Hiking was on the upswing even before the pandemic closed gyms and turned recreation-starved families loose on already-well-worn paths. Last year, New York State’s parks and trails accommodated a record-setting 78 million visits — eclipsing the previous year’s record by nearly a million.
While many of Westchester’s better-known hiking destinations have become magnets for locals and NYC day-trippers alike, there are still opportunities to explore some of the county’s more arcane trails if you’re up for an adventure. Not sure where to go first? Take our quiz below, then read more about each destination.
1. Eugene and Agnes Meyer Preserve is a 247-acre gem straddling the towns of North Castle and New Castle that boasts more than 6.5 miles of well-marked trails ranging from family-friendly paths to steep ravines. Along the way, you’ll cross streams and pass lush forests, wetlands, meadows, rocky outcroppings, and cliffs overlooking Byram Lake. The land was donated by the foundation named for the former Federal Reserve chairman and his wife, who built the nearby Seven Springs Estate. There are parking areas at 11 Oregon Road in Armonk and at the intersection of Bretton Ridge Road and Sarles Street in New Castle. Note: The preserve is open to bow hunters from Oct 1 to Dec 22. (212.997.1880)
2. Overshadowed by George’s Island Park to its north and Croton Point Park to the south, Oscawana Island Nature Preserve is nestled between quiet roads along the Hudson River shoreline. This 161-acre park offers marshlands, ruins of a Victorian-era estate, birdwatching, and trainspotting opportunities along several miles of dirt and gravel trails. Metro-North Railroad tracks run through a tunnel just above a path leading to riverside viewpoints. (Parking on 123 Cortlandt St, Croton-on-Hudson)
3. Carved into the steep southern corner of Blue Mountain Reservation, Spitzenberg Mountain, a 1.6-mile out-and-back, features a moderately challenging trek that rewards visitors with sweeping Hudson River vistas. You’ll pass an abandoned stone cabin before arriving at the rocky outcropping of its 550-foot summit. The trail is primarily used by walkers but open to mountain bikers and may be best suited for weekday visits. It’s situated a safe distance from (but within earshot of) the reservation’s shooting range. Dogs are allowed on leashes; the trailhead is located behind the parking lot at the Sportsman Center. (183 Watch Hill Rd, Cortlandt Manor; 914.862.5280)
4. At the 236-acre Silver Lake Preserve, you’ll be close enough to Downtown White Plains to see its skyline but far from the honking horns. A trio of connecting trails traverse 4.8 miles that include rugged ravines terraced with wide steps fashioned from slabs of stone. Enjoy scenic views of the lake and perhaps stumble upon remnants of Pop’s Cave. The Heritage Trail, passing Revolutionary War landmarks (marked with red-white-and-blue blazes), also connects with the preserve’s trail system, and a historical marker at the trailhead commemorates the action on Merritt Hill during the Battle of White Plains. The acreage was home to The Hills, an African American community, and is adjacent to Stony Hill Cemetery. (1-59 Old Lake St, West Harrison)
5. Not far from a busy commercial strip, a dozen trails in the thickly wooded 350-acre Sylvan Glen Park Preserve lead visitors past remnants of once-thriving quarries and crumbling ruins where “golden granite” for some of New York City’s grandest structures (including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine) was excavated in the first half of the 20th century. You’ll climb a stone staircase, pass by ponds, and travel an old farm trail en route to commanding views. (Morris Ln, Mohegan Lake; 914.245.4650)
6. Hilltop Hanover Farm & Environmental Center is a popular attraction for its farm stand and pick-your-own gardens but perhaps is less known for the 3.5 miles of well-maintained trails across the street. Three brightly marked trails pass a vernal pond bordered by a dam and flanked by picnic tables, over wooden bridges, past wetlands, and through stone walls that crisscross the 120-acre woodlands. (1271 Hanover St, Yorktown Heights; 914.962.2368)