While Juno, the dreadful Snowpocaplypse that was supposed to demolish New York City, didn't quite come to fruition, it's still pretty chilly outside, and there will certainly be colder days to come. But don't let this keep you inside. Considering only the heartiest head out when the temperatures plummet (and when snowstorms of the century start to threaten), you'll likely find most of the trails in the area all but abandoned for the next few weeks or so. Here are some timely tips on how to make the most of empty winter trails, whether running or simply hiking.
Tips for hiking/trail running in winter in NYC
- Wool socks are your best friends! They’ll keep your toes from freezing in most conditions.
- If it’s snowy or icy and you’re out a lot, consider a pair of trail runners made specially for snow. Some actually have toe spikes for those super technical, slippery trails, and these are a great investment.
- Get a serious case for your phone. Not only does ice on the trail mean a higher risk of slipping and dropping (and breaking) your phone, a case has other uses as well. Batteries tend to crap out in the cold, so having a tough case (like Otterbox) that shelters it a bit can keep the battery lasting longer. If you’re out on a long run, attaching a hand warmer to the back is a great idea, or make sure it’s tucked in close to you so it absorbs some body heat. Even running with an external charger in your run pack is a good idea when out on long runs so that you'll never end up stranded.
- Be aware. Not to sound alarmist, but the trails are much more deserted in the winter, so if you run solo, make sure you bring a phone, file a ‘flight plan’ with a friend or family member, and keep music down (or off) so you stay in touch with your surroundings.
- As per that last point, this may be the time to find a run buddy—not only is there safety in numbers, a friend can help motivate you when all you want to do is hide under the covers in the morning!
Top spots for winter runs near the city:
Central Park : Sure, it’s a little basic. But when the temperatures are in the teens, you might be a little less motivated to trek far to get in a few miles. And while you might prefer running some epic trails with friends, sometimes the weather is just too crappy to want to make the trip somewhere more out of the way. And Central Park has a really fun feel in the winter, especially when kids are playing in the snow and people are ice skating. It makes running in the cold feel a little more fun and a little less rugged. Running along the Hudson River Greenway is another great option, especially if you don’t love the idea of running solo in the forest when very few people are around.
Inwood Hills Park: For technical, winding trails right in the city, Inwood Hills Park is great in any season. But in the winter, it feels even more badass (just watch out for ice on some of the steps!) and in the snow, it’s just a huge challenge. For a hardman hike without leaving the city, take the subway uptown and hit this park—or make it a longer run by using the Hudson Greenway to get up to Riverside Park, run through there, then head to Inwood Hills. Long run without leaving town? Win.
Bear Mountain: If you want to go snowshoe or hike, then Bear Mountain is a great spot. Outside of the city and far enough out that you forget the city even exists, this is a fun one even when it’s frigid out. It’s intense, and can make for some seriously hard hiking when snow hits. Warning: Don’t expect things like bathrooms to be open in winter months, and don’t expect perfectly plowed roads.
Alley Pond Park: Crazy busy in the summer, this large park in Queens tends to lose some of its patrons as it gets chilly out, but it’s still a great place to get in a hard trail run, do hill repeats on the entrance road, or do wind sprints on the now-empty fields.
So, the next time "Snowpocalypse" rears its hyperbolized head, consider grabbing a friend (and some wool socks) and heading out into the wild white yonder.