New York City: West Pond Trail

Discover New York City's best birding on this 2-mile loop along bay shores and wetlands at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
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Discover New York City's best birding on this 2-mile loop along bay shores and wetlands at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

An oasis hidden in vast metropolis, the expansive salt marshes and sandy beaches at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge seem a world away from city life. Terrapin lay eggs along southwestern end of West Pond. Coastal bushes bud with fluorescent pink wildflowers. Thousand of migratory birds flock to nest at the park's shorelines and uplands. Birders and naturalists are also frequent visitors to the refuge, recording more than 300 species in the past thirty years.

The gentle, two-mile-long West Pond Trail circles a 45-acre brackish pool dotted with bird boxes and observation benches. The gravel path cuts through sunlit shrubbery with occasional bay views to the left. After about 1,000 feet, catch close-up views of lofty osprey nests. Tree swallows with strikingly blue and white coats fly rapidly from branch to branch, feasting on insects in mid-air.

If it's open, continue west onto the Terrapin Trail to see more shorebirds and turtles. Otherwise, turn north along West Pond. The Pumpkin Patch Channel winds through grassy wetlands to the left of the trail.

After heading south, pass through a shaded woodland area. Spur trails provide access to North and South Gardens, where observation blinds allow hikers to watch warblers and various migratory songbirds. Close the loop at the Visitor Center.
*Editor's Note: This map contains the route from the Broad Channel subway station to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Mass Transit: From Manhattan: Take the A subway to Broad Channel Station. Walk on Noel Road, then turn R onto Cross Bay Boulevard. The Refuge Visitor Center is three-quarters of a mile down the road on the lefthand side.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.8

Waypoints

JAM001

Location: 40.616814, -73.824824

Obtain a free use permit at the Visitor Center. Walk out the back door to access the trail system directly.

JAM002

Location: 40.616826, -73.825096

Bear R out of the Visitor Center then make the first L onto the gravel path.

JAM003

Location: 40.616556, -73.825519

Stay straight @ three-way.

JAM004

Location: 40.616451, -73.8263258

Pass bat box on right side of trail.

JAM005

Location: 40.616387, -73.826615

Reach first lookout on left.

JAM006

Location: 40.616294, -73.827674

Pass House Wren Box on right.

JAM007

Location: 40.616117, -73.8287408

Reach Osprey Platform on left. To the right is the Tree Swallow Box.

JAM008

Location: 40.6159898, -73.829606

Reach West Pond.

JAM009

Location: 40.615788, -73.830297

Bear L @ Y-junction, merging onto the Terrapin Trail. It is closed seasonally for nesting.

JAM010

Location: 40.6145628, -73.8343918

Bear L @ second Y-junction. The path is sand here.

JAM011

Location: 40.6145022, -73.8342243

Reach beach full of gulls geese and horseshoe crabs. When finished with scenery, retrace steps to last Y-junction and bear L.

JAM012

Location: 40.614658, -73.835275

Reach end of Terrapin Trail. Retrace steps to West Pond Loop and walk north.

JAM013

Location: 40.622949, -73.827894

Reach Owl Nest Box.

JAM014

Location: 40.623012, -73.827053

Bear R @ Visitor Center sign. On the way back to the building, pass a series of grassy singletracks which provide access to North and South Gardens.

JAM015

Location: 40.619041, -73.825829

Continue straight @ four-way.

JAM016

Location: 40.6175458, -73.824999

Keep straight Y-junction and continue to the Visitor Center to end hike.

West Pond Trail

Location: 40.6167948, -73.825298

Bat box

Location: 40.6164609, -73.8263655

Tree swallow

Location: 40.616298, -73.8275993

Another swallow

Location: 40.6161555, -73.8284576

Osprey nest

Location: 40.6160985, -73.8287312

West Pond

Location: 40.6160007, -73.8295037

Horseshoe crab

Location: 40.6144737, -73.8341814

Bay shore

Location: 40.6153614, -73.8327062

Coastal plants

Location: 40.614999, -73.8335377

Near terrapin nesting grounds

Location: 40.6146488, -73.8352168

Pumpkin Patch Channel and Black Bank Marsh

Location: 40.6201093, -73.8328242