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Travel time: One and a half hours from NYC by car
Minnewaska State Park Preserve—a dramatic 21,000 acres in the Shawangunk Mountains—is a woodsy, rocky park crisscrossed with 30 miles of foot trails that pass three lakes and seven gushing waterfalls. It also includes 35 miles of historic carriageways for gentler hiking and biking. Take one of these packed-gravel paths to Castle Point, the park's highest spot, for sweeping vistas of the lakes. nysparks.state.ny.us
Passaic County, NJ
Travel time: One hour from NYC by bus
Don't laugh: The Garden State has great hiking. Trees actually outnumber malls in the New Jersey Highlands around the Appalachian Trail. Hop on the 196/197 New Jersey Transit bus from Port Authority to Greenwood Lake for Abram Hewitt State Forest's striking views and lush scenery; start with the challenging four-mile Ernest Walter Trail, which loops around Surprise Lake. You'll scramble up pudding-stone outcroppings to the top of Bearfort Ridge and wind past rhododendrons before the lake suddenly appears. www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests
Travel time: About two hours from NYC by train
Now in its second summer, the 1.25-mile Walkway Over the Hudson (walkway.org) near Poughkeepsie's Metro-North station is the region's latest city-rat magnet—time to see for yourself just how spectacular it is. But the soaring views don't stop at the pedestrian bridge. Hike on to the adjacent 251-acre Franny Reese State Park (scenichudson.org), which contains 2.5 miles of trails and the ruins of a 19th-century estate. The park's overlook of the walkway and city is even better with a succulent roast-beef sandwich ($6) from 32-year-old deli Rossi Rosticceria in hand (45 S Clover St, Poughkeepsie; 845-471-0654, rossideli.com).
The Berkshires, MA
Travel time: Two hours from NYC by bus or train
These mountains are not as far away as you think—Metro-North's Wassaic stop drops you off in rolling countryside that grows hillier as you near Massachusetts. Wend your way past red barns, pastures and clapboard churches to picturesque Great Barrington, where you can catch the last Peter Pan bus home. Or, for a longer stay, ride on to Lenox to hear music under the stars at Tanglewood (bso.org); the resident Boston Symphony Orchestra performs regularly, and this season also includes James Taylor with the Boston Pops (July 1).
South Fork, L.I.
Travel time: One hour from NYC by train
If you've always wanted to ride a "century"—100 miles—Long Island's South Fork is an easy place to start. Take an early LIRR train to Babylon (or Sayville to ride 75 miles) and cruise the pancake-flat Montauk Highway, easing from suburbia to posh Hamptons main streets and finally to gorgeous dunes at the eastern tip of Long Island. Best of all, you'll torch enough calories to snack along the way at places like Moriches Bay Diner in Moriches (631-878-6827) and La Fondita in Amagansett (631-267-8800), before catching the train back from Montauk.