In Van Cortlandt Park, Walking the Trails Less Traveled

Keep this in mind for that next sunny summer morning, when the fresh air inspires an adventurous romp through the woods. Without leaving the five boroughs and while still avoiding the crowds, the best place to embrace the verdant landscapes is Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, a 35 minute ride from midtown to the last stop on the #1 train at 242nd street.

Home to the Riverdale Equestrian Centre, the occasional lively cricket game, Van Cortlandt Municipal Golf Course, a historic mansion, and the Croton Aqueduct, the fourth largest park in New York City has a variety of peaceful trails worth exploring during the height of the fall foliage season. John Muir and Cass Gallagher Nature Trails are two such options for leisure hikes.

The Cass trail is 1.4 miles in length and moderate in difficulty. In mid-October, the route is yellow and crimson-colored and lined with century old oaks. Walking through a portion of the park’s 1,000 acres, one soon discovers how easy it is to be alone in a Frost-like solitude–except perhaps, for the distant hum of the Henry Hudson Parkway. (To access Cass, go a short walk in from the intersection of Broadway and Mosholu Avenue, near the horse stables.)

A popular path among runners, the 1.5 mile John Muir trail is dense with 100-foot trees and follows the Van Cortlandt’s only east-west course across steeper terrain and wetlands. Observant trailblazers will tend to spot frogs, salamanders, and songbirds. (To access Muir, enter either at Broadway and Mosholu Avenue or Van Cortlandt Park East and Oneida Avenue.)

How to get there: Take the 1 train to 242nd Street Station, and proceed north along the east side of Broadway, until you reach 246th Street and turn right onto a wide path. You’ll see the park’s House Museum built in 1748 where George Washington once slept – open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Header photo: Steven Pisano