Article & Photos By Liz Susman Karp
Let the phrase “take a hike” take on a different, and far more positive meaning this fall by heading outdoors on one of the many noteworthy local hikes and walks in and around Armonk. The nearly 350 acres of parkland in North Castle feature trails for walking and hiking at all different levels and various lengths.
The Betsy Sluder Preserve offers a beautiful, easy walk in shady, leafy environs off of Old Route 22. Cat Rocks Park (Bedford), designated a nature conservancy by North Castle, is a similar spot; note parking can be difficult on the narrow roads. North Castle Superintendent of Recreation & Parks, Matt Trainor, recommends the Johnson Tract, a wooded area off of North Greenwich Road, as “a wonderful quiet hiking area.”
In the heart of downtown Armonk, meander through the paths of bucolic Wampus Brook Park for a lovely, leisurely walk. Looking for more of a challenge? Resident Jane Ellen Gertz comments, “Since the 16 years I have lived in the Whippoorwill Hills neighborhood, close to town, I have run or jogged with and without a baby jogger or walked, depending on my level of fitness, a 3-5 mile loop that takes me through town and back home again. There are various turns to make each day’s exercise a little different, including Old Mount Kisco Road, Lombardi Park, Rainbow Bridge over Interstate 684, H.C. Crittenden fields, Wampus School fields and connecting paths to Lombardi Park and Wampus Brook Park.” Trainor agrees, saying that those fields and parks “sort of interconnect, which in itself would make for a great circuit. Just a thought: If you are taking a dog–please remember to clean up!”
Two superb spaces in which to walk or hike are the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Preserve and the Herbert L. Nichols Preserve, both owned by the Nature Conservancy. The 247-acre Meyer Preserve, primarily donated by the former owners of The Washington Post who once lived at the nearby Seven Springs estate now owned by Donald Trump, encompasses vernal pools, rare flora and fauna and over 6.5 miles of wooded trails and fields. Enter on Bretton Ridge Rd for the western parcel or on Oregon Road for the eastern parcel. Near the Greenwich border off of Riversville Road, the 87-acre Nichols Preserve offers walking trails and several ponds and streams.
For those who prefer walking on a track, there are two available, at Byram Hills High School (Tripp Lane) when school is not in session, and at North Castle Community Park (Business Park Drive) which Trainor says, “is desirable for runners and athletes with knee issues because of its cinder base…it’s better on the joints and muscles.” The high school also has a network of paths used in season by the cross country team, and the park has a long asphalt path that runs the length of the playing fields, providing a nice walk and community atmosphere for spectators and residents.
The Bronx River Greenway, a series of disconnected paths that run parallel to the Bronx River Parkway beginning in Yonkers and ending at the Kensico Dam “to me,” says Trainor, ”unofficially connects North White Plains to the Kensico Dam Complex,” where he often takes his family. “It’s a great all-around facility and you can’t beat the view from the top of the dam.” The wide pathway at the top of this Westchester County symbol opened in May 2012. He suggests taking that trail along with the Greenway and heading south on Route 22 towards North White Plains. “The great thing here is that you can get super creative with the routes and length of walks you take, even in the more ‘urban’ settings,” enthuses Trainor.
Another popular destination close by is Cranberry Lake Preserve, a Westchester County Park in North White Plains. Trails range from 1-2.4 miles in length and include cliffs and a history trail past remnants of an early 20th century stone mining operation.
Heading farther afield, the exceptional Rockefeller State Park Preserve offers over 30 miles of specially-designed wide interconnected carriage roads past rolling hills and picturesque scenery for easy to moderate walks. Trail maps are available online and at the Preserve office, entrance on Phelps Way in Pleasantville.
A recent thread on Facebook’s Armonk Moms page discussed additional prime spots frequented by locals, including Westmoreland and Butler Sanctuaries (Mount Kisco), the Mianus River Gorge Preserve (Bedford), Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, the county’s largest park (Pound Ridge), and Audobon Greenwich. The Zofnass Family Preserve, also in Pound Ridge, offers a family Westchester Wilderness Walk. The Westchester County Parks website (parks.westchestergov.com) and numerous books, such as Walkable Westchester, are excellent resources.
To join organized hikes in the county and surrounding areas, local groups available include Westchester Trails Association (www.westhike.org), New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (www.nynjtc.org), The Westchester Hiking Meetup Group (www.meetup.com/Westchester-Hiking-Group) and the Facebook group, Bedford Castle Baby Trails, which plans monthly family hikes.
Remember to wear proper footgear, use bug spray, bring water and check for ticks! Whether your preference is for a walk or a hike, living in Armonk provides abundant opportunities for a pleasant pastime or invigorating exercise while enjoying the natural beauty of our area.
Liz Susman Karp is a freelance writer and public relations practitioner. She, her husband and their two teenage boys live in Briarcliff Manor. They all look forward to trying some new walks and hikes.