Going to the Big City… for a Hike?

Hey everyone! I got back from New York City a week ago and had an amazing time! Why am I writing about New York City on a hiking blog? I asked myself the same question. The reason is that I went on two awesome, rural hikes and went urban hiking around the city!

I got there Thursday morning, walked around Brooklyn and got to see the city from the river. Beautiful views! It did not satiate my desire for a hike, though. So I planned a hike along the 8-mile Greenbelt Yellow Trail on Staten Island. I was a little nervous because I didn’t have all my gear (headlamp, trekking poles, etc.), but I had my day pack and my boots, so I decided I would go the next day!

New York City Skyline from Brooklyn!

By the end of Thursday, my feet were pretty sore from trekking the city in mountaineering boots, but I cared for them properly and got a good night’s sleep.

Come Friday morning, I woke up later than I wanted to, but I packed my gear, grabbed some snacks and set off from grand central station. The trip took over an hour, but I got to see the statue of liberty, and the people of New York were very helpful in helping me navigate! Once I got on the trail, I immediately took a wrong turn, crossed an icy creek and wound up at a side road. I thought I had planned this out well enough by calling the nature preserve office! Oh well, I retraced my steps, checked my map, and set off. About a quarter mile along the trail, I saw a group of deer. Deer?!?! In new York City?!?! How cool!

It’s a Deer!

Continuing on, I passed a golf course, and was disappointed at how urban the trail was. That quickly dissipated, though, as I got deeper into the forest of barren trees, marshland and small hills. The scenery reminded me of a murder location from a scary movie, but I dismissed that thought and charged on. The trickiest thing about this trail was the multicolored trail intersections. The blaze indicators were sometimes mislabeled, making me insecure about my progress. I relied heavily on my GPS, which I want to get away from, but it was helpful!

Mozying on, I had a couple close encounters with ice, saw some beautiful ponds, and got over a couple knobs. As I neared one of the neighborhoods along the trail, I lost the trail. Luckily, a guy was outside his house and asked me if I knew where I was going. I said no, that I was looking for the yellow trail up Todt Hill. He told me I was on Todt Hill (guess it’s a broad hill!). Then, he proceeded to tell me how he was slacking on trail maintenance and needed to fix things. Another hiker! Another helpful soul of New York! I was very grateful and continued on.

I missed a turn somewhere (or the map was out of date), because I got to a road intersection and my GPS told me I was a few blocks north of my intended exit point. Damn! Walking down the road was tricky, as there was no sidewalk and the shoulder was overgrown with poking bushes.

Getting to my exit, I looked up bus routes and was freezing by the time I got to the bus. My phone hand was gloveless trying to figure out my route. There wasn’t enough money on my transit card, but another nice soul willingly offered her card to help me. The driver wanted me to accept his suggestion, get change for a ten, but I got on, and was in awe of how nice people are in the city! After a long day, I got back to the hotel, hung out with friends, ate a good meal, and got some good rest.

I still had an itch to get out of the city, so the next day I took public transportation to new Jersey to take the Bearfort Ridge Trail to Surprise Lake. The plan was to do the seven mile out and back along the white trail. I got a late start that day and didn’t get to the trailhead until early afternoon. I still gave it a shot, though! My feet were still in good shape (still breaking in the boots) as I set off and the scenery was beautiful. I’m still getting used to following blazes on trees, so I got confused and misrouted quite a few times.

Bearfort Trailhead at Sunset
Bearfort Trailhead at Sunset

The incline was tough, and the rocks/tree roots were abundant: a rougher trail than I’m used to. Then, I came to my first rock mound. Climbing up wasn’t too challenging and gave me a confidence boost. Mind you, I didn’t have my trekking poles on this trip.

The ridge kept ascending and descending in brutal fashion, but traversing across the rocks felt unique to me and unexpected according to my preconceived notions of the East coast. It was quite enjoyable and gave me a good workout!

Rocky Knoll along Ridgeline

Around my halfway point, I came up behind a couple and spooked them accidentally. They were pleasant and we laughed it off to the solitude of the trail. More cool people! As I charged, my pace wasn’t meeting my goal. I eventually had to turn around because I had no headlamp, and intermittent bus service to get back to.

The walk back wasn’t too bad, I got to appreciate the nature more, which was nice. I immoderately started judging myself, however, when I saw people hiking up in shirts and jeans. Was I overdressed? Am I a fraud? I dismissed those thoughts and continued enjoying the journey.

Enjoying the Journey
Enjoying the Journey

The rock walls were a little tougher coming down, and the heavily uneven terrain prevented me from gaining a quick pace, but I made my way back to the trailhead eventually. Also, my boots were causing pain on my Achille’s Tendon again,but at least I’m toughening up the skin!

While I did not make it to Surprise Lake, I enjoyed the journey. The weekend was successful in terms of exploration, fitness, love, and fellowship with friends back in the city.

I just keep doing me, tagging along where I want, nomadding it otherwise. Thank you all for joining me on this journey! Later this week, I’ll post about my trip to Alamere Falls and entertain you guys with some more hot sauce torture.

Take a hike and spice up your life!


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  1. March 1, 2016

    Nice post. My wife is from Staten Island and it’s great that there is still some nature to be found I on such a developed island. Blog tip: you should add the WordPress “like” button/widget so other bloggers can “like” your posts!

    • Doug Busack
      March 1, 2016

      I agree! I was pretty shocked to find a trail like that in a big city. Thank you for the pointer! I will install it. You’ve been a great help as I’m starting to get this blog off the ground 🙂

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