Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: West Pond Trail
GOOD FOR: Ages 5-8

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:1 Cross Bay Boulevard, Queens, NY
Hours:8:30 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: Visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountains inside visitor center

The West Pond of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge juxtaposes an expanse of natural wilderness with views of the Manhattan skyline.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: West Pond Trail
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a 9,155-acre tract within the Gateway National Recreation Area, a preserve of some 26,000 acres of waterways, wetlands, beaches, woodlands, and historical areas in New York and New Jersey.

The refuge is a natural wonder within the city that was never completely “paved over.” The views of massive housing blocks and the Manhattan skyline hovering on the horizon will make you appreciate this all the more. The refuge is an important example of how natural wonders may be not only preserved in a city, but also made easily accessible by public transportation.

As you exit the back of the Visitor Contact Station, head west (clockwise) along the 1.5-mile path that circles the pond. The flat gravel trail that you will follow is renowned for bird-watching—swans, egrets, herons, osprey, and owls among them—and it may make you feel you are closer to the Florida Keys than to Times Square. The trail is dotted with numerous bird houses and bat sanctuaries that have been built to attract local birds and bats whose domiciles elsewhere have been diminished by the encroachment of human civilization. Your stroll may be interrupted by the occasional gaggle of geese making their way across the path, and you may need to skirt dozens of nesting spots marked by flags and covered with steel cages to protect the terrapin eggs within. The full trail comprises a 1.5-mile loop. Remember: You need a free permit from the Visitor Contact Station to explore Jamaica Bay.

Plan B:

For more-rugged walks with children who are older, visit the East Pond (Trip 52). If you are traveling by car, you can also take in Floyd Bennett Field (Trips 38 and 39) or Marine Park (Trip 40).

Where to Eat Nearby:

Some food establishments are along Cross Bay Boulevard.


Get outdoor tips & trips
Yes, I want to receive expert advice on getting my family outside!



Ellis Island »
Island walk with terrific views
Battery Park, State Street and Battery Place, Manhattan, NY (ferry departure point)

Forest Park »
Mountain-biking and horseback-riding trails
Park Lane and Forest Park Drive, Queens, NY

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park: Pelton Pond »
Boat rentals at the beach
Cold Spring Turnpike, Kent, NY

Tyler State Park »
Plenty of access to broad, flat creek banks
101 Swamp Road, Newtown, PA


Green-Wood Cemetery: Tranquility and History in Brooklyn »

Green-Wood Cemetery: Tranquility and History in Brooklyn
green-wood cemetary new york city

Pennypack Park »

Educational programs at environmental center
8600A Verree Road, Philadelphia, PA

Manhattan Waterfront Greenway (North) »

Famous lighthouse near popular bikeway
West 130th Street and Marginal Street, Manhattan, NY

Central Park (South) »

The largest playground in the park
West 59th Street at Columbus Circle, Manhattan, NY

© 2023 Appalachian Mountain Club | 10 City Square, Boston, MA 02129
About | Privacy Policy | Contact Us