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Ken Lockwood Gorge
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Khürt L. Williams

The best hiking near NYC

Whether you're a pro or a novice, the best hiking near NYC will deliver. Who doesn't love the outdoors, after all?

By Jordi Lippe-McGraw and Annalise Mantz
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Note: Although hiking trails near NYC are currently open, most are only accessible during daylight hours. Plan accordingly. 

If you've been itching to go hiking near NYC, you're in luck. Just a few hours away from town, these trails run the gamut from easy to hard but all have one thing in common: they champion nature above all else. While there are a handful of parks in NYC with trails you could wander, getting to truly enjoy green spaces can be a bit of a challenge when you’re sharing them with 8.6 million other people. When you tire of the best things to do outside in Gotham and need a change of scenery, try one of these outdoor adventures instead. From serene paths through the woods and thrilling ascents up rocky cliffs, these hiking trails and day trips from NYC are just a quick train or bus ride away. Grab your boots!

 

Best hiking near NYC

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Nadia Z.

1. Ice Caves and Verkeerderkill Falls Trail Hike

This hike can be busy, but it’s easy to see why. Along the seven-mile trail, you get to navigate through the tight passages of the Ice Caves and walk past Verkeerderkill Falls, which happens to be the highest waterfall trail in the Shawangunks. Oh, and that’s after you get the incredible views from Sam’s Point, a.k.a. a good spot to take a break. Take the Short Line bus from New York to nearby Ellenville and then take a 14-minute cab ride to Sam’s Point Preserve via Abe’s Taxi Service.

Time: 4.5 hours
Level: Easy

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Helen L.

2. Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Camp

Just an 80-minute train ride on Metro North from Grand Central to Beacon, and you’ll be in one of the most unique hiking destinations near the city. After hopping off the train, you can head into the forest, where a campground awaits you. The best part? You don’t need any equipment as you can rent everything on the spot. They’ll even provide meals if you aren’t up for cooking. From the base camp, you can choose multiple trails, which have things to explore like old railway tracks and casino ruins.

Time: 30 minutes to five hours
Level: Easy

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Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/A A.

3. Stairway to Heaven Trail

It might take a little while to get to this spot located about 50 miles outside the city, but you’ll get everything you ever wanted in a hike. There’s a suspension bridge, wildflowers and cow pastures. Not to mention, you’ll get a fantastic butt and thigh workout if you opt to do the steep 7.3-mile “Stairway to Heaven” section (there’s also the shorter 2.5-mile version, which starts at the lot on Route 94). Take NJ Transit bus route 196 or 197 to Warwick, New York, and it’s just a 10-minute cab or Uber ride to the trailhead.

Time: Varies
Level: Easy to hard

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Hatsumi T.

4. Bull Hill (Mt. Taurus)

It might have “hill” in its name, but Bull Hill is most certainly a mountain. With an ascent of 1,350 feet, you will get some of the most spectacular views of the Hudson Valley from here. Better yet, you’re not as likely to see as many folks along the way as the more popular Breakneck Ridge, which is less than a mile away. You can add on an easier hike if you’re still up for some walking by making the one-mile loop at Little Stony Point just across the street before grabbing a bite to eat in the town of Cold Spring, which is just a 15-minute walk away. Take the Hudson line from Grand Central Station to the Cold Spring stop and walk one mile to the trailhead.

Time: 3 hours
Level: Moderate to hard

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Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jeana P.

5. Storm King State Park

You have several options of hikes here, some a bit steeper than others, but all are guaranteed to have great views of the Catskills and Hudson Valley. What hikers love most is undisturbed wild nature of the trail, but they will argue that the actual distance ranges somewhere between 3.6 and 5 miles. Storm King Art Center, which is near the trailhead, offers train and bus packages from New York using public transportation. Just check the website for details.

Time: 3 hours
Level: Moderate

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Rob W.

6. Yellow Trail at Mount Beacon

Another great alternative to Breakneck Ridge, consider this trail if you’re short on time and want to avoid a lot of people. The 2.5-mile out-and-back is a quick but challenging hike that sends you straight up the mountain, where you can take in views similar to its more popular neighbors. You can even make it up to watch the sunset and back down in time before it gets too dark. To get there, take Metro-North to Beacon and walk or cab the two miles to the trailhead.

Time: 90 minutes
Level: Moderate to hard

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Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sheba K.

7. Lake Skenonto Loop

Located about a half-mile from New Jersey Transit’s Tuxedo Station, you can start this eight mile loop by looking for the red trail on your NYNJTC map. From there, head to Parker Cabin Mountain, where there’s a perfect spot for lunch, complete with flat rocks and views of the lake. Continue to the blue Victory trail, which will take you along the edge of Lake Skenonto, past Black Ash Swamp and then back to the start.

Time: 5 to 6 hours
Level: Easy to moderate

Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Henry Solich

8. Appalachian Trail

Before committing to all 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail, take a weekend to test it out by taking a quick train ride to a portion of the famous hike. The Metro-North Harlem line runs from Grand Central to the Appalachian Trail station on weekend mornings, and you can pick your hiking pace and direction, making it a great hike for people of all levels. Self-described “wildman” Steve Brill also offers guided foraging walks of a small section of the trail on Saturday mornings, if you can’t decide which route to take.

Time: Varies
Level: Easy

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Arden Point
Arden Point
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/East Hudson

9. Arden Point and Glenclyffe

It doesn’t get much easier then stepping off the train and on to the trailhead. After taking the Metro North to the Garrison stop, look for two stone pillars and a sign for “Arden Point–Hudson Highlands State Park.” Follow that to enjoy a 3.7-mile circuit passing several panoramic viewpoints over the Hudson. Bonus: you get to walk along a historic road Benedict Arnold used to escape during the Revolutionary War.

Time: Two to three hours 
Level: Easy

 

Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Paul Brady

10. Blue Mountain Reservation Loop

There’s no better motivation to get some exercise than the promise of a crisp beer at the end. This 12-mile loop starts about a mile from the Peekskill Metro North stop. Once on the trail, you’ll be able to hit to viewpoints over the Hudson River and pass a serene pond along the way. On your way back to the train, make sure to stop at the Peekskill Brewery to reward yourself for tackling the climb.

Time: Three to four hours
Level: Easy to moderate

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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Mat McDermott

11. Camp Smith Trail

If the Appalachian Trail and Bear Mountain are a bit crowded, this three-and-a-half-mile hike is great for a little solo strolling. The rolling hills are great for some fitness, but aren’t overwhelmingly difficult. With fairly easy terrain, even your four-legged friend can join you on the trail. Take the Metro-North Hudson line to Peekskill Station for free shuttles to the Bear Mountain Inn, where you can hike up to see incredible Hudson Valley vistas.

Time: Three hours
Level: Moderate

Franny Reese III
Franny Reese III
Photograph: Courtesy Robert Rodriguez Jr

12. Franny Reese State Park

In less than two hours, Metro-North's Hudson line brings you to Poughkeepsie, where a whole day of activities awaits you. Start with a stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson (the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, perched 212 feet above the river) before heading west into Franny Reese State Park. There are two-and-a-half miles of trails with sites like an old carriage road, ruins of a 19th-century estate and superb views of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Reward yourself with dinner at one of the many restaurants nearby before heading home.

Time: Two hours
Level: Easy

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Wanaque
Wanaque
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/WhatsAllThisThen

13. Indian Rock/Wanaque Ridge Trail Loop

Lakes? Check. Babbling brooks? Check. Stunning views? Check. This 5.5-mile hike has it all. After taking NJ Transit’s #197 bus from the Port Authority to the intersection of Ringwood Avenue and Second Avenue in Wanaque, walk just under a mile to begin your journey. Climb the scenic Ramapo Lake and follow the Wanaque Ridge Trail along the western ridge of the Ramapo Mountains to spot stunning views over New Jersey and Ramapo Lake.

Time: Three and a half hours
Level: Moderate

 

Ken Lockwood Gorge
Ken Lockwood Gorge
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Khürt L. Williams

14. Ken Lockwood Gorge and Columbia Trail

Everything about this 7.5-mile hike is quaint. You start in the adorable town of High Bridge before setting off to the scenic Ken Lockwood Gorge, then hit the banks of the Raritan River before finishing on the Columbia Trail. To get there, simply take New Jersey Transit Raritan Valley Line to High Bridge.

Time: Three hours
Level: Easy

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Lemon Squeezer/Island Pond Loop
Lemon Squeezer/Island Pond Loop
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Morrow Long

15. Lemon Squeezer/Island Pond Loop

With a name like Lemon Squeezer, you know this has to be a fun trail. The 7.5-mile circuit features the typical pond and greenery, but it also has the unique bonuses of a tight rock formation (hence the squeezer) and the historic Boston Mine. Just buy a ticket to Southfields on the Shortline bus from Port Authority and ask the bus driver to let you off at Arden Valley Road next to a "Welcome to Harriman State Park” sign. There’s even a discount for hikers.

Time: Four and a half hours
Level: Moderate to strenuous

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Josh Kesner

16. Long Path

While getting up close and personal with the Hudson River might not be your idea of fun, this hike might change your mind. A walk or bus ride over the George Washington Bridge leads you to Fort Lee Historic Park and access to 356 miles of trails on the Long Path. Of course, you won't complete the whole walk in a day, but you can choose your distance and direction and pass things like the Rockefeller Lookout or the Greenbrook Sanctuary or follow the Shore Trail to waterfront picnic areas.

Time: Varies
Level: Easy to Moderate

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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Mat McDermott

17. Manitou Point Preserve

Good for all skill levels, this four-mile hike parallels the Hudson River, ultimately leading to a cliffside with sweeping views of the river. To get there, just take the Metro-North Line to Manitou Station and follow signs for the trail. About halfway through the three-hour hike, you get the treat of walking past a historic mansion that once belonged to the Livingston family.

Time: Three hours
Level: Easy to moderate

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/June Marie

18. Marshlands Conservancy

This easy one-mile hike along the Long Island Sound is great for taking in lovely water and marsh views. You also walk past an 1838 mansion that was once home to John Jay. For this hike, take Metro-North's New Haven Line to Harrison Station, walk down Purdy Street, turn left on Park Avenue then right onto Boston Post Road.

Time: One hour
Level: Easy

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IMG_0458
IMG_0458
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/ScubaBear68

19. Old Croton Aqueduct

Nature and history buffs will get a kick out of this trail that runs along the route of the Old Croton Aqueduct. The full length of the trail runs 26 miles from Tarrytown to Yonkers, but there are multiple Metro-North stops between the two towns, making it easy to hop on and off. Stroll past parts of the old aqueduct, Lyndhurst Castle and many other historic buildings during your hike.

Time: Three hours
Level: Easy

Pyramid Mountain
Pyramid Mountain
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Wally Gobetz

20. Pyramid Mountain and Kakeout Reservoir

Yes, New Jersey makes the list again for another one of its scenic paths. This approximately 9-mile loop follows the shore line of the Kakeout Reservoir before climbing Pyramid Mountain, where you’ll see two crazy looking rock formations. Luckily, this range of landscape is just a bus ride away. Take NJ Transit bus #194 from the Port Authority to the Meadtown Shopping Center, then walk west for 0.1 mile on Kiel Road and turn left onto Kakeout Road. Continue for 0.5 mile to Bubbling Brook Road.


Time: Five hours
Level: Moderate

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surprise lake loop
surprise lake loop
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/WhatsAllThisThen

21. Surprise Lake Loop

A two-hour bus ride from Port Authority to Greenwood Lake Park & Ride will land you near the trailhead of this Jersey Highlands hike. The five-mile loop has varied terrain, making for a moderate-to-difficult course, but the views are worth it. You'll get to see the beautiful Greenwood Lake and know you're not too far from home with the NYC skyline in the distance. Bonus: dogs are allowed on this trail, but make sure they can handle it.

 

Time: Two to three hours
Level: Moderate to hard

Anthony's Nose
Anthony's Nose
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/

22. Anthony's Nose Hike

A small section of the Appalachian Trail leads you to Anthony’s Nose, a rocky ridge that offers spectacular views of Bear Mountain Bridge. After you climb up up a 500-foot rock staircase, the trail levels out for the remainder of the 2.6-mile hike to the overlook. On weekends, you can take the Metro-North Hudson line to the Manitou stop, then walk the remaining mile and a half to the trailhead. Or, join a group hike with Vertically Inclined for bus or van transportation to the trailhead.

Time: Two to three hours
Level: Moderate

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/squirrel83

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