The 14 Best Places to Hike in New York State

Woman standing at the top of a mountain

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Once you get beyond New York City, New York State is filled with incredible nature parks and preserves just begging to be explored. In fact, there are more than 1,200 miles of multi-use trails in New York State just waiting to be hiked along, including the recently opened 400-mile Empire State Trail that traverses the entire state. The state has hiking trails for every ability and accessibility, ranging from steep mountain treks to flat trails through forests and wetlands. Several hikes also pass by picturesque ruins or have fire towers you can climb for panoramic views. From the Adirondacks to the Catskills to the Finger Lakes to Long Island, here are the best hiking trails across New York State.

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Cascade Mountain Trail, Adirondack Park

Cascade Mountain Adirondacks

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There are 46 High Peaks in Adirondacks Park, and the people who climb them all are part of a special club called the Forty-Sixers. But if you want to start with two, the Cascade Mountain Trail will take you up Cascade and Porter Mountains, and it’s one of the more moderate hikes, at 5.5 miles. The trail, which has 1,940 feet of elevation gain, is still challenging, though, and will first take you past a waterfall before you reach the summit of Cascade Mountain for 360-degree views. You’ll see a junction for a trail to Porter Mountain, and it’s less than a mile to the top from there (but no judgment if you skip it!). The trail is easy to get to from downtown Lake Placid, making it a popular hike in spring, summer, and fall, so get an early start to avoid crowds.

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Devil’s Hole Trail, Niagara Falls

Devil's Hole Niagara Falls

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Aside from gawking at the crashing falls, if you’re a hiker, be sure to make time for Devil’s Hole State Park on a visit to Niagara Falls. Right near the main parking area, the 2.4-mile Devil’s Hole Trail immediately descends hundreds of rock steps to the bottom of the 300-foot deep Niagara River Gorge, before following alongside the rushing Niagara River, and then to the Devil’s Hole itself, a massive, churning whirlpool. Moderately challenging, the rocks can be slick in places, so wear boots with good grips.

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Overlook Mountain Trail, Woodstock

Overlook Mountain House, Woodstock

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The 4.6-mile Overlook Mountain Trail is a popular hike in the Catskills that’s easy to moderate, with an elevation gain of 1,398 feet. About two miles in, you’ll get to the photogenic, moss-covered remains of Overlook Mountain House, one of the classic resorts of the early 20th-century that made the region famous. It may be tempting to call it a day, but if you continue on the ascent, you’ll find a 60-foot fire tower at the summit. One of five remaining fire towers in the Catskill region (which used to have many more), the tower is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. And while the views from the nearby vista are already pretty spectacular, climbers are rewarded with panoramic views that reach six states. Access the trail in the town of Woodstock.

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Anthony’s Nose, Bear Mountain State Park

View of Bear Mountain Bridge, New York

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About an hour’s journey from New York City lies more than 5,000 acres of nature in Bear Mountain State Park. The park has more than 235 miles of hiking trails, including a piece of the Appalachian Trail. To reach Anthony’s Nose, a rocky lookout that vaguely resembles a, you guessed it, nose, you’ll walk along a short stretch of the famous trail, along with another mile or so of terrain before reaching the viewpoint (it’s 2.6 miles roundtrip). The climb is steep, but you’ll see stunning views of Bear Mountain Bridge and the Hudson Valley once at the top.

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Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

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Located in the Finger Lakes region, the Gorge Trail in Watkins Glen State Park is easily one of the state’s most popular hikes, and for a good reason. In just 2.4 miles, you’ll see 19 waterfalls, traversing stone bridges, and traipsing behind dripping falls to gawk at impressive rock formations and stunning pools. And while there is a wide stone path that makes the trail relatively easy, there are also around 800 steps to climb, so make sure you can handle them before setting out. The trail was recently closed for maintenance, but as of May 15, 2021, the Gorge Trail will be open to one-way travel to Mile Point with visitors returning via the North Rim Trail.

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Rim and Gorge Trail, Robert H. Treman State Park

Robert H. Treman State Park New York

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Waterfall fans will also want to make time for the Rim and Gorge Trail inside the Robert H. Treman State Park in Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes Region. This 4.7-mile loop traces both sides of the Treman Gorge’s rim and its dozen waterfalls, including the gushing 115-foot Lucifer Falls. If it’s hot enough, there’s a swimmable waterfall at the end of the hike. If you only want to do the Rim Trail, it will bring you to the base of Lucifer Falls and back up, and is 2 miles long, but the Gorge Trail brings you down into the deep gorge for a unique vantage point. The ascent from the bottom of the gorge back up to the rim is challenging, however.

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Poet’s Ledge Trail, Palenville

Supposedly named because it allegedly drew writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and painters like Thomas Cole seeking inspiration, Poet’s Ledge is indeed inspirational. This moderately difficult 6.4-mile trail passes by three waterfalls: Viola Falls, Wildcat Falls, and Buttermilk Falls, and has a 2,201-foot elevation gain. Once you reach the summit, there are sweeping views of the lush Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. Those looking for some quiet time will appreciate that the trailhead is somewhat hard to find—it’s behind a house, making it less trafficked.

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Gorge Trail, Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park

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Although the one-way Gorge Trail in Letchworth State Park is just over 7 miles, it’s a fairly easy path through woods with some stone steps. Along the way, you’ll see most of the park’s famous attractions, including the so-called Grand Canyon of the East (the Letchworth Gorge) and its three major waterfalls (aptly called Upper, Middle, and Lower falls). The trail follows the western rim of the gorge and includes multiple overlooks into the canyon—pause at Inspiration Point, Wolf Creek, and the Tea Tables for the best views.

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Kaaterskill Falls Trail, Elka Park

Kaaterskill Falls

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Another favorite Catskills hike, Kaaterskill Falls Trail is a trail to the most well-known waterfall in the region. And at 260 feet, it’s an impressive one (although in summer, it can sometimes slow to a trickle). You’ll first see a vista over the falls, and then the trail takes you down to the falls via stairs. The 1.5-mile-loop is fairly easy, but some rocks can be slippery near the falls. In winter, be aware of mud and ice.

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Mount Marcy, Adirondack Park

View from Mount Marcy, New York

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New York State’s highest peak, Mount Marcy is also the tallest of the Adirondacks’ 46 High Peaks and many hikers’ bucket lists. Near the town of Lake Place, the 14.8-mile roundtrip trail has more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain, making it one of the most challenging hikes in the state. A large part of the trail traverses a rocky ravine up to the summit, so there’s a fair amount of rock scrambling as well as a steep ascent. Once you reach the summit, though, you’ll be awarded with impressive views of the dozens of surrounding Adirondack peaks.

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Breakneck Ridge, Cold Spring

Breakneck Ridge

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This steep hike is one of the most challenging hikes on this list, but it’s also one of the most popular due to its proximity to New York City. On weekends, there is even a direct train on Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal to Breakneck Ridge, which takes about an hour-and-a-half. The trail is a little over 3 miles roundtrip, but it starts with a steep ascent almost immediately, and there is also a lot of rock scrambling and climbing, making it all the more satisfying when you reach the top. Be aware that it’s not a good idea to bring pets along because of the rock climbing required.

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Gertrude’s Nose, Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Gertrude's Nose Minnewaska State Park

Getty Images/Troy Wojtaszek

An imposing rock formation in the Shawangunk Mountains of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Gertrude’s Nose is a strenuous hike. The 6.9-mile loop traverses various overlooks, cliff edges, and rock formations, but the final sweeping vista from the outcropping of Gertrude’s Nose presents an incredible view of the Hudson Valley. To get to the trailhead, drive to the upper parking lot inside the preserve.

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Pine Meadow Trail, Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park

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Harriman State Park is just 46 miles from NYC, making it a popular day trip for city dwellers. The 10-mile Pine Meadow Trail is long, but you don’t have to do the whole thing. A good stopping point might be Pine Meadow Lake, which you’ll reach after 2.5 miles of following the trail along Stony Brook and Pine Meadow Brook creeks. If you’re up for more, hike around the lake and then connect to any number of other trails from there. Start at the Reeves Meadow Information Center.

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Muttontown Preserve Loop Trail, Long Island

Muttontown Preserve

Devorah Lev-Tov

The largest natural preserve of Long Island, Muttontown Preserve is 550 acres and is known for its wildflowers and bird-watching—you may even see a Great Horned Owl. More of a walk than a hike, this mostly flat picturesque trail through the woodlands and around ponds of Muttontown Preserve is 2.5 miles. Along the way are the crumbling ruins of the former mansion of Albania’s King Zog (really) and the Chelsea Mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now an event venue.