Lace Up Your Boots
Five fabulous hiking areas—sherpas not included
For vastness and variety
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
This 4,315-acre granddaddy of county parks is crisscrossed by a whopping total of ten different well-marked trails—ranging from an easy jaunt of just 1.25 miles to a daunting 5.6-mile journey of winding wilderness. Replete with opportunities for picnicking, barbeques, overnight lean-to camping, fishing, and birding, the reservation is also famed for its Trailside Nature Museum—the first of its kind in the nation—and for the impeccable, never-ending conservation and protection of bio-diversity. Dating to 1925, when early parts of the huge tract were first acquired by Westchester County, the reservation stretches across both Pound Ridge and Lewisboro—and borders, at the west, the scenic Cross River Reservoir.
For rugged, rocky terrain
Mianus River Gorge
If you didn’t know how close to home you were when you set foot in this rocky, rugged, stream-filled canyon—well, some intrepid hikers, new to the area, have said it reminds them of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo foothills. Could be. Formed as run-off from a lake left behind after the last Ice Age, the Mianus stream flows north from Banksville, then bends south, ultimately flowing into the Sound at Cos Cob. The more than 750 protected acres have, since 1953, been designated a National Natural History Landmark. Its narrow, twisty, boulder-strewn, up-and-down trails through dense, old-growth forest will evoke a bygone era when only Native Americans prowled the mystic, moody gorge.
For nature preserved
The Westmoreland Sanctuary
What a blissful surprise: right next to traffic-filled I-684 in Bedford is this tranquil, rustic 630-acre glade where only bird sounds, rustling leaves, the chirping of small creatures, and the bubbling of streams and brooks will fill your ears. Here, along a dozen trails comprising about seven miles in length, hikers will come upon special nature-study areas, butterfly gardens, an “interpretive boardwalk” spanning a vital wetland preserve, and peaceful ponds whose waters reflect scores of various trees. And to enlighten you about what you’re seen and experienced on your hikes, the sanctuary has a splendid museum-cum-lecture hall set in a beautifully restored, steeple-topped, 18th-century Presbyterian church. Westmoreland’s land, donated to the town in 1957 by heiress Helen Clay Frick, was named for the county in western Pennsylvania, where her steel-magnate ancestors were born.
For history buffs
John Jay Homestead & Farm
A perfect site for those who have an urge to tread on “hallowed ground,” this 200-year-old, 62-acre hilltop property in Katonah was opened to the public in 1964 as a N.Y. State Historic Site. Chosen and laid out by America’s first Supreme Court Justice as the estate to which he would retire with his wife and family, today it welcomes hikers to ramble its grand meadows with vistas of far-off landscapes, its formal gardens and verdant woodlands, its clusters of original farm buildings, and a quaint 1820s one-room schoolhouse. And, to top this off if you choose—after carefully scraping the dirt off your boots—you can have a guided tour through the Jays’ exquisitely furnished 12-room homestead.
For heights of pleasure
Mountain Lakes Park
This 1,082-acre geological gem is enlaced with a ten-mile network of well-marked trails—ideal for trekkers who really want to get their legs and heart pumping. At the park’s two highest points—Mt. Bailey (elev. 982 feet) and Mt. Titicus (elev. 950 feet)—athletic acrophiles can look out over hardwood forests and five sparkling lakes below and gaze for miles at the far-distant Storm King highlands to the west, the foothills of the Berkshires to the north, and Long Island Sound to the east. Breathtaking, even after you’ve caught your breath. Not K2-style breathtaking, to be sure—then again, you won’t need Sherpas or oxygen.