A little more than a mile of the Staten Island Greenbelt's Blue Trail winds from one corner of Deere Park to the other. Some maps indicate that the Blue Trail actually starts here, while others show that it continues for 2.5 miles north of the Deere Park trailhead at the end of Staten Island Boulevard. Either way, this is a great place to bring your dog for a walk in the woods. If you have a car, you can park on the street at the trailhead. There is no dedicated parking or signage and no bathrooms or facilities. You will need to bring your own waste bags and water. The closest bus stop is about a mile away.
The lack of fanfare around the trailhead belies the beauty that lies ahead. With a total length of 12.3 miles, the Blue Trail traverses a significant portion of Staten Island's 2800-acre Greenbelt and has been dubbed by one writer as "New York City's own miniature version of the Appalachian Trail." The section in Deere Park crosses a variety of landscapes, including some open meadows and fields, but is mostly forested with oak, under which a rich understory thrives. Blooming pepperbush and azaleas and fruiting blueberry bushes brighten the forest in warmer months. Also look out for birch, sweetgum, and sassafrass trees as you take simple wooden footbridges over shallow streams.
There are a view urban scenes along the Blue Trail through Deere Park, including the site of the abandoned Richmond Parkway project and distant views of the Manhattan skyline. This section of the trail ends at the crest of Todt Hill. At 401 feet, it's the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to Cape Cod. Revolutionary War soldiers used it as a lookout point to watch for approaching British ships, but animals scout from here now. Owls and bats hunt the surrounding woods at night and deer rub against the trees, marking their favorite browsing spots with their scent.
Bring your dog to this hidden gem to experience some of NYC's surprising natural wonders.