Smack in the middle of Staten Island  is the Greenbelt, a 2,500-acre nature preserve made up of contiguous woodlands, wetlands, and open fields, along with a golf course and a few historic sites. Though surrounded by development, the Greenbelt is a favorite stop for migratory birds on the Atlantic flyway.
It also supports one of the most diverse floras in the northeast, thanks to a wide variety of soils deposited by the Wisconsin glacier about 10,000 years ago. In the Greenbelt’s upland hills, the soil covers an uncommon serpentinite bedrock found only in a few places in the world. When exposed to the elements, the bedrock weathers to a light gray-green.
Two major hiking trails traverse the Greenbelt. One is the 8.5-mile Blue Trail (17 miles round-trip), marked with blue dots, which runs east-west from the College of Staten Island to the William Davis Wildlife Refuge. Highlights along the way include Deer Park, which lies on the slopes of the highest point along the Atlantic coastline between Maine and Florida; Reed’s Basket Willow Swamp, often filled with blooming wildflowers; and High Rock Park, where outcroppings of the serpentinite bedrock can be seen.
To reach the College of Staten Island from the ferry terminal, take the S66 bus. The trail begins on Milford Drive and is marked by a sign.
The other trail is the four-mile White Trail (eight miles round-trip), marked with white dots, which begins at High Rock Park and runs north to Willowbrook Park. Highlights along the way include Bucks Hollow, notable for its wetlands, and the steep Egbertville Ravine.
To reach the trail, take the S74 bus to the corner of Richmond Road and Rockland Avenue. Walk two blocks on Rockland to Nevada Avenue and turn right up the hill to the park’s entrance and visitors center.
Maps are available at the visitors center on weekends; on weekdays, stop by the Greenbelt’s administration office (200 Nevada Ave., 718/667-2165). Other, shorter trails also traverse the Greenbelt.