The 10 Best Secret Hikes Just Outside NYC
From Upstate New York to Long Island, escape to these trails for solitude and scenic views.
With spring here, hiking trails are now sufficiently thawed out to begin our seasonal foray of taking long walks in nature. And between general burnout and coping with all of the madness in the world, we like to think solitude and relaxation located anywhere outside of NYC (but not too far because we still love this damn place) is the ideal remedy to the daily grind here.
Not only do we have your plans to escape the five boroughs with weekend getaways or hiking trails, but we’ve also compiled a list of the best secret hikes to explore near NYC. From Upstate New York to Long Island, there’s no shortage of options for all types of hikers. And when you return to the Big Apple, reward yourself with a drink at one of the 18 best secret bars in town.
Distance from NYC: 31 miles, 1 hour by car
Hike distance: 2.5 miles
This looped trail on Nassau County’s largest nature preserve has attractive landscapes for hiking and nature. The 550-acre preserve features well marked trails, local flora, amphibians, deer, and maps for self-guided tours of the area and its ruins. Speaking of ruins, hike to the “Ruins of Zog”—a 150-acre Knollwood estate acquired by the last King of Albania, King Ahmet Zogolli, in 1951 for his exile and rumored to contain treasures in its walls—and walk the remains of the 60-room mansion. At the end of the preserve is a stunning historic estate, Chelsea Mansion, with topiary, fountains, picturesque landscaping, and a moat with lily pads evoking a fairy-tale-like atmosphere. The trail is open year round and takes a little over an hour to complete (it can get muddy, so have waterproof footwear on hand). Afterwards, stop at East Norwich Bagels for bagels, sandwiches, French toast, and a menu section dedicated to chicken cutlets.
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Distance from NYC: 93 miles, 2 hours by car
Hike distance: 4.8 miles
Affectionately called “The Gunks” by locals, this is a scenic landscape of waterfalls, hidden watering holes, hiking trails, rock faces, and forests that bloom color during the right season. There are several trails here with various difficulty levels, but an easy (and free!) one to do is the Jenny Lane Trail at Minnewaska State Park. This level route goes through the scenic park onto the main trail named Awosting Carriage Road where visitors can either turn around or hike further to Blueberry Run and the famous Castle Point. Quench your thirst après-hike with a pint of sour ale from Clemson Brewing, a brew pub with burgers featuring names like Big Bad Wolf and The Hacksaw.
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Distance from NYC: 35 miles, 1 hour by car
Hike distance: 1.9 miles
Sands Point Preserve Conservancy offers 216 acres of landscape and six trails for keen hikers. Located on the Guggenheim Estate in North Shore, Long Island, the woodland habitat has a pond with herons and Red-Eared Slider turtles, and at dusk, catch bats in flight hunting insects on the grounds. The Sands Point Preserve Loop Trail takes about an hour to complete and the best time to visit is February through October. If you love ruins and castles, hike to the Castle Gould located within the preserve. Modeled after Castle Kilkenny in Ireland, the 1904 fortress is closed, but its Welcome Center and clock tower are open for more information about the estate and preserve. Afterwards, pop into Margaritas Cafe in Port Washington for platters of tostones, empanadas, and margaritas.
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Distance from NYC: 65 miles, 1.5 hours by car
Hike distance: 5.40 miles
Known as the Full Bull Hill loop, this trail has many kick-(your)-ass sections and gorgeous views of the Hudson Valley and it’s a breeze to get to from Cold Spring. It takes a little over three hours to complete during which you can view the NYC skyline along the Hudson River, hike Breakneck Ridge, and turn onto the Cornish Trail to visit the famous ruins of the main estate and greenhouse. Although the loop is open year round, recommended hiking months are April through October. After this cardio-inducing hike, pop into Cold Spring’s Hudson Hil’s where their lunch menu has everything from Salmon BLT to the Southwest Shrimp & Avocado Salad for calorie replenishment.
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Distance from NYC: 62 miles, 1.25 hours by car
Hike distance: 12 miles
The Briarcliff-Peekskill Trail is unpaved for walkers and joggers and begins on a path near an active shooting range. Don’t be alarmed by gunfire slicing through the silence, which you’ll soon have again (the silence, not the echoing bullets) as you make your way north through a peaceful landscape offering some of Westchester’s most spectacular views. Open year round, follow the green diamond trail blazes until you reach Peekskill, where you can take the train home if you want to revel in the serenity from your hike for as long as possible. Be sure to indulge in a refreshing to-go can of Skills Pils at Peekskill Brewery before doing so because you’ve earned it.
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Distance from NYC: 60 miles, 2 hours by car, plus the ferry
Hike distance: 10 miles
Far from the underwear parties of the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove, Fire Island National Seashore offers a different kind of wild. No cars are allowed past the ferry dock, so visitors can either drag a cooler for a few minutes to the family campground (nestled beside the high dunes, New York’s only federally preserved wilderness) or trek along the beach for a sandy-toed five miles. At the tip of the eastern zone you’ll find a seemingly private camping adventure—even in summer—in Long Island’s coolest backcountry, where the sounds of song birds pierce the windy silence. Just be sure to get permits for backcountry camping zones and steer clear of Long Island’s precious dunes.
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Distance from NYC: 80 miles, 2 hours by car
Hike distance: 2.5 miles
Though you could do all three of Franny Reese State Park’s easy trails in one morning, you’ll find no reason to rush through the 251 acres of verdant woodlands. Walk the shaded paths that wind around ruins of an 1860s estate and down to a bluff overlooking the river, the Mid-Hudson Bridge, the town of Poughkeepsie, and the Walkway Over the Hudson—the world’s longest pedestrian walkway. The park may only be an hour and a half from Manhattan, but if you need a break from the concrete jungle, consider spending a night on a nearby 80-acre fruit farm, where the homemade berry muffins and roaming chickens make for an idyllic start to a day of outdoor adventure.
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Distance from NYC: 51 miles, 1.5 hour by car
Hike distance: 6 miles
Climb up a rocky ridge along this challenging stretch of the Appalachian Trail on Bellvale Mountain at Harriman State Park, where breathtaking views of Greenwood Lake and Sterling Forest await you at Prospect Rock, the highest point of the trail in the State of New York. A six-mile trail, the last four miles have some steep climbs and descents past rock outcrops and a seasonal stream. Once you descend to reach the NY-New Jersey state line, write your name in the trail register. Post-hike, make sure to grab a scoop of homemade waffle cone at nearby Bellvale Farms Creamery (open April through October for the hiking season) or a bottle of Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery's Warwick Rustic Gin to elevate your post-hike cocktail hour.
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Distance from NYC: 90 miles, 1 hour 40 minutes by car
Hike distance: 4.6 miles
If you don’t mind constantly looking out for black bears, the Denton and Mullet Brook Falls trail is a hike worth undertaking. Inside the 4,881-acre Neversink Unique Recreation Area where the 60-mile Neversink River is considered to be the birthplace of American dry fly fishing, this relaxing trail promises not one but two waterfalls, bobcat footprints, spotted salamanders, bald eagles, and zero humans. Take caution on steep uphills, muddy areas, and some downed trees to scramble over. Whether you choose to go whitewater-paddling through the Neversink Gorge or simply soak in the silence of the lush floodplain forest, be sure to grab an après-hike beer curbside at the Rushing Duck Brewing Company in the historic district of Chester, which wins extra points for collecting food pantry donations.
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Distance from NYC: 63 miles, 1.5 hours by car
Hike distance: 3.5 miles
A stone’s throw from the open-air museum Storm King Art Center, the Butter Hill/Stillman/Bluebird Trail Loop in Storm King State Park offers an adrenaline rush as you scramble up steep slabs of billion-years-old granite and maneuver along well-marked trails and carriage roads. The Stillman Trail section is narrow and steep so take caution in rain or icy conditions and ensure you have hiking poles for stability. The average time to complete the triple trail is three hours with creepy caves, old stone ruins, thrilling climbs, and panoramic views of Storm King mountain and the Hudson River to observe along the way. Stop by Citrus afterwards for Indian and Thai cuisine.
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