I hiked 52 times last year and felt that I needed to impart a bit of wisdom from all that I learned. I mean, I must’ve learned a lot on all those hikes across much of New York. But wait, it’d be ridiculous to call me a hiking expert. Sometimes I forget my water. And I often forget to look where I’m walking, which usually ends with me on the ground. So take it as you will. Just know that I haven’t hiked everywhere in NY and sometimes I like super easy hikes that require little effort.
So here it is, a completely arbitrary and super subjective list on what my favorite hikes (read: top hikes) in New York.
1. Algonquin Peak, High Peaks Adirondacks
Algonquin is quite a beast. It’s the second tallest peak in the Adirondacks and offers incredible views, except if you went when I did. I hiked from the High Peaks Information Center at the Adirondack Loj for a round-trip of 8.6 miles, an ascent of 2,936′ and a summit at 5,114′. Most people clump Algonquin with Wright and Iroquois for a day of serious peak bagging (and you should too) but I didn’t because of the weather and incredible snowpack. Once you start ascending, much of the trail is exposed leaving you breathless with the Adirondack view. Take this in before you get to the summit because you may be in the clouds with 50mph wind. This is certainly a peak to add to your must-hike list.
2. Chimney Bluffs State Park, Lake Ontario
The hiking and views here are quite unique; definitely unlike all other areas in NY. The earth spires where the lake meets the land have been formed from lots of erosion. Though, I’d view these from afar and not on a muddy day as the earth chose to give way beneath my friends and me a few times. We went in early spring, when there was still snow and ice on the beach. Walking on this snow sure felt like I was walking on a glacier so I’d definitely plan your trip sometime in the winter for some breathtaking views. Or, go in early spring like us and take your chances with whether or not the ice is strong enough to hold you. We sunk in quite a few times. Scary, but fun.
3. Watkins Glen State Park, Fingerlakes
I’ve been to Watkins Glen State Park a few times before my 52 in 52 and it never gets boring. There are several trails in this park, however, the main Gorge trail isn’t your average dirt path; it’s nearly all stairs, bridges, and viewing platforms. This is also the busiest trail so get there early to avoid the throngs of visitors. Really, get there early or you’ll get stuck behind tons of people taking photos and huffing it up the stairs. Wear some super grippy shoes and be prepared to get a bit wet as you walk directly under a waterfall and beside some dripping rocks. Despite this being a pretty easy and short hike in a very popular park, it still tops my list because the gorge is absolutely amazing. If you haven’t hiked up a gorge yet, add at least one NY gorge to your list right now.
4. Bald Mt – Rondaxe Fire Tower, Adirondacks
Bald Mountain is a super short and simple hike near Old Forge. It’s not a high peak but it offers amazing views of all the peaks in the Southern ADKs. I’ve driven by this hike (probably) 20 times before I finally hopped out of the car to take a stab at it. This is a very busy hike in the summer because of it’s proximity to many Adirondack camps and it’s amazing view for such a short hike so be prepared for a full parking lot and lots of hikers. As you hike along a cliff above RT 28, much of the hike is all exposed providing awesome views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Since the hike is so short with very little ascending, climb the Rondaxe Fire tower when you get to the top. The extra stairs will do you good and I’m sure you’re going to love what you see.
5. Green Lakes State Park, CNY
This park is the closest to my house and surely topped my 52 in 52 list for most visited. While growing up, I used to ride my bike to this park so I knew this park well. Or so I thought. Most people go to Green Lakes State Park to walk around Green Lake (and sometimes Round Lake, too). It’s an absolutely beautiful, flat, and easy hike around a meromictic lake, which was formed by a glacier. It’s incredibly deep with steep sides right near the trail. However, Green Lakes has more than just the trail around the lake and I got the chance to explore all of these this year. There are mountain biking and hiking trails right above the lake that give awesome views of the park. There are also many new trails that you can access from RT 290. They aren’t as beautiful, but will allow you to avoid the expensive entrance fee that is required during the summer.
Despite my lack of expertise and slightly arbitrary list, these hikes have actual merit. I think that they showcase all of what New York hiking has to offer. Waterfalls and gorges, glacial lakes, high peaks, smaller peaks, and cool effects from erosion–all found in NY. Despite solidifying what my favorite hikes are in NY (without hiking them all, of course) I’ve also learned that New York hiking is pretty incredible. Kudos to my home state.
Have you hiked all over NY, too? Which hikes are your favorite? Did I miss any on my 52 in 52? Shout it out in the comments below and I’ll be sure to explore them when I visit NY next.