When many people think of New York, they think of New York City. It’s often the first point that comes to mind and I have to admit I’m guilty of this too. Yup, It’s an incredible city and Lady Liberty is amazing to see, but there’s so much more to New York than New York City, like some of the best hikes in New York that you’ll love.
For me, New York State is special; I just fell in love with the natural beauty straight away. I still have the BEST memories of traipsing over to Finger Lakes and spending the night under the stars. Now, that almost sounds sickly sweet (which is was) but by 4 am a thunderstorm broke and I was soaked to the bone. Lesson learned… put up your tent before you fall asleep. Otherwise, trust me, hiking the next day becomes very miserable indeed. Ha!
Anyway, for all my rookie errors and romantic ideas of snoozing under the stars, New York is an incredible state to explore, especially by foot. It’s home to the majestic Adirondack Mountain range, which was formed by glacial activity many centuries ago as well as the picturesque Catskills too. ⛰
Take a look at some of the very best hikes in New York that you should definitely experience. You’ll love exploring the state.
1.) Cascade Mountain, Adirondack Mountains
There are approximately 46 high peaks in the Adirondack Mountains, and many hikers make it their mission to scale them all. This earns them the title of having completed the ADK 46 (though, don’t feel obliged to hike all 46… I couldn’t even dream of that).
Out of all the peaks, Cascade Mountain is one of the most popular, and relatively less challenging than some of its counterparts. At a little under five miles, this is still a moderately difficult hike, there’s also a small section towards the summit where you will have to deal with some rock scrambles, so be sure to prepare accordingly.
Once at the summit, you will find a campground that is a welcome sight if you’re looking for a little respite. Here, you can prepare a meal and relax before descending, or pitch a tent and spend the night surrounded by the mountainous beauty around New York (just remember about me getting drenched without pitching my tent). Ha! 🤣
2.) The Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail
This is a wonderful option for anyone who wants to see spectacular scenery but is not necessarily prepared for an overly strenuous or long hike. This trail is less than a mile and a half long, and can easily be completed with your furry friend or children.
It is, however, one of the most beautiful and best hikes In New York. The trail itself leads you through a fairy-like path of waterfalls and stone steps, the climax of which occurs at Cavern Cascade, where you are enveloped in the mist of the impressive waterfall. It’s gorgeous.
3.) The Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail
A mere half an hour drive away from Watkins Glen State Park, here you will find five different New York hiking trails to choose from. Each of these trails is fairly short yet quite strenuous (so be prepped for a raised heart rate), however, you are well rewarded at the top.
Here, you have the chance to swim in the lovely pool at the base of Buttermilk Falls, so make sure to pack your swimwear, as skinny-dipping isn’t really allowed. Ha! The whole area around the waterfall is just so amazing, though be sure to exercise caution on the rock, as they can be quite slippery.
4.) The Appalachian Trail
This trail extends over two thousand miles, running in a vertical line between its starting point in Georgia and its end in Maine. This is one of the most famous long-distance hikes in America and takes more than a few months to accomplish in its entirety.
Yet if you are looking to hike a section of this iconic trail, it spans over ninety miles through New York. Particularly in the fall, this is an absolutely gorgeous hike, as you will see some of the most breathtaking foliage.
5.) The Saranac Six
The title “Saranac Six” refers to a collection of six different mountain peaks in the Saranac mountain region. In theory, if you are able to ascend all six of these peaks within a single day, you will receive the honour of ringing the 6er bell in the downtown of Saranac Lake. Good luck with that, though.. you’ll be well tired.
While this is a challenge that’s all but impossible for most of us, if you are an avid hiker, it may be just the quest you are looking for? If you’re hankering for an easier hike, take the two-mile climb up Baker Mountain to bask in the overlook of Saranac Lake. It offers some of the best views.
6.) Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain is located in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid. At nearly 5,000 feet, you might expect this to be a very challenging climb. However, the nine-plus-mile trail is actually more moderate than one would expect. Once you reach the top, you will be treated to a panoramic view of Vermont and Canada!
On the clearest days, it is said that you can even catch a glimpse of the Montreal skyscrapers (though, still not sure if that’s truly possible).
Afterwards, be sure to pop into the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge for a chance to get a close look at some of the local wildlife, including wolves, fox and bald eagles.
7.) Overlook Mountain
Some people absolutely love to hike. They wake up early in the morning, ready to ascend to the highest elevations they are capable of reaching before calling it quits in the evening. Other people prefer to not work as hard for their dose of impressive scenery and there is no shame in that at all. The Overlook Mountain hike is one of the best hikes for latter, as it does not involve any major inclines, yet still will lead you to an amazing view.
This hike takes you to the ruins of Overlook Mountain House, a once thriving Catskill’s hotel. For those who are interested in ghost hunting, be sure to keep an eye out for some of the unexplained phenomena that is rumoured to occur in this area, including disembodied voices and the sound of phantom footsteps. This still freaks me out if I’m honest but it’s one of the best hikes in New York (for ghost hunters at least). 👻
8.) Devil’s Hole Trail
Aside from The Big Apple, Niagara Falls is probably the most well-known spot in New York State. Devil’s Hole, however, is mostly known amongst locals who tend to take their out of town visitors to this lesser-known yet equally impressive spot along the Niagara River.
You will experience exhilarating views of whitewater rapids along with Devil’s Hole itself, a nickname given to the formidably large whirlpool located here. The trail is about 2.5 miles long and fairly moderate, yet it is absolutely vital that you take care to stay behind the guardrails on the path, as you could easily slip into the churning waters.
9.) The Breakneck Ridge Trail
As the name of this hike would imply, this is a strenuous, 9.6 mile-long hike that requires a certain degree of surefootedness and agility in order to safely complete.
While this is not the ideal trail for younger children, those who are able to scale along the mountain ridge reach an incredible summit, which is marked by an ageing fire tower. It’s one of the best hikes in New York, especially for spectacular views of the Hudson River Valley (so be sure to bring your camera).
10.) The Ausable Chasm
This is one of the best hikes in New York State for people of all abilities, so no need for any epic training to join this hike. Interestingly, Ausable Chasm is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East, and it is pretty easy to see why – it’s gorgeous!
There are different options for exploring the chasm and its winding river too, so plan your route in advance. While some prefer to take an inner tube, there are also trails available that traverse the chasm area. There are very easy, short trails that are great for all abilities.
11.) Verkeerder kill Falls Hike
This is a very popular hike located in the Shawangunk Mountains. The moderately paced 7-mile hike will lead you through some magnificent sites, such as some impressive ice caves that maintain their freezing temperature even on the hottest New York day. Though, If I’m honest, the true draw of this hike is Verkeerder kill Falls itself – which is phenomenal.
At over 185 feet tall, the falls is a magnificent site to behold from the top viewing area which really makes for one of the best hikes in New York. After your ramble, the nearby town of Woodstock offers many joints for dining, lodging and some local watering holes to wet your whistle. One of the most popular spots is Joshua’s café, a local favourite for some yummy Mediterranean food.
12.) The Constitution Marsh Trail
If you are an avid birdwatcher, this is an absolute dream come true. However, even if birdwatching is not necessarily your thing, this is still a wonderful, easy- hike that allows you to explore the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
The two-mile hike leads you through the marshland as well as to spectacular viewpoints of the Hudson River. If birds are your thing, be sure to keep an eye out for the red-headed woodpecker and common nighthawk as well as loons and ospreys (that have nests around this area).