The top places for hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and water fun.
By Timothy Malcolm
Part of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Sam’s Point remains one of the crowning plateaus of the region, even if it’s a mighty easy hike to the lookout. For a full experience, visit the Ice Caves and meander through dwarf pines to reach the beautiful Verkeerderkill Falls.
400 Sam’s Point Road, Cragsmoor
UPDATE: All footpaths are closed for public safety until further notice. All carriage roads and wood roads remain open. Parking has been reduced by half.
Towering over the arts colony of Woodstock, Overlook Mountain is a delicious amuse-bouche for the big Catskills peaks. The strenuous five-mile hike leads to a summit with a fire tower and hotel ruins. Be careful of rattlesnakes, for which Overlook is infamous. Just watch what’s in front of you.
335 Meads Mountain Road, Woodstock
You don’t have to trudge Devil’s Path — the 24-mile slog that summits five Catskill mountains — to visit the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. You can ascend via the Pecoy Notch Trail with its cool stone art, or the Mink Hollow Trail, a woodsy path surrounded by pine. This is a hard, but classic Catskill hike. Only the experienced should venture.
Mink Hollow Road and Skye Drive, Lake Hill
The trip down to the Hudson River is an appetizer for the involved rock walk you’ll endure at Giant Stairs, which crosses the New York border with New Jersey and includes a waterfall. Make no mistake, though: The treats here are the massive rock formations you’ll scramble and navigate while catching superb river views.
State Line Lookout, Closter, NJ
Want to hike a 3,500-foot mountain when you’re not experienced? The 3,619-foot Bearpen Mountain is a good bet. From a DEC gate you’ll ascend nearly 1,800 feet on a relatively wide path, but it won’t take too much out of you. The views from the top, with plenty to see to the north, are splendid.
Heisinger Road, Prattsville
The highest point in Dutchess County at 2,311 feet, Brace Mountain is the best bang-for-your-buck hike in the Taconic Mountains. It’s a good half-day hike with rugged terrain, open-air hiking up the mountain, good scrambling, and an exceptional summit delivering views of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
89 Quarry Hill Road, Millerton
It’s extremely popular with tourists, but you have to do this climb at least once in your life. Plus, Bear Mountain — and its titular park — is a great place to spend some time with the family. To reach the summit, take the friendly Major Welch Trail and Appalachian Trail, and make sure you visit Perkins Memorial Tower and admire the incredible volunteer-made staircase on the way down.
3006 Seven Lakes Drive, Tomkins Cove
UPDATE: Perkins Memorial Drive, Arden Valley Road, and Tiorati Brook Road are closed. Seven Lakes Drive remains open.
Inspiration for jazz musicians and American painters, Storm King Mountain is as rewarding as it gets and perfect for the newly minted hiker. This famous peak across from Breakneck Ridge offers light scrambling, a slightly strenuous ascent, and wicked views on top of the Hudson River. On a clear day, see the people milling about on river kayaks.
Route 9W after West Point Golf Course at horseshoe curve, Cornwall-on-Hudson
While Breakneck Ridge is the big draw, Bull Hill, or Mount Taurus, is also worth a trip for New York City hikers. Deceptively tough, Bull Hill climbs steeply to a ranging, boulder-laden summit with multiple sweeping river views. Get to the parking area early because it fills up quickly, and if New Yorkers catch on, this summer it’ll be extra busy.
3206 Route 9D, Cold Spring
Devote at least a full weekend to explore Harriman State Park. You can hike its sections of the Appalachian Trail and Long Path, visit the popular rock formation Lemon Squeezer, or make a swift trek up Long Mountain, which provides awesome views. But go! It’s a hiker’s haven in our own backyard.
Seven Lakes Drive at Bear Mountain Circle, Ramapo
UPDATE: Open at limited capacity. Lake Tiorati is closed to picnicking and the Anthony Wayne area remains closed. The Fingerboard and Bald Rocks hiker shelters are also closed.
Good up-and-down riding on 21 miles of trails await at Beebe Hill State Forest in Columbia County. Intermediate and expert riders can go nuts here with berms, roots, and a handful of downhill ventures.
County Route 5 and Fog Hill Road, Austerlitz
With its impressive network of bike and multipurpose trails, Stewart State Forest is a wonderland for mountain bikers. You can do up to 20 miles of loop here, from farm roads to smooth main trails to classic singletrack. Spend a full day here and you won’t get bored.
Weed Road and Little Britain Road, Rock Tavern
Better known as 909, which indicates the number of acres in the multiple use area, this is a popular place where trails are maintained by Fats in the Cats. Good for experienced riders, 909 has hills and small obstacles to acknowledge on its more than 20 singletrack options, plus a fat doubletrack that spans much of the perimeter.
Tyrrel Road, or Brockway Road parking area, Pleasant Valley
Get out in the Catskills at Elm Ridge, which means business with an outstanding and relatively new network of singletrack. Its Levitate trail rides the top of the ridge but allows you to drop dramatically. This is a great daylong experience made by people who want cyclists to enjoy themselves.
Route 23 and Cross Road, Windham
Variety is key at Lippman Park in the heart of the Shawangunk Mountains, home to 14 miles of singletrack, skinny boardwalk, bridges and berms, plus about 300 feet in elevation change. You can ride casually here or really test yourself — the choice is yours.
Route 55/209 and Landfill Road, Wawarsing
Try some mountain biking with a view at Thacher, which rests more than 1,000 feet up at Helderberg Escarpment, a fossil-bearing formation in Albany County that offers views of the Catskills. Good, quick singletrack here with variety, but mostly technical.
Paint Mine Trailhead at Thacher Park Road, Voorheesville
UPDATE: The trail is one-way, with an entrance at La Grange and an exit the Visitors Center.
You should be somewhat experienced before taking on Jockey Hill, the Kingston area in the Bluestone Wild Forest with plenty of singletrack, but plenty of technical obstacles like logs and mud, making for a thrilling zip. Thank Fats in the Cats for these awesome trails.
Jockey Hill Road, Kingston
The 249-acre Franny Reese State Park is tiny (less than three miles of trail) but terrific, providing a lookout of the Hudson River at the Mid-Hudson Bridge. It also has some tough stretches, making for a great training ground for those breaking into technical riding.
Macks Lane and Sherwood Lane, Highland
Another opportunity for those wanting to work in a few tough miles, Shaupeneak Ridge has some rugged trail in the heart of the Marlboro mountains. Accessible for New Paltz and Poughkeepsie residents alike.
Old Post Road and Poppletown Road, Esopus
Vassar Farms used to be the place to go for serious freestyle riders, but it’s less intense now. Go for quick rides on smooth singletrack. The Helen Johnson Woodworth Memorial Trail and Quercus Trail together make for a decent 2.2-mile loop.
51 Vassar Farm Lane, Poughkeepsie
The Trapps of the Shawangunk Mountains are the most popular rock walls in the Hudson Valley. Along about three miles, it invites all types of climbers, as there are more than 300 routes to the top. Easiest access is the West Trapps Trailhead at Mohonk Preserve, but the lots fill up on weekends.
Mohonk Preserve, 3142 Route 44/55, Gardiner
The Trapps isn’t just for traditional climbing. You’ll find more than 250 boulder problems (akin to routes) here. Like with climbing, you’ll access from Undercliff Carriage Road. Popular boulders include Steel Bridge, Doug’s Roof in the Uberfall Area, and Boxcar.
Mohonk Preserve, 3142 Route 44/55, Gardiner
Second in popularity to the Trapps, the Near Trapps is home to more than 100 routes of up to 200 feet in height. Several of the routes are considered “classic” or of high reputation with good quality, including “Disneyland” and the enormous cracked roof of “Kansas City.” Park at the West Trapps Trailhead.
Mohonk Preserve, 3142 Route 44/55, Gardiner
Part of the Shawangunk Ridge but also part of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Peter’s Kill is perfect for the novice climber who might be a tad intimidated by the Trapps. You have to pay to get here ($10 per day) and you’ll want to get there early because there’s a climber-per-day limit, but this is a great option for the relative newbie.
Peter’s Kill Parking Area, 5080 Route 44-55, Gardiner
Below Sky Top Tower is the shorter cliff Sky Top, a fun challenge away from the big Trapps climbs. With hundreds of routes starting at around 50 feet, Sky Top is good for a range of climbers. Alpine Endeavors provides half- and full-day trips with guides to Sky Top; prices vary from $150-$450.
New Paltz, Alpine Endeavors
For true climbing outside the Shawangunks, you can head to Harriman and the popular Powerlinez cliffs, affording a range of climbing approaches. The Torne Valley Climbers’ Coalition is responsible for opening this site; sign a waiver with them via Rock and Snow in New Paltz.
Powerlinez, Torne Valley Section at Harriman State Park, Torne Brook and Torne Valley Road, Ramapo
Part of Peter’s Kill, the Dickie Barre ridge was opened for climbing in 2013 and includes five sections, great for experienced folks who want a quiet, smaller challenge. Each section has its own routes, but be cautious, as it’s a young area and could have loose rock.
Peter’s Kill Parking Area, 5080 Route 44-55, Gardiner
Besides the Shawangunks, Minnewaska and Harriman, the closest legitimate climbing is over in the Metacomet Ridge in Connecticut. This narrow ridge that generally tops off around 900 feet is great for those wanting a less-popular thrill. Try Ragged Mountain in Southington and Berlin.
Timberlin Park, 330 Southington Road, Berlin, CT
In the Lower Wawarsing Parking Lot, you’ll find two distinct boulders with multiple problems. The Lower Wawarsing and Wawarsing boulders are great practice or amateur spots. Each have multiple problems, so there’s enough room for friends.
Mohonk Preserve, 3197 Route 44/55, Gardiner
Sportsman’s Wall is a massive sandstone rock formation in the Catskills with bolted routes for those looking to get some work in of up to 60 feet. Nearby are other small boulders, if you’re looking to make a day of it. Entrance at the Tanbark Trail; ask locals for directions, as this is a quieter place.
6 Saint Ursula Place, Phoenicia
Few places offer more perfect views of the Hudson River than Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point, with Storm King Mountain and the Hudson Highlands inviting you downstream. You can take a car-top boat into the Hudson from Kowawese, while Storm King Adventure Tours (845.534.7800) offers guided kayak trips.
90 Plum Point Lane, New Windsor
Just north of the hamlet of Tivoli is Tivoli Bays, home to two coves that create an expansive, glorious viewing area of the Hudson River as it zips past the Catskills. There’s a canoe and car-top launch from Kidd Lane, though it’s temporarily closed for renovations. You can, however, launch from near 177 Cruger Island Road.
Cruger Island Road, Tivoli
UPDATE: Due to construction for the Empire State Trail, the Kidd Lane entrance to the WMA, canoe/kayak launch road, and the trail to Bard College are temporarily closed.
Greenwood Lake has it all, from weekend boat parties and kayaking to beach scenes and fishing. Your best bet for no-frills fun is Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park, available Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend by paying a non-resident daily fee. The public boat launch is across from 40 Mountain Lakes Road in Greenwood Lake. You can also rent from a private marina along the lake.
7 Windermere Ave, Greenwood Lake
For more than 30 years, visitors to the Esopus Creek have used Town Tinker Tube Rental (845.688.5553) to get them downstream in a thrilling, throwback experience. You can also kayak during scheduled releases, but you must be prepared and know the water here, because the rapids of the Esopus are nothing to scoff at (we’re talking a Class II whitewater creek).
Allaben Portal, near 7150 Route 28, Shandaken
Those who want a calmer experience on the water have a few good options in Saugerties. Esopus Bend Nature Preserve has a launch, and you can navigate the curves of the creek from here. Or go upstream a bit to Tina Chorvas Waterfront Park for quick access to the lighthouse, a great family spot. I Paddle New York (845.532.7797) offers guided tours.
Esopus Bend Nature Preserve, 4 Shady Lane, Saugerties
Tina Chorvas Waterfront Park, 85 E. Bridge St., Saugerties
The big kahuna of waterfalls in the Hudson Valley, Kaaterskill Falls is a 231-foot, two-stage drop that has to be on your local bucket list. You can hike to the top and bottom of the falls, but please stay on the marked trail and don’t risk anything serious.
Route 23A near horseshoe turn at Bastion Falls, Haines Falls
The popular Skinners Falls area on the Delaware River in Sullivan County is known for its low-class rapids and swimming area that fills up on summer weekends. Car-top boats are allowed on the river here, or you can rent tubes from Landers River Trips.
Lot next to 41 Skinners Falls W. Road, Narrowsburg
When in full operation, the 60-foot Bash Bish Falls symbolizes a beautiful union. You can hang out on the rocks nearby and feel the water spraying you as it surges to the floor. The falls spill onto a beautiful jade pool, which is accessible via a short and popular hike at Taconic State Park.
Route 344, Copake
A hidden gem a half-mile from a well-trafficked rivertown, the 72-acre Tarrytown Lakes Park offers kayaking, fishing, and a network of trails. Fishing is for Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow residents, but on summer weekends, visit the Hudson River Recreation area at the Pumping Station to rent a kayak. Personal craft not permitted.
209 Neperan Road, Tarrytown
Once a swimming hole is in the open, it gets pretty popular. Big Deep is very much in the open, getting New York Times coverage five years ago, but it’s still totally worth it. It’s not that deep (4 feet), but it’s a lovely teal and invites swimmers and rope swingers. Don’t park on private roads; be respectful of local residents.
Route 212 near Casablanca Lane, Woodstock