by Katherine Gloede

Aside from Central Park, foliage and forest is probably not the first imagery that accompanies mention of America’s biggest concrete jungle. But according to the Trust for Public Land, New York City has more than 38,000 park acres making up almost 20% of the City’s total land area, more than any other major U.S. city. Of the Five Boroughs, the Bronx is the most covered in green space with parkland alone comprising nearly a quarter of land cover. “The Bronx is home to two of the city’s largest parks where you can visit and enjoy miles of hiking, history, and beautiful vistas,” says Professor Mary Leou of Environmental Conservation Education at New York University. Here are four unique experiences across the Bronx worthy of a day trip for either a first time visitor or native New Yorker.

  1. Bronx River on the trail in NYBG. Photo provided by NYBG.

    Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in NYC at 2,765 acres, making it more than three Central Parks. “The Kazimiroff Trail is well known among other beautiful historical buildings, beach, and forested areas and also takes you through Hunter Island,” says Leou. The trail is about two miles with a topographic transition from forest to views of Long Island Sound. In total, the Park has 13 miles of saltwater shoreline.

  2. Van Cortlandt Park is the third largest park in NYC at 1,146 and is host to a variety of habitats including the Sachkerah Woods and is popular for cross-country hiking. “[Van Cortlandt] is easy to get to by public transportation and you can also visit the Van Cortland House Museum in the park,” notes Leou.
  3. The Bronx is home to the New York Botanic Garden, often touted as one of the top destinations in the City. “The 50-acre native forest at the New York Botanical Garden makes you feel like you are not in New York City,” says Judith Hutton, Manager of Teacher Professional Development at NYBG. “The history of the organization is tied closely to the preservation and management of this tract of forested land. It is used by visitors for running and hiking and is also a site for active forest restoration and research.”
  4. Roberto Clemente State Park is most known for a wide variety of recreational activities, but the oldest State Park in NYC is a 25-acre park borders the Harlem River and has a waterfront esplanade ideal for a short, scenic walk. The Park is also a mark of the importance of parkland for improving waterfront resilience. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is the first park to get a complete storm resiliency redevelopment. It’s estimated that Roberto Clemente absorbed 3 feet of stormwater during Sandy, protecting nearby homes.

Some parks in the Bronx are also among the City’s oldest and feature historic landmarks, including Bronx Park (home to the Botanic Garden and Bronx Zoo), more than 600 acres of which of was acquired by the City in the 1880’s. City-wide, NYC Parks alone manages more than 1,700 parks and recreational cites. Most famous, of course, is Central Park in Manhattan with visitation estimated at over 25 million people per year. To find trails in ecosystems from wetlands to beaches and at notable destinations from East River Park to the High Line, leaving the City is far from necessary.

Teacher development through citizen science phenology walk. Photo by NYBG.