12 Best Hikes in New York State — Shorter & Easy Trails, Convenient Hikes and Longer Treks
When someone mentions traveling to New York, you probably immediately think they’re headed to New York City, right? I mean, why go anywhere else other than the Big Apple? But hold it right there.
If you’re thinking that Manhattan is all that New York has to offer, you’ve been missing out. This huge state offers a wealth of nature outside of the city. From the Finger Lakes to Niagara Falls and the Adirondacks to the Catskills, there is nature everywhere. With that abundant nature comes spectacular hikes with stellar views and rugged terrain, challenging rock scrambles and peaceful plateaus. Whatever your fitness level, whatever you prefer from your hiking experience, New York has something for you.
We’ve done our best to pick out some of the truly fantastic hikes throughout the Empire State. Check out our favorites, add a few to your hiking bucket list, and see if you agree with our picks.
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Shorter Hikes for Quick Trips in New York State
Don’t have a lot of time left on your travel itinerary? Try one of these shorter hikes that won’t take up too much time. They will all still deliver amazing views, from vistas to waterfalls.
1. The Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park is known among both southern New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians alike as an excellent hiking locale. The Gorge Trail is only two miles long, making it a quick stopover during any drive through the Finger Lakes region. Since some parts are steep, we wouldn’t necessarily say it’s “easy”. Within that short two miles, you get a whopping 19 waterfalls. The trails follow the rim of the gorge, taking you down into its depths, around and under the falls. This is one hike that’s especially enjoyable on a hot day, thanks to all the shade and, of course, water!
2. Mount Jo in the Adirondacks
The Adirondack region isn’t exactly known as the place to go for easy hiking. However, there is one particular mountain nestled among the High Peaks that’s pretty short. And, if you’re able to take a bit of short-term rock scrambling and elevation gain, not too difficult. That is Mount Jo.
Mount Jo is accessible via the Adirondack Loj. You’ll need to pay a small parking fee for entry. The trail to the top of Mount Jo is only about 2 miles round trip and it starts at Heart Lake. Here the fall foliage is breathtaking if you catch it at the right time. From the summit, Mount Jo offers lovely views of the surrounding, much-taller mountains. It truly is a little gem in the Adirondacks that’s a great first hike for hikers who aren’t, well, hikers.
To give you an idea of the easiness level of this mountain, it’s a popular pick for couples who want to hike up to an Adirondacks summit for an intimate wedding. If a bride can do it with a dress in tow, you can likely do it, too.)
3. The Gorge Trail at Robert H. Treman State Park
Located in Ithaca, New York, Robert H. Treman State Park offers another gorge trail that’s only a few miles long. However, that packs a big punch for its short length. Much like the trail at Watkins Glen, the gorge trail here also passes a handful of waterfalls. There are 12 in total, including Lucifer Falls, which plummets 115 feet. However, also much like at Watkins Glen, while this trail is short, it does feature some steep bits and some stone stairs. So, it’s not exactly easy on the knees. But, if you need a break, you’ll find plenty of spots to stop and take in the breathtaking scenery.
Easy Hikes in New York State
As you’ve probably gathered by now, a short trail doesn’t exactly mean an easy trail. If you’d rather keep your feet on flat ground than scramble over boulders, these easier trails are for you.
4. Taughannock Falls Gorge Trail
Have you realized yet just how many gorge trails are in New York State? The trail at Taughannock State Park is one of the easier options at under 2 miles. The Finger Lakes gorge offers a spectacular waterfall that’s much lesser-known than Niagara Falls, but that’s actually taller. Taughannock Falls impresses hikers with its entire 215 feet compared to Niagara’s 167 feet.
The trail is flat, shaded, and short.
5. The Ausable Chasm
The Ausable Chasm is an especially easy hike because it’s not a traditional hike, at least not by Adirondack standards. Part of a paid tourist attraction, the chasm hike starts with a stop by the visitor’s center and gift shop where you purchase your trail entry tickets. It then takes you through some very carefully maintained woods until you reach a series of manmade structures. These allow you to “hike” down into the chasm, which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks. The five-mile hike features no climbing or hills, but it does have some stairs.
The experience, overall, is definitely worth it if you like waterfall trails. However, if you don’t want to pay the entry fee, there’s a way around it. You can stop by the chasm’s parking lot and simply walk down to the expansive bridge that stretches out over the main waterfalls, for free views.
6. Point Au Roche State Park
At the very tippy-top of New York State, where New York, Canada, and Vermont converge, Point Au Roche State Park sits on Lake Champlain. There, flat hikes take you out onto a small peninsula and into the lake. You can enjoy views of both the mountains and neighboring Vermont. Bring along the entire family. This easy hiking spot is very dog- and kid-friendly. If you visit during the winter, you can even bring along your ice skates, as it’s not uncommon to see skaters, ice fishers, and hockey aficionados taking to the thick lake ice hidden within the park’s coves and inlets.
Convenient Hikes in New York State
For all of our love of hiking in New York State, we know that a good majority of the visitors here don’t come for the hiking. They’re stopping by for other reasons. However, that’s no reason to not enjoy a New York State hike while you’re doing something else in the state. Here are a few hikes that are conveniently located near some of the state’s other top attractions.
7. The Niagara Gorge Rim Trail
If you’re already planning to visit Niagara Falls, why not add a hike to your itinerary as well? The Niagara Gorge Rim Trail starts at Devil’s Hole State Park. It’s not only convenient for those visiting the American side of the Falls, but also easy and family-friendly, thanks to its relative flatness. The trail follows the Niagara Gorge rim, giving you great views of the water below.
While the trail begins in Devil’s Hole State Park, it also goes through Whirlpool State Park and Niagara Falls State Park, for even more views. There are also trail offshoots that will allow you to descend into the gorge if you want more of a challenge (and a little more excitement!). All in all, the trail is over five miles, but it’s so flat and easy that you likely won’t even realize the time is passing.
8. High Rock Park
Believe it or not, you don’t necessarily need to go far from the city to find tranquility in New York. And, no, we’re not going to tell you to go to Central Park. High Rock Park sits on Staten Island and offers six different trails, all that are relatively easy. The only elevated hike is Moses’ Mountain, which requires you to climb a mere 260 feet. However, you will get some views for your efforts.
9. Anthony’s Nose Hike
If you’re willing to get just a little further away from Manhattan, the Anthony’s Nose hike is a favorite for its views of the Hudson River below. Situated in the Hudson Valley, the trail embarks from Cortlandt Manor, making the hike a great pick for those already exploring the region’s history. Sleepy Hollow is just a short drive away. It’s also perfect for those who want to get out of the city for a bit. Manhattan is maybe an hour’s train ride away.
The hike is moderate, but short, at just 3 miles round trip.
Longer (But Worthwhile!) Hikes in New York State
Not afraid of getting your hands dirty? Ready to break out your favorite pair of hiking boots? Want to spend all day in the mountains? Here are some challenging hikes in New York State that are entirely worth all the effort that they require.
10. Indian Head
Okay — so Indian Head isn’t going to require you to climb up an exposed rock face or camp out overnight in the backcountry. However, this trail is considered challenging for the length. At 10.8 miles, it’s not short, but for those who want to try something challenging that’s not necessarily potentially dangerous or ultra-remote, Indian Head fits the bill.
You gain over a thousand feet in elevation during the trek. But, the increase is gradual, the trail is partially paved, and the views are well worth the entire day you’ll likely need for the journey. Additionally, if you’re worried about hiking in remote areas all by yourself, you’ll appreciate that this hike is popular — really popular. In fact, it’s so popular that you’ll need to make a reservation for the parking lot likely a week in advance.
11. Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain is likely one of the most recognizable peaks in New York, even if it isn’t the tallest. It’s the fifth-tallest, with the highest peak in the mountain being Mount Marcy. It stands almost alone outside of Lake Placid and is home to an Olympic ski area. It attracts snow bunnies from all over the country, but also hikers throughout the summer (and the winter, if you’re fine with snowshoeing up the mountain and then skiing back down).
The 10-mile trek rewards you with views from 4,867 feet if you’re willing to climb the more than 3,500 feet in elevation.
But — guess what. There’s a shortcut. If you don’t necessarily feel like a 10-mile hike is in the cards for you, there’s also a summit road that will take you nearly to the top of Whiteface, where you can simply climb the last bit to reach the actual top.
12. Mount Marcy
If you do feel up to tackling the largest, tallest mountain in the state, Mount Marcy is awaiting in the Adirondacks. The trail is just about 17 miles, but you can still tackle this mountain in a day if you arrive early and start at a good speed.
It is another hike that starts at the Adirondack Loj. Remember, you’ll need to pay for parking before you begin your trek. Once you start, you’ll find a more leisurely trail that takes you to Marcy Dam, from which point you’ll begin a pretty steep ascent. The last mile is tough — both physically and mentally — as you take on exposed rock terrain that looks steeper than it is. You’ll be rewarded with the best views in the state from the top, as you gaze out over Canada, Vermont, and the rest of the Adirondacks.
FAQs About Hiking in New York
Hiker safety all depends on the trail you choose and how prepared you are for the trail. If you’re a novice hiker, you’ll likely want to stick to one of our “easy” recommended hikes, as these are not only less treacherous, but also highly trafficked. So, there are fewer chances of becoming stranded in the event of an accident. If you decide to hike a harder or more remote trail, you’ll want to be sure you’re properly outfitted with all the necessary safety gear and, preferably, a hiking buddy.
Hiking at New York state parks requires an admission fee of $6 to $10, depending on the park. Hiking within the Adirondack Park is free unless you’re hiking from a lodge or other privately-owned parking area, in which case a parking fee is required.
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