Explore the backwoods of Staten Island in these two wonderful nature preserves, where you'll see forests, wetlands, and even the ocean.
Distance: 4.5 miles
Map: See bottom of page
Take the 1, R, or W train to South Ferry/Whitehall Street or the 4 to Bowling Green for the Staten Island Ferry (which is free). When you get to Staten Island, take the Staten Island Railroad (good with a MetroCard transfer) to Annadale station.
From the station, turn right onto Annadale Rd. Walk through the suburbs of NYC for about 5 minutes until you reach Poillen Ave. Turn left here for Poillen Ave. After about 10 minutes this road will become forested, and you might feel like you're somewhere in rural upstate NY. A short time later you'll see a metal gate and parking lot on your right; this is the entrance to Blue Heron Park.
1. Enter at the gate and walk past the parking lot. Here is the Blue Heron Nature Center, with bathrooms, tanks showcasing local wildlife, and a friendly staff. Out back is a nice picnic area. When you're ready to start hiking, take the trail by the playground -- leading you into the woods of Staten Island.
2. Follow this trail out to a scenic bridge over Spring Pond. This marshy pond is often alive with dragonflies buzzing around and snapping turtles lurking in the mud.
3. Once you've seen the pond, double back and turn right onto the Red Trail. This will take you across the road and back into the woods.
4. After walking through the forest for about 5 minutes, you'll come to a T in the path. Turn left here.
5. In not too much longer, pick up a narrow trail on your left. This will take you out to a pretty marsh. Approach too quickly and you'll hear a mass of green frogs jumping to safety.
6. Leaving the marsh behind, continue on the Red Trail as it bends left. After about five minutes you'll return to Poillen Ave.
7. Now turn left and follow the road (watch out for cars). Say goodbye to Blue Heron Park, because you're now on your way to our next stop: Wolfe's Pond Park.
8. In a few minutes you'll come to Hylan Blvd. Cross the street and turn right. You'll pass a colorful garden store. After a few more minutes on Hylan Blvd, turn left onto Arbutus Ave. Follow this quiet road past some fancy homes until you come to Chester Ave. Turn right here and you'll get some nice views of the ocean. When you come to Huguenot Ave, pick up the path leading into Wolfe's Pond Park.
9. Head straight on this path through the woods and you'll pass a dog park. Now turn left where the path splits and take the trail leading down to the beach. Say hello to the Atlantic Ocean!
10. Head to your right and walk along the shore. After a while the sand will become more crowded and you'll see a trail leading off the beach.
11. Once off the beach, you can either visit the bathrooms to your right or continue hiking by crossing a popular barbecue area on your left.
12. On the other side of the lawn you'll see Wolfe's Pond. Unfortunately, this pond's proximity to the ocean has been something of a problem. During Hurricane Sandy, saltwater from the ocean flooded this freshwater pond and effectively destroyed its ecosystem. You can still see ducks and swans hanging out here though.
13. Walk to your right and pick up the path leading along Wolfe's Pond. Soon you'll come to a junction; turn left here and you'll enter a forest of tall trees.
15. Take the trail coming up on your left, then make a quick right and you'll be brought down to a trickling stream.
16. Cross this stream and pick up the path leading up the hill. Keep right and you'll come up to a ridge line. You can still see the stream as it meanders through the forest far below.
17. The trail will now quickly head downhill and bring you to a T. Turn right here and cross back over the stream.
18. Once across the stream, make a left and you'll come back to Hylan Blvd. Go left and walk along the street for a minute or so. Just before you reach Holten Ave, keep your eyes peeled across Hylan Blvd for a narrow trailhead. When you see it, (safely) cross the street.
19. After a few minutes on this trail you'll pass a marshy pond and then reach a junction. Turn right here and you'll come to the beautiful Acme Pond which, despite a few pieces of garbage, feels more like remote Vermont then NYC.
20. When you've finished enjoying the pond, double back, then take a right at the junction. Now continue straight (ignoring trails off to your right) through some of the prettiest woods yet.
21. After 10 minutes or so, this trail will dead end at a road. Continue ahead to Seguine Ave, where you can turn right and catch the train back to the ferry.