avenue, 71st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and 14th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Sign up now: Combine hiking with swimming on the eight-plus-mile light to intermediate Lake-to-Lake Hike at Minnewaska State Park ($45) on July 19, where you’ll be treated to views of 1,000-foot cliffs situated between Awosting and Minnewaska lakes. Stuff a backpack with water, snacks and lunch, and don’t forget sturdy hiking shoes.
Do this afterward: Pop across the street from the downtown drop-off and nibble on an organic falafel ($4.28) at Pita Joe (2 W 14th St at Fifth Ave; 212-627-7877, pitajoe.com).
Appalachian Mountain Club
Who they are: Since 1876, the child- and senior-friendly nonprofit has championed the conservation of U.S. lands.
Sign up now: Preregister for the Sunday 12 Breakneck Pond Loop in Harriman State Park (trek is limited to 12 people). The moderately paced ten-mile hike covers gentle hills and gravel fire roads, with a BYO lunch stop at an old lakeshore summer camp. You’ll need to take the Short Line bus #389 (coachusa.com/shortline) from Port Authority to Sloatsburg, then a car shuttle to the trailhead (rarely prearranged but provided by hikers who drive at no charge).
Do this afterward: Hop off the bus and join the weekend crowd at tri-level Latitude Bar & Grill (783 Eighth Avenue between 47th and 48th Sts; 212-245-3034, latitudebarnyc.com), outfitted with a 36-foot ground-level bar, a billiard room and 20 plasma TVs. Happy hour runs all day Sunday, so recover from your journey with a big plate of nachos ($9) or mini skirt-steak tacos ($13).
GET TREKKIN'! Urban escapes is giving away a free hiking excursion, good for any time this summer. Click here to enter.