Hiking is one of my favorite activities because you can get some exercise and take in the scenery at the same time. I try to fit in some hiking when I travel whenever possible. One area that is wonderful for hiking is the Hudson Valley, especially during the Fall when the leaves are changing colors. There are countless hikes in the region, so I thought I would share some of the best hikes in the Hudson Valley.
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Where is the Hudson Valley?
The Hudson Valley is the area surrounding the Hudson River. The Hudson River starts around Albany and runs south toward New York City. It also forms part of the border between the state of New York and New Jersey.
Some of the Hudson Valley is accessible by train from NYC, but it’s best to explore the area by car. In addition to the beautiful natural scenery, the Hudson Valley is known for its quaint towns, like Beacon, New Paltz, and Sleepy Hollow. It has also started to make some quality wines in recent years.
Best Hikes in the Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley has hikes of all difficulty levels and distances. Together with some of my travel blogging friends, I have compiled this list of the best Hudson Valley hikes.
Bear Mountain State Park
Thacher State Park
Palisades Interstate Park
Mohonk Mountain House
Breakneck Ridge Hike
Breakneck Ridge may be my favorite hike in the world. It was definitely the most challenging. A good portion of the hike is a rock scramble and I wish I would have brought gloves. At times, I had no idea how to find my way up, but it was too steep for me to turn around to go down.
It took us a little over 5 hours to do the 3.7-mile loop which included going up 1,400 feet. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment once I had completed the hike and the views of the Hudson Valley were worth the struggle!
You can take a train directly from Grand Central Station in New York City to Breakneck Ridge on the weekends. After an hour and a half train ride, it’s just a short walk to the trailhead. Try to go early as it is a popular hike! Check out the video to see me hiking Breakneck Ridge.
Hike Overlook Mountain
We hiked Overlook Mountain in October when the leaves were just past peak color. It was still breathtakingly beautiful. The hike is not too difficult and the path is well marked. Close to the top, you will find some interesting ruins of an old hotel, and at the top of the mountain, there is a fire tower. I started to climb up the fire tower but it seemed a little unstable so I came down. You can still get amazing views from the lookout point just past the tower.
The round trip hike covers 5 miles. It took us about 3 hours. Overlook Mountain is located in the Catskill Mountains about 20 minutes north of the town of Woodstock on County Road 33.
Hiking in Palisades Interstate Park
Palisades Interstate Park is located just on the other side of the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan so it makes a great day trip from New York City. Inside the park, there are over 30 miles of hiking trails covering all ability levels.
I decided to try one of the easier hikes, the Cape Fly Away Hike, which would be 3 miles and estimated to take 1.5 hours. I got lost and didn’t have time to finish it but it was still worthwhile. The views of the Hudson River and Manhattan are excellent, so be sure to bring your camera. I would love to go back and explore the area more. You can learn more about Palisades Interstate Park in my video.
Kaaterskill Falls Hike
Recommended by Danielle from Wanderlust While Working
Kaaterskill Falls is a 2.7-mile out-and-back hike that leads to a cascading waterfall you can view from a variety of angles. There are lots of stairs built into the rock leading down to the bottom of the falls, a ledge between the two levels of the falls with a pool for swimming, and an observation deck from the top looking down into the gorge.
The water level of the falls may be lacking if there hasn’t been much rain, but there are also several nearby spots you can hike to such as Inspiration Point that overlooks the valley with a stunning view. The trails are dog-friendly and pretty well marked, but get there early before the limited parking fills up! Overall the hike isn’t too difficult except if you are climbing the stairs up and down from the bottom of the falls. It’s perfect for a quick day hike if you find yourself in Hunter, NY as there are lots of trails for all skill levels in the area.
Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze at Mohonk Mountain House
Recommended by Caitlyn from Postcards from Cait
The Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze at the Mohonk Mountain House is a short hike with a big view! The distance of this trail varies depending on which route you take, but it’s typically a 5.5-mile loop with 973 feet of elevation gain. The trail is moderate-strenuous, mostly due to the intense rock scrambling. The name of this hike really says it all. You’ll find yourself crawling through a rock maze, squeezing yourself through crevices, climbing up ladders, and scrambling up boulders to be rewarded with one of the best views in the Hudson Valley.
The trail is challenging and has such spectacular views, it’s no surprise that it is extremely popular and gets very crowded. Even with the crowds and the entrance fee, this hike is well worth it. It probably goes without saying, but this hike is not for the faint of heart. If you get claustrophobic or are afraid of heights, this hike is not for you. But, the grounds of the Mohonk Mountain House Preserve are enough of a reason to come visit this area and there are plenty of other great hikes to choose from. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze is a definite must!
Hiking in Thacher State Park
Recommended by Kris from Nomad by Trade
Thacher State Park is located near Albany and is a local favorite for hiking. Its main trail – Indian Ladder – is unique because it takes you behind not one, but two waterfalls tumbling from the cliff above. The full length of the trail is 3.9 miles in each direction, but the waterfalls can be seen in less than half that distance. Starting from the parking lot atop the cliffs, it begins with a descent down a few flights of stairs, but once you reach the actual trail it’s a fairly easy walk. The hiking trail winds along the base of the limestone cliffs passing caves and an underground stream that trickles out from underneath the rocks.
The trail is best in the spring and after rain when the waterfalls are at their strongest. The first waterfall you’ll encounter is Outlet Falls where the narrow path takes you behind the stream of water. If you continue hiking, you’ll reach Minelot Falls. The grotto behind Minelot Falls is deeper and allows for a better view of the backside of the waterfall. Many hikers turn back at this point, but you can continue on the trail for more views of the valley.
Bear Mountain State Park is known for its views, Trailside Zoo, Carousel, and of course, hiking. There are many different trails you can explore, but for the best views, you head to the top. It’s a 4.5-mile loop that ascends about 1200 feet. The views along the way are stunning, but it is a steep and difficult climb.
At the top, you will find the Perkins Memorial Tower. Climb the stairs inside for views over the Hudson Valley. You may even be able to see the New York City skyline (it’s only about an hour drive away) on a clear day. Be sure to take some photos of the scenic Bear Mountain Bridge. Note: You can drive up to the top of Bear Mountain if you are short on time or feel like the hike would be too difficult. More people drive than hike actually, so the trails won’t be as crowded as the lookout point.
As you can see, there are some amazing Hudson Valley hikes. It is definitely an area that is worth exploring. While the region is beautiful all year, it is at its best when the fall colors peak. Have you done any hiking in the Hudson Valley?
Expert Tips for Hudson Valley Hiking
- Driving is the best way to explore the area. While some of the Hudson Valley hiking trails are accessible by public transportation, most are not.
- In general, Fall is the best time to go hiking in the Hudson Valley. The weather will be cool and if you time it right you can see the vivid colors of the leaves that have changed.
- Make sure you are prepared for your hike with proper footwear, water, and other hiking gear.
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