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- Day Hikes Near NYC: Immersed in Nature
- Destination: Catskills
- Go for the View
- Harriman State Park: Rockland County
- Rockland Lake State Park
- Best Easy Hiking: Rockefeller Preserve
- How to Avoid Crowds at Lake Minnewaska State Park Preserve
- Bucolic New Jersey Day Trip
- Mohonk Mountain Day Hike: Pay to Play
- Ready for Outdoor Adventure: Jeep Gladiator
- What You Need to Know about the Jeep Gladiator
- No car? No Problem
- Breakneck Ridge: Leave the Dog at Home
Visitors to New York City – and even residents – sometimes make the mistake of never leaving the city. But one of the beauties, and curses, of NYC, is how close it is to so much more. Upstate New York and parts of New Jersey are just an hour or so from New York, yet remote, gorgeous, and perfect for hiking. Don’t forget that tick check!
Day Hikes Near NYC: Immersed in Nature
There is so much to do in New York City that people who live here have bouts of FOMO – fear of missing out. How can you leave NYC, if just for a day trip, when there is a new gallery opening, a food festival, an off-Broadway show closing, a street fair, a bike race?
But one thing New York doesn’t have is mountains. To hike to any elevation, you need to escape Manhattan. And the Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens. And to get to a hike that isn’t overrun with your fellow New Yorkers, you need to drive.
With Covid-19 concerns, Broadway closed and social distancing difficult in crowded parks, escaping the city was even more important. But really, any time is good for hiking near NYC.
A quirk of New York geography had us driving over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, taking a scenic route up the Palisades Parkway and then going back to…New York State.
We were very glad we had an off-roading Jeep when we hiked Vernooy Kill Falls. On the way to the trail head, the road suddenly became a rutted, dirt road, with huge muddy craters. The small sedan in front of us was spinning out and had to be pushed out of the morass. Our friend’s SUV handled the task moderately well. But the Gladiator won here, barely exerting itself as it glided over giant holes and swampy “road.”
Although the parking lot was full, we saw barely anyone on our Vernooy Kill Falls hike. We could take off our masks and breathe the fresh air.
TravelingMom Tip: We didn’t have trail maps with us, and a trail marked a ‘two mile loop’ turned out to be two miles out and two miles back. Not a loop. Four miles. Be forewarned.
Go for the View
Anthony’s Nose near Cold Spring, offers spectacular views of the Hudson River. But you have to work for it. The 500 foot rock staircase has a half mile vertical climb. This short hike, just past the Bear Mountain Bridge in Garrison, is actually part of the Appalachian Trail.
Harriman State Park: Rockland County
Harriman State Park has more than 200 miles of trails, with limited parking even pre Covid-19. This means that you are likely to spend much of the day without seeing anyone on a hiking trail. We hiked here early in the pandemic, when two of our daughters sheltered at home with us.
TravelingMom Tip: When you park near the trail head, there are no bathrooms or running water. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water. And if you are hiking with your dog, bring water for her, too.
Rockland Lake State Park
Somewhere in Rockland Lake State Park there is a lake. But when you hike, you climb up to see the Hudson River views, then stroll along the river.
On the six mile hike we prefer, the part along the river even has bathrooms and drinking fountains.
Best Easy Hiking: Rockefeller Preserve
Rockefeller State Park Preserve, 30 miles north of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, charges $6 to park April to October. I consider that a small price to pay for flush toilets.
The crushed stone carriage roads are now 45 miles of fairly easy hiking trails. This makes the hiking trails family and stroller friendly.
How to Avoid Crowds at Lake Minnewaska State Park Preserve
With its stunning views and easy hiking trails, this Hudson Valley gem gets very crowded. And even when we spent the night nearby and planned to go early…well, the parking lot was closed because Covid-19 meant limited capacity.
BUT, TravelingMom Terri Marshall had a great hack. She went two weekends in a row, arriving at 4:30pm. She said there was plenty of parking then. “Hiking later means cooler temps as the sun is lower in the sky.” The park closes at 7pm, but she said she was still able to hike five to six miles both weeks.
Bucolic New Jersey Day Trip
No, this is not an oxymoron. The Sourland Mountain Preserve, just 55 miles from New York City, has a five mile trail that involves a lot of rocky terrain. There are a couple of shorter trails that are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Bring your own water; the only facilities are a couple of port-a-potties.
There is not much elevation in the five mile Ridge Trail, but it felt somewhat rigorous, possibly because we went a little off course and hiked 6.5 miles. Bring a blanket for a picnic at the end; near the large parking lot, there is grass and shade.
Dogs are welcome.
Mohonk Mountain Day Hike: Pay to Play
The Mohonk Mountain House resort offers day passes where you can hike all day, but not use any of the other facilities. Passes are $29 a person, and $24 for kids ages 3 – 12. We have hiked here, but when we drove past the entrance to our friend’s house, we noticed a long line of cars waiting to get in. We figured this would not be the best place to social distance. But it does give you access to more than 85 miles of trails, with both easy and difficult terrain.
Dogs are not allowed on Mohonk trails.
Ready for Outdoor Adventure: Jeep Gladiator
Whether you are going hiking, or bringing bicycles to explore traffic-free roads, the Jeep Gladiator is an excellent choice. In NYC after a day trip, we drove around Red Hook, Brooklyn, to see how smooth the ride was over cobblestone streets. The answer: very. Red Hook has the perfect spot for viewing the sun setting over the Statue of Liberty.
What You Need to Know about the Jeep Gladiator
Creature Comforts: Huge heated leather seats, dual climate control
Back Seat: Tons of room. Kids will need a boost up – the seat is way off the ground. When you can drive your friends again, the back seat can fit two or three large adults comfortably,
Technology: USB ports, Apple CarPlay
Trunk Space: It’s a pickup truck! So gigantic bed. The tricked out model I drove had a bed cover so your bags and gear are protected if it rains. And there is a lockable storage box under the rear seats.
Gas Mileage: Pretty thirsty. The Jeep gets 17 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway
Price: Base 2020 model, $40,395. The top of the line model I drove, with extra safety technology, premium audio, leather trim and more, topped out at $55,335.
No car? No Problem
With public transportation you can still find an outdoor adventure. Take MetroNorth Hudson Line from Grand Central to Beacon, NY. This is a wonderful scenic train ride along the Hudson River.
You can hike an easy one mile trail right from the MetroNorth Station. The Klara Sauer Trail takes you to Denning’s Point, where you can pick up a 3 mile loop trail. This is a great hike with young kids, as it is relatively flat and stroller friendly.
The town of Beacon is a short cab ride (or long walk) where you can find cafes, restaurants and shops.
Breakneck Ridge: Leave the Dog at Home
Breakneck Ridge offers the most difficult hiking near NYC. Take MetroNorth to Breakneck, near Cold Spring. The steep hike can be treacherous when slippery, and is so challenging that dogs are not allowed on the trail.
You get great views of the Hudson Valley and even Storm King Mountain. If you and your [older] kids are up to it, it is one of the best hikes near NYC.
Note: Fiat Chrysler loaned me the Jeep Gladiator for the purposes of this review. Opinions and stunning views of the Hudson Valley are my own.