New York City, NY: John Kieran Nature Trail Loop

Connect quiet forests, wetlands, and an 18th century landmark on this 2.1-mile loop in Van Cortlandt Park.
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Connect quiet forests, wetlands, and an 18th century landmark on this 2.1-mile loop in Van Cortlandt Park.

It's easy to escape the hustle of the city on this scenic, 2.1-miler in Van Cortlandt Park. The picturesque loop skirts the park's namesake lake and links wetlands, woods, meadows, and the Van Cortlandt House Museum, a national landmark built in 1748. From the clubhouse next to the Van Cortlandt Lake, the route starts off with a trip to Tibbetts Wetlands. Head-high grasses and reeds provide a stark contrast with the surrounding woodland areas.
Next, walk northeast toward the forest, turning under a shaded, green canopy to explore the 13 stone pillars left by the New York Central Railroad. (The pillars were used to determine which type of stone would be the most durable for the Grand Central Terminal.) After passing the pillars, walk back to the four-way junction at the bridge (mile 0.6) and follow the dirt pathway that traces the lake; look for blue jays and red-winged blackbirds.
At the northern tip of the lake (mile 0.9), the route continues north for 500 feet before curving south toward the Parade Ground and ball fields. Half a mile later, bear right at the Y-junction to visit the Nature Center and Van Cortlandt House Museum, the Bronx's oldest building. Backtrack to the Y-junction and turn right to return to the parking lot.
-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 3.4

Waypoints

JOH001

Location: 40.887964, -73.894223

From the free parking lot, walk along the west side of the road toward the clubhouse.

JOH002

Location: 40.889075, -73.892983

From the clubhouse and golf course parking lot, turn left onto the wood chip path along the west side of Van Cortlandt Lake.

JOH003

Location: 40.889429, -73.893238

Go straight at 4-way junction, following the sign to Tibbetts Wetland.

JOH004

Location: 40.889845, -73.893789

Turn left at the T-junction. An arrow on the left side of the multi-use path points to Tibbett's Wetland.

JOH005

Location: 40.889382, -73.894199

After checking out the wetlands, turn around, return to JOH004, and continue straight at the junction.

JOH006

Location: 40.891101, -73.891634

Turn right onto the thin pathway that enters the woods. Pass 13 large stone pillars; New York Central Railroad placed them here to figure out which type would be the most durable for Grand Central Terminal. After exploring the stones, turn right and head back to the 4-way junction by the lake.

JOH007

Location: 40.889445, -73.893201

Make a hard left at this junction and walk northeast along Van Cortlandt Lake.

JOH008

Location: 40.890268, -73.891854

Bear right onto the spur trail through the fence.

JOH009

Location: 40.890276, -73.890932

After tracing the shore through an intimate wooded area, bear right at the Y-junction and walk toward the water.

JOH010

Location: 40.890473, -73.890617

Bear right @ Y-junction.

JOH011

Location: 40.891919, -73.889957

Walk through the fence. Bear right at the T-junction and cross over the bridge.

JOH012

Location: 40.893978, -73.888823

Turn left at Y-junction. Continuing straight leads to the Putnam Trail.

JOH013

Location: 40.894461, -73.890653

Bear left at Y-junction with bridge.

JOH014

Location: 40.893954, -73.891125

Go straight at Y-junction.

JOH015

Location: 40.893775, -73.89142

Go left at T-junction near Parade Ground and ball fields. Walk around the grounds with the woods to the left.

JOH016

Location: 40.891306, -73.891538

Bear right at Y-junction, heading toward the Nature Center and Van Cortlandt House Museum.

JOH017

Location: 40.891188, -73.893871

Van Cortlandt Nature Center: There are bathrooms and park maps here. When finished, continue west to the Van Cortlandt House Museum.

JOH018

Location: 40.891227, -73.895033

Turn left into the grounds of the Van Cortlandt House Museum. When finished, retrace steps back to JOH016 and turn right.

JOH019

Location: 40.889871, -73.893764

Turn left at the 3-way junction and return to the parking lot.

Tibbetts Wetlands

Location: 40.889384, -73.894176

Van Cortlandt Lake

Location: 40.889445, -73.893179

Van Cortlandt Mansion

Location: 40.891239, -73.894998

Quagmire

Location: 40.889546, -73.893372