Finding some solid hikes near NYC should be at the top of your fall to-do list. There’s nothing better than autumn in New York City. Not only does it rival Christmas in New York, it absolutely squashes it. Tourist season is (mostly) over, the weather is crisp and fresh and you can finally pair your bagel and cream cheese with hot coffee again.
Unfortunately, the best fall activity, hiking, is impossible in the city proper. However, there are plenty of hikes near NYC that make up for it. New York City is surrounded by some of the best hiking territory in the country, if you’re willing to take a short drive. And trust us, you should. Check out these amazing hikes near NYC this fall to make the most of the season.
Palisades Interstate Park – Fort Lee, NJ
The hoi-polloi of the city can be overwhelming, so trade that in for a whole new state – the Garden State, that is. Just on the other side of the George Washington Bridge from the city is Fort Lee with its historic Revolutionary War park and its hiking trails. This combination of being surrounded by nature while having the city right at your fingertips is intoxicating. Easier nature strolls, intermediate treks and more difficult hikes are all possible here; there are 30 miles worth of walkable trails open to visitors.
Because you’ll be hiking in the cliffs, don’t underestimate the ruggedness of the terrain. Not only will you be surrounded by local flora and fauna (read: squirrels), but you may have to clamber through the Giant Stairs, an expanse of boulders that’s as challenging as it is fun to cross. With so many different trails and an infinite number of ways to link them together, though, you can try a different route every time you come around!
Forest Park – Queens, NY
Looking to escape the city without necessarily leaving it? Believe it or not, Queens has a few trails that are worth a try! Not quite the staggering cliffs of the Palisades, Forest Park does feature an expanse of hills that are overlain with trails for hikers to enjoy. Surrounded by a hardwood forest, you’re taken back in time before New York was, well, New York. You can go through the forest or even around the perimeter with the Orange Trail.
Not too much of a nature person? No worries! Nature Park includes both natural scenery as well as human-made elements. And, of course, you’re still within city limits, so just hop on the subway to make your way over.
Old Croton Aqueduct State Park – Dobbs Ferry, NY
One of the most integrative parks in the area, you aren’t just limited to walking the trails in this park – you can also dirt bike here. With both natural beauty and a lot of local history, you can learn as you explore Old Croton. Before starting your hike, check out the Keeper’s House Visitor Center for exhibitions and information about the Aqueduct. You can even see some local artifacts here. The Keeper’s House itself is a historical landmark. While there, be sure to grab a map for your upcoming hike.
Offering visitors guided tours and GPS audio guides of the different trails, there are no worries for the inexperienced or easily lost. The Westchester Trail would take days to walk in its entirety, but there are popular sections that are often taken by hikers on self-guided walks. While hiking, you can see the Croton Dam and the High Bridge, which is New York City’s oldest bridge. If you take a guided tour, you can even see the tunnels of the Ossining Weir, which transported water from the Aqueduct.
Tallman Mountain State Park – Sparkill, NY
The first (and only) mountain on this list, Tallman Mountain State Park is just west of Old Croton. With views of the Hudson River and the nature of New York state, plus glimpses of the city skyline, Tallman Mountain is a picturesque sight. There are two looped trails in this park, both going north to south. You can go on a shorter hike, just about 2.5 miles, or a longer one of up to 5 miles. Both of these trails are relatively easy, so they’re ideal for a relaxing afternoon enjoying the views.
Rifle Camp Park – Woodland Park, NJ
A bit further into New Jersey than the Palisades, you’re truly in the middle of the woods here. Complete with a fully staffed nature center and an amphitheater, this park is rich with activity as well as hiking trails. Extremely unique, Rifle Camp even has an entire astronomical observatory. Luckily, the observatory is open to the public.
The land that is now used for this park also hosted Washington’s troops as they spied on the British during the Revolutionary War. Elevated from the surrounding area, it’s almost like being able to see the entire state of New Jersey. You can see the leaves of every tree in the area change color during the fall. And, yes, Manhattan is visible on the horizon.
With two looping trails (which do converge), guests can take the shorter Red Trail, or the longer Yellow trail. Additionally, people are encouraged to camp within the park, so pack your gear for an entire night away from the congestion of New York City.
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