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Saturday, July 9, 2011

VCP John Muir Trail


Looking for some local trails to break in your boots or test your gear before you hit the back country? Stuck in the city? Tired of fighting through the throngs of tourists in Central Park? 

I recently hiked the John Muir Trail. I'm not referring to THE John Muir Trail of Ansel Adams and Yosemite fame. I'm talking about the just slightly less well know, infinitely more convenient and marginally less dangerous John Muir Trail in Van Cortlandt Park located in the Bronx in NYC.

There are hundreds of trails and paths running through every park in NYC but the John Muir Trail is the only East-West running trail through Van Cortlandt Park. 

How to get there: Take the #1 train to 242nd Street, walk North along the East side of Broadway, past the Parade Grounds (cricket and soccer fields), until you reach 246th Street. You'll see horse stables and equestrian fields. Turn right onto a wide car path. The trail begins on the left of the house.

Got Specs:
Trail Length       1.5 miles (2.4 km)
VCP Area           1146 acres (464 ha)

What Wins:
  1. Convenient! Any trail that you can get to within 35 minutes of Time Square is as convenient as it gets. 
  2. Remote! Ok, not really. Just relatively remote-ish. But it is as remote as you can get without leaving NYC. In the middle of Van Cortlandt Park's 1100+ acres you can very easily forget that you are still in the city. On most weekends I can hike most of the trail without running into another hiker. We only crossed paths with other humans during the first 1/2 mile.
  3. Terrain! Some parts of the trail are wide, gravel-covered paths. Other parts are narrow, rock-strewn single-track climbs. The trail goes through a marsh, up ancient mountains, past historical sites (where George Washington once slept), over aqueducts, around golf courses and past hundreds of different types of trees and plants.

What Fails:
  1. Trail trash! Like most "wild space" anywhere within 100 miles of NYC one cannot take 5 steps without finding signs that someone who doesn't give a damn about place was there. Trails in VCP are especially bad. The first 1/2 mile (as far as most people explore I'd venture) is littered with bottles, broken glass and stoggie wrappers. I usually bring a grocery bag or two along and fill it up along way.
  2. Mosquitoes! Just because you're in the city doesn't mean you can leave the Deet at home in the summer.

Other notes:
  1. The restrooms located near the trail head are closed half of the year but you may find facilities in the equestrian center.
  2. Hike it both directions and you'll log about 5 miles including the walk to/from the train. 
  3. Bring lunch! VCP has hundreds of great picnic spots!

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