Escape From NYC: The Top 6 Hikes In The Hudson Valley
Even those who love the hustle and bustle of city life need a break every once in a while.
Fresh air, a flowing waterfall, some exercise...it can do wonders for the soul and a quick trip north into the Hudson Valley can provide a ton of options. All of these trails are within a couple hours drive of New York City and a few of them are even within walking distance of train stops.
The hikes vary in length and difficulty, so whether you need a kid friendly adventure or want a bit more of a work out, there's definitely something for you. Make sure you bring enough water, proper clothing, and while all these trails are quite well marked I cannot suggest having a trail map enough. All of these areas have maps available from the NYNJ Trail Conference which are outstanding quality, regularly updated, and will keep you from getting lost. Bonus: you get to play hero when you come across those who failed to prepare. So get your maps, check out this list, and make your plans to get out hiking ASAP!
Photo: Shaun O’Neil
Breakneck Ridge is my personal favorite and easily the most popular hike in the Hudson Valley, to the point where it actually has it's own train stop. Hundreds of hikers hit the trail every weekend spring through fall, and for good reason. The views are numerous and splendid, the trail and rock scrambles are a blast, and the various trails offer adventures ranging from a half mile climb to the flag pole to a 6.5 mile loop that hits the entire ridge and drops you back at the parking lot. Given all the different trails a map is almost mandatory, and often on weekends workers from the NYNJ Trail Conference have a table set up at the trailhead to make sure people have what they need and know where they're going.
The placement of the mountain not only makes it easy to get to for such an awesome hike, but also cuts the trailhead to post adventure beer time down to nothing. A quick drive a couple miles down to Cold Spring leaves you with a ton of options. Hit Whistling Willie's for a burger and drink, and then walk down to the riverfront to catch a nice breeze and some of Moo Moo's ice cream. Learn more.
Photo: Michael Martineau
Storm King is one of the gems on the western side of the Hudson. With an easy parking lot accessible on 9W (northbound side only) and a scenic ride to get there, the views start before you even get out of the car. Again, a good trail map is vital here, as there are several different trails and some will lead nowhere near where you want to be. The real work happens right off the bat, but the 15 minutes of incline from the parking lot is the hardest part of the day. The trail flattens out and winds through the woods before looping around the top of Storm King offering several wide open views of the river and across the way to Breakneck Ridge. Learn more.
Photo: Kelly Phillips
Gertrude's Nose is the furthest from the city on this list, right at the two hour mark. It's a part of Minnewaska State Park, so there is a charge for parking unless you have the New York State Parks Pass. Trust me, it's worth the $10. The total mileage can be a bit intimidating for a new hiker or a family, but it's mostly flat and the miles fly by. Once you get off the carriage roads and into the woods, the trail is varied and fun to hike. Millbrook Mountain is the first real open panoramic view, and then you walk the ledge a while before plunging back into the trees.
The next time you burst out into the sun, you'll have the world stretched out below you. The rock ledges make for a great place to picnic and take in the views, especially nice in fall when all the trees are changing over. The trail sticks to the edge of the rock for a while providing more views, before taking you back towards the carriage roads and the lake. The park offers plenty of lakes and waterfalls to cool off, so be sure to take advantage of them on the way back to the car. If you're looking to grab some food for your journey, I highly suggest stopping at the Mountain Harbor Deli which you'll pass on your way up to the park. Great food, good service, and it's attached to an EMS climbing school! Learn more.
Photo: Shaun O’Neil
Sam's Point, which is the home of Verkeerderkill Falls, is attached to Minnewaska State Park and also carries a parking fee. You can get to it from the same parking area as Gertrude's Nose but you're making it much harder on yourself. The dedicated Sam's Point lot is rather small though, so get there early to make sure you get a spot. This is a prime family adventure, where the car does most of the uphill work and it'll take all of five minutes walking to hit spectacular panoramic views. Another one that's great for fall foliage. On a warm summer day hit the trail through the ice caves for an awesome experience and put a chill in your bones before heading to the falls. Shoot for spring or early summer if you're hoping to catch the falls flowing, otherwise you could be disappointed. The one down side is that the park is a bit in the middle of nowhere, so you're on your own for packing some brews to take in the sights. Learn more.
Photo: Shaun O’Neil
The Mt Beacon Fire Tower is right on the edge of the town of Beacon, and is one of the trails not far from a train station making it an option even without a car. The steep incline definitely provides a good workout if you want it, or you can take it slow and steady. Either way it's worth it once you get to the top. It levels out and opens up with a beautiful view of the river and the city of Beacon, then continue your trip to the next mountain over for the sweet fire tower views. If it's a clear day you may even be able to see your place back in the city.
Either mountain provides awesome sunset views, and if you're a history buff make sure to take the detour up by the radio towers to see the Daughters of the Revolutionary War memorial that stands where the signal fires burned hundreds of years ago. Usually this is where I'd suggest a good place to get a bite to eat or a beer and Beacon has many great options for both. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that my favorite place to stop after a good hike in spring, summer, or fall is Zora Dora's, a micro batch ice cream place that does a few dozen different flavors of popsicles. Yes, popsicles. It's worth it, trust me. Learn more.
Photo: Shaun O’Neil
Nose number two on the list offers great views with a much shorter walk. Park along the street and head up the Appalachian Trail to the top, before hanging a right to head towards the flag pole. A quick mile and you''ll be sitting in the sunshine looking across at Bear Mountain, with the Hudson River and the Bear Mountain bridge directly below you. You can rock scramble up from the end of the bridge, but the trail is always stable and there have been a few spills off the side in recent years. Put in the little extra time and keep yourself safe.
After the hike you can always shoot across the bridge to Bear Mountain State Park which offers concessions, lots of BBQ and picnic spots around the lake, as well as the far less common carousel and ice skating rink. Year round fun for the whole family, and giant beers during Oktoberfest! Learn more.
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