What to See

Trailside Museums and Zoo


Trailside Museums and Zoo invites you for a pleasant walk. You will learn about local ecology and history. You will see native wildlife close up in exhibits as you walk through the forest and see native gardens. You will take in spectacular vistas created by geologic forces over millions of years. On your journey, look about on the ground, in the trees, on the rocks, in the ponds and flying through the forest. You may see native wildlife thriving at Trailside.

Trailside Museums and Zoo is a self-guided nature trail. Little signs serve as naturalist guides. Larger signs interpret ecological and historical stories. You will walk on a paved section of the Appalachian Trail, a footpath from Georgia to Maine. There’s a statute of the early American poet Walt Whitman and a commemorative plaque to Stephen Mather, instrumental in the founding National Park Service and its first director. In small stone museums, you will learn more about wildlife, geology and history.

Download a Trailside Map

Native Wildlife

Trailside Museums & Zoo will bring you up-close to resident wildlife. There are mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The animals are all native to New York State. Most of the animals are unable to live in the wild. Many have suffered permanent injuries and are disabled. Others were orphaned before their parents were able to teach them how to live independently.

Resident wildlife offers visitors the chance to see the animals, learn about them and their habitats, and learn about threats they face in our shared environment. Step inside the Herpetology Museum to view native fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

The local wildlife is so much more diverse than the collection of live animals residing at Trailside. Visit the Nature Study Museum to learn more about local wildlife. The mounted specimens give the visitor a close up look at birds and bird eggs, small mammals, and dragonflies, butterflies, and other insects. This old school collection was donated by the American Museum of Natural History many years ago.

Box Turtle Hatchlings
Animal Spotlight – North American Porcupine

Animal Spotlight – North American Porcupine

In this Trailside Talk, learn about the North American Porcupine. Zookeeping Interpreter Mal Muratori takes you up close and personal with the prickly but cute Rosie, the North American porcupine!

Support our wildlife by adopting a mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or one of our museums!

Gardens and Woodlands

The woodlands and gardens offer visitors a stunning and biologically diverse landscape. The overarching structure is oak-hickory woodland.

The varied terrain presents micro-communities for plant diversity. Low-lying moist pockets favor plants thriving in soggy conditions. The woodland pool and fernery are two such settings. Rock outcroppings, some in sun and some in shade, host plants adapted to thin, dry soils and rock fissures. Eastern prickly pear is one such plant.

Bright sun provides space for prairie plants to bloom abundantly in summer and welcome pollinators. The work of transformative gardening continues. Non-native, invasive plants are removed and replaced with beautiful native plants and provide wildlife habitat.

See our gallery of Gardens and Woodlands

Papillo glaucus on Echinacea purpurea
Photograph by Alan Wells
Rocky Summits & Outcrops

Rocky Summits & Outcrops

Rocky summits and outcrops are sparsely vegetated. Soils are thin, nutrient-poor and well-drained. Conditions are harsh in winter and summer. Yet, vegetation is rich in species diversity. Some plants take root in the rock fissures and depressions where soil and...

Forest Understory Plants

Forest Understory Plants

Forest understory is the layer of trees and shrubs between the forest floor and forest canopy. It’s made up of shrubs, small trees, vines and saplings of canopy trees. Trailside’s forest understory and forest floor have been heavily impacted by deer. Since 2016-17,...

Forest Floor Plants

Forest Floor Plants

Deciduous forest is the dominant plant community. It’s complex and layered, but it’s not an old-growth forest. The canopy is composed of tall deciduous trees—oak, hickory, tuliptree, maple, beech, and others. White pine and other conifers are scattered throughout the...

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The weathered yet rugged terrain the visitor walks upon has been shaped by its long geologic history. It is resistant bedrock of Storm King Granite Gneiss formed in the Middle Proterozoic.

The contemporary landscape was shaped by the great ice age of the Pleistocene. Advancing glaciers eroded surfaces, and as they melted and retreated, glaciers left behind sediments.

Near the black bear exhibit, take the spur trail to experience the dramatic view of the Hudson River fjord. Visit the Geology Museum to learn about the region’s geology and animals of ancient times. View a mastodon skull. Learn that extractive industry started in the Colonial Era with the mining of magnetite iron ore and processed it in nearby furnaces.


The place we call Trailside Museums and Zoo has been inhabited for thousands of years. Delaware Lenape were the first people to settle the region about 12,000 years ago.

Archaeological evidence at Trailside points to the area as a seasonal fishing camp. Beginning in the 15th century, the Lenape population was decimated by diseases accompanying European explorers and settlers. Traders sought furs for export leading to declines in wildlife populations. Settlers cleared forest for timber and to establish farms and towns.

In time, the battle for the control of the colonies heated up. Patriots constructed Fort Clinton and the larger Fort Montgomery in an attempt to deter British control of the Hudson, a battle they lost but succeeded elsewhere. The ruins remain.

In the early 1900s, the land was privately owned and farmed. Delve into the layers of history at signs along the trail and Fort Clinton and exhibits inside the History Museum.

Native Americans of the Eastern Woodland
American Museum of Natural History, Palisades  Interstate Park Commission Archives. Circa 1915