Urban Jungles: Beautiful Forests Throughout the New York Metropolitan Area
You already know that during the springtime, you can experience incredible forests outside of NYC, like the state parks throughout Litchfield County, Connecticut. What you may not realize is that this city itself has some of the most amazing forests in the Northeast, if you know where to look. Spend a spring afternoon taking a solo stroll, or maybe a group hike, through one of these literal urban jungles.
The city’s most famous urban forest evokes a “wild garden” in the center of the city and houses a stream, animals such as raccoons, and more than 230 bird species. Locusts, black cherry trees, yellowwoods, oaks, and sycamores are among the many native and exotic trees.
Queens’ Kissena Grove is home to weeping willows, Southern cypresses, and many other trees from its days as a horticultural nursery in the nineteenth century. It’s easy to take in the natural scenery by foot or on a bike ride, as the forest is bisected by a velodrome.
Thain Family Forest
Find oaks, sweetgums, maples, and other hardwoods in the largest original forest in New York — the Thain Family Forest even housed glaciers, and served as a Native American hunting site, many centuries ago. As it’s part of the New York Botanical Garden, it’s well maintained today, with a staff that manages the native plants and ensures that the trees stay strong and healthy.
Cloves Lake Park
Staten Island’s Cloves Lake Park features valuable flora that has made it one of the city’s most valuable ecological sites. Rocks, lakes, and ponds dot an expansive landscape that boasts the borough’s largest plant, a towering 300-year-old tulip tree.
As the name suggests, Queens’ Forest Park is a true nature sanctuary in the heart of the city, with hundreds of pines and oak trees on its 500 acres. If you’re interested in learning more about its geology or forestry, Urban Park Rangers lead tours of the grounds from time to time.
Cunningham Park Preserve
Queens’ Cunningham Park Preserve is divided into the quiet Southern Forest and a forest created from historic farmland. Find red trees, tulip trees, and native wildflowers, alongside beautiful flowers such as flowering dogwood, sarsaparilla, jewel weed, and bellwort.
Van Cortlandt Park Preserve
Previously occupied by massive glaciers, the grounds of Van Cortlandt Park Preserve have now become a rocky forest with trees such as hickories and sweetgum, sheltering bluebirds and red foxes. The flower collection is also a highlight, as the forest holds one of the city’s highest concentrations of rare plants.