When people think of visiting or living in New York their mind almost immediately jumps to Manhattan or maybe even Brooklyn or Queens. However, New York and its surround areas are vast. There are so many beautiful and accessible forests and mountains to be discovered and conquered. And it’s all within an hour or two of a drive or train ride away. If you want to see the whole picture of what New York has to offer, I suggest you get out of the hectic city and trek to the “country-side” to discover nature.
Breakneck Ridge or Bull Hill (Approx. Trail Time 3.5 hours/3 hours)
Breakneck Ridge is a highly frequented trail near the city. It is about an hour and a half train ride up to Cold Spring with the trailhead about a two mile walk from the station. On the weekends, there is also a limited train service to Breakneck Ridge station which is much closer to the trailhead. If driving, make sure to arrive early as this is a popular hike and parking is limited. The hike is short on mileage at only a 3.7 mile loop but makes up for in steepness and difficulty. It is a tough climb for novice hikers and will involve rock scrambles and caution. However, it is definitely an attainable climb and totally worth it for the views at the top. It is amazing to reach the peak after working so hard to climb and to see Hudson River expanding before you. The mountains seem endless and depending on the time of year, the colors will overwhelm you. Bull Hill is a similar hike (3.6 mile up-and-back) with similar views that is just on the other side of the Hudson River. However, it is slightly less steep and less crowded than the Breakneck Hike. Either hike you choose will be rewarding and wonderful. End the day with a stroll through Cold Spring, check out the shops, and grab a bite to eat before heading back to the city!
Bear Mountain (Approx. Trail Time: 3 hours)
This is a hike I would highly recommend to take during the fall foliage time. It is popular around that time so expect crowds but once you’re there you will understand why it’s so frequented. You will see all the magical colors of the forest and it’ll take your breath away. It is a quick 45 train ride to the town of Peekskill with a 15 minute cab or Uber to the trailhead. There is a great lake area near the Bear Mountain Inn that offers picnic tables and grills. It is easily a great way to spend the day even if you are not into hiking. However, there are tons of trails with a popular trek being the Major Welch Trail to the Appalachian Trail. It comes in at just over 4 miles with stunning views of the Hudson River and of the forests of Bear Mountain State Park. It is also great to get to explore part of the iconic Appalachian Trail along the way. This is definitely one of the most picturesque of the NYS hikes.
Tuxedo, NY- Harriman State Park (Approx. Trail Time: 5.5 hours)
This is the most convenient trailhead in relation to public transportation. You just take an hour long train ride to the Tuxedo Station and a quick 3 minute walk to the trail from there. The Lake Skenonto Circular Loop is a great option that takes you to the top of mountain, through intriguing rock formations, babbling brooks, and of course to a beautiful lakefront. It is one of the longer trails at over 8 miles but offers a perfect combination of uphill and downhill climbing patterns. The views are amazing, as is clearly par for the course at this point with New York hikes. However, for a person that loves longer distance hikes and convenience to public transit, this is one of the best options near NYC. In fact, I did this hike during winter time, generally when trees and leaves are all dead, but I still thought it was one of the more beautiful hikes. I can only imagine how great it is in peak season.
Giant Ledge/Panther Mountain (Approx. Trail Time: 2 hours/4 hours)
The drive to this trailhead is a bit of a trek at 2 hours away. Unfortunately, it is not truly accessible by public transportation, but if you have a car it’s totally worth the journey. For a shorter hike, you can opt for just the Giant Ledge portion of the trail. This offers you 5 ledge viewpoints on the way up making it for a little over a 3 mile hike round trip. It is great to stop for a lunch break at one of the less crowded ledges! If you continue onwards past the ledges and head up Panther Mountain, it would be about 8 miles round trip. The view atop Panther Mountain is similar to that of the ledges but it infinitely less crowded because most people don’t head up. It is peaceful and calm at the top and I would highly recommend the full trail for those who love hiking and exercise. As well, if you are into camping, there is a great camp site accessible from the trail if you want to make it an overnight excursion. I have hiked tons of train in New York and this is hands down my favorite so far.
Of course, there are plenty of other hikes in close to Manhattan such as the trails in Palisades Park, the Long Path, Blue Mountain Reservation, Sugarloaf Hill, Anthony’s Nose, and so many more. The possibilities are endless and you would be surprised how accessible most of these trails are if only you push yourself to get out of the city. It’s definitely worth the effort. New York State has so much to offer if only you are willing to take on the adventure.