New York City is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and is home to more than 18 million people. A 2014 study carried out by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that roughly one in five New Yorkers were disturbed by loud noises at home. A similar study two years before discovered average outdoor noise levels at several locations in the city exceeded federal public health guidelines.
Fortunately, NYC residents and tourists alike can find peaceful refuge in the nearby Hudson Valley, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Manhattan. The region extends from Westchester County to Albany and is home to 18 state parks, dozens of hiking trails, and gorgeous natural scenery. Below are six of the best and most beautiful hikes in the Hudson Valley.
Those looking to walk along the shore of the Hudson River should make their way to Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh State Historic Site. The trail leading to Mills Mansion, an elegant country home owned by Ogden Mills and his wife, Ruth, during the turn of the 20th century, extends to Norrie State Park and opens up to the shore of the Hudson River. The trail is also relatively quiet and peaceful as this is one of the few spots in the Hudson Valley where train tracks veer inland. The mansion, restored to its early 20th century appearance, houses decorative arts and original furniture from the period. It also has a gift shop.
“This is a prime spot to come in the winter, when you can listen to the ice floes cracking into each other,” notes Hike the Hudson Valley founder Mike Todd. “The park offers a huge, wide lawn in front of the beautiful mansion, along with views across the river to the Esopus Meadows lighthouse and the Catskills beyond. It’s a special place.”
Todd, who has authored more than 80 comprehensive trail guides for the Hudson Valley, calls Storm King Mountain one of the best hikes in the region. This popular spot is best hiked during weekdays or early in the morning on weekends as its parking area can fill up quickly. The trail leading to the mountain is steep and somewhat challenging—the mountain itself is more than 1,300 feet above sea level—but offers picturesque views at various points. The summit of the mountain, directly across from Breakneck Ridge, presents a panoramic view of the Hudson River.
As if the natural scenery isn’t enough, the mountain is also the site of the Storm King Art Center. This 500-acre outdoor museum is filled with modern and contemporary art, including large-scale sculptures as well as drawings and photographs.
Those looking for a more relaxing and less strenuous hike should consider Black Mountain Loop, which intersects Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks. The 8-mile trail has several historic sites, including “Burnt House,” the William Brien Memorial Shelter, and a small segment of the Spanish Mine.
Harriman State Park is also home to another beautiful Hudson Valley hike. The Russian Bear Trailhead is a 6.5-mile loop of moderate difficulty that starts near Seven Lakes Drive and offers views of the NYC skyline from Ramapo Torne. The Russian Bear is a boulder that once hung along the edge of a cliff before falling to the trail below.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail in its entirety is a massive undertaking. The trail is nearly 2,200 miles and can take as many as seven months to complete for through-hikers. Hiking small portions of the trail is a more sensible approach for those with limited time and, fortunately, there are several different access points. Todd suggests locations such as Depot Hill, Anthony’s Nose, Lion’s Head, and Nuclear Lake.
Located in Pawling, New York, and accessible via State Route 55, the Nuclear Lake Trail is a 4.3-mile loop of moderate difficulty with little elevation change. Visitors can take in scenic views of Nuclear Lake, which was named for the nuclear experiments that scientists once conducted in facility (no longer standing) along the lakeshore. Anthony’s Nose, meanwhile, is a 2.6-mile up-and-back trail to one of the loveliest overlooks in the entire Hudson Valley.
Suitable for hikers of all levels, the Labyrinth Trail and Skytop Road Loop offers scenic views of Mohonk Lake and the Mohonk Mountain House. The nearly 5-mile hike, located in Minnewaska State Park, is perfect for those looking for a peaceful escape in the woods. Those looking for more of a challenge can traverse the Lemon Squeeze via the Labyrinth Trail. This involves maneuvering over, under, and between a series of massive boulders and rock crevices to reach a clifftop that overlooks the Catskill Mountains. Hikers can still reach Sky Top via an unpaved road near Lemon Squeeze to take in panoramic views of Mohonk Lake as well.