New York City: Northwest Forest Loop

Dip into a towering woodland full of vines, brush, and solitude on this 2-mile loop through Van Cortlandt Park's Northwest Forest.
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Dip into a towering woodland full of vines, brush, and solitude on this 2-mile loop through Van Cortlandt Park's Northwest Forest.

Though New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park offers many opportunities to trade skyscrapers for oaks and gridlock traffic for casual strolls, perhaps none other is as silent as the 2-mile loop through the park’s Northwest Forest.

From Rockwood Drive, take the wide, paved path past the red barn full of stables. The Cass Gallagher Trail appears to the left next to a massive, black cherry tree. Follow the rocky doubletrack and disappear into the woods. The route traipses along low-lying swamps before gently climbing to a hollow full of vines and immense trees.

As the trail loops back to the south, it skirts the upper edge of the hollow. Occasional breaks in the trees reveal a tree-filled ravine to the right. Climb down the rock steps and merge onto the Cross Country, part of park-wide pathway where thousands of high-school-aged New York runners compete every year.

From here, the route follows the John Muir Trail through the tall trees of Howell Grove and before passing the Cass Gallagher Trailhead. Once at the trailhead, retrace steps back to the start at Rockwood Drive.

-mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Mass Transit: Take the number 1/9 train to 242nd Street/Van Cortlandt Park Station and walk north on Broadway to The Frank Kelly Field Road. Bus riders can take the Bx9 or the express BxM3 to the park's west side.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 3.6



Location: 40.902523, -73.895258

From the parking lot, walk east toward Rockwood Drive.


Location: 40.90254, -73.894281

Take Rockwood Drive past the stables to Cass Gallagher Nature Trail.


Location: 40.901489, -73.893068

Turn L @ Cass Gallagher Nature Trailhead.


Location: 40.901576, -73.892675

Go straight @ four-way.


Location: 40.902678, -73.891617

Go straight @ three-way, passing a grove with towering boulders on the right.


Location: 40.9042388, -73.891754

Bear L @ Y-junction.


Location: 40.905152, -73.8915618

Continue straight @ four-way.


Location: 40.906079, -73.891749

Bear R @ Y-junction.


Location: 40.90822, -73.890655

Turn R @ four-way.


Location: 40.9082378, -73.889499

After a small hill, bear R @ Y-junction.


Location: 40.906643, -73.889627

Go straight @ four-way.


Location: 40.9047818, -73.890741

Bear L @ Y-junction, taking the skinny singletrack.


Location: 40.9025078, -73.890552

Bear L @ T-junction.


Location: 40.901501, -73.890189

Bear R @ Y-junction.


Location: 40.90081, -73.890683

After descending the stairs, turn L @ T-junction.


Location: 40.900469, -73.890933

Cross connector path.


Location: 40.900365, -73.891014

Bear R @ T-junction. This section of trail merges with the Cross Country Course. Road noise is prominent here.


Location: 40.8999778, -73.891827

Turn R @ T-junction above Henry Hudson Parkway.


Location: 40.900967, -73.892247

Go straight @ circle in Howell Grove and continue walking back to the trailhead.

Rockwood Drive

Location: 40.9024851, -73.8942897

Cass Gallagher Nature Trail

Location: 40.901439, -73.8929594

Taking an afternoon stroll

Location: 40.9020877, -73.8921601

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