Finding solitude – one hour from NYC

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation | Cross River, New York

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is truly one of the region’s most impressive parks. Nestled among the rolling hills of eastern Westchester, just a few miles from the border with Connecticut, this park offers pristine and expansive woodlands just a quick one-hour drive from Manhattan. And with its picturesque meadows, well-maintained trails, interpretive center and museum, not to mention its fine roads and facilities, you’d be forgiven thinking Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is a state or, maybe, national park. In actuality, the reservation is a Westchester county park–the result of a century of good planning, community investment and untold volunteer hours.

Hike Highlights for Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

At a sizable 4300+ acres, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation encompasses a number of distinct ecosystems. From its stands of established hardwoods and pine plantings to its lively riparian areas and fresh water bogs, the reservation is a collection of unique ecological areas. In terms of recreation, the reservation has much to offer. Criss-crossing the terrain, 35 miles of trail bring hikers, runners, walkers, birders and XC skiers to many of the area’s highlights. While some of the trails are little more than deer paths, the park’s main trail system is easy to navigate and conspicuously posted with trail markers and junction numbers. While all the trails are quite good, the Rock Trail is highly recommended: a 4.6 mile loop that brings you to the reservation’s best monoliths–like the aptly named Spy Rock and the pre-contact Bear Rock Petroglyph.

If there were one word to describe Ward Pound Ridge Reservation it would be: quiet. Set some miles from a major road, you’re more likely to hear wind through the trees than the rumble of cars. The solitude is also due, in part, to the park’s entry fee. About a half mile from the main road, along the only entrance to the park, you’ll stop at a gatehouse where a $10 entrance fee is collected. Upon payment, you’ll receive a very nice topographic map with lots of park information on the reverse.

Unique among county parks, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation offers some fantastic camping options. Dotted along the Pell Hill and Michigan Roads, visitors will spot a number of traditional, CCC-era, lean-tos set a fair distance from one another. These roofed, three-walled, structures are simple, but perfect when the weather turns. Tenting is also permitted at a couple of locations in the park. Prices are $50 a night for a lean-to, and $40 a night for tenting. And if you’re a Westchester county resident with a Park Pass, the cost goes down to $35 and $25, respectively.

Getting to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

One drawback on planning a trip to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is that you’ll have trouble getting there by mass transit. While not impossible, traveling by transit will require planning. For those looking for a challenge, consider taking the Metro-North to Katonah, NY. From there use the Ridgefield-Katonah shuttle bus, disembarking at Cross River. This stop will get you within .5 mile of the park entrance. Again, this is a challenging route, with limited bus service, so plan accordingly.

If you have access to a car, driving to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is the way to go. While there are a number of ways to do it, one of the most enjoyable is to take the Bronx River Parkway, to the Sprain Brook Parkway, to the Taconic State Parkway and then to the Saw Mill River Parkway. On average, it’s about an hour from Manhattan.