New Yorkers aren't the kind of people that let little things like cold weather and snow keep them from enjoying the outdoors. In fact, if you live in the state you quickly learn to embrace the winter and all of the adventurous opportunities that it brings your way. Fortunately, New York is a place that is blessed with some amazing outdoor playgrounds, including the Adirondacks, the Finger Lakes, and the Catskills Mountains. Each of those destinations offers plenty of great hiking all year long, but in the winter they are especially beautiful and captivating. So put on some warm layers, grab your favorite jacket, and lace up your boots. These are our five favorite winter hiking trails in New York state.
Cascade Mountain is located in the Adirondacks and is a popular hike during the warmer months of the year, often drawing hundreds of visitors during the peak travel season. During the winter however, it is far less crowded, but no less spectacular. The 5.6-mile Cascade Mountain Trail is an out-and-back hiking route that takes visitors up to the summit of the popular peak where they are afforded 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. In the winter, those areas are often covered in a fresh blanket of snow, which on clear days glimmers brightly in the sun. The pristine look of the countryside make it feel like no one else has ever been there before, which only adds to the undeniable allure. Expect to spend about two to three hours trekking to the summit on this trail, which is moderately difficult in winter conditions.
Bear Mountain State Park
Located not far from New York City, Bear Mountain State Park is easily accessible, even for die-hard urbanites who shun winter travel. It stretches out across 5000-acres of mountainous terrain with numerous hiking trails to explore across its expanse. Take the 4.2-mile Bear Mountain Loop trail to the summit of its namesake peak and you'll experience some epic views of the entire area, including the Hudson River meandering by below. The hike is a moderate walk during the warmer seasons, and a bit more challenging during the winter, with a steep approach near the top. Your efforts will be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable however, making it well worth the trip to the summit.
Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area
Located in the Finger Lakes district, the Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area is the largest of its kind in the entire state, encompassing more than 11,230 acres. Sharp eyed hikers are likely to spot deer, wild turkey, beavers, black bears, and a host of songbirds as they trek through the region. There are a number of unique trails to explore, most of which can be moderately challenging in the winter months, particularly with fresh snow on the ground.
For a quicker—and somewhat easier—hike stick to the Bob Cameron Loop, which is a popular walk all year round. If you're up for more of a challenge however, the 8.5-mile Finger Lakes Trail is the way to go. Depending on conditions, snowshoes may be necessity though, so be sure to bring along your own pair or rent some prior to arriving in the park. Either way, the chances of spotting wildlife along the trail are fairly high, making this a great option for animal lovers.
Fahnestock Winter Park
During the winter, Fahnestock State Park designates a specific section of its 16,000 acres specifically for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The Winter Park, as it is known, offers two different trails, each 1.5 miles in length. The Ojigwan Path is the easier of the two, and a good place for those out for a more leisurely stroll. But for a true challenge, hit the Appalachian Way, which follows the legendary Appalachian Trail along a small section of that iconic route.
This route offers plenty of uphill trekking and will definitely get your heart pumping and lungs working, but it rewards the adventurous with amazing views of nearby Canopus Lake. Be warned however, this trail is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. It is recommended for veteran winter hikers only.
Central Park (New York City)
It may seem odd to include New York City's Central Park on this list, but the 800-acre urban refuge is a wonderful place for a walk during the winter months. Since it is located right in the heart of Manhattan, you're less likely to have any of the trails or walkways to yourself, so don't go here expecting solitude. On the other hand, if you consider the ease of access and the level of convenience, it is tough to top this wonderful location. The paved paths make for an easy trek and are usually well maintained even in the heart of winter. But if you're looking for something a little more wild, head to the Park's 90-acre North Woods where you'll find more traditional trails, and maybe even some seclusion. You'll be amazed at how the sounds of the city fade away as you wander through this area, all the while knowing that a hot cup of cocoa and a snack are just a few minutes away.