Visiting NY: Tri-State Area Hikes You'll Want to Try
In New York, Manhattan and Brooklyn usually garner the most public interest. While they are captivating, if you're looking for more outdoor adventure besides Central Park, I recommend exploring some hiking trails in the Tri-State region.
Being from California, hiking and nature run deep in my veins, and I always look for trails in every city I visit. So, the ones I have enjoyed the most in the Tri-State area are: Hemlock Falls, Kakiat Trail, Kaaterskill Falls, and Overlook Mountain. If you're interested in discovering more about these trails, all of which range in difficulty and location, scroll down and learn more.
Disclaimer: Now, I wouldn't consider myself a super experienced or intermediate hiker; I am probably just an average hiker, so I will rate the difficulty of the hike based on my own experience factoring in reviews from online.
The first hike you can try is called Hemlock Falls, located in South Orange, New Jersey, about 25 miles from the city. This is the closest hike from NYC that I will be recommending, which is a plus because you don't need to have a car; you can take a train to Newark and take a quick Uber to the trail. However, I still recommend driving as parking is easy to find and it's not crowded.
It is also the least challenging hike I will mention since there are no significant inclines, and the hills are easy to climb, even for beginners. I have also been to Hemlock Falls solo a few times, and I felt safe the entire time.
What I really like about this trail is how it is not heavily known by those other than the locals. It took me three years to learn about this beautiful trail, and that's only because a local told me about it. It truly is an overlooked area and a hidden gem. As for significant highlights of the trail, there are two small waterfalls, and once you climb the minor hill, you get a beautiful view of all the trees in the area. There is also a picturesque river where you can have a quick snack, and the greenery is gorgeous in the spring and summer.
(The next three trails are in upstate New York and were made during a weekend trip. Something I recommend doing with a group of people.)
Kakiat Trail is about 36 miles away from Manhattan in Rockland County, New York, and it takes about an hour to get there, meaning you absolutely need a car to get there from the city. Also, the start of this trail could be more straightforward; we drove by it a few times before realizing it was the entrance. But if you see a little parking lot with a tiny building as you go up the hill to the trail, that is where you park.
As for difficulty, the trail is relatively flat, with only minor hills making it super easy to walk up. There is a river you can follow along as a guide to make sure you don't get lost too. I truly enjoyed this hike because it is relatively easy; you don't have to worry about getting up any steep hills, can take your time, and just enjoy nature.
Regarding safety, my group and I ran into some interesting characters while there, but they left us alone for the most part. Also, if you're not experienced with hiking, I don't recommend going at night as it is easy to get lost. (Actually, I don't recommend hiking at night at all.)
Kaaterskill Falls is one of my favorite trails mainly because you can see a beautiful waterfall and take a dip at the end of it as well. It is located in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York and is 117 miles away from NYC - taking about 2 hours and 30 minutes to get there by car. Parking was easy to find; we parked at Laurel House Road.
As for the trail, you can either choose to do the semi-difficult hike to the waterfall or take an easy hike and observe the waterfall from afar.
Observation deck only (0.3 miles): A relatively easy hike with some elevation. You can admire the waterfall from here.
Hike to the falls only (0.7): Semi-hard hike with narrow paths, steep inclines, and steep stairs. The route takes you to the upper falls pool, and there is another set of stairs that takes you down to the Lower falls. This hike takes about 30-45 mins roundtrip, depending on how fast you walk.
In terms of crowds, we didn't experience much in September. We also felt very safe there, and I highly recommend bringing your bathing suit and maybe a little snack.
Overlook Mountain is the most challenging hike I've encountered in the Tri-State area because it has a steep incline for most of the hike. The hike is about 104 miles from NYC, near Woodstock, and it will take about 2 hours to get there, so you will also need a car for this trail, and parking is easy. You also drive through a little town where you can buy snacks or drinks and use the bathroom if needed.
I'll also mention that my friends and I had some difficulty getting up this mountain, and we were extremely exhausted after it, making this the most challenging hike out of the bunch. So be prepared.
Although it was challenging, this hike offers some breathtaking views. The hike takes about 3 hours on average, with some interesting attractions. You can visit an old ruined hotel and a fire tower to get an even more beautiful view of the area. I highly recommend bringing some food with you, when you get to the top of the mountain you can eat up there and enjoy the views.
Overall, getting away from the city and taking a trip to Jersey or upstate won't be a waste of time. Not only will you get some nature therapy, but you will also see incredible views that you will never forget!