Truly escape NYC in this remarkable nature preserve, where you'll find remote ponds, vast wildflower meadows, and a shoreline frequented by bald eagles.
Distance: 4 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 Richmond Valley Station. In order to get off, you'll need to be in the first 3 cars of the train. From the station, turn right and walk down Richmond Valley Rd. The sidewalks are a little dicey here, but in a few minutes you'll see a sign for the entrance to the North Mount Loretto State Forest.
1. The entrance to the state forest includes an official-looking map kiosk and even a place to sign in! Cool. Walk down the quiet woods road for just a moment until you see a trailhead on your left. This trail brings you through beautiful woods, and you'll feel like you're the only human for a mile (you probably are).
2. After a few minutes you'll come to an intersection -- watch for snakes basking in sunny spots. Take the trail on your left, then turn right soon after to follow blue NYC Parks markers.
3. Follow the Blue Trail through a marsh of tall reeds and then take a right. Fowler's toads may be crossing the trail, so be careful where you step!
4. After about 5-10 minutes of following the blue trail you'll come to an intersection. Turn left and you'll come to Snag Pond, popular with dragon flies and great blue herons hunting for frogs.
5. Continuing on, you'll return to the road in about 5 minutes. Now pick up the red trail on the other side of the road and continue for another 5 minutes until you come to a T in the path (now things get a little tricky, but bear with me).
6. Turn left at the T and then make a quick right. You'll come to another T, turn left here. Soon this trail will split, turn right here. Still with me?
7. In a little while longer, you'll come to a wide junction. Now turn right and you'll pass a randomly placed trash can.
8. Now you'll start to get views of Long Pond, which as its name suggests, is a long pond. It's also really beautiful, and feels more like remote wilderness than anywhere close to the city.
9. When you reach a grassy opening along the pond, double back the way you came. Once you've re-passed that sad trash can, take the trail on your left.
10. Keep left at the coming fork. In a minute, take the trail on your right and you'll come to a T. Turn left and then right and in a few minutes you'll return to the road. If you've made it this far, congratulations! Things will be a lot simpler from here on out.
11. Turn right and follow the road through the grounds of Mount Loretto Cathedral. Soon you'll come to Hylan Boulevard. Cross the street and enter back into state lands by following the road past the gate. You're now in the Mount Loretto "Unique Area". The seemingly weird name makes sense, this area is pretty unique...
12. Once past the bridge over a large pond, the scenery will shift drastically to wide open wildflower meadows full of butterflies. Follow the road through the grassland, keeping an eye out for woodchucks and rabbits as you walk.
13. Soon you'll pass a barn and, all of a sudden, you can see the ocean! Follow the road for another minute. Just before you reach a picnic area, you'll see the trail leading down to the shore.
14. Scan the shoreline for abundant shorebirds, boats out at sea, and the distant hills of New Jersey. Head to your left along the water and you'll see cliffs made of red clay, which are apparently rare in New York State (note the uniqueness).
15. Bald eagles frequent this area, so keep your eyes peeled! If you come in the winter at low tide, there's a good chance you'll also see seals basking on the rocks.
16. After walking along the shore for a while, you'll pass a tall beacon and soon come to a trail leading off the beach.
17. This path leads you back through grasslands, and in a few minutes you'll come to a junction. Turn left to walk up the hill. At the top you'll get an amazing view of the surrounding countryside.
18. Now head back downhill and take a left at the junction. After about 5 minutes of walking along the grassland you'll come to an intersection. Here you can continue on by going straight, or use the porta potty in the parking lot.
19. After passing through more meadows, this trail will dead end at a T in the path. Turn right to cross the pond once again. Cross the street and you can continue following this road back through the church grounds and woods, all the way to Amboy Rd. Take a left and you'll soon find yourself back at the SIR. Congratulate yourself for a long day of hiking!