Clay Pit Ponds State Park

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

This remote state park in Staten Island features ecosystems found no where else in New York City, and you're more likely to see a herd of deer than another human being.

Quick Info:

Distance: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Map: See bottom of page

The commute:

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, catch the S74 bus from the St. George Terminal.

Get off the bus at Arthur Kill Rd/Storer Ave (the bus ride is about an hour long). Turn left onto Storer Ave and follow the road for a few minutes until you reach the entrance to the State Park on your left.

The hike:

1. Walk down the driveway and you'll come to the park's visitor center, where you can often see lots of deer gathered around. This has actually become something of a problem -- the deer are so overpopulated now that they have essentially over grazed the entire forest understory. Where you should see young trees, there's only bare ground.

2. Once you're finished being shocked at how many freakin' deer there are here, look for a sign that says "to nature trails" and follow that path back to a picnic area. Now you can either enjoy a peaceful lunch (don't give any of it away to the deer!) or start your hike by hopping on the yellow-marked trail.

3. The Yellow Trail takes you along a spring-fed stream as it runs through a lush swamp. After passing over a boardwalk, take a left to continue following the Yellow Trail.

4. In a few minutes, keep straight to avoid steps leading down to your right. Soon after, the Yellow Trail will loop around and bring you through Ellis Swamp. You can sometimes see a muskrat -- which is easily mistaken for a river otter or beaver -- swimming through the swamp.

Ellis Swamp (4)

5. In a few minutes, turn right onto a boardwalk leading through the swamp and then head up the steps.

Looking out on Abraham's Pond (6)

6. Now turn left and follow the Yellow Trail until it connects with the Blue Trial. Turn left onto the Blue Trail and in a moment you'll pass an observation deck looking out on the overgrown Abraham's Pond. This spot used to be a clay mine, but now it's home to frogs, snakes, and other swamp creatures. What a comeback!

7. Continue on the Blue Trail and soon you'll come to the grassy Clay Pit Road. Turn right and briefly walk until you see a trailhead on your left. Now follow the sandy, orange-marked trail.

8. Once you cross the wooden footbridge over a stream, you'll get a limited view of Clay Pit Pond on the left.

Clay Pit Pond (8)

9. Next you'll pass through a sand barren dominated by Virginia pines and blackjack oaks. This is the only occurrence of this ecosystem in the entire state of New York! Why isn't that on Staten Island tourism sites?

10. In another 5-10 minutes, you'll pass by Goode's Pond, a small watering hole full of green frogs.

11. Next you'll need to cross back over Clay Pit Road and then a horse trail to continue on the Orange Trail. Where are the horses, you may ask? I'm not sure. But there sure are a lot of signs telling you to not get in their way.

12. When you come to a fork, turn left and you'll approach another visitor center. Walk around the building and pick up the white-marked trail on the right. Follow the White Trail as it crosses a road and leads to an observation deck over the large, lily-pad covered Sharrott's Pond.

Observation deck on Sharrott's Pond (12)

13. Once you've finished enjoying the pond, double back to the road and turn left. In about 10 minutes you'll come to Arthur Kill Road, where you can catch the bus back to the ferry (time for more music listening and book reading).