What better time than now to get out for a hike? You can see the last beautiful fall colors, catch some of the most stunning light for photography and enjoy nature as it transitions from fall to winter. Over the years, my family and I have walked most of the trails in Fairfield and Westchester counties, in all seasons of the year. Here’s my pick of top fall walks:
This is the best time of year to hike along Long Island Sound now that the summer crowds are gone. Public spots like Marshland’s Conservancy and Edith Read Sanctuary in Rye, Greenwich Point, Stamford’s Cove Island, Norwalk’s Calf Pasture, Sherwood Island in Westport and Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport all provide serene backdrops for those seeking a quiet moment with nature.
With binoculars or a spotting scope, you’ll see diversity of migratory wintering ducks that will take your breath away. They come from places like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to feed in the calmer waters of the Sound. Look for the stunningly beautiful long-tail ducks, common goldeneye, buffleheads, hooded and red-breasted mergansers, common and red-throated loons, horned grebes, greater scaup, and all three species of scoters. We often see rafts of these birds numbering in the hundreds.
Heading over to the Hudson River, now is the time wander Croton Point Park. Go to the very back of the parking lot and walk out past the campground area, and suddenly you will be alone with your thoughts, the river, and perhaps a bald eagle or two. Hike up on top of the grassland area for an almost full 360-degree view of the Hudson and all the surrounding counties of New York State. Standing atop this hill you will encounter many wintering species of sparrows and other songbirds, along with a suite of majestic raptors from eagles to northern harriers, along with several species of owl that winter in the area.
If you prefer forested hikes, two preserves are full of wonderful trails.
Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil's Den Preserve is the Nature Conservancy’s largest contiguous preserve in Connecticut, spanning the towns of Redding and Weston. Its core – about 24 square miles of virtually unfragmented forest – centers on the Saugatuck and Aspetuck reservoirs. The forest is remarkable for its continuity, maturity and ecological integrity, as well as the relative scarcity of harmful invasive plants and animals. Some areas have lain undisturbed since the turn of the 20th century. This wonderful preserve provides one of last habitats in Fairfield County for bobcat, mink, fox and a host of other forest species, as well as native brook trout.
The 4,315-acre Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is Westchester County’s largest park and provides incredible opportunities for hikers at all levels of expertise. The hilly terrain offers a mix of second-growth hardwood forest, including hemlock, laurel, along with sudden rock outcroppings, steep ravines, wetlands and open meadows. Take one of the trails that start from the Michigan Road parking and picnic area and you will forget you are in civilization. Ravens fly over head while mink, fox and bobcat tracks crisscross your path.
After your hike stop in at the reservation’s Trailside Museum or visit the outdoor exhibits to learn about the history of the park. Native Americans used the area to “pound” or enclose captured prey before it passed into the hands of more than 30 farmers. Now it’s a site for the study and preservation of the area’s finest forest wildlife.
No matter what, get outside and enjoy the final days of fall. You’ll be seeing our area in all its glory.