10 Low-Key But Magical Winter Hikes In & Around NYC

Claire Leaden Claire Leaden

10 Low-Key But Magical Winter Hikes In & Around NYC

Hiking is usually viewed as an autumn activity, but a light snowfall can turn a casual outdoor stroll into “walking in a winter wonderland” in no time.

And even it’s not snowy, don’t let the cold change your mind! There are plenty of hikes within NYC itself (or an easy public transportation ride away) that will help you escape cabin fever in your apartment and enjoy nature.

Since most of these are in the city, some are more of an “urban hike” (more walking vs. climbing or steep inclines), but great for enjoying the outdoors and getting some exercise nonetheless!

1. Van Cortlandt Park (VCP), The Bronx

Facebook / Van Cortlandt Park Alliance

Van Cortlandt Park is the third largest park in NYC, taking up over one thousand acres in the northwest Bronx. Enter the park at Broadway and Mosholu Avenue to traverse the John Muir Trail, which is 1.5 miles long and travels through the park’s Northeast Forest, the Croton Woods and the hilly Northwest Forest. The NYC Urban Park Rangers even host guided hikes in VCP and around NYC. See upcoming events here.

Address: Westchester County Line, Van Cortlandt Park S. bet. Broadway and Jerome Ave.

How to get there: Take the 1 train Uptown to the last stop, VCP is across the street

2. Central Park, Midtown

Instagram / @centralparknyc

The 40-acre North Woods in Central Park hope to provide a “taste of the Adirondack Mountains,” according to the Central Park website. You can stroll through winding trails under treetops, follow the stream called “The Loch,” and take in all the local winter wildlife.

Address: 5 Ave To Central Park W, 59 St. To 110 St.

How to get there: Enter at Central Park West and 110th St. to find the North Woods

3. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens

Instagram / @nanseasbeach

If you have snowshoes (or maybe you should buy them for more hiking options!), take a walk through the East Pond trails of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. It will take place the first snowfall of January and will be 1.7 miles long; call 718-318-4340 to reserve a spot or find out more info. You can also try your own hike through the Upland, East Pond and West Pond trails. More info here.

Address: Mott Basin to the City Line, Queens

How to get there: A/S Train to Broad Channel Station

4. Green Belt Nature Center, Staten Island

Facebook / The Greenbelt Conservancy

The Green Belt Nature Center in Staten Island holds adult afternoon hikes through different Staten Island Greenbelt trails with Greenbelt educators and a naturalist on Wednesdays Jan. 22-March 25. See more info here. You can also make your own way through the trails by referring to this map.

Address: 700 Rockland Avenue at Brielle Avenue, Staten Island

How to get there: Public buses (the S54 and S57 let off there)

5. Prospect Park, Brooklyn

NYC Gov Parks

The trails in Prospect Park are a little shorter, but that doesn’t make them any less fun! You can also do them multiple times if you want to get a better workout. The Lullwater Trail is one mile and is a great spot to see birds and other wildlife. The Midwood, at 3/4 of a mile, is Brooklyn’s oldest remaining forest. It loops from the Prospect Park Audubon Center through the forest.

Address: Prospect Park W, Parkside Ave. bet. Flatbush Ave., Ocean Ave. and Prospect Park SW

How to get there: Take the B/Q/S to Prospect Park Subway Station. Enter Park at Lincoln Road and Ocean Avenue entrance. Trails begin or are near the Prospect Park Audubon Center.

6. Inwood Hill Park, Inwood

NYC Gov Parks

You can really imagine what New York City used to look like (you know, before all the buildings and people) in the prehistoric Inwood Hill Park. It’s also home to the only true forest in NYC. You can see the wide range of hiking trail options on this map here.

Address: Dyckman St, Hudson River, Harlem River S

How to get there: A Train to Dyckman St. or 1 Train to 215 St.

7. Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx

Facebook / Friends of Pelham Bay Park

Pelham Bay Park is NYC’s largest park, clocking in at three times the size of Central Park! The Kazimiroff Nature Trail has self-guided long and short loop paths around the 189-acre Hunter Island, so you can choose the length of hike you want to go on. You’ll likely end up on the shore of Orchard Beach, which has gorgeous views of the Long Island Sound.

Address: Hutchinson River, Long Island Sound bet. Bronx County Line and Middletown Rd., Watt Ave.

How to get there: Take the 6 train uptown to Pelham Bay Park, then transfer to the Bx29 at Bruckner Blvd & Wilkinson Avenue and take it to the City Island Rd/Shore Rd stop.

8. Harriman State Park, Ramapo, NY

Facebook / Harriman State Park

A little bit outside the city, Harriman has over 200 miles of hiking trails. In the winter you can still hike, of course, but you can also do cross-country skiing, ice skating and ice fishing. You can find trail entrance spots, difficulty ratings and lengths on their website here (take note of which roads are closed during the winter months at the bottom of the page). You can ice skate on Lake Tiorati and Lake Silvermine, just be sure to follow the safety rules here.

Address: Seven Lakes Dr / Bear Mountain Circle, Ramapo, NY

How to get there: Take the PATH train to Hoboken from Port Authority, and then transfer to the Port Jervis Line to Middletown, NY, getting off at Sloatsburg. It’s a 20 minute walk (or quick cab ride) from there.

9. Bear Mountain, NY

Instagram / @ajvictory

Bear Mountain is a little bit harder to get to but is perfect for a full-day affair: there is a lodge/inn at the bottom of the mountain with two cozy restaurants, a fireplace, bar, and a man-made ice rink out on the lawn (see more on their website here). You could even stay the whole weekend! For hiking, there’s an app so you can easily plan your route and know exactly where you are in the park.

Address: Palisades Parkway or Route 9W North, Bear Mountain, NY

How to get there: Take the Hudson Line from Grand Central Terminal to Peekskill Station. You’ll then have to take a cab or Uber up to Bear Mountain, about a 10 minute ride.

10. Jockey Hollow Grand Loop Trail, Morristown, New Jersey

Facebook / Morristown National Historical Park

This trail is in the historic Morristown National Park in New Jersey. You’ll pass buildings from the Revolutionary War era, as they served as quarters for the Continental Army on two different occasions. The Jockey Hollow Grand Loop Trail is 7.4 miles round-trip and is well-marked for even beginner hikers.

Where: 30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ

How to get there: Take NJ Transit from Penn Station on the Morris & Essex Line. Get off at the Morristown stop. The park is about a 10 minute walk from there.

featured image source: NYC Gov Parks / Malcolm Pinckney

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