Let’s be honest: when you think about cycling through city parks in Queens, this probably isn’t the first image that springs to mind.
Don’t beat yourself up about it too badly; there are plenty of five borough residents who haven’t heard of the Ridgewood Reservoir either.
Given the right map, however, along with a quality rental bike and a genuine inclination to explore the Big Apple, natural vistas like these can become a routine part of your New York cycling experience. Just take one of our favorite city rides as an example: the 6 mile “connective corridor” running between Highland and Forest Parks in Queens.
It’s got a little bit of everything you could hope to get out of a bike ride through New York’s largest borough, including gorgeous natural scenery, historic cemeteries, and just the right amount of cycle-friendly street riding to keep you on your toes.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Straddling the border between Brooklyn and Queens, Highland Park may safely be counted among the top 5 hidden cycling treasures in New York City. It’s not its size that will wow you (a modest 141 acres), but rather the natural wetlands that have flourished since the park’s Ridgewood Reservoir was decommissioned in 1989. In the decades that have passed, the Department of Parks in Queens has worked to integrate the reservoir into the Highland’s natural surroundings, encouraging the growth of native flora and cultivating the closest thing you’ll find to a nature preserve in the heart of New York.
There’s a circular cycling/pedestrian trail that runs for 1.2 miles around the basin, so feel free to add as many loops as you’d like to get your fill of this tranquil natural reprieve.
CYPRESS HILLS STREET
Cypress Hills Street, while bearing no relation to the nearly eponymous hip hop group from California, does help to connect the neighborhood of Cypress Hills in Brooklyn to Glendale in Queens. In doing so, it also separates three of the borough’s myriad cemeteries: Machpelah Cemetery to the west (burial site of the Houdini family), and the adjacent Mt. Neboh and Mt. Carmel cemeteries to the east.
While it’s not exactly the type of street that encourages hopping off the saddle mid-ride to go exploring on foot, it never hurts to know what you’ll be biking past along the way.
Measuring in at 530 acres (215 hectares), Forest Park isn’t just one of the largest parks in Queens; it’s one of the most diversely equipped as well. From hiking and horseback riding trails to ball fields and a golf course, there’s plenty to keep you entertained should you decide to bring the family in tow and make a day of it.
If you’re simply looking for some wooded scenery to accompany your bike ride, however, this park will suit you just fine as well. The western half of the ride is a melange of bike paths and street riding on the sparsely-trafficked Forest Park Drive. Once you cross Woodhaven Boulevard, however, the wide roadway becomes inaccessible to automobiles, giving cyclists a roughly 2-mile stretch of glorious full throttle pedaling amid lush deciduous foliage.
Now that’s our kind of forest.