How We're Improving New York City's Trails

New York City Strategic Trails Plan

While New York City’s parks contain more than 300 miles of nature trails, less than half of those miles have been formalized. As New Yorkers increasingly turn to city parks to experience and enjoy the outdoors, the Natural Areas Conservancy is seeking to improve accessibility to local trails and overall trail conditions.

In June 2021, the NAC released the New York City Strategic Trails Plan, which aims to upgrade our city’s system of nature trails that spans all five boroughs. The plan would unify the existing network of trails within the 10,000 acres of natural areas in NYC Parks through trail markers, mapped and formalized paths, and routes designed to showcase unique ecological assets. The plan will also increase access to parks and recreation, and give New Yorkers a high quality experience in nature that many currently seek out in parks outside of the city.

Read the full report >

Learn more about how the NAC and NYC Parks prioritize trail networks >

The New York City Strategic Trails Plan quantifies the investment required to build and maintain a trails system by leveraging public, nonprofit, and corporate investments, as well as a corps of volunteers. The plan also provides the first trail management and design guidelines for New York City to preserve the existing trails, and also guide the creation of new trails.

The New York City Strategic Trails Plan will:

  • Create unified mapping, signage and design standards for all current and future nature trails
  • Decommission informal trails and restore habitats on redundant and substandard trails
  • Establish regular trail maintenance and programming in the spring, summer, and fall seasons
  • Prioritize connectivity with neighborhoods adjacent to parks with nature trails, with engaging environments at all trail heads
  • Build a new base of support from sponsors and philanthropies to ensure the trail system is fully funded, and every trail has a dedicated group of volunteers to assist in management

The Strategic Trails Plan was produced for the Natural Areas Conservancy in collaboration with Street Plans, Arterial, and Penn Trails.

How You Can Help Improve Trails

For more information on New York City's vast trail system, including maps and visitor guidance, and to sign up for upcoming volunteer events, visit the NYC Parks website:

Get Involved With the Super Steward Trail Maintainer Program

The NYC Parks Super Steward: Trail Maintainer program is an initiative of the Natural Areas Conservancy and NYC Parks that supports advanced volunteers to adopt and steward a nature trail.

Trail Maintainers receive training, tools, and resources that strengthen their efforts and enrich their experience. Trail Maintainers learn plant identification, invasive plant removal, corridor pruning, and trail maintenance skills — along with a variety of other trails and natural area management practices.

Trail Maintainers contribute to the stewardship and maintenance of our nature trails, as well as the overall health of our diverse natural areas citywide.

How to become a Super Steward: Trail Maintainer

  1. Attend Super Steward orientation
  2. Attend a Super Steward Trail Maintainer training
  3. Adopt a natural area trail in a New York City park near you
  4. Walk through your adopted trail with a member of the Citywide Trails Team
  5. Commit to the stewardship and maintenance of your adopted NYC natural area trail!

The Natural Areas Conservancy trails program and the Strategic Trails Plan were made possible through generous support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. REI has also provided funding for implementation of the trail program and will be a partner in implementation.