The 7 Best Trails To Hike With Your Pet
A list of fur-friendly Westchester trails, ranked from easiest to most challenging because, hey, not every dog is built for hiking.
STILLKOST | FOTOLIA
Lace up your hiking shoes and grab the leashes! We're running down Westchester's best hiking trails for your adventurous pooches, felines, or exceedingly well-behaved goats! (Hey, no judgments here.)
Granite Knolls Easy Loop
Length: 3.5 miles
Characteristics: This two-hour circuit loop hike in Granite Knolls Park passes many interesting boulders and is the site of small-scale quarry operations. The trail boasts a large glacier erratic known as the Giant Boulder.
PHOTO BY JANE DANIELS
Bronx River Pathway
Location: Valhalla, Bronxville
Length: 9.8 miles
Characteristics: This park is one of the first linear parks in the country, and, completed in 1925, happens to be Westchester County’s oldest. The entire park is 13.2 miles and extends from Bronxville to the Kensico Dam in Valhalla. The trail runs parallel to the river for much of its length. It begins on the east side of Kensico Dam Plaza, near the steps. It passes The Rising, a memorial to honor Westchester County residents who were killed in 9/11, and travels through park-like meadows, woods, and a railroad underpass.
Blue Mountain Reservation Loop
Length: 5 miles
Characteristics: This dog-friendly five-mile loop in Blue Mountain Reservation, which totals 1583 acres, also allows for mountain biking and cross-country skiing during the winter. Open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk, the park offers picnicking, fishing, archery and shooting ranges, and a playground. It is also nationally known as a mountain biking center. If you’re not into mountain biking and just want to hike with your canine companion, the five-mile loop passes both Mt. Spitzenberg and Blue Mountain. The rolling, boulder-strewn terrain includes ponds, streams, dense forest and panoramic views of the Hudson River.
Loop Hike to Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Ruins, Indian Rock Shelter, Raven Rocks, Dancing Rock and Bear Rock at Ward Pound Ridge
Location: Cross River
Length: 5 miles
Characteristics: This circuit-loop hike in Westchester County’s largest park passes various historic features of interest, including the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp from the 1930s, an old stone water foundation, and Bear Rock Petroglyph, a Native American rock carving in the shape of a bear. If you’ve completed the five-mile loop and crave something a little more difficult but don’t want to travel far, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, which totals 41.9 miles in trails, includes moderate and moderate-to-strenuous trails (see below).
Hudson Highlands Gateway Park Loop
Length: 4.3 miles
Characteristics: This park was once home to a Revolutionary War lookout site. Now it’s reserved for hiking, birding, cross-country skiing, fishing and snowshoeing. The trail starts along the side of the hill until it enters a forested area and then proceeds steeply uphill. Once you reach the viewpoint at a stone fireplace, you can look out and enjoy the view. The road bridge over Annsville Creek and the Hudson River with the Indian Point nuclear power plant should be visible along the river. As you proceed, the trail descends and then climbs again, a few times, with more views along the way, including streams, cascades, and a vernal pool for which the trail is named.
Mountain Lakes Park
Location: North Salem
Length: 5.5 miles
Characteristics: This circuit loop set in the most northerly park in Westchester will take about four hours. The park, which features almost 13 miles of trails, woods roads, and four lakes, is the highest point in Westchester County. In the winter season, you can also enjoy cross-country skiing. The park has seven trails that pass through hardwood forests, rock outcrops, and meandering streams.
Rocks Trail and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Location: Cross River
Length: 7.5 miles
Characteristics: A step up from the moderate trails, and a few steps up from the easy-to-moderate Loop Hike at Ward Pound Ridge, this more strenuous circuit trail will take about five hours and encompasses the southern end of the reservation, passing several historic features and viewpoints. This trail passes Bear Rock, Spy Rock (which was used to observe the British Troops during the Revolutionary War), a few interesting stone walls, and a yellow-blazed horse trail just a short distance beyond. The trail then descends along a ledge with additional views, and continues down into a gully with impressive cliffs. This trail includes a few steep climbs and crosses a few streams. Towards the end of the trail, about a quarter mile from the high point, you will come to Raven Rocks, a spectacular south-facing overlook from a cliff. Use caution—there’s a sharp drop here. This viewpoint is the best on the hike and is worthy of the strenuous climb.