How to visit now
In a year and change, you’ll be able to explore the trail’s full, continuous length, and a quick jaunt by train, bus, or car will give you a head start on the eventual city-escaping hordes today. Head out to commune with nature, or just get a little distance from the from the rat race before it catches up to your newfound escape.
A quick interlude in the city’s backyard
Even without leaving the city, the EST is a fantastic way to spend a day or even a few hours. “You don’t have to go far to get right into environments that feel incredibly wild,” Beers says. Moving up the west side of Manhattan, it’s incredibly urban but there’s the Hudson River right there. Get up to Van Cortlandt Park [in the Bronx] and you can’t hear traffic. You’re surrounded by trees and it all feels very different.” In its effort to bridge communities and experiences, the EST will cut a 1 1/2-mile stretch right through Van Cortlandt Park, creating “an important way for people in the Bronx to connect to the trail in a much more direct and safe way than is currently available,” Beers says.
Hop on a bus or snag a window seat on the scenic left side of the Metro-North and watch the city melt away into the Lower Hudson Valley. There, you’ll find the same rural splendor that stirred an entire 19th-century art movement. Get off at Tarrytown and explore an abidingly charming village along with its equally precious neighbor, Sleepy Hollow. Take in the regionally and seasonally appropriate, spooktacular Horseman’s Hollow attraction, then link up with the EST at the North County Trailway. The trail crosses the idyllic Croton Reservoir via an old railroad trestle affectionately known as Old Put. Hedged by thickly wooded hillsides, the view from above the Reservoir’s shimmering stretch is breathtaking.
Pick a route, gather snacks, plenty of water, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, bug spray, a bag to stow trash, a paper map, a compass, and a flashlight and you’re ready to hit the trails for days. While there are some campsites and state parks along the EST, the trail passes through several towns, many of which offer cozy accommodations, so maybe leave your tent at home. Your pace should determine where you’re bedding down. “Even for a casual bicyclist, 25 miles a day is very doable,” Beers says. “For a casual walker, five miles a day makes sense. You’d want to work out where you’re staying for the night.” Parks & Trails New York is a great resource for planning and information.