Perched atop the high cliffs overlooking the Hudson River, the beautiful Palisades Interstate Park comprises a vast area of 2,500 acres along the west side of the scenic coastline in Northeastern New Jersey. About 12 miles in length, Palisades Interstate Park includes picturesque hiking trails, a nature sanctuary, picnic areas by the water, several playgrounds, and many sights. Featuring high cliffs (The Palisades Cliffs) with dramatic river and Manhattan views, Palisades Interstate Park is known as a National Historic Landmark, while the stunning cliffs have been deemed a National Natural Landmark.
Palisades Interstate Park was formed by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in 1900, with the goal to prevent the destruction of the palisades by the stone quarries, which were blasting and damaging the stone at the time. Both New Jersey and New York State came together to form this commission and worked tirelessly for over nine years to put an end to the destruction. Eventually, they saved the entire area.
Prior to this, the area has a long history. It had been used by local Native American tribes for seasonal encampments for centuries. Later, early settlers created homesteads along the river banks, following the same mountain trails created by the natives. This area was also occupied during the American Revolutionary War by soldiers—and the river landings were used to travel between New York City and New Jersey.
Today, this area encompasses the rich and diverse history of the Palisades and the park encourages visitors to learn about the various events that took place here.
What to Do There
This lovely destination offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails, two boat basins, four picnic and barbecue areas, four separate roads for bicycling; skiing in winter; boating and canoeing; fishing and crabbing; picnicking, and barbequing. You can also visit several intriguing historical sites, such as the Fort Lee Historic Park, the Kearney House, and the Women’s Federation Monument.
Open year-round, the exceptional hiking trails tend toward the rugged side, there are a few that are suitable for beginners. The park’s website offers details about the specific trails, loop trails, and the general terrain.
One of the more popular hiking trails is the Long Path (combined with the Shore Loop). These trails are clearly marked with signs that run along the top of the cliffs, offering stunning views. This trailhead is situated at the Visitors Center at Fort Lee Historic Park, a 33-acre park with incredible scenic views and a reconstructed Revolutionary War site. The trail is considered easy to moderate but involves a steep staircase to the top. There are some portions that are rocky and may be a bit slippery—especially after it rains. Overall, you will see a number of lovely sights along the way, including Allison Park, several lookout points, and the Women’s Federation Monument. You will also pass the fascinating Greenbrook Sanctuary. (About 5.5 miles).
For walkers seeking an easier route that’s appropriate for all skill levels, the Henry Hudson Drive is recommended. This 7.7-mile busy trail starts in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. It’s accessible year-round and offers river views. This trail is used for hiking and walking as well as cycling. (It’s also okay to bring dogs if they are on a leash).
If you’re interested in horticulture and history, you're in luck, as one of the most popular sights at the park is the Greenbrook Sanctuary.
This is an exceptionally beautiful nature preserve that is situated at the top of the palisades in Tenifly and Alpine, New Jersey that encompasses over 160 acres of wooded areas including an oak forest. Founded in the 1940s, it’s been maintained by the Palisades Nature Association and requires a membership to access the area (rates vary, so be sure to visit their website for details). Ideally, it’s best to attend an educational program by a professional naturalist when you visit as there is much to learn about the sanctuary. Greenbrook is famous for its multi-colored wildflowers that appear on the forest floor in spring, as well as the many species of ferns.
Animal enthusiasts and bird watchers love this destination, With more than 250 species of birds identified here, and many wildlife species to spot while walking the wooded trails, Greenbrook Sanctuary is popular with birdwatchers and animal enthusiast. While nature lovers will fall in love with the diverse landscape like the 250-foot-tall Greenbrook waterfall that cascades into the Hudson River, the surrounding cliffs, and the Manhattan skyline.
How to Visit
Palisades Park has three main entrances and a Visitors Center. The Edgewater park entrance is on River Road near the Fort Lee border. This entrance provides the most direct access to Ross Dock Picnic Area, Hazard’s Ramp, and Carpenter’s Grove, and can also be used for Englewood Picnic Area & Boat Basin.
If you are new to the park, you can start your visit by stopping at the Visitor Center at Fort Lee Historic Park so you can determine the best location to begin your adventures, based on your skill levels and interest. Admission is free and the park is open year-round from dawn to dusk
Things to Do Nearby
Palisades Interstate Park is situated right on the Hudson River, which means it can be less than a 10-minute drive to New York City. In fact, you can get a stunning view of the Manhattan Skyline from this area's cliffs. For more information on the top attractions, the best museums, and the best parks, check out our complete travel guide for New York City.
In addition to New York City, this area of New Jersey is very bustling has much to do and if you're seeking restaurants and shopping, you can visit the other nearby Hudson river towns of Hoboken, Weehawken, and Jersey City.