New York’s Great Outdoors
Long Island contains excellent beach parks, including the Fire Island, Orient Beach, Hither Hills, and Montauk Point state parks.
Most of 32-mile-long Fire Island belongs to the Fire Island National Seashore and is accessible by ferryboat and boat taxi only. The exceptions are Robert Moses State Park and Smith Point County Park, located at either end of the island.
Orient Beach State Park is a favorite among bird-watchers. Hither Hills State Park is known for its so-called Walking Dunes; trails here travel through cranberry bogs, beach terrain, and pine forests. Montauk Point State Park, at the very tip of the island, is an excellent fishing and bird-watching spot.
The Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley region contains some stunning state parks. Nearest to New York City, find the 5,000-acre Bear Mountain State Park and the 46,000-acre Harriman State Park. Both offer excellent hiking.
Putnam County is home to the Constitution Marsh Sanctuary, a 207-acre tidal marsh managed by the National Audubon Society, and the 12,000-acre Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, crisscrossed with hiking trails.
Glimmerglass State Park, on the shore of Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, features a swimming beach, hiking trails, and a grand neoclassical mansion. The highly commercial Howe Caverns offer glimpses of an underground New York filled with stalactites and stalagmites.
Another premier outdoors area is Catskill Park, a 900-square-mile preserve. Day hikes are plentiful here, especially in Greene County, which contains many of the park’s highest peaks. One very popular hike is the historic Escarpment Trail, which stretches for 24 miles between Haines Falls and East Windham.
In the Ulster County section of the Catskill region, are the considerably more ancient Shawangunk Mountains, a mecca for rock-climbing enthusiasts. In the heart of the Shawangunks lie Minnewaska State Park, which holds two stunning glacier lakes, accessible by foot only.
The Appalachian trail
The famous Appalachian Trail, the 2,158-mile route that stretches from Georgia to Maine, cuts through only a small section of New York in the Hudson Valley region for about 90 miles. The trail, which travels through Orange, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties, can most easily be picked up at Bear Mountain, Harriman, and Clarence Fahnestock State Parks.
Adirondack Park is New York’s premier wilderness preserve, a six-million-acre refuge that contains an unusual mixture of public and private lands. In the park’s center tower the 46 High Peaks, most over 4,000 feet high. Skiing, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, bobsledding, and tobogganing make the Lake Placid area a four season option for nature lovers.
Nonoutdoors-types can also enjoy the region’s magnificent beauty by simply driving along its many scenic highways and byways. Blue Mountain Lake, the northern part of Lake George, much of the western shores of Lake Champlain, and the routes and lakes of the High Peaks region are especially scenic.
The Finger Lakes
Between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes lies the Finger Lakes National Forest, a 16,000-acre preserve laced with 25 miles of easy-to-moderate hiking trails. Though the region’s terrain is largely flat, the forest does contain some high hills with excellent vistas. The Finger Lakes Trail is a 557-mile route that begins at the Pennsylvania border and runs to the Catskills.
The town of Ithaca is surrounded by deep gorges and thundering waterfalls, several of which run through the heart of the downtown. Some of the most stunning of these gorges and waterfalls can be found at the wild and rugged Robert Treman State Park, spread over 1,025 acres.
At the Finger Lakes’ western edge lies the 17-mile-long Letchworth Gorge, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East.” All around grows a dense, thicketed forest laced with about 20 miles of hiking trails.
At the westernmost end of the state you’ll find the world-famous Niagara Reservation State Park, home to the famed Niagara Falls. There are plenty of excellent vista points, along with a superb visitors center, geological museum, guided tours, and boat rides.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition