A hikers’ paradise awaits urbanites just a few miles outside of New York City: The Hudson Valley. Extending from Westchester County to Albany, this region brims with 18 state parks and countless hiking trails so lush, you’ll forget all about that glass-and-concrete metropolis.
“The Hudson Valley has such an amazing variety of hiking destinations, from craggy cliffs and jaw-dropping waterfalls to pleasant strolls by the Hudson River. We have mansion grounds to explore, many gorgeous miles of the Appalachian Trail, several mountain ranges that offer challenging climbs and a dozen fire towers within easy striking distance,” says Mike Todd, founder of Hike the Hudson Valley.
If anyone knows which Hudson Valley hikes are worth trying, it’s Todd. Todd began hiking in the Hudson Valley when he moved to Poughkeepsie in 2000. Since then, he has written more than 80 trail guides—complete with ratings on scenery and difficulty—and turned Hike the Hudson Valley into the go-to online resource for trekking in the region.
Looking to take an outdoor adventure in the Northeast this fall? Here are the top five hikes in the Hudson Valley, according to Todd.
1. The Taconic Mountains
“Nestled in the northeastern corner of Dutchess County, where New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts meet, the Taconic mountain range offers some amazing views across the Hudson Valley toward the Catskills and the Berkshires,” says Todd. “The rugged trails and steep climbs make those views that much sweeter—you really have to earn them!”
Todd points to Alandar Mountain and Brace Mountain as some of the best Hudson Valley hikes in the Taconic Mountains.
2. The Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze at Mohonk Mountain House
The Labyrinth has “an insane rock scramble, leading you through tight crevices and up tall wooden ladders to a spectacular view of the Shawangunk Ridge,” says Todd. He adds that “shimmying through the Lemon Squeeze and climbing up the inside of a narrow chasm make for an unforgettable day.”
If you want to do this Hudson Valley hike, you’ll need to plan ahead, though. Mohonk Mountain House requires that you buy a hiking trail pass online if you want to enjoy its 85 miles of winding trails.
3. Storm King Mountain
You may already be familiar with this mountain for the famous Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor museum with large-scale sculptures, which makes for a popular day trip for New Yorkers. But the eponymous mountain itself offers even more beauty, along with one of the top hikes in the Hudson Valley, according to Todd.
“Storm King Mountain offers an amazing panoramic view of the Hudson River, looking north to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and across the river to Breakneck Ridge. It’s a steep hike with amazing views at several points along the way,” he says.
Pro tip: Do your hike on a weekday, or get there before 9:30 a.m. on a weekend if you hope to get a parking space.
4. The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail probably seems like more than you bargained for on a Hudson Valley hike, but hear Todd out: “You don’t have to be a through-hiker to enjoy the Appalachian Trail. There are gorgeous sights along the sections of the AT that wind through the Hudson Valley. Stroll for a couple of miles, and if you get really inspired, you can just keep walking to Maine or Georgia, whichever strikes your fancy.”
As for access points to the Appalachian Trail in the Hudson Valley, Todd suggests Depot Hill, the Great Swamp, Anthony’s Nose, Nuclear Lake and Lion’s Head.
5. Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh State Historic Site
“Mills Mansion is one of the few places along the shore of the Hudson River where the train tracks come far inland, allowing hikers to come right to the water’s edge. This is a prime spot to come in the winter, when you can listen to the ice floes cracking into each other,” says 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.”
COVID-19 precautions on Hudson Valley hikes
While COVID-19 infections in New York State are relatively low, it’s still important to take precautions, even on outdoor adventures. Todd urges visiting hikers to consider exploring lesser-known trails and visiting at off-peak times to help limit the crowds on any given trail.
“Hike on a Tuesday evening after work, or visit a park on a Thursday afternoon if you can,” he says. “If you can only hike on weekends, consider getting to the trailhead at sunrise (though be aware that some state parks don’t open until 9 a.m.).”
Todd also recommends learning “The New Hiking How-tos” from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. And as you’re packing up your hiking boots, layers of clothing, and water bottles for your trip, don’t forget one of the most important things every traveler needs right now: a mask.