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New York: The Best Hikes

  • Mashomack Preserve, Shelter Island: With more than 2,000 pristine acres in the southeastern part of the island, this preserve, run by the Nature Conservancy, is about as remote as you can get on Long Island. There are 11 miles of easy hiking trails that run through the oak woodlands, marshes, ponds, and creeks. Keep an eye out for osprey, ibis, foxes, harbor seals, and terrapins.

  • Hudson River Valley: Though the Hudson Valley is more hilly than mountainous, tucked in the southern highlands are several excellent spots for day hikes. Hudson Highlands State Park near Cold Spring has a number of great day trails, as do Bear Mountain and Harriman state parks, some following a section of the Appalachian Trail. Many are surprisingly challenging.

  • Catskill Region: Some of the most scenic hiking in New York State is through the dense forests and along the stony ridges lacing the Catskills, where there are nearly three dozen peaks above 3,500 feet. The 6,000-acre Mohonk Preserve, part of the Shawangunk Mountains, has 60 miles of trails. Nearby Minnewaska State Park Preserve offers another 12,000 acres perfect for hiking and mountain biking, with 30 miles of footpaths and carriageways.

  • Southern Adirondacks: How adventuresome are you feeling? Head to Lake George for a crazy steep climb up Black Mountain, an 8.5-mile round-trip with a 1,100-foot vertical rise and some amazing views of the lake and mountains. If you want a great view without so much work, Bald Mountain, east of Old Forge, is also steep but much shorter (2 miles round-trip). For a hike back in the woods, check out Cascade Lake, just north of Eagle Bay. It's an easy 5-mile walk to the lake that takes you past a gorgeous waterfall.

  • Northern Adirondacks: New York State's highest peak is Mount Marcy, at 5,344 feet. It's not the easiest climb, but for anyone with aspirations to nab the state's highest spot, it's a must. Just watch out for crowds: Most people hike to the peak from the north, but take the Range Trail and you'll find fewer people and better views along the way. For an easier hike, check out High Falls Gorge, which offers a great and easy stroll along the Ausable River and past waterfalls.

  • Letchworth State Park: This western New York park is home to a stunning 400-foot-deep gorge, with all sorts of hiking trails taking you past views of the deep chasm that's cut by the Genesee River. There, trails go either deep into the forest or along the rim of the canyon; the Gorge Trail hits the most scenic spots. It's a 7-mile trail one-way, and moderately difficult, but, of course, you can turn around at any time. Take the kids along the Pond Trail, an easy .75-mile walk that leads you to a small pond stocked with fish.

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