Sunday, June 5, 2016

GWB and New Jersey Palisades Hike

The last Sunday in May, I went on a hike I'd planned out myself (as opposed to joining a group with a hike leader). The basic route was this: start on the Manhattan side of the George Washington Bridge (GWB), walk across the bridge, do a loop involving four trails in the New Jersey Palisades Park, and then walk back across the GWB.

The NJ Palisades Park website was really helpful with its maps and trail descriptions. And I got inspiration from this blog post too.

The pedestrian entrance to the GWB is near a playground in a low-traffic residential neighborhood west of the GWB bus station in Upper Manhattan.


The view from the bridge is amazing: Manhattan skyline and the breadth of the Hudson River.


The main downside to walking across the GWB is sharing the narrow pedestrian path with bikes. On the way to the NJ Palisades, around noon, there was also a nostril-scorching amount of heat and pollution from the cars and from how hot the day was. Crossing the bridge later in the afternoon was better. Strong cool wind made the air feel cleaner.

Fort Lee Historic Park, which is at the southern tip of the NJ Palisades Park, is a great place to stop for lunch. There's a scenic overlook with benches, picnic tables, and a view of the bridge.


The hike started with the Long Path, a trail marked by aqua-colored splotches. It leaves Fort Lee Historic Park, and goes north down a road (Hudson Terrace) with an Econo Lodge, past the pedestrian entrance to the GWB, then up some stairs and a narrow metal pedestrian bridge into the woods hundreds of feet over the river.



Other than birds and some beautiful large butterflies, the only wildlife that stood out were chipmunks. Most of them darted off when people approached. This one remained on guard, but didn't try to disappear.


Copperhead snakes are reportedly plentiful in the Palisades, but my friends and I didn't see any. The park authorities also issued an advisory about poison ivy and ticks. Ticks were my main concern, especially because the trails can get narrow and overgrown, so that you can't really avoid brushing against tall grass and leaves. I wore long pants and socks, sleeves to my elbow, and a baseball cap, and applied some insect repellant (Deep Woods Off). Also did a check when I got home.


The Long Path runs parallel to the Palisades Interstate Parkway. At one point you can easily step off the path and into a gas station convenience store. Or, farther along, discover a motorcycle parked by the highway, two helmets with it, and no other sign of the driver and passenger.


We left the Long Path at Dyckman Hill Road, and took the Dyckman Hill Trail (marked by yellow splotches) down to the river. Most of the trail is made up of uneven stone steps. Its highlight is a waterfall tumbling over chunky rocks.


The trail stops at the Englewood Picnic Area and Boat Basin.


There were many people picnicking, and a restaurant selling light meals and snacks played swing music. The best feeling came from the breezes off the Hudson. After being up in the hot, still woods on the cliffs, the river breeze felt so good.

After hanging around for a bit, we headed south towards the GWB again, taking the Shore Trail (marked by white splotches).


This was my favorite trail - it had lots of shade and was cooled by the river.


One of the stops along the trail is the Ross Dock Picnic Area, which was packed with people. It has a great view of the GWB, and the Little Red Lighthouse next to it.


A little ways past the picnic area, we took the fourth trail of the hike: the Carpenter's Trail (marked by blue splotches). This one climbs over 300 feet up the cliff and back to the Long Path. (We had the option of taking the Shore Trail to Fort Lee Historic Park, but it would have been a more roundabout way of getting back to the GWB entrance.)

Anyway, the Carpenter's Trail has many steps.


Many steep, uneven stone steps.


And some fantastic views of the river.


And a couple of cool tunnels.


And steps.


Once it reaches the top of the cliff, it rejoins the Long Path, which we retraced back to the GWB pedestrian entrance.

The woods in mid-afternoon sometimes had this silvery sheen that comes as the day grows longer and the light hits the leaves a different way. I love it.


But then it was out of the woods and back to the bridge.


I really like how this hike went.