Are you looking to step outside without making a (carbon) footprint? Or perhaps you want to take a day trip while your car is in the shop? Regardless of your motivation, these seven excursions offer an escape from the city without the need to fill your tank. Just hop on the nearest bus or train and enjoy.
Presumpscot River Preserve
The 48-acre Presumpscot River Preserve can be reached by taking the METRO Route 3 (North Deering) bus to Summit Street. To make the most of the trail, head down Summit Street, past Curtis Road, to the Oak Nuts Park trailhead. This will lead you to the Preserve Trail, and then to the River Trail junction. Take the River Trail downstream to Presumpscot Falls, a 3-mile hike round-trip. The upstream route, 4 miles round-trip, is steep in some sections and leads you over wetlands in others, descending into a ravine along the water.
Distance: 3 or 4 miles round-trip
Info: Portland Trails, 207-775-2411, www.trails.org; Discover Maine (AMC Books)
Middlesex Fells Reservation
To reach the Middlesex Fells, a 2,575-acre reservation spanning Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, and Winchester, take the MBTA’s Orange Line to Oak Grove, then follow Washington Street north to Goodyear Avenue. The blueblazed Cross Fells Trail runs east to west and intersects with all of the Fells’ major trails. The varied terrain will take you up along a rocky ridge and down through swampland.
Distance: 8.6 miles round-trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Boston, 2nd Ed. (AMC Books); Friends of the Fells, www.fells.org
West Rock Ridge State Park
New Haven, Conn.
The 1,600-acre West Rock Ridge State Park can be reached via New Haven’s B1 bus. Get off at the corner of Blake and Valley streets. Proceed through the parking lot at 495 Blake Street and cross the pedestrian bridge to the Westville Connector. Go right on the blue-blazed Regicides Trail and head south to the South Overlook Trail, where you can enjoy the view of Long Island Sound. About 100 feet after you’ve descended from the overlook, turn right on the unmarked trail to return to the trailhead.
Distance: 2.8 miles
Info: Connecticut Walk Book West (Connecticut Forest and Park Association); www.Ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/stateparks/maps/westrock.pdf
Branch Brook Park
You need not leave the city for a pleasant walk through Newark’s Branch Brook Park: simply catch the Newark City Subway to Branch Brook Park Station. Visit in late April to catch the park’s 2,700 cherry trees in full bloom. Originally designed at the turn of the 20th century, Branch Brook was renovated in the 1980s. Head north from the visitors center then follow the Second River to the east.
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
Info: Branch Brook Park Alliance, 973-268- 2300, www.branchbrookpark.org; Nature Walks in New Jersey, 2nd Ed. (AMC Books)
Breakneck Ridge Trail
Cold Spring, N.Y.
The challenging Breakneck Ridge Trail features a series of steep ascents and descents as well as some rock scrambling, and rewards you with sweeping views of the Hudson River. Follow the whiteblazed Breakneck Ridge Trail to the Breakneck Bypass, where you’ll take a left. Continue to the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, where another left will send you back toward the trailhead. Breakneck Ridge is approximately 60 miles north of Manhattan and can be reached via Metro-North’s Hudson Valley line. Get out at Breakneck Ridge Station, which is a quarter-mile north of the trail. The trailhead is located off of Route 9D.
Distance: 3.1 mile
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley (AMC Books); 201-768-1360, www.nynjtc.org; Trail Map #102: East Hudson Trails (NY-NJ Trail Conference)
Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain, N.Y.
Enjoy a section of the Appalachian Trail, starting on easy trails and carriage roads at the historic Bear Mountain Inn and wandering through the Bear Mountain Zoo before leaving civilization behind. Turn back when you reach Anthony’s Nose Trail (4 miles round-trip) or keep going to the Hemlock Springs Campsite (6 miles round-trip). A bus departs daily from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan and reaches Bear Mountain in an hour. If you finish your hike early, enjoy a drink and meal at the inn before boarding the bus home.
Distance: 4 or 6 miles round-trip
Info: www.PalisadesParksConservancy.org/ Parks/5/; Trail Map #119: Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails (NY-NJ Trail Conference).
Rock Creek Park
Extending 12 miles from the Potomac River to the Maryland border, Rock Creek Park can be accessed in numerous spots. The Western Ridge Trail offers one of the park’s best escapes from city traffic and intersects with the Valley, Melvin Hazen, and Soapstone trails. For an 8.6-mile outand- back hike, get off the Metro at Cleveland Park and take Connecticut Avenue north to Melvin Hazen Park. Follow the Melvin Hazen Trail east to Western Ridge, which will take you to the northern tip of the park and back again.
Distance: 8.6 miles round-trip
Info: National Park Service, 202-895-6000, www.nps.gov/rocr; washdc.globalweb.org/ trail6.html
The Middlesex Fells and West Rock Ridge State Park descriptions have been edited from their original form (December 2010).