8 Of The Best Hiking Trails In New York

New York State has a wealth of hiking trails that traverse some of the most beautiful landscapes on the US East Coast. There are countless places in New York for hikers to explore unspoiled forests, mountains, and lakes.

New York State has an abundance of hiking trails, including a section of the famous Appalachian Trail. There is rich cultural history and natural beauty to experience along New York’s hiking trails. Hiking is possible year-round in New York, with fall being especially favorable.

New York State is an often overlooked hiking destination. However, it has more than enough world-class trails and stunning natural splendor to make any hiker happy. Here is some basic knowledge to help you make the most of your hiking in New York.

Hiking In New York: What You Need To Know

New York State is an excellent hiking destination. The state has beautiful and diverse natural landscapes, well-organized trail systems, and pleasant hiking weather for most of the year.

Hiking trails in New York cover the Adirondack Mountains in the north and the Catskill Mountains in the south. There are also countless hikes around the lakes in central New York State (and a few enjoyable hiking trails along the coast). 

New York has 180 state parks where you will find most of the state’s hiking trails. Local volunteer organizations maintain many of the trail systems in New York. These organizations usually also provide detailed trail information and maps.

New York’s hiking trails are effectively-managed and demarcated, and there is generally adequate parking, ablution facilities, and camp-sites.

New York has trails to suit hikers, regardless of their fitness levels and time schedules. There are easy, short hikes that can be completed in an hour or less. At the same time, fit and adventurous hikers will find many strenuous, multi-day trails throughout the state.

New York’s temperate climate means that hiking is possible year-round. Summer temperatures average between 68F and 86F (in July). It’s wise to choose trails that have adequate shade when hiking in New York during summer. Bringing insect repellent is also recommended in summer!

Fall is probably the best time to hike in New York. Though the most popular trails can still get crowded on weekends, the fall months offer cooler, more comfortable hiking weather. Fall also provides the opportunity to experience the tree leaves’ sublime color transformation.

New York is also a stunning place to hike in winter, though the weather gets considerably colder, averaging between 28F and 40F (in December). You’ll have to check the weather forecasts to avoid excessively windy, wet, and cold weather on your hikes.

New York has few hazards for hikers, aside from the potential dangers presented by the steepest, most exposed trails. The hazards hikers are most likely to encounter are those posed by local wildlife. Hikers should be vigilant for venomous snakes, especially in summer.

There is also a slim possibility of encountering large mammals like black bears, bobcats, or moose when hiking in the more remote mountains and forests of Upstate New York. A basic level of caution and common sense is always advisable to avoid potential dangers posed by these wild animals.

New York has too many trails to mention here, so let’s take a quick look at some of the best hiking trails from each region in the state.

The Appalachian Trail

 The Appalachian Trail is probably the famous hiking trail in the United States. It passes through the southern portion of New York State. The in-state section offers everything from easy day-hikes to strenuous multi-day hikes, and there are multiple trailheads to depart from.

The Appalachian Trail in New York is 93 miles long. It ranges from 124ft to a lofty 1433ft in elevation. The trail crosses the New York State border near Wawayanda State Park in the west and exits the state near the town of Wingdale.

The Appalachian Trail is maintained meticulously by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It is free of charge to the public. However, much of the trail passes through state parks with specific entry fees and opening hours.

While the Appalachian Trail in New York offers excellent opportunities for multi-day hiking, it also provides fantastic possibilities for day-hiking. The day-hiking sections of the trail are accessed easily from more than 200 parking areas. Maps for day-hiking are available from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s website.

Great Swamp

Great Swamp is a highly recommended day-hike on the northwestern end of the Appalachian Trail in New York. It’s a moderately easy 2.8-mile hike starting roughly two miles north of Pawling.  The hiking trail passes by the Great Swamp wetland and through meadows of cattails before rising to the panoramic views at the top of Corbin Hill.

Denning Hill

Denning Hill is another popular day-hike near Peekskill City, about 25 miles southwest of Pawling. The difficulty of this 5.2-mile hike is moderate to strenuous. The trail passes through unspoiled bogs and woodlands, and Graymoor Monastery, with two viewpoints along the way.

At the midpoint of the hike, the trail starts ascending steeply to the top of Denning Hill, which offers expansive views of the Hudson River and surrounding mountains. New York City is visible from the summit on clear days.

Prospect Rock

Prospect Rock is one of the most iconic day-hikes on the in-state section of the Appalachian Trail. The hike starts near the New Jersey state line, just outside the town of Greenwood Lake, roughly 15 miles west of Peekskill. Prospect Rock is a moderate 3.4-mile hike.

The Prospect Rock trail runs around Sunrise Lake and West Pond before ascending and then traversing the ridge of Bellvale Mountain. At 1433ft, the viewpoint at Prospect Rock is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail in New York, providing birds-eye views of Greenwood Lake and the Bellvale Mountain range.

The Finger Lakes Trail

The Finger Lakes Trail is a hiking paradise in Upstate New York that is generally less crowded than the more famous Appalachian Trail to the south.

The Finger Lakes Trail system consists of the main trail, which is 545-miles long. There are also six branch trails and 29 loop trails connected to the main hiking trail. The Finger Lakes Trail system is more than 1000 miles long in total.

The eastern end of the Finger Lakes Trail is in the Allegany State Park, near the Pennsylvania state line. The trail system moves west through the stunning Finger Lakes region and ends in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The Finger Lakes Trail is free of charge.

Hiking the Main Finger Lakes Trail takes about six to seven weeks to complete. Finger Lakes also has several shorter multi-day hiking options along different sections of the trail, such as the Great Eastern Trail and the Long Path. There are a few cabins and many sites for camping to accommodate multi-day hikers.

The Finger Lakes Trail also has a wide diversity of beautiful and satisfying day-hikes. In Letchworth State Park, the trail system connects to a popular seven-mile tributary trail that takes hikers through Genesee River Gorge (called The Grand Canyon of the East). Here hikers can enjoy the largest waterfalls in the trail system.

Another excellent day-hiking section of the trail system is in Watkins Glen State Park. Several smaller trails connected to the main trail offer majestic day-hikes through forested gorges. The Watkins Glen portion of the Finger Lakes Trail has 19 waterfalls that flow next to a series of 800 stone stairs. 

The Ashokan Rail Trail

The Ashokan Rail Trail offers beautiful and user-friendly hiking in the verdant Catskill Mountains, about 150 miles southeast of the Finger Lakes region. The hiking trail was recently established in 2019 and has beautiful views of the Ashokan Reservoir and surrounding forests and mountain peaks.

The Ashokan Rail Trail is an easy 11.5-mile trail with a 12ft-wide, smoothed-gravel surface, so it’s ideal for families, senior citizens, and people with physical disabilities. The hiking trail is open to the public from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. Cycling, jogging, and dog-walking are allowed.

The Ashokan Rail Trail runs along the northern shore of the reservoir between Boiceville and West Hurley. You can park and hike from one of the three main trail-heads at Boiceville, Ashokan Station, or Woodstock Dike (on the western end of the trail).

There are also some excellent places to hike near the Ashokan Rail Trail. For example, check out the short but lovely Ashokan Quarry Trail, a looping 1.8-mile hike passing through an attractive forest of maple trees on the south shore of the reservoir.

About two miles southwest of the reservoir is the Kanape Brook Trail. The trail follows an old wagon track that leads to stunning vistas at the 3061ft summit called Ashokan High Point. Kanape Brook Trail is about ten miles long from the trailhead to the mountain summit and back.

Adirondack Park Trails

Adirondack Park is in the Adirondack Mountains, tucked in the northeastern corner of New York State. The park is the largest in the lower 48 states, covering several million acres. It’s also one of the largest US wildernesses located next to a highly populated metropolitan area.

Adirondack Park is famed for the 46 mountain peaks higher than 4000ft in elevation. The park has a million acres of wetland, half a million acres of old-growth forest (and more than five million acres of forest in total), and more than 3000 pristine ponds and lakes.

There are 200 miles of formal hiking trails and 100 miles of informal trails in Adirondack Park. Many hikers focus their attention on the highest peaks (which is understandable), so these hiking trails are often crowded. Luckily, the park has many excellent trails where you can find peace and solitude.

The Bald Mountain Trail

Bald Mountain is an easy one-mile trail just outside the town of Old Forge. The trail is accessible from the trailhead on Rondaxe Road.

The Bald Mountain Trail passes through a beautiful forest before ascending to the peak of Rondaxe Mountain. The summit offers vast views of the Fulton Lake system, Giant Mountain, and Rocky Peak Mountain.

The trail is not difficult, but there are a few short scrambling sections that some hikers might find challenging. There are rewarding panoramas at the top of Bald Mountain, making this a crowded hiking trail at times.

The Auger Falls Trail

The Auger Falls Trail is another short, but richly rewarding hike in Adirondack Park. The trail is about 25 miles southeast of Bald Mountain, just outside the village of Speculator. Access is from the trailhead parking lot off Route 30.

The Auger Falls Trail is a 0.4-mile loop with a mild gradient. Most of the hike moves through an ethereal, forested ravine strewn with mossy boulders. Hikers arrive at the beautiful Auger Falls about halfway along the trail.  

Schaupeneak Ridge Park

Schaupeneak Ridge Park is about 150miles south of Adirondack park, and about 70 miles north of New York City. The mountain ridge and trail system are in the stunning Black Creek Preserve, a beautiful part of the Catskill Mountains on the western bank of the Hudson River.

Entry to the trails at Schaupeneak Ridge is free. Hikers should check the opening and closing times. Dog walking is allowed on the trails, and kayaking is allowed on the pond. The hiking trails are accessed from trailheads at the upper and lower parking lots.

There are eight color-coded trails around Schaupeneak Ridge. The trails are short and relatively easy, with the longest hiking trail being 1.8 miles long. Hikers can enjoy the waterfall and pond and the views of the Hudson River from the eastern flanks of Schaupeneak Ridge.

The trail system starts with the White Trail at the lower parking lot. After a short hike through most-laden trees and boulders, hikers can branch off to the 0.1-mile Purple Trail to see the picturesque waterfall.  The White Trail joins the Red Trail at a viewing spot overlooking the Hudson River.

From the viewing spot, the Red Trail ascends in a westerly direction to the Blue Trail, a 1.8-mile loop surrounding an idyllic body of water called Louisa Pond. The pond is one of the highlights of the Schaupeneak Ridge trail system, and it is also accessible from the upper parking lot. 

Conclusion

New York State has a rich diversity of hiking trails that pass through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Though often overshadowed by other parts of the US, New York is a prime hiking destination.

New York has countless, well-maintained single and multi-day trails offering hikers the chance to experience the glorious forests, mountains, lakes, and waterfalls of the northeastern United States.