Wherever you are in New York, you’re never too far from a great place to hike. Whether you’re an urban explorer or a mountain-climber, a beginner or a lifelong backpacker, New York has invigorating hikes and gorgeous scenery for everyone. Here are some of our favorite hikes in the state.
Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail
Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail is a great place for beginners to start hiking. It’s also a great trail to bring kids or even pets. This is a low-effort, high-reward hike. The trail is only a mile and a half long, but the walk is dotted with waterfalls, until you reach Cavern Cascade, an absolute beauty of waterfall that sends a mist out over the area. The hike may be short, but when you’re surrounded by the enormous stone walls of the gorge and covered in a blanket of green on top of that, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped onto another world.
The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is one of the most famous hikes in the United States, stretching from Maine all the way down to Georgia. But while many trekkers try to tackle the whole thing as a test of endurance, there’s no rule that says that you have to. A full 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through New York, including the boardwalks of the Great Swamp and Bear Mountain, where the trail actually runs alongside a zoo and across the Bear Mountain Bridge.
Devil’s Hole Trail, Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is breathtaking, but it’s also very crowded with people who have come to see what all the fuss is about. If you want a break from the crowds, Devil’s Hole Trail isn’t quite as heavily-trafficked, and still features some incredible views. The trail takes you along the river, with great views of the rapids and the rock layers of the gorge until you reach the Devil’s Hole itself, an enormous, incredible whirlpool.
Because of the landscape, you can expect some slippery ground now and again, which adds a little bit of challenge to the hike. But the views are worth the little bit of extra care you’ll need to take.
Mount Marcy, Adirondack Park
There are a ton of hikes in the Adirondacks. With nearly 6 million acres of high peaks, flowing waters, and lush, green wilderness, it’s the largest protected natural area in the contiguous United States. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails and plentiful snowfall, and it’s no wonder that the park has been ranked one of the top 10 in the country for winter camping.
Mount Marcy is the tallest mountain in the area. It isn’t the longest or most challenging, but the views from the dome rock at the top are fantastic. Just be mindful of the environment. Mount Marcy is home to endangered vegetation. Camping over 4,000 feet is forbidden in Adirondack after environmental damage at the top of Mount Marcy and elsewhere.
And if you want a tougher hike, or a longer hike, or even something shorter, there are 46 mountains in Adirondack Park to climb.
This one isn’t nearly as challenging as some of the mountain treks, but it’s still worth seeking out, especially if you’re with newcomers or younger family. This hike through Grimes Glen takes you out just over a mile through hemlock groves and shale bluffs to the Fingers Lakes waterfalls.
If you’re looking for something a little tougher, you can keep hiking until you reach the second waterfall. But be warned that it’s much tougher. A system of installed ropes are necessary to make it up some of the steep slopes. If you’re on the fence about going (or just can’t get away) you can also watch a virtual tour of the area, offering videos of the park in all four seasons.
The Staten Island Greenbelt
The Staten Island Greenbelt is a hidden gem in New York City. The Greenbelt is 3 times larger than Central Park, with the city’s largest remaining forest preserve. The 3,000 acres of protected wilderness include 35 miles of hiking trails, from educational hikes through the wetlands to rugged, challenging treks.
Overlook Mountain, Catskills Mountains
The Catskills take up the southeast corner of New York, and the area is packed with gorgeous trails, rushing waterfalls, great fishing, and more. There are mountain climbs like Mount Tremper and wandering paths like Mary’s Glen Trail, but the best view is arguably up at Overlook Mountain.
The trail can be a bit crowded compared to other Catskills hikes, but if you make it to the fire tower at the summit, you’ll see why. The 360-degree view is so vast that you can see clear into six states.
Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains Trail
Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains Trail is another great Catskills trek that takes hikers and backpackers over two mountain peaks in one go, over the course of an 8.5 mile trail. (You can also go all the way to Slide from Cornell for a 9.3-mile jaunt.)
This one’s a challenge, with a lot of climbing. The trail is clearly-marked and well-maintained, but you’ll climb about 2,500 feet in just the 3.9 miles to Wittenberg. Your calves are going to get a workout worthy of the Adirondacks. Still, the gorgeous wooded views are worth the effort. If you love a challenge, this is definitely a hike to seek out.
About the Author: Originally from the North East, but now based out of Southern California, Derek Edwards is a budding outdoorsman and adventurist. When he’s not out exploring the wilderness, he can be found on one of San Diego’s many beaches or tinkering with his camp gear in anticipation of his next outing. You can follow along his adventures on his website Outdoors with Derek.