I recently moved into the Inwood neighborhood of Northern Manhattan and one thing that really excites me about this part of the city is the amount of nature and nature oriented events that go on. Inwood Hill Park is right down the block from my apartment, as is Isham Park, there’s a Farmer’s Market every Saturday on my road and a canoe club that has free sessions every Sunday in the summer. As an environmentalist there’s a lot to love about Inwood.
Monday I decided to explore Inwood Hill Park, I’d been through it a couple of times before, but only briefly and this time I wanted to take a good look around. After work I packed a quick day bag, downloaded the map from the park’s page and headed out. I decided to follow the blue path listed on their map [Inwood-Hill-Park-map_2014] which started out by the flag pole on the park’s northern peninsula took me all around the interior of the 196 acre park.
Within a short time the park goes from common fields and waterside areas to rugged, natural terrain. This forest is prehistoric, in fact it’s the only natural forest left in Manhattan and that presence can be immediately felt in the hugeness of the trees and rock formations left behind as glacial scars.
For my exploring I kept mostly on trail, just following along the bends and turns in order to gain a better sense of the park. However, along the way there’s a lot of clearly bushwacked side trails that are incredibly tempting to follow.
Besides the side trails, the park gets pretty rugged, which I found refreshing. The paths are paved most of the way through, but the upkeep is lacking which leads to the forest reclaiming the roadway and the trails taking on a more familiar feel for hikers.
The park is maintained by the New York Parks Department and by a group of volunteers Friends of Inwood Hill Park. In moving up here, I’m hoping to get involved with the group and be a part of their clean-ups and community activities. I’ve never really felt tied down enough to join a trail crew or anything of the sort, but if I’m setting down roots in Inwood I’d like to help conserve and protect this space.
The Hill part of Inwood Hill Park certainly isn’t misleading and the subtle rise in the trail had my legs burning by the end of the hike.The Park’s elevation offers some spectacular views of the Hudson river, especially since it’s located so far from the main metropolis of lower Manhattan, you can get a sense for the true wildness of the river.