Just because camp is over doesn’t mean you have to pack your hiking boots in the closet until next June. The fall leaf-viewing season is approaching and there are many great hiking opportunities nearby – you just have to know where to look. Get out on the trail this fall and enjoy yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
Lower Hudson Valley – Harriman State Park is located in Rockland and Orange Counties just 50 miles north of New York City. The park is accessible by car, train, or bus and offers a variety of options for experiencing the outdoors. Within the park is Bear Mountain, a 1,300-foot summit with views of the Hudson River cliffs and the surrounding wilderness. A portion of the Appalachian Trail also passes through the park. In addition to hiking, the park offers canoe and rowboat rentals on Hessian Lake. The park is located just off the New York Thruway on the west side of the Hudson River. North Jersey, NYC, and Westchester County are all a short drive away.
North Jersey – The Norvin Green State Forest in Passaic County, NJ, is a great hiking option located just minutes from many densely populated suburbs. The park is to the west of Wanaque Reservoir and features the Weis Ecology Center, 1,300-foot Ball Mountain, and some interesting old mining sites that provide some local history. Norvin Green is easily accessible to anyone in North Jersey and NYC.
Long Island – The Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail has its northern terminus in Cold Spring Harbor State Park. Long Island is largely flat, but this portion of the trail offers some up-and-down, a few switchbacks, and some views of the Long Island Sound. The park also has some examples of moraine, rock and gravel debris left behind by the movement of a glacier. A short drive for anyone in Nassau County or western Suffolk County, Cold Spring Harbor State Park is also reasonably accessible from NYC.
Boston – Ten miles to the south of the city is the Blue Hills Reservation. The Blue Hills are ecologically diverse – a hiker will find bogs, swamps, lakes, forest, hills and some nice views. On top of Great Blue Hill, the reservation’s highest point, is a historic old weather station. Mountain biking and rock climbing are also available. The largest nature preserve in the U.S. located within a major metropolitan area, the Blue Hills offer a chance to experience the wilderness without a great deal of travel.
Utica – Utica, of course, is a short ride from Woodcraft and the rest of the southwest portion of the park. If you’re looking to explore an area other than Old Forge, check out Kane Mountain. It is about an hour east of Utica near Canada Lake. The hike is relatively short and features a lookout tower at the top of the 2,200-foot summit. Three different trailheads all take you to the same summit.
Syracuse – The Finger Lakes region offers many nice hiking options. About twenty miles southwest of Syracuse is the High Vista Preserve, a public access wilderness space managed by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. The preserve is in the hills above Lake Skaneateles and has many streams and ravines that drain into the large lake.
Washington D.C. – Up the Potomac from the nation’s capital is a Great Falls Park, a small National Park Service site on the Virginia side of the river. The park has fifteen miles of hiking trails that offer great views of a particularly rugged portion of the Potomac River. The area has historical significance as the site of America’s first canal with a lock system for raising and lowering boats. Great Falls is easily accessible by car from the Maryland suburbs of D.C.
Old Forge – Check out Billy’s Bald Spot on the north side of Big Moose Lake. The trailhead is on Martin Road. It is a short hike that has great views of the lake to the south. It is a bit off the beaten path so you won’t encounter the same crowds of tourists that you might find at Bald Mountain.
Manhattan – Probably the best option for experiencing some wilderness in the midst of Manhattan is the area between Terrace Drive and the 79th Street Transverse Road. If you enter Terrace Drive from 72nd Street (from either the East Side or West Side) and walk to the Bethesda Fountain, a trail heads north towards The Lake and eventually crosses The Lake on the Bow Bridge. North of the Bow Bridge is a network of side trails that offer plenty of opportunities to explore woods, streams, and some rocky outcroppings. This area is called The Ramble. End your hike by taking the 79th Street Transverse Road west to the American Natural History Museum for some information about the planet.
Brooklyn – Prospect Park has a few nice hiking options that put you in the woods despite being in the middle of the city. The Midwood Trail takes you through the oldest remaining forest in Brooklyn. The Peninsula Trail meanders out the narrow strip of land that juts into Prospect Park Lake. There are also a few waterfalls to view along the stream that crosses Center Drive.