By Mike Todd and Francesca Furey
Looking for new outdoor adventures? These hikes may not have the name recognition of Breakneck Ridge or Lake Minnewaska, but they offer great rewards of their own. Some of them require venturing just a bit outside of the Hudson Valley to help expand your hiking repertoire. Visit at off-peak times (like weekdays or very early on weekends) to find more solitude and perhaps even have the views to yourself.
The westernmost of the six Catskills fire towers, the tower at Balsam Lake Mountain in Hardenburgh looms where cell signals fear to go. (Seriously, don’t depend on having cell service at the trailhead.) Your reward for travelling to this remote destination is a gentle, 6-mile roundtrip climb to one of the most panoramic views in the Catskills.
Drivers heading east along I-691 in Meriden, CT, may notice the rocky spire of Castle Craig perched on the ridge high above, but many aren’t aware there’s a beautiful hike from Hubbard Park that takes you right up to the unique tower. The expansive views from the top of the castle may just make you feel like the ruler of your very own kingdom.
The newly blazed trails forming a 2.7-mile loop around Red Mountain in the Mary Moore Preserve in Sherman, CT, offer gentle climbs, gorgeous meadows, sweeping views, and an up-close look at the 150-year-old Chinkapin Oak, listed as a Connecticut State Champion Tree. One visit here and you’ll feel like a champion, too.
You could live next to the trailhead at Red Wing Recreation Area in Billings for years, and never know that beautiful trails are tucked into the woods here, topped by an overlook that rivals many of the nicest views in the area. Once you know about this local gem, it’s bound to become one of your favorites.
Just a few short years ago, hikers would have strolled by the dilapidated Jackie Jones fire tower in Harriman State Park and wished that it was safe to climb. That wish has since been granted! The tower was refurbished and re-opened to the public in 2018, offering awesome views of the NYC skyline and surrounding areas.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from under-the-radar hikes are waterfall hikes. We recommend going very early to avoid the crowds.
This 80-foot-tall waterfall is quite the view. After hiking along the Lake Minnewaska Awosting Falls loop, watch its water plummet from the lakeshore or the shallow base.
Minnewaska State Park; www.parks.ny.gov/parks/minnewaska/details.aspx
Just across the border in Massachusetts flows this stunning, 200-foot-high waterfall in the Taconic Mountains. Trust us, it’s worth crossing state lines.
Bash Bish Falls State Park; www.mass.gov/locations/bash-bish-falls-state-park
Hike to the top of this Shawangunks waterfall for the best views of its 180-foot cascades.
Sam’s Point Area, Minnewaska State Park Preserve; www.parks.ny.gov/parks/193
Hike around Agawamuck Creek to lay your eyes on Columbia County’s tallest waterfall. This 150-foot gem gushes down formative, ridged rock walls.
High Falls Conservation Area: www.clctrust.org/public-conservation-areas/high-falls/
Ever seen an enclosed waterfall? Inside a cave, the falls seep through an opening and flow down jagged, fallen rock into the open preserve.
Dover Stone Church Preserve; www.doverny.us/dover-stone-church-preserve
From multiple hiking vantage points — either Falls View Park, a lookout, or the riverside — this 1,000-foot-wide waterfall roars down the Mohawk River.
Cohoes and Waterford; www.ci.cohoes.ny.us/314/overlook-park-falls-view-park