Run Forest, Run
Off The Beaten Path: 6 Great Trail Runs in the NYC Area
In urban settings like New York, walking, let alone running, is hard enough. With the abundance of hazards — from reckless taxis to sharp-eyed grannies — hitting the streets in your new pair of kicks often means putting your life on the line. If you’re looking for a quieter run around the Big Apple, forget the Central Park Reservoir and Hudson River Park: when the only other New York residents you want to see are plants, birds and squirrels, check out these less frequently traveled trails.
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
Back in 1839, the Old Croton Aqueduct was New York City’s major source of drinking water. Starting at the Croton Dam and reservoir in Westchester County, it ran all the way to 42nd Street in Manhattan. Though it no longer carries water, you can still run the 41-mile Old Croton Aqueduct trail. Our resident triathlete assures us that this is a winner. For bonus points, jump off the trail for lunch, or head to Tarrytown and see the Castle at Lyndhurst.
Getting There: Pick it up near W. 86th Street in Central Park or take the 4 to Mosholu Parkway and catch it along the northern edge of Van Cortlandt Park.
Inwood Hill Park
To really get away from it all, you don’t even have to leave the city — just lose yourself in the maze of trails that comprise Inwood Hill Park. As the only “undersigned” park in New York City (meaning that Frederick Law Olmsted didn’t get his grubby paws on this one — just kidding, we love you, Fred), it comes pretty close to what New York must have looked like before Henry Hudson’s arrival, minus a few paved paths. The park also gets credit for a salt marsh, and the site of sale of the island to the Dutch. Just be careful — though the park stays open until dusk, bathrooms close at 4:00.
Getting There: Take the A train to Inwood – 207th Street Station and grab one of the many trails that line Payson Avenue. You can run several miles, but to extend the run, head to…
Fort Tryon Park
Just south of Inwood Hill Park lies Fort Tryon Park, built by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Although daddy got to play with Central Park, junior left this hidden gem as his own mark on the city. Both paved and unpaved trails wind through carefully manicured gardens, and the sea dogs among your group can drink their fill of river views. If you get tired of running, head to the Met’s cloisters to check out medieval armor and weaponry. Between Inwood and Fort Tryon, you can easily plan a seven-mile run.
Getting There: Take the A Train to Inwood – 207 Street Station. Enter the trailhead off the roundabout.
Sal J. Prezioso Mountain Lakes Park
If you do want to leave the city, there are numerous trails only a short drive away. At the Mountain Lakes Park in North Salem, you can find Bailey Mountain, the highest point in Westchester County. The mountain provides beautiful views — as well as a rugged, challenging 10k trail. Of course, there are other trails on the park’s 1,082 acres…and five lakes, a high/low ropes course, and a camp for underprivileged children.
Getting There: By car from Manhattan, take I-684 N. Get off at exit 6A for NY-22. By public transport, take Train 659 from Grand Central toward Southeast. Get off at Purdy’s (6 stops). Final address is 201 Hawley Road, North Salem.
Sprain Ridge Park
For a technical run that’s a little further off the beaten path, head to Sprain Ridge Park in Yonkers. The 278-acre park houses two picnic areas as well as several running and biking trails that form a challenging five-mile loop. As an added bonus, Westchester County acquired the land from the Boyce Thompson Institute, a botanical research center, so you’re sure to see many exotic plants.
Getting There: From Grand Central, take train 361 toward Crestwood. Get off at Bronxville (4 stops). Run, bike or drive the 3.5 miles to the park entrance at 149 Jackson Avenue, Yonkers.
Ever heard Bob Dylan’s “Talkin Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”? That’s this one. In this 5,067-acre state park, located on the Hudson River, you can bike, hike, boat, picnic, ski, sled, skate, and run to your heart’s content. It’s also home to the North Face Endurance Challenge, a 50-mile race that takes place in May. Because of Bear Mountain’s size (and distance from the city), we recommend making this a weekend getaway.
Getting There: These directions will take you to the Bear Mountain Inn. By car from Manhattan, take the George Washington Bridge upper deck to the Palisades Interstate Parkway Heading North. Take the PIP to the End (Past Exit 19). Follow signs to 9W south from the Bear Mountain Traffic Circle. By public transport, check out the CoachUSA for the ShortLine schedule. Final address is 98 Hessian Drive, Bear Mountain, NY.