Palisades Interstate Park: The Complete Guide

Cliffs over the Hudson River in Palisades Interstate Park
Sinisa Kukic / Getty Images
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Palisades Interstate Park

Address
Alpine, NJ 07620, USA
Phone +1 201-768-1360

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 also a National Historic Landmark, while the stunning cliffs have been deemed a National Natural Landmark.

Most of Palisades Park is in Bergen County, New Jersey, but this interstate park also stretches a bit over the state line into New York. The southern tip of the park begins at the George Washington Bridge, providing easy access from the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

Things to Do

Palisades Interstate Park offers the same extraordinary outdoor recreation you can find in remote rural areas but right at the doorstep of one of the world's biggest metropolitan centers. Within just minutes of New York City, you can explore miles of hiking trails, see waterfalls, have a picnic overlooking a cliff, or enjoy a bike ride. When the season is right, you can even cross-country ski, fish, or go canoeing.

You can also visit several intriguing historical sites, such as the Fort Lee Historic Park. This area located at the southern tip of the Palisades Park has a reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment and even hosts reenactment battles with history guides. The Kearney House is an actual historical building that was built in the year 1760. Today, it's open on weekends in the warm months for tours and a peek into yesteryear. Another important piece of history can be seen at the Women's Federation Monument, which was built in 1929 to commemorate the role that the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs took in preserving the Palisades.

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 and encompasses over 160 acres of wooded areas including an oak forest. Greenbrook is famous for its multi-colored wildflowers that appear on the forest floor in spring, as well as the many species of ferns and rich wildlife. However, you must be a Palisades Nature Association member in order to enter. Membership is open to all and the annual fees help to preserve this delicate area.

Best Hikes & Trails

Open year-round, the exceptional hiking trails at Palisades tend toward the rugged side, which may come as surprise to people who think that hiking so close to New York City would be more urban. However, there are a few that are suitable treks for beginners out of the 30 miles of trails inside the park.

  • Long Path: This 11-mile trail is one of the more popular hiking trails and goes along the cliff's edge throughout the entire park, offering stunning views. The trail is considered easy to moderate but involves a steep staircase to the top. There are some portions that are rocky and can get 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.
  • Henry Hudson Drive: For walkers seeking an easier route that’s appropriate for all skill levels, Henry Hudson Drive is recommended. This 7.7-mile busy trail starts in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. This trail is used for hiking and walking as well as cycling and follows the Long Path trail but at the riverfront underneath the cliffs, instead of on top.
  • Peanut Leap Cascade: This in-and-out hike is considered moderately difficult because it involves a steep climb from the riverfront to the summit, beginning and ending at the State Line Lookout. On your trek, you'll also pass by one of the most scenic parts of the entire Palisades Park: a rushing waterfall. It's a 2.5-mile journey roundtrip.

Biking

While mountain biking is not allowed on most of the hiking trails, Henry Hudson Drive is an exception and is one of the top biking routes in New Jersey. The 7-mile route is covered in trees and passes right along the Hudson River, making for an incredibly scenic outing. The road is wide and paved, so you'll be able to ride without having to weave through pedestrians—although there are some grueling hills to work up a sweat.

Besides Henry Hudson Drive, the only other trail in the park open to cyclists is Old Route 9W, which runs between the current U.S. Highway 9W and State Line Lookout. This road is no longer in use and is closed off to cars, so you can enjoy the ride without worrying about other vehicles.

Fishing & Crabbing

Fishing is allowed in nearly all parts of Palisades Park, including in all of the riverfront picnic areas and along the coastal trails. You can cast your rod to try and catch flounder, bass, and even shark, or go crabbing in the shore for blue crabs and clams. You don't need a fishing license to fish in New Jersey, but you do need to apply for a permit, which is easy and free to obtain.

Where to Stay Nearby

The residential towns directly next to the park are mostly residential, but there are plenty of accommodation options in nearby towns like Jersey City and Hoboken or even across the East River in New York City. If you want to stay in Manhattan, the uptown neighborhoods of Washington Heights or Harlem are the closest options, although the Bronx also has easy access to the park.

  • Hyatt Place Fort Lee: This Fort Lee chain hotel is one of the closest options to the park, and since it's on the Jersey side of the river you can even walk there.
  • Edge Hotel: The Edge Hotel is a modern and boutique hotel in the Washington Heights neighborhood and is just minutes away from the Palisades by car. It also has easy access to the rest of Manhattan thanks to the nearby subway lines.
  • Aloft Harlem: The Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem is slightly farther from the park, but the vibrant neighborhood and accessibility to the rest of the city make it a winning option for most travelers. The Aloft hotel is part of a trendy chain known for its chic style and affordable prices.

How to Get There

For most visitors coming from farther south in New Jersey or New York City, the southern tip of the park is the easiest to reach. It's also the best place to begin since the visitor center is located there at Fort Lee Historic Park and you can grab a map or talk to a ranger to get your bearings and ask what to see. However, some of the most scenic outlooks and most breathtaking trails are at the north end of the park around the state border.

If you're arriving by public transit from New York City, take the A or 1 train to 181st Street and from there, walk to the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal and take a short bus ride just across the bridge. To add to your scenic hike for the day, you can also walk across the bridge from Manhattan and arrive directly at the park.

Accessibility

While many of the trails are considered rugged and not apt for wheelchairs, there are also scenic lookout points and picnic areas that you can drive directly to, including the State Line Outlook—considered one of the most picturesque in the park. All of the bathrooms in the park are also open to the public and accessible for visitors in wheelchairs.

New Jersey residents with permanent disabilities can also apply for the New Jersey State Parks and Forests Disability Pass for free entry into Palisades Park.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The park is open from dawn to dusk every day of the year. Camping out overnight is not allowed anywhere in the park.
  • The park is free to enter but there is a parking fee.
  • Having a picnic in the park is one of the most popular activities and grills are available to use at the Ross Dock, Englewood, Undercliff, and Alpine picnic areas. You can also bring your own grill, but barbecuing is only allowed in those four areas.
  • While boating is allowed from one of the docks in the park, swimming in the Hudson River is prohibited.
  • Dogs are allowed in the park and on hiking trails as long as they are leashed.
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Palisades Interstate Park: The Complete Guide