With the pandemic hopefully in the rear-view mirror, it’s an ideal time to catch up on the outdoor activity many of us missed during the lockdown.
Here in Westchester County, there’s no shortage of parks and trails where we can reap the rewards we get from fresh air and exercise. We compiled the following list of beautiful Westchester grounds for all ages and abilities.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve and Rockwood Preserve > parks.ny.gov/PARKS/59
With more than 1,700 acres of rolling countryside donated by the Rockefeller Family, Rockefeller State Park Preserve is the perfect place to take in the majestic views of the Hudson River at Rockwood Hall or the flora and fauna in the Fern and Tree Peony Gardens.
“The Preserve trails are actually carriage roads,” explains Preserve Manager Peter Iskenderian. “They’re 16-feet wide and mainly flat, so they’re perfect for social distancing and people with disabilities.”
Beyond wide trails, picturesque landscapes and historical features, you’ll catch a glimpse of the adorable “grazing management plan,” says Iskenderian. Through a partnership with Stone Barns Center, Rockefeller Preserve uses farm animals instead of landscaping equipment to maintain the fields.
Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway > aqueduct.org
Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, a not-for-profit, leads guided walks and tours of Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park. The marathon-length trail stretches from Croton to the Bronx, and is known familiarly as the OCA. “We want to provide encouragement and guidance on where to go, but more importantly, to see people connect and make new friendships,” says OCA Education Specialist Laura Compagni.
Another benefit of the serpentine suburban trail is accessibility for residents. “The OCA is a very easy-to-use local park,” says Steven Oakes, OCA site manager. “Folks can enter at any one of numerous access points and thereby avoid parking lots, where social distancing can sometimes be difficult.”
While multiple access points throughout the trail make for an easy on-off, there are still many people who negotiate the full, rugged 26.2 miles (41 miles if continued to Manhattan) and earn their OCA recognition badge every year.
Greenburg Nature Center > greenburgnaturecenter.org
- Back to Nature Series — Reservation Required
Focusing on education in the natural world through their “Back to Nature” series and goat walks through the woods, the 33-acre Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) in Scarsdale is another outlet for little feet to explore the outdoor world. “Our continued mission at GNC is the focus of education in the natural world,” advises newly-named Executive Director Alix Dunn.
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site > johnjayhomestead.org
- Farm Market Every Saturday, May-October
- Family Sensory Guided History Walks and Red Barn Visits — Reservation Required
You can milk a mechanical cow in John Jay’s Red Barn.
Westchester offers no shortage of early educational recreational activities. Complete with sensory walks, interactive exhibits in their Red Barn, and even a milkable mechanical cow named Buttercup, the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, a 62-acre park in Bedford, offers explorational outdoor learning for young children. “It’s a great park to picnic and spend the day connecting with the history of one of our Founding Fathers,” suggests Site Director Heather Iannucci.