The Greenbelt: Bloodroot Valley

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Journey to this nature preserve in Staten Island for miles of trails through deep forests, dark swamps, and even haunted ruins!

Quick info:

Distance: 5 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Map: See bottom of page

Quick advice:

The Greenbelt is a real forest, and it's easy to get lost, so be sure you know how to read blazes (markings on trees telling you which way to go). These are the symbols you'll see:

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 S61 from the St. George Terminal. Get off the bus at Forest Hill Rd/Rockland Ave. Cross the street at the intersection and enter the park where you see a sign for "The Greenbelt."

The hike:

1. Walk down the greenway. After a few minutes, you'll see two trails splitting off. Take the trail farthest to the left, bringing you into a quiet forest that stretches for miles.

2. Soon you'll come to a split in the trail. Follow the trail with blue blazes and a white "N." You'll pass some small ponds as you walk. In a little while you'll come to the Greenbelt Nature Center, complete with bathrooms, maps, and more.

3. When you're ready, you can pick up the trail again by the wooden footbridge. This is a good place to watch for garter snakes shifting through the brush.

4. In a few minutes, turn left when you reach a T in the trail. In 5-10 minutes you'll come to an intersection with the red and blue trails. Continue straight onto the red trail, passing through an open area currently undergoing restoration (so you'll have to walk along tall fences for a little while).

5. In a few minutes, turn right to stay on the red trail -- bringing you into the swampy woods of Bucks Hollow. Now you'll pass a pond and come to a junction. Turn left here to cross the boardwalk leading over a stream full of green frogs.

6. Next you'll see (and hear) a marshy pond filled with frogs croaking. From this point the forest becomes increasingly dominated by lush ferns and fallen trees, giving it the feeling of a temperate-rainforest.

Ferns and fallen tree on the Red Trail (6)

7. The red trail will start to curve and bring you past streams and trees covered in moss and fungi. Do you feel like you're in Alice in Wonderland yet?

8. Eventually you'll have to turn right to stay on the red trail. Soon after, continue straight through an intersection.

9. For a quick detour, pick up the unmarked trail on your right -- leading you to the spooky ruins of Heyerdahl Hill. Legend has it that this area is haunted by the ghost of a woman riding a pale white horse...suddenly Alice in Wonderland turns into the Blair Witch Project!

10. Once you've seen the ruins, backtrack to the red trail and take a right to continue on (make sure no ghosts are following you).

11. In 5 minutes you'll come to another intersection. Continue straight here to pick up the blue trail en route to Bloodroot Valley. In a moment you'll have to cross a road to stay on the blue trail.

12. After 5-10 minutes of walking through a vine covered forest, the woods open up to a grassy area. Now you'll come to an intersection -- continue straight here and you'll pass through a pretty tunnel of trees.

The Blue Trail leads through a tunnel of trees (12)

13. Now the Blue Trail will head downhill to a rushing valley stream. In spring, a beautiful wildflower called bloodroot blooms here. Balancing your way across the branches is probably the most difficult (but also fun) part of this hike.

Stream cuts through Bloodroot Valley (13)

14. Once across the stream, the trail will head back uphill through pretty woods. You're now on a high ridge, and you can look down at the stream as it cuts through the valley far below.

15. Soon the trail will head back down to the stream, where you can either use the footbridge to cross or keep the fun going and try to leap over.

16. Now the blue trail travels closely along a fence for a few minutes before dropping you off at a housing complex. Don't worry, I haven't stranded you in the middle of nowhere. The easiest way back to the bus from here is to follow the main road out of the complex (the Blue Trail becomes overgrown at this point).

17. Soon you'll find yourself at a street. If only the bus here took us back to the ferry! Just a little bit farther. Turn right and walk along the side of the road (make sure to walk against traffic). Don't miss the abandoned house, it's a fitting end to a certainly haunted hike.

18. Take the coming left onto Walcott Rd, then turn right onto Washington Ave and in a few minutes you'll come to Harold St, where you can finally catch the S61 bus back to the ferry.