Van Cortlandt Park Hiking Trails
Van Cortlandt Park in the Northwest Bronx is New York City’s third largest park. Its 1,146 acres feature beloved trails that allow visitors to explore the park’s ridges, valleys, forests, wetlands, and scenic lake. NYC Parks has designated 640 acres in Van Cortlandt Park as Forever Wild, ensuring the preservation of the delicate ecosystems within.
Cass Gallagher Nature Trail: A short walk from the intersection of Broadway and Mosholu Avenue, near the horse stables, this 1.4 mile moderate trail was named in 1984 in honor of longtime Bronx resident and naturalist Cass Gallagher who was committed to the park’s protection and enhancement. The Cass Gallagher Trail meanders up hills and down valleys in the Northwest Woods.
John Kieran Trail: Named in 1988 for the famed naturalist and newspaperman, this 0.8 mile trail journeys through the park's lake area and freshwater wetlands. It passes Tibbetts Brook via a wooden bridge perfect for birding, and forms a loop with the Parade Ground.
John Muir Trail: Travel through three ecologically distinct forests on this approximately 2 mile route. This is the only trail in Van Cortlandt Park to traverse the park from east to west. The trail will lead you through park's Northeast Forest, home to red oak, sweetgum, and tulip trees, as well as a frog-filled marsh; the Croton Woods and its sugar maple and hickory trees, as well as the Old Croton Aqueduct; and the hilly Northwest Forest, home to stately tulip, oak, and hickory trees.
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail: Enter the trail at either Dickinson Avenue & Van Cortlandt Park South or Mosholu Parkway & West Gun Hill Road. This easy to moderate 2.3 mile segment is part of the 41-mile-long aqueduct that brought water from the Croton Dam to New York City in the 1800s.
Jerome Wetland Walk: A short and easy walk with interpretive signage; the Jerome Wetland Walk takes visitors through a remnant freshwater wetland on the park’s east side. The wetland contains the largest population in NYC of the NYS rare pumpkin ash, as well as populations of skunk cabbage, sweet pepper bush, high bush blueberry, and other native wetland species.
Cross Country Course: The historic Cross Country Running Course opened in 1913 is a 4 mile route featuring several different loops varying in size from 0.65 miles to 1.75 miles which traverses the historic Northwest Forest and Vault Hill natural areas on the west side of Van Cortlandt Park. The course connects to the 1.5 mile flat running track around the Parade Ground as well as several hiking trails and walking paths in the Northwest Forest.
Putnam Trail: The Putnam Greenway is a 1.4-mile paved pathway, connecting the Bronx to the South County Trailway in Yonkers. It is located on the former New York Central Railroad Putnam Division railroad line and travels through the Croton Woods, under the Mosholu overpass, and then alongside Van Cortlandt Lake to the Parade Grounds. The greenway passes the Grand Central stones – 13 large stones set up to test stone types for the Grand Central station. The greenway also connects to several smaller hiking trails, including the John Kiernan trail.
Cass Gallagher Trail
John Kieran Trail
John Muir Trail
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
Alternate Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
Jerome Wetland Walk
Cross Country Course
Other Official Trail
Point of Interest
Points of Interest
Croton Weir Building
Located at the mid park where the John Muir trail crosses the Old Croton Aqueduct trail this stone building houses a weir, once used to maintain the flow of water through the aqueduct. The Old Croton Aqueduct completed in 1842 was the first of its kind every built in the U.S., and was New York City’s first successful public water supply system.
Vault Hill Overlook
A popular stopping point for hikers and runners the large rock outcropping provides a natural vista which offers sweeping views of Manhattan, the George Washington Bridge, the Van Cortlandt Park Parade Ground and other Bronx landmarks. A short walk away is the burial vault from which this area of the park gets its name.
The Putnam trail crosses over Van Cortlandt Lake. The Lake, a result of Tibbetts Brook being dammed in 1699 to create a grist mill and saw mill, was also used in the past for harvesting ice and a popular ice skating location. Now the lake is a fishing haven and provides habitat for many waterfowl, turtles, frogs and fish.
Vernal Pond/Wetland Northeast Forest
Although the vernal pool is visible only during the winter and spring, the buttressed roots of the sweetgum and red maple trees stand year round showing the sign of standing water. If visiting during the spring, one may hear the mating call of the spring peeper, a small chorus frog that resides in the wetlands.
Scenic Rock Outcropping Northwest Forest
Along the Cass Gallagher Nature Trail, this rocky outcropping of mainly Fordham Gneiss overlooks the lowland portion of the Northwest forest and its giant Red oak and Tulip poplar trees. Further along the Cass Gallagher trail, glacial erractics are propped up along strips of bedrock.
Along the Jerome wetland trail, a vernal pool can be seen during wet months that contains a population of Pumpkin ash, a rare tree in New York. Following the trail leads to interpretive signage and drops off in the Allen Shandler Recreation Area, a location for picnicking.
Grand Central Stones
In 1905, the New York Central Railroad placed fifteen stone samples that had potential to be used as the exterior wall of Grand Central Terminal along the railroads right of way of the Putnam Branch to assess the effects of weathering. Today, thirteen of the Grand Central Stones still stand. If standing on the Putnam trail, the third stone from the right, Stony Creek granite, was the sample selected for the Terminal.