New York State’s 54,556 square miles offers endless opportunities for some of the best hiking within its178 state parks. The flavor of the hiking trails within New York’s parks depends on what part of the state you happen to be traveling, ranging from the Hudson River and Mohawk River Valleys, to the rugged wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains that dominate most of the state’s northern region.
These hiking opportunities include individual park trails, as well as regional trails such as the Finger Lakes Trail, North Country National Scenic Trail, and even parts of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. The Finger Lakes Trail is New York State’s longest continuous hiking trail, running 549 miles from the Pennsylvania border to the Catskill Mountains. The 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail follows the Finger Lakes Trail for 380 miles before turning north to the Adirondack Mountains.
The 6-million acre Adirondack Park is a thriving mix of public and private lands located in northeastern New York made up of forests, 3,000 ponds and lakes, and small but famous villages such as Lake Placid. Within the Park is the 2.6-million acre Adirondack Forest Preserve, which is all state land and contains over 2,000 miles of hiking trails. The High Peaks Region is probably the most popular hiking area, with its own informal club of hikers who have scaled all 46 peaks that rise above 4,000 feet. One these peaks, the 5,344-foot Mount Marcy, is the highest peak in the state.
Located in the Hudson River Valley just 30 miles north of New York City, the 41,618-acre Harriman State Park is New York’s second-largest state park. Harriman State Park has 31 lakes and reservoirs and over 200 miles of hiking trails, including access to the New York State portion of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. Harriman State Park is also bordered by Bear Mountain State Park and Sterling Forest State Park, which creates an even larger wilderness area for hiking.
Located near the south end of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen State Park is one of the New York State Park system’s best known destinations. The gorge cut by Glen Creek includes 200-foot cliffs and 19 waterfalls along just 2 miles. There are also portions of both the Finger Lakes Trail and North Country Trail that pass through the Watkins Glen State Park, connecting to the Indian Trail by a foot bridge suspended high above the gorge.
Letchworth State Park, known as the "Grand Canyon of the East,” contains over 66 miles of hiking trails. The Park’s main attraction is the gorge created by the Genesee River, which includes 3 major waterfalls in Portage Canyon, as well as cliffs that rise up to 600 feet that are surrounded by thick forest lands. One trail crosses the Genesee River at Portage Canyon via a stone bridge just below the Lower Falls. Further along the trails, the Upper Falls has an active railroad trestle crossing the gorge at the site of the original 1852 wooden trestle which was the longest and tallest wooden bridge in the world at that time.