Walking in New Rochelle

Walking in New Rochelle

Making the most of New Rochelle's gorgeously preserved nature is only recommended in the heart of each season. In between seasons, it's compulsory.

Yes, the bright summer colors do merge with the refreshing cool air of the fall all over the world, but you can't tick it off your to-see list until you've seen it happen in the ancestral surroundings of these vintage American landscapes.

Here's a little guide to help you:

Five Island Park

Five Island Park

The unmissable, the beautiful, the pride of the locals. The Five Island Parks is exactly what it sounds like: a 9-mile walk through a bunch of small islands (mainly Oakland, Big Harrison and Little Harrison) via a series of pedestrian bridges, pointing the way towards an equipped playground. It's a premise that's too simple to fail, so you can throw a sunbather's beach, a grassy area, a picnic area and the possibility of fishing on Big Harrison into the picture to make things more irresistible. There is one thing most New York travel guides won't own up to, though: a waste processing facility is somewhere nearby and things can get smelly depending on which way the wind blows.

Twin Lakes Park and Nature Study Woods

Twin Lakes Park

As aptly named as they are sizable, these two sites span for over 200 acres filled with foot trails (highly recommended for jogging fans). It's a great idea to follow them -- you don't want to miss any of woods, lakes, ponds, marshes or fields nor the local waterfowl typical of the cooler months.

Just bear in mind that you will inevitably pass by the stables near the Hutchinson River Parkway (past the reservoirs-turned-lakes which give Twin Lakes its name) used by horseback riders. So don't forget to look down every now and then. Keep in mind that horses have the right of way, and that letting the rider know you're coming and/or waiting until you know how he wants you to proceed is probably the best thing to do given the circumstances.

Davids' Island

Davids' Island

If the majestic, 78-acre natural beauty of this is somehow not reason enough to lure you to it, consider this: it is one of the only homes of the Kemp's ridley, the rarest sea turtle in the world. This is partly the reason why, during the summer of 2008, the local New Rochelle government dismantled the military base historically located on the island (dating back to the Civil War [1861-1865], the World Wars and the the Cold War -- until New Rochelle bought the island in 1967).

They thought it best to build a nature reserve and revamp the island entirely -- except for its the name, which for over a century now has been owed to life-long New Rochelle resident called Thaddeus Davids, previous owner of the site. If the planned nature reserve is completed by the time of your visit, you can enjoy the various rare birds, plants and animals Davids' is host to.

Ward Acres

62 acres of pure, pristine wooded charm is the newest addition to New Rochelle's park collection. Brimming with vintage Americana species of both animal and plants (look out for the increasingly rare White-Tailed Deer, a traditional stamp of the area), this location is best explored when wandering without a clear route.

You can follow the white trail which will lead you Southways across the Oak-Tulip Tree but that will only take you to the farm house and back. So take your time. Go back and forth between the four distinct forests around you. Look at the ever abundant Porcelain Cherry, a japanese type of vine found in every field area of the park.

Go near the fenced dog run and chat with a dog owner to discover the intricate series of give and takes they periodically have with the local government, who sees in their pets a threat to both casual walkers and the natural habitat in general. Imagine what the whole park looked like when it was bought by a baker family in 1925 and used as a horse breeding and training site.

Then go back home 10% healthier.

The Leatherstocking Trail

At 2 miles long, this almost anecdotic trail is like an living brochure of all that's great in New Rochelle. Which makes it a particularly apt farewell before you travel back to New York City -- it connects New Rochelle with the adjacent Mamaroneck in a vintage, singletrack East Coast walk -- rocks and roots and hardpack dirt, which makes it a biker's favorite -- that will leave you satisfied but not strained. Just what New Rochelle is about. If you feel you can't let go of the sights and have the time, you can view the Leatherstocking Trail as a prologue to a bigger adventure in one of Mamaroneck's biggest assets -- the 700-acre Saxon Woods. But that's another jurisdiction.