Need to escape the madness of the city for some tranquility?
The Nature Conservancy has put together four trips on Metro North and three trips on the LIRR that grit-weary, car-free city folk can take to see fall foliage and wild animals and to breathe clean air. And the destinations are all within three hours of midtown.
If you don't have a bike to ride from the train to the destination ($5 gets you a lifetime rail pass for your cycle), you can carpool or arrange for local taxi service to and from the station.
For maps, more information and specific directions to these and other nature preserves, go to Nature.org and search "next stop nature." Here is a sampling:
The Arthur Butler Memorial Sanctuary
How: Metro North Harlem Line to Mt. Kisco
How Long: 1 hour and 28 minutes including a four-mile bike ride
What: This is the time of year that goshawks, Coopers hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles are migrating, and "you may even see some going up on the train," said Troy Weldy, TNC director of ecological management. Both the Butler and other preserves have places where you can secure your bike at the trail head, should you want to climb up to the cliffs to better view migrating birds. Use your smartphone to download the TNC's audio tour.
Pawling Nature Preserve
How: Metro North Harlem Line to Appalachian Trail Station
How Long: 1 hour 52 minutes and NO bike ride.
What: Twelve species of amphibians, including six species of salamanders and five species of frogs. Birdwatchers have logged 77 bird species, including hermit thrushes and Acadian flycatchers. Gorgeous gorges are banked with walking fern, maidenhair spleenwort and hobblebush. Other rare plant species include devil's bit, soapwort gentian, yellow wild flax, scarlet Indian-paintbrush and Bicknell's sedge. Pawling is easily accessed without supplementary transportation as it's right across the road from the train station. It also contains a segment of the famed Appalachian Trail, noted Weldy.
Roger Perry Preserve
How: Metro North Harlem Line to Dover Plains
How Long: 2 hours, 32 minutes, including 1.5-mile bike ride
What: 120 acres once known as the "White Sands of Dover" that includes the rare Carolina whitlow grass, red cedars, Bicknell's sedge, green milkweed, grass of Parnassus and Torrey's mountain mint. Don't be surprised if you spot a spotted turtle or wood turtle. Salamanders, garter snakes, frogs and toads, as well as a wide variety of birds, are also in residence at this Berkshire "fen complex."
Uplands Farm Sanctuary
How: Port Jefferson line of the Long Island Rail Road to Cold Spring Harbor station. How How Long: 1 hour, 18 minutes including 3-mile bike ride
What: Ninety seven acres of reclaimed farmland that includes grassland birds flitting through red maples and black cherry and red cedar trees interspersed with oak, ash, hickory and dogwood and 40 species of butterflies.
David Weld Sanctuary
How: Port Jefferson Line of the LIRR to the St. James station.
How Long: 2 hours, 7 minutes including a four-mile bike ride
What: A glacier-sculpted 125-acre idyll in Nissequogue ideal for birders, geology buffs and wild flower lovers, with an easy three mile trail that takes you past 1,800 feet of beach front. The holes in the bluffs have been perforated by the bank swallows that have made homes there.