Tag Archives: urban hiking

Urban Parks: An Important Resource

We often talk about getting away from it all or heading out to the woods. We emphasize raw nature and the importance of communing with it. We focus on the splendor available to us here in the States and, when we think generally of the parks, we envision something remote and out of the way. But there’s plenty of natural beauty to take in, whether you’re in rural Colorado or a bustling California metropolis. Here are a few urban parks we shouldn’t take for granted.

Warner Parks–Nashville, TN

A tree in the fall at Nashville's Warner Parks one of the lovely urban parks

The open space of the steeplechase at Nashville’s Warner Parks. [Image: www.warnerparks.org/]

Green, open spaces are necessary for the health of a city and its inhabitants. This point is well understood in Nashville where the beautiful Warner Parks serve this purpose for the nearly one million visitors they host annually. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks offer many ways for Nashvillians to get outdoors, including golf courses, hiking, and equestrian trails as well as a handsome, natural space for a picnic or escape from the urban hustle of the Music City.

Central Park–New York City, NY

Central Park is a familiar urban park to most of us, whether one happens to reside in New York City or not. With over 37 million visitors annually, the park harbors Strawberry Fields, Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, a zoo with snow leopards, horse-drawn carriage rides, and activities as extensive and diverse as New York is itself. But it’s also a very cultivated natural space with over 25,000 trees and miles of walking, biking, and jogging paths—as well as paths that lead to pretzels. The original plan, dreamed up by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, has been largely maintained since 1857, despite some periods of neglect, and adapted to the realities of serving as the primary green space on the island of Manhattan.

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park–Jackson, MS

LeFleur's Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com]

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com/]

How often does one get to go camping in the heart of a city? At LeFleur’s Bluff State Park—a 305-acre gem located right in the thick of Jackson, Mississippi—you can do just that. Or you can check out the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science if you’re not too busy unwinding with a fishing rod, supervise your kids while they enjoy the 16,000 square foot Kid Zone Playground, try your hand at the disc golf course, launch a kayak when the weather’s right, or enjoy any of the numerous nature trails the park offers. The multi-functionality and proximity to nature in this park makes it an asset to Jackson, and certainly a destination for visitors to the city.

Topanga State Park–Los Angeles, CA

Everything the light touches... is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org]

Everything the light touches…is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org/]

Topanga State Park is made up of 11,000 rugged, wild, gorgeous, and minimally-developed acres—all located within the city of Los Angeles. It offers well over 30 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders along with backpacking and traditional campsites, many spots with picnicking opportunities and scenic mountain views, and a general escape from the metropolitan airs of L.A.—a city notorious for its smog, gridlock, and sprawl. And while the city is implementing its plan to reduce the environmental issues that plague its populace, Topanga State Park continues to prove to be a necessary open area for city dwellers.

Cities in the United States are built upon industry and hustle, and urban parks give the people who live in cities an opportunity to revel in the benefits of nature and open space, even if most of what surrounds them is man-made. Urban parks, like all of the great and protected natural spaces we enjoy, are entirely relevant and important no matter where we live.

Urban Escapes pt. 3: New York Hikes

We’re back with urban escapes!  Sometimes we hate driving, and some of us are attached to biking, so a train or bus ride to the outdoors will do. Our four nature spots are near the New York Metro area, and are ideal for day trips—only an hour or two away. It’s time to trade in the urban landscape for endless mountains and trees.

Appalachian Trail

Cat Rocks [Image: www.farm4.static.flickr.com/3043/2564209151_4622a7b461_b.jpg]

First stop on our urban escapes pt. 3: New York Hikes is West Mountain and Nuclear Lake in Pawling, NY. Take the Metro North on the Harlem Valley line, starting from Grand Central Station NY to the Appalachian Trail station, situated on a little wooden platform from a totally different era. The hike begins here. Head westward and follow the white blazes. The hike is entirely on AT. In the beginning you’ll see mostly flat grassy land with some older dover oak trees.  At about 3.7 miles there’s a rocky ledge with great views. Another possibility is heading south along the AT until reaching Nuclear Lake. There’s a grassy area near the lake where you can take lunch. If you’re up for a challenge head to Cats Rock, south of the AT.

Palisades Interstate Park

Image: www.njpalisades.org/images/rossdockCarpentersDrive.jpg

Image: www.njpalisades.org/images/rossdockCarpentersDrive.jpg

With over 30 miles of hiking trails, the Palisades is a great urban escape. In the distance the Palisades cliff, a rare geological formation, begins at the Rahway River in New Jersey. Luckily for New Yorkers, it goes along the Hudson River, passing the George Washington Bridge where the Palisades Interstate Park, New Jersey section starts. Take the 1 train subway (MTA) to 181st St/George Washington Bridge and walk 3 blocks southwest to 178th St and the Hudson River. Walk up the pedestrian ramp and cross the bridge on pedestrian walkway. Take in the scenic views of the city, and after one mile say goodbye! On the side after a short walk and some stairs, you’ll see two diverging trails. One is the Long Path(aqua blaze) which goes along the top of the cliffs, towards Hudson Terrace and into the woods. The Shore Trails (white blaze), outside the Visitor Center at Fort Lee Historic Park, goes through various lookout sites and parks.

Norvin Green State Forest

Image: www.lowmileage.com/2012/2012_05/2012_NorvinGreen/p1140057a.jpg

Image: www.lowmileage.com/2012/2012_05/2012_NorvinGreen/p1140057a.jpg

If you’re looking for more adventure, head to Norvin Green State Forest, home to the largest concentration of trails in New Jersey. Be aware almost all trails are on the difficult side. There are 27 scenic views with crazy names like “Yoo-Hoo Point.” Take the NJ Transit Bus #197, leaving NY’s Port Authority for Wanaque, at West Brook Road & Route 511 only on Saturdays and Sundays. Before going, make sure the bus stops at your station. If not ask for 511 & Skyline Lakes Drive, Citgo station. The stop requires a bit of a walk to the Stonetown Circular Trail (9.4-mile loop, strenuous) and many trails in Norvin Green State Forest (Wyanokies.

Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop Trail

Image: www. daytrippernyc.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/hhruins061409.jpg

Ruins in Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop Trail [Image: www. daytrippernyc.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/hhruins061409.jpg]

Get ready for this rural stop within the Hudson Highlands State Park of Putnam, NY. Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to the Garrison station. There’s a trail leading from the southern end of the parking lot to the trailhead of the hike. Follow the blue-blazed trail east across the field to Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop Trail which is 8 miles long. This mostly isolated area is filled with picturesque grassy landscapes, woodsy areas, crumbling ruins, carriage roads of old estates, viewpoints over the hudson river and the Bear Mountain Bridge. The hike is fairly moderate. Be aware that there are no towns nearby or vending machines—carry plenty of food and drinks. There is also opportunities for short cuts, so adventure away!

For more nearby NY hiking trails head over to the Pocket Ranger® New York State Parks App!