Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: East 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

East Pond Trail of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a shorter, rougher, wilder alternative to neighboring West Pond Trail.

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

Jamaica Bay—stretching across Brooklyn and Queens—offers a wide variety of wild spaces on the outskirts of the great metropolis. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is not only the largest open space in all of New York City, but as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, it is also the only national park accessible by subway.

East Pond Trail is a terrific jaunt. Much shorter and less developed than neighboring West Pond Trail, East Pond Trail offers a rustic alternative suggesting what much of the salt marsh looked like before human encroachment.

Enter the trail off Cross Bay Boulevard. Follow it east for 0.2 mile and to the north, you will see Big John’s Pond, a freshwater pond named after the bulldozer operator who dug it. It is home to some 300 species of birds that migrate through the refuge every year. Continue east another 0.2 mile and you will reach a junction; the trail on the right will be your return route. Walk straight ahead for views of the East Garden, then out onto the boardwalk for a view of East Pond. Afterward, turn back to follow the trail south then west, finishing the loop back where you began.

In June and September, the water level in East Pond is lowered to invite thousands of migrating birds. During these months visitors can also walk around the pond. Otherwise, call ahead to make sure the trail is open. Remember: You need a free permit from the Visitor Contact Station to explore Jamaica Bay. Note too that East Pond Trail is not suitable for strollers, and it is advisable to wear boots if you do the full loop when it’s open.

Plan B:

For an easy and satisfying walk on maintained paths, visit the West Pond (Trip 51). 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.


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