In the midst of New York City’s relentless pace, it’s easy to overlook the natural beauty that exists just beyond the city’s borders. Venturing into the surrounding areas, you’ll find a treasure trove of serene landscapes and outdoor experiences waiting to be discovered. Hiking not only offers an escape from the urban environment but also provides physical and mental health benefits. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the top 20 hiking trails near NYC, showcasing the diverse and captivating outdoor havens that lie within easy reach of New York City‘s pulsing heart.
Trail Selection Criteria
To compile this list of the best hiking trails near New York City, we’ve considered several factors, including:
- Proximity to NYC: All trails are located within a two-hour drive or train ride from the city.
- Difficulty levels: We’ve included trails for various skill levels, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes.
- Trail length: The list offers a mix of short and long trails to accommodate different preferences and time constraints.
- Scenic value: All selected trails boast exceptional natural beauty, historical significance, or unique features.
Easy Hiking Trails Near NYC
Staten Island Greenbelt
The Staten Island Greenbelt is a network of over 35 miles of hiking trails and spans 2,800 acres, making it one of the largest natural areas within New York City. This urban oasis offers a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, with trails meandering through forests, wetlands, and meadows. One of the most popular routes is the 4-mile Blue Trail, which takes hikers through a variety of landscapes and offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. To reach the Greenbelt, take the Staten Island Ferry and then a bus or car to the trailhead.
Inwood Hill Park
Nestled at the northern tip of Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park is a slice of wilderness in the heart of the city. The park covers 196 acres and features some of the oldest natural forests in Manhattan, as well as the last remaining salt marsh. The 2-mile Orange Trail loop offers stunning views of the Hudson River and Palisades while meandering through the park’s lush forests. To get there, take the A train to 207th Street or the 1 train to 215th Street.
Palisades Interstate Park
Located along the Hudson River, Palisades Interstate Park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails, with stunning views of the river and the New York City skyline. The park is home to the Long Path, a 358-mile trail that stretches from Fort Lee, New Jersey, to Albany, New York. For a shorter hike, try the 4-mile Carpenter’s Loop, which offers panoramic views and passes by historic sites like the Kearney House. The park is accessible by car or by taking the New Jersey Transit bus from the George Washington Bridge Bus Station.
Moderate Hiking Trails Near NYC
Breakneck Ridge is one of the most popular hiking destinations near NYC, offering breathtaking views of the Hudson River and surrounding valleys. The 5.5-mile loop trail is considered moderately difficult, with steep climbs and rocky terrain, but the reward is well worth the effort. Breakneck Ridge is accessible by car, but on weekends from April to November, the Metro-North Railroad offers a stop at the trailhead, making it even easier to reach this stunning hike.
Turkey Mountain in Yorktown Heights, New York, offers a moderate 4-mile loop trail with a mix of wooded paths, rocky climbs, and open meadows. The summit provides spectacular views of the New York City skyline, the Hudson River, and theCroton Reservoir. The trail is well-marked and features several spots to rest and enjoy the scenery. To reach Turkey Mountain, take the Metro-North Harlem Line to Croton-Harmon Station and then a taxi or ride-share to the trailhead.
Harriman State Park
As the second-largest state park in New York, Harriman State Park boasts over 200 miles of hiking trails, encompassing diverse landscapes such as forests, lakes, and rocky ridges. One of the most popular routes is the 7-mile Reeves Brook Loop, which offers a moderately challenging hike with stunning vistas, cascading waterfalls, and the chance to spot wildlife. Harriman State Park is easily accessible by car or via the Metro-North or NJ Transit trains to Tuxedo Station.
Challenging Hiking Trails Near NYC
Bear Mountain State Park, situated on the west bank of the Hudson River, offers a challenging hike with rewarding views at the summit. The 4-mile Major Welch Trail features steep ascents, rocky scrambles, and panoramic views of the Hudson River Valley, making it perfect for experienced hikers. After your hike, explore the park’s other attractions, including a zoo, carousel, and museum. To reach Bear Mountain, take the Palisades Interstate Parkway or the Metro-North Hudson Line to Peekskill Station, followed by a short taxi or ride-share trip.
Storm King Mountain
Located across the river from Breakneck Ridge, Storm King Mountain offers a challenging 2.5-mile loop trail with steep climbs and breathtaking views of the Hudson River Valley. The trail traverses rocky terrain and offers several viewpoints to rest and admire the scenery. Storm King Mountain is accessible by car or via the Metro-North Hudson Line to Beacon Station, followed by a taxi or ride-share to the trailhead.
Schunemunk Mountain, the highest peak in Orange County, New York, features a challenging 8-mile loop trail known as the Trestle Trail. The hike includes steep ascents, rock scrambles, and ridge walks, culminating in panoramic views of the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding mountains. The trailhead can be reached by car, or take the Metro-North Port Jervis Line to Salisbury Mills-Cornwall Station, followed by a taxi or ride-share.
Wildlife and Historical Hiking Trails Near NYC
Wildlife Watching: Marshlands Conservancy
The Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, New York, is a 147-acre wildlife sanctuary offering a serene setting for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. With over 3 miles of trails meandering through forests, meadows, and salt marshes, this tranquil haven is perfect for nature enthusiasts. Access the conservancy by car, or take the Metro-North New Haven Line to Rye Station and then a taxi or ride-share.
Wildlife Watching: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Located in Queens, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting over 330 bird species throughout the year. The 1.5-mile West Pond Trail circles a freshwater pond, offering excellent opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. The refuge can be reached by car or by taking the A train to Broad Channel Station.
Historical Trails: Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail is a 26-mile historic trail that follows the path of the original aqueduct, which once supplied New York City with fresh water. This flat, scenic trail offers hikers the opportunity to explore the history of the aqueduct while enjoying views of the Hudson River and passing through quaint towns. Access the trail by car or take the Metro-North Hudson Line to various stations along the route, such as Tarrytown or Ossining.
Historical Trails: Battle of White Plains Trail
The Battle of White Plains Trail is a 4.5-mile loop that takes hikers through key sites of the 1776 Revolutionary War battle. Along the trail, you’ll encounter interpretive signs detailing the historical events that unfolded in the area. The trail is accessible by car or via the Metro-North Harlem Line to the White Plains Station, followed by a taxi or ride-share to the trailhead.
Seasonal Hiking Trails Near NYC
Spring Wildflower Hikes: Teatown Lake Reservation
Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, New York, offers a beautiful 2.5-mile Wildflower Loop Trail that comes to life in spring with vibrant wildflowers. The well-maintained trail meanders through woodlands and around the lake, providing a picturesque setting for nature lovers. Access the reservation by car, or take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Ossining Station, followed by a taxi or ride-share.
Spring Wildflower Hikes: Rockefeller State Park Preserve
The Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is home to more than 30 miles of trails that wind through woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. The 1.5-mile Thirteen Bridges Loop is particularly stunning in spring, showcasing a dazzling display of wildflowers. To get to the preserve, take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Tarrytown Station, followed by a taxi or ride-share.
Fall Foliage Hikes: Fort Tryon Park
Located in Upper Manhattan, Fort Tryon Park boasts stunning fall foliage and offers a 1.5-mile loop trail with sweeping views of the Hudson River and the Palisades. The park is also home to the Cloisters, a medieval-inspired museum featuring European art and architecture. Access the park by taking the A train to 190th Street Station or the 1 train to 191st Street Station.
Fall Foliage Hikes: Sterling Forest State Park
Sterling Forest State Park in Tuxedo, New York, is a 21,935-acre park featuring numerous trails that showcase vibrant fall foliage. The 4-mile Sterling Lake Loop is particularly scenic during the autumn months, offering views of the lake and surrounding forest. Reach the park by car or take the Metro-North Port Jervis Line to Tuxedo Station, followed by a taxi or ride-share.
Family-Friendly Trails Near NYC
Van Cortlandt Park
Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx offers over 20 miles of trails suitable for families with young children. The 1.5-mile John Kieran Trail is a gentle path that loops around the park’s picturesque lake, providing opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. Access the park by taking the 1 train to 242nd Street Station.
Alley Pond Park
Alley Pond Park in Queens features a 2-mile loop trail that is ideal for families, taking hikers through wetlands, forests, and meadows. The park also offers an adventure course, a nature center, and playgrounds. To reach Alley Pond Park, take the Q46 bus from the E or F train at Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike Station.
High Rock Park
High Rock Park, part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, is a hidden gem that offers family-friendly hiking opportunities. The 1.5-mile High Rock Loop is a gentle trail that takes hikers through tranquil forests and offers educational signage along the way. The park also features a nature center, picnic areas, and playgrounds. To get to High Rock Park, take the Staten Island Ferry and then a bus or car to the trailhea
Before embarking on any hike, it’s essential to follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
A. Safety precautions: Stay on marked trails, carry a map or use a trail app, and inform someone of your hiking plans.
B. Proper gear and attire: Wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing, sturdy footwear, and pack essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, and a first aid kit.
C. Leave No Trace principles: Practice sustainable hiking by packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting wildlife and other hikers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Which NYC trail is best for beginners?
For beginners, the Staten Island Greenbelt’s Blue Trail or Inwood Hill Park’s Orange Trail are excellent choices. Both trails offer gentle terrain, scenic views, and the opportunity to spot wildlife while remaining within New York City limits.
B. Are dogs allowed on these trails?
Dogs are generally allowed on most trails, provided they are on a leash and under the owner’s control. However, it’s always best to check each park’s specific regulations before embarking on a hike with your furry friend.
C. How can I prepare for a hike?
To prepare for a hike, make sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear, pack essentials like water, snacks, sunscreen, and a first aid kit, and research the trail’s difficulty and conditions. Additionally, inform someone of your hiking plans and follow the Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.
D. What public transportation options are available?
Many of the trails near New York City can be accessed by public transportation, such as the Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, or MTA buses and subway lines. Some trails may require a short taxi or ride-share trip from the nearest train or bus station.
E. Are there any guided hikes available?
Guided hikes are available at various parks and nature centers, often led by knowledgeable staff or volunteers. Some organizations, such as the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, also offer guided hikes led by experienced hikers. It’s a good idea to check the park’s official website or contact local outdoor clubs for information on guided hikes and other events.