Few states have as wide a range of scenery and breadth of hiking options as New York. Whether you want an urban oasis, a challenging climb, lakeside scenery, or valley views, you can find them all in this beautiful state. New York offers the opportunity to explore some of the largest and most diverse parks in the country as well as intimate hidden jewels locals keep to themselves. To help spark your imagination, we offer our best suggestions for gorgeous hikes in New York.
1. Cascade Mountain Trail, High Peaks Wilderness
The Adirondack High Peaks are famous for good reason. There are 46 of them creating a popular area for skiers and snowshoers in winter and hikers primarily from spring through fall. Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain are two of the more moderate peaks, making them readily accessible to hikers of various abilities. Taking the 5.5-mile Cascade Mountain Trail allows you to enjoy both of these peaks, panoramic views, a flowing river, some easy rock scrambles, and even a waterfall. The trail can get quite popular during the summer months, so for a little less company and a little more view, go during spring or fall when the weather is great and the whole trek is gorgeous. For even more glorious visions, get up before the sun and watch the world wake up before your very eyes.
2. Devil’s Hole Trail
Devil’s Hole State Park is one of those local favorites where people who want to impress their friends take them to see gorgeous views along the Niagara River that are hidden gems they would likely not otherwise discover. The Devil’s Hole Trail runs along the river with amazing views of steep Niagara Gorge, bubbling white water rapids, and the Devil’s Hole itself, an impressively large whirlpool that can become mesmerizing to watch. It’s a moderately challenging hike that offers great natural beauty all around without the crowds of Niagara's more famous falls. Wear good boots as it can get slick in places. As you get going, you will climb down a stone staircase to the trail, but most of the rest of the way you’ll be on a wooded path that makes for a devilishly fun day.
3. Rim Trail And Gorge Trail Loop, Robert H. Treman State Park
If you love waterfalls, the Rim Trail and Gorge Trail Loop in Robert H. Treman State Park will make you exceptionally happy. The trail passes by a dozen different waterfalls, including the incredible 115-foot Lucifer Falls and the 70-foot Lower Falls. The jagged glacial stone adds dimension and interest to the other impressive natural features in this gorgeous wooded ravine. Several scenic overlooks provide views of Enfield Creek below, plus multi-tiered waterfalls, hardwood trees, wildflowers, and lush green landscape all around. If you want to enjoy your time even more, there are camping and RV sites as well as cabins available to extend your visit overnight.
4. The Constitution Marsh Trail, Storm King State Park
This is our pick for the best hike in New York. Check out TravelAwaits’ picks for the best hikes in all 50 states here. We confess to being unabashed bird-watchers, so when we discover a hike that leads to many of our feathered friends, we get very excited. The Constitution Marsh Trail is a dream come true for folks like us. Even if you’re not much into the birdies, you will still find this trail through the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary a gorgeous hike offering incredible views of the Hudson River and Indian Brook Falls. Hawks, cedar waxwings, loons, ospreys, and great egrets are frequent visitors to the area, so bring your binoculars and sense of wonder. If you happen to come during the winter, you’ll be in a prime location for spotting eagles. It’s only about a one-mile loop, but there are a few spots that are rocky and steep.
There are benches to do a bird sit or just enjoy the scenery. The visitor center also has a 500-gallon aquarium where you can see fish, crabs, and other wildlife common in the Hudson River.
5. Overlook Mountain, Overlook Mountain Wild Forest
No doubt if you remember the movie Dirty Dancing, the Catskills will give you some mental imagery. In fact, when you’ve gone about two miles along the Overlook Mountain Trail, you’ll see the remnants of Overlook Mountain House, a resort destination that may trigger a musical interlude in your head. As you keep hiking, you’ll discover a 60-foot fire tower that is recognized by the National Historic Lookout Register. One of five such fire towers remaining in the Catskill region, those who climb it will get an amazing view that reaches into six states. Go a little further, and you’ll get what this glorious hike is really about: a spectacular vista of the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains that may be more breathtaking than any dance moves you can take.
6. Ice Caves And Verkeerderkill Falls Trail, Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Looking for adventure? Then you will love the Ice Caves and Verkeerderkill Falls Trail, which will make you feel like you’re Indiana Jones searching for a lost treasure. The treasure here is the trail itself, with all of its unique and amazing features you will enjoy along the way. The first part of your adventure will be to squeeze through narrow passageways of natural ice caves formed by a glacier thousands of years ago. The largest known open-fault ice caves in the United States, the ice caves here can have ice and snow present even in the summer.
Then you’ll want to take in the spectacular view from Sam’s Point, where a sign states that it is one of Earth’s last great places. While you might flinch at such a statement, you’ll get over it when you see the Verkeerderkill Falls. These spectacular waterworks cascade 187 feet off the famous Shawangunk cliffs. Take a deep breath, and you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement. Unique geological features, incomparable views, and stunning cliffs make this one of the most memorable and gorgeous hikes in New York.
7. High Rock Park
For a beautiful oasis amid the world of urban activity, High Rock Park is the place to go. There are five ponds, deep woods, and six different trails ready to take you to a place of tranquility. Recognized as a Natural Environmental Education Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior, High Rock Park offers a peaceful place for reflection and refreshment in the presence of nature. Red maples, highbush blueberries, skunk cabbage, and other vegetation surround you as you wander. You can also climb a 260-foot hill, Moses’ Mountain, to get a gorgeous panoramic view. Birds and wildlife make their homes here, so don’t be surprised to see hawks, owls, wood ducks, blue herons, muskrats, frogs, turtles, and other animals during your visit. Give yourself a breath of fresh air and enjoy the tonic of this gorgeous place.
8. Stairway To Heaven (Stairway Ridge) Trail, Whiteface Mountain
Leave it to New York to offer an amazing trail with a fantastic name that doesn’t disappoint. The Stairway to Heaven Trail (what locals call the Stairway Ridge Trail) is full of fun and activity for those looking for something different and a good workout. Sections of the trail vary in difficulty from easy to challenging, and the stretch that leads you up to the top of Whiteface Mountain, the fifth tallest peak in the state, is especially demanding. And while you normally want to just get to the top of a stairway, this time you’ll want to stop and enjoy the gorgeous views that show you just how high you really are. The stairs can be a bit rocky and worn in places, so definitely don’t let their picturesque nature trick you out of wearing serious boots. There is also the option to take an elevator if you’re not quite up to the climb. Whichever way you choose to get there, relish the view at the top that is one of the most gorgeous in the state.
9. Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park, which spans over 5,000 acres, offers many opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous scenery in all directions. Over 50 different hiking trails of varying difficulty invite you to explore 235 miles of terrain. Whatever kind of hike you’re looking for, you should be able to find it in a park that offers some of the best hiking in New York. There are several popular loops that incorporate various trails. The Appalachian Trail even has a presence here. Some of the most popular trails are the Bear Mountain Loop, the Major Welch Trail, the Dunderberg Spiral Railway, and the Bald Mountain Loop. If you walk past the carousel in the main Bear Mountain parking lot, you can start your hike with gorgeous views of Hessian Lake. Pick your own path for the scenery you enjoy and check out ledge overlooks, pine forests, huge boulders, and expansive valley views for an amazing day in nature.
New York is a population-dense state, so if you go to explore the parks during the height of the summer season or other popular times, you are likely to encounter lots of other people doing the same thing. To get more time to yourself on the trails, head out earlier in the mornings and try to visit in spring or fall when there are fewer people heading for the hills.
This article is presented by KEEN Footwear. For our hikes, we wore KEEN’s Women’s Terradora II Waterproof Boot and Women’s Targhee III Waterproof Mid. They were light and great for all kinds of terrain. They supported our feet well on rocky hikes and were totally waterproof. Shop KEEN’s Terradora, Targhee, and other hiking shoes here.