There is an abundance of hiking trails in the New York City Tri-state area, and it’s hard to find out which ones are worth the trek. So, you need to know about these 5 great spots!
I was asked to make a list of my top five hiking spots. That is a very hard thing for me to do. If you asked me for my top 100, that would be an easier (though much longer) task. My top five list really depends on my whims and moods and will change from day to day.
Although I have hiked most of the trails in the mountainous area north of New York City, including all 200+ miles of marked trails in Harriman State Park, there are still plenty on my to-do list. The abundance of trails is so vast that even with weekly hikes I still have not covered everything.
I can comfortably say that I have hiked almost all the good ones. Or at least I think so. With that in mind, I’ll give you my own arbitrary top five that came to my mind today. Ask me next week, and I’ll probably have a whole different list for you.
As far as the routes, well, it’s hard to define a specific route when many of the areas I am describing have multiple trail options. I’ll therefore there try to specify the most popular ones or the ones that I most often take on mountains.
Storm King State Park,
Storm King has some of the most dramatic scenery in the region. A mountain rising sharply from the Hudson directly north of West Point, it has some exceptional views from all sides. It lies directly across the Hudson River from Breakneck Ridge, but the hike is much easier than Breakneck, as the starting point is higher. Nevertheless, there are some good scrambling points and tall, steep cliffs to watch out for.
For the most popular route and to cover most points of interest, park on Route 9W near the top of the ridge at the bend below Butter Hill (one of the two peaks of Storm King Mountain), and take the orange-blazed Butter Hill Trail up to the Top of Butter Hill. There will be some great views along the way, but at the end of the Butter Hill Trail, at the top of the peak there is an amazing panoramic view. At this point, take the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail around the main Storm King peak area to the Bluebird Trail, which forms a loop, and then back down the Stillman Trail to the trailhead.
Estimated Distance: 4.0 Miles
Estimated Time: 2.5 – 3.0 Hours
Harriman/Bear Mountain State Parks
West Mountain is a personal favorite of mine. It lacks the fanfare of some of the more popular peaks in the area, and is just wholesome and all around a great hike with good views from multiple vantage points, as well as some nice scrambles.
For the shortest experience covering the most ground, park at Anthony Wayne Rec area off the Palisades Parkway, and take the white-blazed Anthony Wayne Trail to the red-blazed Fawn Trail. Then take the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail up the mountain while ascending along rocky scrambles and some nice viewpoints. Continue up this trail until it meets the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, for a fabulous view. At this point the Appalachian and Timp-Torne Trail are concurrent at the top of the ridge. You can remain on the joint trail along the ridge for some more views until the two trails split, and then turn around and go back down on the Appalachian Trail to the Fawn Trail, then back to the Anthony Wayne Trail and then the parking area.
Estimated Time: 2 – 2.5 hours
Estimated Distance: 3.0 miles
Bear Mountain State Park
Popolopen is the shortest yet sweetest hike I know of in the area. It’s distance is not long, but it is very intense. The hike is a difficult steep scramble up the mountain, with large rock faces and excellent views throughout.
This hike involves a loop along the same trail up and down. There is small trailhead parking lot on Mine Road in Fort Montgomery at the foot of the mountain. Walk up the road for short distance to the more westerly approach of the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail, and take this trail up the mountain. There is a large boulder at the top with a huge cairn with various memorabilia on the rock pile left by hikers and West Point personnel. Continue along the trail at the top of the ridge as it starts descending and looping back south, and continue along this trail to the end at the trailhead on Mine Road.
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
Estimated Distance: 1.0 miles
Harriman State Park
Black Rock Mountain is a wholesome hike along a very scenic area in Harriman that is relatively quiet but has very interesting rock formations and pretty views. It contains a large area of stunted trees and low brush on large rock slabs that is unique in the region.
Park on Kanawauke Road (County Route 106) at the roadside trailhead parking at the red-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. Take the trail north from the parking area as it climbs up the mountain. At the summit there is an excellent view facing south and east. Continue along the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail along the mountain ridge for more views and large rock slabs. At the intersection of the yellow-blazed Dunning Trail, take this trail west down into the valley. Continue along the Dunning Trail in the valley until the yellow-blazed Nurian Trail, then climb back up the ridge and back up to the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail at the first view. Take the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail back down to the mountain and back to the car at this point.
Note: The road to this hike is closed in winter.
Estimated Time: 2 – 2.5 hours
Estimated Distance: 3.9 miles
Hudson Highlands State Park
This hike is by far the most difficult on my list. In fact, I would feel comfortable saying that it’s probably the hardest hike in the NYC metro area. The mountain starts near sea level at the Hudson River and steeply climbs over 1,200 feet in a very short distance. It’s a grueling scramble up the rocky face, but affords amazing views of the Hudson River and Highlands throughout the hike.
Only attempt this hike if you are either an experienced hiker or in very good shape, and have good footing. It can be very busy on weekends so expect many other people together with you. My recommended route for the shortest loop route hike up this challenging mountain is to park on Route 9D after the Breakneck Tunnel at the trailhead parking, and take the white-blazed Breackneck Ridge up the steep scramble. When you are totally exhausted after climbing 1200+ feet, take the yellow-blazed Undercliff trail down the mountain to the green-blazed Connector Trail, to the red-blazed Brook Trail back to route 9D. Walk through the road tunnel and back to the trailhead parking area.
Estimated Distance: 2.7 Miles
Estimated Time: 2.5 – 3.0 Hours