NEW YORK CITY has plenty of places for outdoor adventure. You’ve just got to know how to get to them… fast.
Escape Time*: 20 to 35 minutes by car
Payoff: Views of the NYC skyline through the trees
New York City has loads of parks with walking trails, but woodland wilderness is surprisingly easy to find.
Closter Landing Loop trail in Palisades Interstate Park (moderate, ~5 miles roundtrip) – Walk along the Hudson River and through wooded areas to the top of the volcanic cliffs, where you’ll pass ruins of old estates that give the trail its nickname, Millionaire’s Row. The trailhead is near the Alpine Picnic Area.
South Mountain Reservation (easy to moderate, ~6 miles) – The 2,000+ acre reservation is between the first and second ridges of the Watchung Mountains, and it has 19 miles of trails. The 6-mile loop hike will take you past a waterfall, over the Rahway River, and past Washington Rock, a Revolutionary War lookout point.
Adventure: Mountain Biking
Escape Time*: 30 minutes by car
Payoff: Trails for beginners and the most technical riders
Sprain Ridge Park in Yonkers (easy to strenuous, 5 miles of trails) – This park at the top of a small ridge line has a variety of trails for beginners to experts. Two to 10 feet drops and steep rolls will give technical riders plenty of challenges.
Wolfe’s Pond Park in Staten Island (easy to moderate, 4 miles of trails) – Technically still in NYC, this park near the beach has short, twisty trails for intermediate riders and smooth trails that wind through the woods for beginners.
Escape Time*: 90 minutes by car
Payoff: The best rock-climbing on the East Coast
Over the past 50 years, the overhangs and rock faces of the Hudson Valley’s Shawangunk Mountains, or “The Gunks,” have become recognized as the Yosemite of the East Coast–so much so that 50,000 climbers visit per year. By purchasing either $17 day passes or an annual membership to the Mohonk Preserve, a non-profit that protects the Gunks and its surrounding areas, climbers may access over 1,000 technical routes and five miles of cliffs for top-roping, lead climbing, and, with increasing popularity, bouldering.
The most Downtown Boathouse kayak launches, Pier 40, Pier 96, and 72nd Street (easy 20 minute paddles to strenuous 3-hour, 5 mile trips) – The all-volunteer staffed, all-donation funded Downtown Boathouse currently has three launch spots on the Hudson River. Show up for a short paddle if you’ve got limited experience, or prepare for a more challenging trip; the destination depends on the tides. Kayaks, paddles, and life jackets are all provided and it won’t cost you a cent.
Escape Time*: 30 minutes by PATH or ferry
Payoff: Close-up Statue of Liberty shots, if you remember to bring your camera
SailNY (beginner to expert) – You can take lessons if you’re a beginner or participate in match racing if you’re already a qualified skipper. SailNY, which is located at Lincoln Harbor Marina in Weehawken, also offers financial aid for potential sailors who might not be able to afford their standard rates (which are relatively affordable, considering SailNY is a non-profit organization).
Escape Time*: 45-60 minutes by car or subway (East Rockaway); 1.5 hours by train (Long Beach); 3 hours by car or summer-only train (Montauk)
Payoff: Breaks that rival any West Coast spot, especially during autumn’s hurricane season.
East Rockaway, Queens – The Ramones’ highest-charting single “Rockaway Beach” refers both to one of Dee Dee Ramones’ favourite hangouts and the main surf spot within New York City’s parameters. Rockaway’s most famous peak is at the 90th Street jetty, where the left hander runs north for a whole city block. For beginners, surf schools line up in front of the boardwalk, offering lessons and surfboard rentals.
Long Beach, Long Island – The ASP’s first ever East Coast stop will be at Long Beach in September 2011, a testament to the quality and frequency of waves the sandbars here can handle. The most popular peak is at Lincoln Avenue, but Long Beach is three miles long, if you’d like to find fewer crowds and to avoid some of the localism.
Montauk, Long Island – Located 120 miles east of New York City, watch suburbia give way to the Hamptons’ exclusive vacation homes and eventually to the nature preserve and lighthouse at Long Island’s eastern tip. The point break at Montauk’s Ditch Plains sits at an outcropping of boulders, which causes the wave to wrap into a cove. The spot still maintains its following of home-grown, graying long-boarders–including Montauk resident Jimmy Buffett—but is now packed with New Yorkers of every age, gender, and board type.
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