New York City is one of the most vibrant, fascinating, and wonderful places on the planet, offering great food, unbeatable nightlife, and a wide variety of entertainment choices. But sometimes you just want to escape the hectic metropolis for awhile and reconnect with nature. For when the mood strikes, here are five great hiking trails that can provide solace from the hustle and bustle.
No list of hiking trails close to New York City would be complete without mentioning Breakneck Ridge. Located about an hour out of town, the trailhead is actually accessible via the Metro-North train. Be prepared for steep climbs, the trail features 1500 feet of vertical gain over the course of its nearly 6 mile length, but the payoff is some spectacular views of the Hudson Valley from the top.
Be warned however; the trail is extremely popular on the weekends and can get quite crowded at times. Breakneck Ridge is a must-do hike, but you can avoid heavy traffic by visiting on a weekday.
Anthony's Nose Trail
Located just an hour north of Manhattan, this 2.6 mile trail is a good choice for beginner hikers or those who don't have a lot of time on their hands. It is relatively flat for much of the walk, but does feature a rock staircase that climbs upwards for approximately 500 feet. At the top, you'll find stunning views of the Hudson River and Bear Mountain State Park, making it a great place to sit back and enjoy the scenery before heading back down.
The trail can be reached on the Metro-North train headed for Manitou, making it a convenient option for those who don't want to drive in and out of the city.
Storm King State Park
Not far from the popular Storm King Art Center (which is worth a visit in its own right), is Storm King State Park. Here, visitors will find a 3.5 mile hiking trailed called the Butter Hill/Stillman/Bluebird Loop, which runs to the summit of Storm King Mountain. Along the way, trekkers are treated to some fantastic views of the Hudson River Valley as well as the Catskills Mountains. Sharp-eyed hikers should keep their eyes peeled for Bannerman Castle on Pollopel Island which can be spotted along the way too.
The trailhead is about a 1.5 hour drive out of the city, but the scenery make it worth the effort. Be advised however that it does feature some steep climbs from time to time. It is isn't a particularly strenuous route, but it will test the legs on occasion.
Surprise Lake Loop
Head over to New Jersey for this hike, which is moderately challenging but offers access to the beautiful Surprise Lake at the end. The 6-mile route crosses over rocky terrain from time to time, and there are several fairly steep climbs along the way as well. Navigating the trail requires to remain somewhat vigilant, but they are rewarded for their efforts with some stunning views of the surrounding countryside that can even include glimpses of NYC on a clear day. The beautiful rhododendron tunnels and hemlock forests are also a highlight during the spring and summer seasons too.
Surprise Lake is a secluded spot located midway through the loop, but it is also a popular destination. From time to time it can get quite crowded, so be aware of that as you make your way to its shores.
Located inside the Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook is a peninsula that juts out from the central New Jersey coastline, but is still located within a stone's throw of New York City. A network of trails spreads out across the region, covering more than 7 miles and providing access to this very scenic area, which is also a favorite amongst birders, which come in large numbers during the spring to spot shorebirds that nest on the beaches nearby.
During the spring and summer, wildflowers line the trekking route which is mostly very flat and paved, making it a good choice for those looking for an easy walk. For a bit more of a challenge, leave the pavement behind and head out onto the beaches, where you'll discover an interesting mix of nature, history, and scenic views.
This is just a hint of the great hiking that is available close to New York City. If you're willing to explore a bit further out, you're sure to find a wide range of options ranging from easy day hikes to weekend escapes to remote areas. And for the truly adventurous, the Appalachian Trail isn't far away either.
Go find a trail and get hiking.