The 16 Most Incredible Hikes in Upstate New York

Spectacular scenic trails with views of natural wonders await you.

Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park | Zack Frank/Shutterstock
Letchworth State Park | Zack Frank/Shutterstock

With New York City practically reopened (we can hardly believe it either), it may seem counterintuitive to give you reasons to get away from the emerging hustle. But to truly enjoy living in this city, you occasionally have to leave it—and fresh air and ample personal space in Upstate New York are the perfect antidotes to the (very soon-to-be) crowded subways and packed rooftop bars

With 180 state parks to choose from, the State of New York has plenty of alluring natural attractions to entice you away from the urban rush (from camping and birdwatching to weekend getaways). So here, we offer 16 incredible upstate destinations worth making the trek for—whether you’re a hiking novice or expert, we’ve got you covered with these spectacular scenic trails. Just be sure to check for the latest news before heading out to these destinations—with many trails and parks newly reopening, updates are shared on the regular.

Anthony's Nose
Anthony's Nose | Shutterstock/Neelima Ayilavarapu

Length: 2.6 miles
If you’ve ever been to Bear Mountain then you’ve probably seen Anthony’s Nose, the vaguely schnoz-shaped hill across the Hudson River. What you may not have realized is that the Nose boasts one of the most impressive viewpoints of the lower Hudson Valley, and to reach it, you’ll walk through a section of the Appalachian Trail. While only on it for half a mile, it packs a punch—it’s the steepest, hardest section of an otherwise gentle trail. Stories abound for the man it’s named for (from a saint or a pre-Revolutionary War captain to a deacon of the Dutch Reformed Church or a trumpeter), so let yourself get swept up in the breathtaking views and leave the history lessons for another time.
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Ausable Chasm
Ausable Chasm | Shutterstock/Miss Nephew

Length: 1-5 miles (depending on the trail taken)
If ever there was the equivalent of an amusement park for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, this would be it—with onsite activities ranging from tubing and rappelling to rock climbing and lantern tours (there are fees and group packages available). As one of the earliest and oldest natural attractions in America, the sandstone gorge Ausable Chasm—christened the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks”—has been in continuous operation since 1870. The trails, suitable for all levels and especially great for families, tend to be less arduous with plenty of native flora, wildlife, and geological remains to enjoy alongside Rainbow Falls (the 90-foot waterfall visible from the bridge), Elephant Head (an impressive rock formation in the gorge), and Hyde’s Cave. 
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Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island
Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island | ALKALK/Shutterstock

Length: 3.2 miles
While it may scale high on the spectrum of difficulty, Breakneck also gives those with less hiking mastery access to a bypass trail to take in the views while still getting plenty of exercise in the great outdoors. Since the climb is fairly steep, some hikers recommend going counterclockwise—by starting at the southern Breakneck trailhead. Views of Storm King Mountain (across the river), Bannerman’s Castle on Pollepel Island, and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge are visible from the overlook. Be warned, the trail gets plenty crowded so this one might be worth saving for an off-peak time—and from most accounts, not one to bring the kiddos (or canines) on. 
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Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail
Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail | Flickr/Paul Cooper

Length: 1-2 miles (depending on the route)
Named for the frothy water chute that descends into Buttermilk Creek as it flows toward Cayuga Lake, this trail (one of five in the park) winds through a diverse natural assortment of water-sculpted rocks, woodlands, pools, and waterfalls. The greater Buttermilk Falls State Park recently opened back up for camping reservations, and even welcomes pets to the campground (two max). The warmer months are the ideal time to experience the bounty of natural wonders on this small-but-mighty trail (don’t let the shorter length fool you into thinking it’s an easy one), as the site is closed during the winter season.
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Cascade Mountain
Cascade Mountain | Flickr/Bo Stewart

Lake Placid
Length: 5.6 miles
Among the 46 mountains that make up the Adirondack High Peaks, these are two of the most accessible. Plus they can be tackled together in a single, not-too-challenging hike; once you’ve conquered Cascade, it’s only another mile or so to bag Porter. That and the proximity to downtown Lake Placid make this an extremely popular hike. To witness the sweeping 360-degree views at the top of Mount Cascade without the crowds, rise early to watch the sunrise from the summit (or for those who like a later start, a hike at sunset offers equally stunning views).
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Devil's Hole State Park
Devil's Hole State Park | Flickr/Adam Moss

Niagara Falls
Length: 2.4 miles
We’ve all heard of Niagara Falls, but this trail is one of those under-the-radar gems that mostly locals know exists (though it was recently named the State of NY’s best trail, so it seems the secret’s out). Set within Devil’s Hole State Park, hikers can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds or even go fishing if the mood strikes. A winding, steep stone staircase (of about 300 steps) leads you down to the base of the gorge and the trail, where views of the rushing whitewater rapids of the Niagara River await. Mind the guardrails which offer protective barriers from the swirling waters below.
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Giant Ledge
Giant Ledge | Mike Shoe/Shutterstock

Length: 7.1 miles
The eponymous ledge is actually a series of five ledges (all offering similarly gorgeous views), which works out well if you want to enjoy a scenic take further on the trail sans (too many) fellow hikers. The hike to the overlook is short but steep (a 3-4 mile round trip) and plenty of people choose to linger there, soaking in the vista over a beer or even spending the night at one of two nearby campsites. If you have the energy and crave some distance from the inevitable crowds at Giant Ledge, keep climbing for another couple of miles or so through the alpine forest until you reach the top of Panther Mountain.
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Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park | V-ron/Shutterstock

Silver Springs
Length: 7.1 miles (one-way)
This easy trail is more of a long, scenic stroll than a true hike, but it shows off the park’s greatest hits: Letchworth Gorge (aka the Grand Canyon of the East) and its three major waterfalls. Note that it’s 7 miles from one end of the gorge to the other; to get back, you’ll either have to retrace that walk, or drop a second car at the endpoint. The path sticks pretty close to the road, so you can drive certain sections if you’re not keen on the distance. Make up those lost steps by exploring some of the smaller, less populated trails branching off of the main one.
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Mohonk Mountain House
Mohonk Mountain House | majicphotos/Shutterstock

High Falls
Length: 1 mile
This aptly named rock scramble from Mohonk Mountain House resort is a short, intense, and thrilling natural maze. Take the smallest backpack you own and make sure your hands are free; you’ll need them to crawl over, under, and through seemingly impossibly tiny crevices in the rocks. For some of the trickier territory, wooden ladders are strategically placed to advance you to the next level. With sections named “Fat Man’s Misery” and “Lemon Squeezer” (hint: you’re the citrus), this may not be the hike for you if you get claustrophobic or are afraid of heights. For everyone else, it offers some serious fun and is definitely worth the hiking fee.
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Mount Marcy
Mount Marcy | Case Chronicles/Shutterstock

Lake Placid
Length: 7.4 miles (one way)
Climbing to the highest point in the State of New York is no easy trek: Mount Marcy’s elevation is over 5,300 feet! The shortest route is along the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which is still a nearly 10-hour round trip. While the last mile of the cone-shaped summit is quite the kicker, once you’ve made it to the top you’ll be rewarded with a view of the rolling Adirondacks and, on a clear day, the magnificent eight-mile stretch of the MacIntyre Mountains. Just be extra careful to stay on the guided pathways to help preserve the fragile alpine vegetation. 
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Overlook Mountain
Overlook Mountain | Dan Hanscom/Shutterstock

Length: 4.6 miles
It’s not about the journey with this one: It’s about the destination. You’ll walk uphill along a gravel road with power lines the entire way. We hear you—not quite the bucolic escape you expected coming from the city—but you’ll hit the first cool landmark after about 2 miles: the ruins of an old hotel from the area’s heyday as a luxury resort destination. A climbable fire tower (which you should definitely scale) is a half mile further. Follow the trail a little bit longer for a jaw-dropping cliff edge view of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley—the perfect backdrop to enjoy with a picnic lunch. 
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Catskill Mountain Overlook
Catskill Mountain Overlook | Brandt Bolding/Shutterstock

Length: 6.4 miles 
An occasional deer or bear may be the sole fellow companions you spot while hiking on this remote yet panoramic vista, which offers sweeping scenic views of Palenville and the Hudson Valley—and often welcomes groups of birdwatchers and nature trekkers in the spring and fall. Artists from the Hudson River School were known to paint this vivid scenery in the 1860s, and reaching this picturesque point takes some effort: You have to locate the trailhead hidden behind a house and ramp up towards a seriously steep grade for two miles. But the views from Maeli’s lookout, Ella’s ledge, and Poet’s ledge; several waterfalls along the hike; and the appeal of a gorgeous, low-traffic trail make up for the earlier effort.
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Verkeerderkill Falls
Verkeerderkill Falls | Flickr/WhatsAllThisThen

Length: 5.6 to 8.2 miles
There are two ways to tackle this hike—a 5.6-mile out-and-back or an 8.2-mile loop through the spectacular Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Either way is an action-packed visual feast: Lake Maratanza, one of a handful of sky lakes which is home to Sam’s Point; Ice Caves that trap the cold air so efficiently that there’s snow even in July; and Verkeerder Falls, a 187-foot waterfall (which is apparently located on private property, so best to stick close to the trail and admire from afar). After being immersed in this bevy of natural beauty, you’ll be hard pressed to disagree with the sign proclaiming the cascade as one of “Earth’s Last Great Places.”
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Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake | Lea Lea/Shutterstock

Saranac Lake
Length: 31 miles
Bowling a six’er in cricket is an impressive feat (hitting the ball so far it clears the field without touching it), but in this case, a “6er” is equally noteworthy: someone who clears the six Adirondack peaks that surround Saranac Lake, thus earning the title (it even comes with an official patch) and the right to ring a special bell in the Saranac Lake town square. Start with Baker Mountain, a nearly 2-mile hike that’s the easiest of the bunch (the others range in length from 6-10 miles). The hardest-core of hikers can attempt to summit all six peaks in 24 hours, and snag the title of Ultra 6er—but truth be told, even if it takes months (or years), the title will still be yours to claim.
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Lake George
Lake George | James Casil/Shutterstock

Fort Ann
Length: 5 to 7.5 miles, depending on route
A great day hike near Lake George, this trail delivers big on scenery (serene mountain ponds, vibrant surrounding forests, panoramic cliff bands) and is considered one of the more family-friendly ones. That’s largely due to the switchbacks near the top which don’t just make the incline less steep, they also protect the ground from erosion (so mind your trail etiquette and don’t cut the switchbacks!). You can shorten the hike by driving the first 1.6 miles (as long as your vehicle can handle a rough dirt road) but even if you tackle it on foot, it’s a fairly low-key trek.
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Bear Mountain Bridge at sunrise
Bear Mountain Bridge at sunrise | Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock

Bear Mountain
Length: 6.8 miles
For the master hikers out there, this one's for you. Bridging Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks, this well-trafficked loop is situated near Tomkins Cove. The terrain varies (wooded, rocky, grassy, and often steep) but the gloriously unencumbered views of the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge (and a distant peek of the Manhattan skyline) are worth the extra effort. For those less inclined (no pun intended) to make the arduous trek, you can drive straight to the mountain’s summit for some stunning sunrise and sunset views.
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Sarah Theeboom is a contributor for Thrillist. 
Swathi Reddy is a contributor for Thrillist.