Who doesn’t love seeing the Fall colors? I could look at pictures of Fall foliage for hours on Instagram, but it’s even better if I can escape the city and see it up close. Hiking is a great way to appreciate Autumn’s beauty. My friend, Artee, introduced me to Palisades Interstate Park which may be one of the best places to hike in New Jersey. While our day hiking the Palisades may not have turned out like I wanted, I would love to go back and see more. Let me share my experience and tell you more about some of the things to do in Palisades Interstate Park.
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Palisades Park Hiking
You can find hikes for many different ability levels at Palisades Interstate Park, but we decided to do an easy hiking trail. We wanted to relax and just enjoy the scenery and each other’s company. I chose the Cape Fly Away Hike which would be 3 miles and estimated to take 1.5 hours. I liked that a lot of the hike was along the water, so I knew the views would be spectacular. After I printed out my map, we were ready to go.
Perhaps because of the proximity of Palisades Interstate Park to New York City, many first-time visitors are surprised at how rugged the trails can be. They have hiking trails for all ability levels. If you choose one of the more difficult hikes, be prepared! Make sure you wear proper footwear, dress appropriately for the weather, and also take plenty of water with you. Also, make sure your phone is fully charged! I always carry a portable battery charger with me.
The trails at Palisades Interstate Park are open year-round during daylight hours. If you want to see the fall colors, October is your best bet.
Getting to Palisades Interstate Park
Palisades Interstate Park is located on the western shore of the Hudson River in Northern New Jersey, with great views of the George Washington Bridge. I was surprised at how big the park was – 2500 acres! In other words, the Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey is about twelve miles long and half a mile wide. You will find over 30 miles of hiking trails here!
I was lucky to have my friend, Artee, drive me but it is possible to get to Palisades Interstate Park using public transportation. You would need to take the number 9 bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. The park’s website warns that “those coming by public transportation should keep in mind that to get to our riverfront areas, they will have to hike down from bus stops on the summit (and then back up again) on trails that are steep.”
Finding our Palisades Hiking Trail
The drive became scenic as soon as we entered the south end of the park. It was early October and the leaves had just started to change. We drove right under the George Washington Bridge. I attempted to take as many photos as I could but the road was winding and narrow.
I knew we needed to find the Alpine picnic area because our hike would start just north of it. We saw a sign that said that the Alpine picnic area was straight ahead. We went a little further and saw a picnic area, so we parked the car and got out. Since we were visiting in the off-season, parking was free, but other times you will have to pay a small fee.
I knew I needed to find the white trail that was just north of the picnic area. Well, I found a yellow trail, no that definitely wasn’t right. Maybe for some reason, I have my north and south mixed up, so I thought I would check the other direction. There I found a map and a snack bar. Then I realized – this was not the alpine picnic area, we needed to drive further north!
Our Palisades Interstate Park Hike
So we got back in the car and drove a little further until we reached another picnic area. We parked again and started looking for the white trail. Luckily it didn’t take us too long to find it. Still, something didn’t seem quite right. It seemed we found the Palisades shore trail but the directions for our hike said you would be going uphill. Yes, our path was marked with white, but it was pretty level.
We decided we had already wasted too much time trying to find this hike, that we should just follow this path for a bit and then just turn around. If we didn’t start hiking soon, we would run out of time. It was a good decision. The path went right along the Hudson River and the views were stunning.
We stopped and took pictures every so often during our hike in the Palisades. It was such a peaceful place and the Fall colors were just starting to show. I could hear the waves from the Hudson and it was calming. We only came across a few other hikers. The path was relatively flat although you had to be careful some stones were loose. After a little while, we turned around and headed back to the car.
When we got back to the beginning of the trail, I noticed a sign I hadn’t seen before. It said that the Alpine picnic area was 5 miles away. I knew we weren’t in the right place, but where we parked the road ended. I didn’t realize there are actually three different entrances to Palisades Interstate Park. We should have used the Alpine entrance.
Other Activities in Palisades Interstate Park
If you are not into hiking, there are plenty of other things to do in Palisades Park. In addition to the hiking, you can find ski trails, a boat launching ramp, a scenic riverside drive, a cliff-top parkway with overlooks, picnic areas and playgrounds, a snack bar, the Greenbrook nature sanctuary, two boat basins, and even some historic sites. The park is also very popular with cyclists.
Cycling at Palisades Interstate Park
Cycling is permitted on Henry Hudson Drive and Old Route 9W (from U.S. Route 9W to State Line Lookout) during daylight hours. All cyclists must be over 14 years old and wear a helmet. The hiking trails in Palisades Interstate Park NJ are not suitable for biking because they are too steep and erodible. Please makes sure you follow all traffic regulations and only bike in areas where it is allowed. There are no bike rentals inside the park.
Palisades Interstate Park Fall Foliage
If you have timed your visit well, then you will see the lovely fall colors everywhere. You won’t even need to get out of your car! The roads through the park give you a nice view of the foliage.
Fishing and Crabbing
You can fish or crab along the seawalls and shoreline of the Hudson River within the park except where there are signs prohibiting it. Unlike in Walberswick, we didn’t see anyone doing it when we were there, but apparently, you may find catfish, striped bass, white perch, tomcod, eels, and blue-claw crabs.
Licenses are not required, but New Jersey State fishing regulations are in effect and enforced. This means that anyone over the age of 16 must hold a New Jersey Saltwater Registry permit. You can get the permit for free. Find out more here. You also need to bring your own bait, as it is not sold in the park.
Palisades Interstate Park Historical Sites
I didn’t have time to see the historic sites, but they sound interesting. Fort Lee Historic Park is a 33-acre cliff-top park area with scenic overlooks, a reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment, and a Visitor Center. The site was fortified during the American Revolution to protect New York City and the Hudson Valley from the British. Ultimately, the American forces had to retreat from the site without even taking any of their supplies to avoid being captured by the British. It was one of the darkest days in the American fight for independence.
You can also tour the historic Kearney House for free on weekends from May through October. It has been debated whether the British General Cornwallis spent a night at the house in 1776. The southern part of the house was built around 1761 with the northern addition being added in 1840, to make room for the tavern. The house was damaged during Hurricane Sandy but re-opened to the public on Independence Day 2014.
I enjoyed the short hike we did, it was very scenic and relaxing. Now, that I know more about Palisades Interstate Park, I would love to go back and try another Palisades hiking trail, as well as some of the other great activities there. Check out our NJ Palisades Park video to see more of our experience.
Have you been to Palisades Interstate Park? What are other nice places to hike in New Jersey? Or any other nice Fall hikes you would recommend?
Expert Tips for Palisades Park Hiking
- Go prepared for your hike and be safe.
- Research your Palisades hike in advance to make sure you know where it is. Be prepared for the hiking and weather conditions. October will be the best time to see the Palisades Interstate Park Fall foliage.
- Pack a picnic lunch. There are plenty of picnic areas with great views of the Hudson River.
- If you have time, check out the historic sites at Palisades Interstate Park.
- To find out about other hikes nearby, check out my post about the best hikes in the Hudson Valley.
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