Eastchester/New Rochelle: Nature Study/Twin Lakes

    • Distance from Webster: Lake plus out-and-back Nature Study: 4.6 miles.
    • Distance around Lake: 1.67 miles; 3 = 5 miles.
    • Distance from Chester Heights to Webster: 0.5 miles.
    • Type: Loop and back.
    • Surface: Mostly smooth but a fair amount of rockiness, on brief stretches of Nature Study. After heavy rain, lots of unavoidable muddy stretches (except, as I note below, when we don’t get a lot of rain). This is more of a problem on the eastside of Twin Lakes, i.e., the side by the Hutch.
    • Of Note: There is a new (2013) bridge at the southern end of the lake. It is a great improvement over what it replaced.
    • Of Note: Just before going from Nature Study to Twin Lakes, you go under the Hutch. It is dark (although work is being done on getting a light) and it often has a muddy spot in the center. Your best bet is to keep to the wall side. The County has smoothed this section.
    • Hilliness: A few brief hills, which are not long.

Here is a MAP of a basic loop from Webster Avenue. It is useful for doing longish runs doing multiple loops. When it is hot, you can park in the bridle center lot off of California Road, place a water bottle on the roof, and stop for water or whatever every 4.6 miles of so. Four of these loops plus a loop around the lake equals about 20. Here’s a video of the entrance to the parking lot at California Road. The lighting, I’m afraid, is not as clear as I’d like as to the trail surface:

  • Horses: These trails, particularly around the Lake, are bridle paths, and particularly on nice weekends you’ll run into horses, to which you give the right-of-way. The horses generally meander along, but I’ve seen the horse and rider pictured in this article going at a good clip, so you must stay alert, especially on the blind turns on the Hutch side of the Lake.
  • Other: Entering at the Nature Study Woods entrance on Webster Avenue cuts maybe a mile total.
  • Bikes are not allowed.

I have marked this trail from Chester Heights around the lake; the mileage is to the lake and once around, not including the return leg. This is the loop of the lake itself.

Twin LakesThese are the trails with which I am most familiar, having run on them when I ran for Iona Prep in the early 1970s. I rediscovered them some years ago, and have worked to expand my knowledge. The trail is frequented by Iona College rrunners, among the top cross-country schools in the country.  The photo on the left is in Nature Study near its end at Webster Avenue. I would say about half the trail is like this and the other half is narrower.

A Long Run Alternative

I’ve begun to do some marathon training, which means long runs. The natural place for long trail runs is the Rockefeller. But I did a nice 18.5 miler at Twin Lakes/Nature Study. Each loop is about 4.62 miles. I park in the stable parking lot (you can also park on Webster Avenue). The course sets up so that you can stop at your car for water and gel after each loop. Beware, however, that as the run extends, you might find your feet not lifting as much as they did earlier (this happened to me), so the footing in Nature Study becomes trickier than it normally is. Sure, it’s boring, but also convenient. You also don’t find yourself too far away if you blow up.

Running On Bridle Paths

I have never had any problems with horses on these trails, although I’ve run into them with some frequency. But because of the horse-issue, I would avoid these trails at peak riding times, like summer Sunday mornings. The first rule: HORSES HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. Make sure not to startle the horse, or rider. Let the rider know you’re coming and wait until you know how the rider, and horse, want you to proceed. If I pass a horse going in my direction, I gradually pick up the pace after I pass.

The Trail Network

Major parts of this network were used by the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway from 1912-1937 and there are remants of the venture here and there. The County has beenundertaking projects with respect to the trees and plants in Nature Study. There are numerous ways to enter these trails, but I will mention 3.

Southwest corner of the trail is the trail head: Enter to the left of Robins Crescent.

It is a little tricky to find. New Rochelle Road leaves Chester Heights en route to Pelham. It goes under the Hutchinson River Parkway as it crosses into New Rochelle. You must be on foot at this point because you go under the bridge and keep to the left, into an apartment building’s parking-lot, parallelling the Hutch. As the lot/driveway turns right around the building, keep going straight across the grass – a slight hump – and, violà, you’re on the trail. Just follow it. This is the part where Ben Bright et al. has done a great job of taking care of what had been a dangerous problem for decades.

The entrance to the Nature Woods on Webster Avenue

The south east end of the trail is on Webster Avenue near New Rochelle High School. That’s the “P” on the map. The entrance is well marked. The broader trail goes to your right right after you enter. If you go straight, you run down that very small hill described in the prior description. (The “Change of Seasons” photos on the homepage are taken here, showing what it looks like if you go straight.) Just go right and follow the trail until you get to a bridge. There is only one place you might get lost: You come to an intersection maybe 1/2 a mile in. Going straight is a dead-end, so you want to go left. (This is confusing on the mapbecause that makes it appear that you go straight and then right at the “T” but going straight requires you to climb down a rock.)You go under the Hutch (photo left) just before hitting the lake. It is dark and often wet, so care is required; I try to keep to the wall-side. After that, there is a switchback bridge (photo left) to get you up to the Lake. In late 2012, a new bridge was opened across the dam (over which you cross if you turn right). You can go either way, and the full loop (Google.Map) is about 1.5 miles. I describe going counter-clockwise because there are fewer ways to get lost that way. (There is only one trail to the east side of the Lake but a number of smaller, parallel ones on the west.) It’s just follow the trail at this point. It has some slight ups and downs and mud-stretches. When you cross a wooden-bridge, you can either go right or straight. If you go straight up the hill, do the following for a loop. At the intersection, take the trail ahead but slightly to the left then keep to the right on a side trail and then take the first right, which brings you onto the trail as it parallels California Road. Once there, just continue on across the driveway to the stables and around the lake, which brings you to where you crossed the bridge at the loop’s start. You can, of course, do multiple loops. You can make the loop a bit longer by going to the right after you cross the wooden bridge. But if you go right, it also takes you to the northern stretch of this trail, which allows you to pick up the bridle path to the north, ultimately to White Plains.

The entrance on California Road; Stable Parking

The third entrance is on California Road. It’s the “P” on the Map. This is a small parking lot for the stables and for trail-users. In the foregoing description, the entrance is the “driveway to the stables” and you simply pick up the trail there.You can do loops of the lake, which is about 1.5 miles. This is a good place to start running up towards Saxon Woods. If you are going to do that, head north from the driveway and keep to your left, which will bring you out in the open by the entrance for Exit 18 of the Hutch. There’s a cross-walk there, but be careful. You cross the entrance and exit roads, and then you go under Mill Road and across a bridge and you’re in business.

Mill to Mamaroneck Road

Both of the above trails hook up to the Saxon Woods Trail via a trail on the west side of the Hutch. This is not an independent trail in that there’s no convenient place to start it. You don’t need a map, but here’s one. Note the big elevation drop to Pinebrook. The trail has some treacherous footing stretches, although not like those at Saxon Woods East, so care is required. You have 3 major street-crossings (after Mamaroneck Road), Weaver Street (there’s a traffic light), Pinebrook Blvd. (where the trail drops dramatically on both sides), and Wilmot Road (where you must cross and go to your left to pick up the trail).

2 thoughts on “Eastchester/New Rochelle: Nature Study/Twin Lakes

    • With the caveat that I’m a man and that much of the trails are away from homes, I’ve never felt uncomfortable and I’ve almost never had a run in which I saw nobody. Nature Study is a bit quieter, but it is also frequented by dog walkers, especially towards Webster Avenue, and the Iona College teams. I often see walkers going around Twin Lakes, and note that there are stables there and often horses on the trails.

      Can safety be guaranteed? No. But especially on week-ends, you’re unlikely to be alone.

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