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There’s no need to go abroad when you can find adventure in your own backyard! Get inspired to #HikeYourHomeState with guides to all 50 US states – starting with New York!
Some of the best hiking trails in the United States are often thought of being out West in states like Utah, Colorado, California and Alaska.
This means states like New York are often overlooked and under appreciated, but New York has over 215 state parks and historic sites covering over 350,000 acres.
New York is offering so much more than just the city that people know and love. New York, along with Maine, is the most beautiful place to hike in the Northeast surpassing Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. The Adirondack mountains, Catskills and Finger Lakes are some of the most popular and beautiful hiking destinations in the state.
Whether you love day hikes, camping overnight or hiking the Appalachian Trail, the state offers hikes for every skill level. This article will highlight the best hikes, day hikes and multi-day hikes in New York.
Beautiful views in the High Peaks Wilderness
Top 10 Places for Hiking in New York
There are so many great hikes in New York it was difficult to create a list of the top 10 destinations.
Whether you love remote wilderness, serene lakes or small day hikes, New York has everything and more! These are the top 10 places to go hiking in New York that you must have on your #HikeYourHomeState bucket list.
1. Lake Placid / High Peaks Wilderness
Lake Placid is located in the heart of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Whether you want to go hiking in the spring, summer, fall or winter Lake Placid and the surrounding area has some of the most amazing hikes.
The High Peaks Wilderness area contains over 230 miles of trails, and covers in total over 192,000 acres. The most famous hike is the 138-mile Northville-Placid Trail that ends in Lake Placid itself.
Setting sun in Keene Valley, NY
2. Keene Valley / Wilmington
Keene Valley is arguably the best hiking destination in New York offering some of the most remote backcountry.
For hikers looking to get away from others and hike the backcountry Keene Valley is the way to go. Some of the most popular trails include Whiteface Mountain Summit, Corridor Ridge, Esther Mountain and the Flume Fall trail.
3. Lake George
Located on the Southern end of the Adirondack Mountains, this 32-mile-long lake has amazing hikes and towns to visit.
The most popular trail is Prospect Mountain Trail which is a 5-mile trail with amazing views of the lake below. The area around Lake George is amazing in the summer and fall for a road trip visiting the local towns.
Frozen waterfall in Watkins Glen
4. Watkins Glen
Located in the Finger Lakes region in Western New York, Watkins Glen has amazing lakes and hiking destinations. The small state park offers breathtaking hikes with spectacular views of the waterfalls and gorge.
The most famous trails are Glen Creek Gorge trail and the Watkins Glen Indian Trail. Make sure to come in the fall or summer because the park closes down a lot of the trails in the winter due to ice.
Winter hiking and waterfalls in Letchworth State Park
5. Letchworth State Park
Many consider Letchworth State Park to have the best waterfalls in New York, even over Niagara Falls.
There are over 66 miles of trails throughout the park and there are three massive waterfalls. Whether you want a short easy hike, an overlook to the falls or a long weekend getaway Letchworth state park offers it all.
6. Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park is a great hiking destination located only an hour’s drive from New York City, so the state park can become overcrowded during the summer months and weekends due to this proximity.
But, Harriman offers a lot of great day hikes for every different skill level. The famous Reeves Brook Loop trail is around 4 miles long and allows you to see waterfalls, a lake and a gorgeous view at the top.
For the more adventurous hiker, the Lake Trail to Pine Meadows is one of the harder and longer hikes in the park. In total the hike is around 8.5 miles and is rated as hard. This trail is a lot less crowded than others which makes the journey even more fun.
Niagara Falls is one of the most iconic natural sites in New York
7. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the most touristy and popular destinations in the entire Northeast, but it’s honestly a tourist trap. However, the waterfall is absolutely amazing and something that is still worth checking out.
There aren’t many trails in the area, but the size and beauty of the waterfall makes up for that. Niagara Falls is a total of 167ft and is worth visiting in the winter because of the snow and massive ice sheets that form.
8. Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain is located near the border of Canada in Northern New York State and is of the most famous and historical destinations you can visit on your hiking trip through the state.
The best trail near Lake Champlain is the Sunset Ridge and Long Trail Loop which is only six miles long but very challenging and rewarding.
The Lake is actually in both New York and Vermont, so if you want, head over to Burlington and check out the small town. Another beautiful small hike is the Ausable Chasm, which is a huge tourist attraction and offers so many unique activities to take part in.
The Hudson River in Bear Mountain State Park
9. Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park is actually rated as the #1 state park for hiking New York. Located only 20 minutes from Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain covers over 5,000 acres.
Bear Mountain offers over 50 different hiking trails covering 235 miles with a wide range of elevation gains and total length. The most popular trails in the park are Bear Mountain Loop and the Dunderberg Spiral Railway / Bald Mountain Loop.
10. Big Indian Wilderness
One of the most underrated hiking destinations in the entire state of New York is the Big Indian Wilderness area.
It is the least visited location on this list yet offers some of the best and most remote hikes in the area. Big Indian Wilderness area is for the backcountry hiker or someone who wants a long challenging day hike.
Most of the Big Indian hiking trails are anywhere from five to 15 miles long and have a lot of elevation gain. The AlltTails app highlights 13 great hikes throughout the area and none are rated as easy.
Big Indian Wilderness is the dream destination for long day hikes and people who want their own slice of heaven.
Bonus: Wittenberg Mountain
One of our favorite hiking destinations in all of New York is Wittenberg Mountain located in Ulster, New York.
The hike isn’t very popular and is only known to backpackers and avid hikers, but the trail is one of the most beautiful in the state. The hike is around 8 to 9 miles in total, but is extremely steep at some points.
Hiking Wittenberg Mountain in the winter is another task in itself, because the trail side doesn’t get a lot of sun. This means that the snow doesn’t melt and keeps getting stacked on top of each layer.
We hiked this trail with around 1 foot of snow, which took us around 8 hours in total because of the steepness of the trail and depth of the snow. It was an amazing experience and the view at the top is worth every last step.
Mount Katahdin sign marking the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail in NY
Most Challenging Hikes in New York State
A lot of hikers want to enjoy challenging hikes for either backcountry camping or weekend hiking trips.
It can be hard to find long and challenging hikes in New York, but by connecting various trails you can create some great ones. Here is a list of some of the best and most challenging hikes in the state of New York.
1. Appalachian Trail New York – 90 miles of trails
Arguably the most famous and respected trails in the United States is the Appalachian Trail which goes from Georgia up to Maine and eventually into Canada.
New York has some of the smallest portions of the Appalachian Trail but those 90 miles are extremely beautiful and challenging. The elevation gain is also only 1,433 feet which is some of the least on the entire trail but still provides a good challenge.
The trail also offers multiple different shacks to camp out overnight and stay protected from the elements.
2. Pine Hill West Branch Trail – Big Indian Wilderness Hikes
As mentioned earlier, the Big Indian Wilderness area offers so many different hiking trails and has the most untouched wilderness in the Catskills.
The Pine Hill West Branch Trail is 26.3 miles long and has barely any traffic on a given day. The trail is rated as moderate, but hiking it in the winter months will make it much more challenging.
The trail is known for backpacking and offers solitude on the trails as there is very little foot traffic. The views during the hike are not the most spectacular by any means, but Pine Hill provides a great long and challenging hike in New York.
3. Long Path Trail – New York City’s Best Hike
New York City finally makes the list with one of the hardest and longest hikes in the entire state. The Long Path Trail is over 420 miles long and starts in the heart of New York City at the 175th street subway station.
The Long Path Trail ends at Great Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. The trail weaves through some of the most gorgeous hiking destinations in New York such as Big Indian Wilderness and Harriman State Park.
The Long Trail in New York is rated as hard on AlltTails, and has its own special website dedicated to helping you on this journey.
4. Northville-Placid Trail – One of the Longest New York Hikes
The Northville-Placid Trail picks up only a few miles after the Long Path Trail ends.
If you are really wanting to challenge yourself, add both to your hiking list for over 600 miles of fun. The Northville trail itself is 117 miles and stretches from Northville, New York to Lake Placid, New York.
The trail goes through Adirondack Park and Blue Mountain Wild Forest which means the hike is beautiful and has ever changing scenery.
Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes region of New York
Easiest Hikes in New York – Beginner Trails
Hiking is not all about long distances and difficult terrain, because the most beautiful and peaceful destinations are sometimes easily accessible.
Hiking in New York can be beautiful and easy for those individuals that don’t want to bushwhack through the wilderness. Although a long hike does sometimes make the journey more fun and rewarding, here is a list of the best short hikes in New York.
1. Taughannock Falls – The Best Day Hike in New York
Arguably more beautiful than Niagara Falls, Taughannock Falls is located in the finger lakes region of New York.
The waterfall is actually the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains and is 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls.
There are multiple different overlooks on top of the waterfall to get a view, but the best way is to hike the 2-mile Gorge Trail which leads directly to the base of the waterfall. The trail is mostly flat and gains around 236 feet in elevation from the parking lot.
The trail and overlooks are heavily trafficked and very crowded, as this is a major tourist destination in New York.
Hiking the Red Trail Loop in the fall
2. Red Trail Loop
A great family friendly day hike located near Albany New York is the Red Trail Loop. The trial is only 1.6 miles long but offers great views along the journey and has an abundance of wildlife sightings.
The Red Trail Loop is great for a short-day hike that can take less than 1 hour. The trail follows a small stream that leads to multiple small waterfalls.
This is a great hike for kids in New York, and is not overcrowded due to its location. If you want to experience more than just this hike, once you return to the parking lot there is a beautiful overlook on the other side of the road.
3. Baker Woods Preserve
Located in the northern section of New York, the Baker Woods Preserve is a lightly trafficked trail that is only 2.7 miles. The trail is short yet offers so much beauty and is easily accessible for almost anyone.
The trail leads to an amazing lake and is dog friendly because it only gains 127 feet in elevation. The trail is regularly maintained and has crosswalks and wooden boards when going over water or muddy terrain.
Best Time of Year to Hike in New York
Depending on what type of outdoor enthusiast you are, there are different seasons the visit New York that offer certain benefits.
If there was only one season you could hike in New York, fall would have to be #1. Fall is when all the colors of the trees come out and temperatures drop into the 60s and 70s which means the summer heat is gone.
Fall – By far the best time to go hiking in New York, mainly due to the color and temperature. Driving through the Catskills or Adirondack mountains with fall foliage is something special. Hiking in the fall is also great because the temperatures aren’t in the 90s anymore and the trails are a lot less crowded.
Winter – New York gets a lot of snow in the winter and even more in the northern parts near Buffalo and Canada. Winter hiking in New York is special because the trails are nearly empty and the snow makes the surrounding landscape feel so much different than it did in the fall. Temperatures will be around freezing and the winds will pick up as you climb to certain elevations.
Spring/Summer – Most hikers would probably think that spring and summer are the best times to hike in New York. This is partially true, because it depends on what type of trails and area of New York you are in. Spring and summer is the most popular hiking season in New York which means trails are overcrowded and parking lots full.
New York State Hiking Guide – Best Hikes & Trails
No matter what kind of treks, walks or backcountry hiking you want to do, New York has it has it all.
There are so many different activities to do in all of these small towns and lakeside villages. New York City is one of the most touristy destinations in the world, yet few people venture outside into the Catskills, Adirondack Mountains and Finger Lakes.
New York hiking trails are some of the best in the entire northeastern United States. Challenge yourself with this #HikeYourHomeState bucket list of New York hikes, and get out there on the trails!
Maddie and James explore the world in a jeep and a 2020 Flagstaff travel trailer. Their goal is to make money while doing the things they love to do and to influence others to be happy, travel and create a better lifestyle for themselves. Follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram, and their blog, Wanderus Living!
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