When people think about New York, most think of New York City with all the skyscrapers, crowded streets and the lights on the billboards in Times Square. When I think of New York, I see spectacular waterfalls, mountains of green trees and beautiful lakes and streams.
I call it upstate as I live downstate and can’t wait to cross the bridges where I find my paradise. Upstate New York has quaint towns, wineries and breweries, scenic railroads and byways and what I love the most, great hiking.
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Here are some short, easy to moderate hikes that all hiking ability can do and enjoy including the kids. So put on those hiking boots, grab your backpack filled with water and snacks and start exploring the beauty that is New York.
Here are some things that will make your hike more pleasant.
Kaaterskill Falls (1-mile road trip)
This short trail to these tall falls gets very crowded in peak season. You see this is one of the tallest falls in New York. Its two tiers total 260 feet high with the upper falls at 167’ and the lower falls at 64’ high. The views are just stunning.
I’ve done this trail with my family many times as well as with my 80-year-old mother in law so really anyone can do it, just take your time and enjoy it.
Although this hike is short it is steep at the beginning of the trail and it is also rocky so you should wear sturdy footwear. Please stay on the trail and don’t go off it as there have been several tragedies at this falls when people go off the trail.
For more hiking in the Catskills but sure to check out the 5 Fire Tower Hike Challenge.
The Genesee Valley Greenway Trail in Letchworth State Park (5.75 miles round trip)
This park was voted one of the best state parks in the United States by USA Today. Famous for a series of three beautiful waterfalls, Letchwood State Park has a gorge that you can hike.
There are many different hikes heading to the falls. The Genesee Valley Trail although a little longer than a short hike, is mostly flat as it follows the railbed of the old Pennsylvania Railroad.
From this trail, you get to see views of the gorge as well as the upper and middle falls by way of short side trails.
Bear Mountain Loop Trail
Bear Mountain Loop Trail is a popular trail in the Hudson Valley Region of New York. On part of this trail, you will be hiking on the historic Appalachian Trail.
The trail begins at Hessian Lake and heads up 1000 feet to the summit of Bear Mountain. There are a series of well-maintained steps for your use. From the summit, you will get stunning views of the Manhattan Skyline as well as surrounding states.
On top, there is the Perkins Memorial Tower which you can also drive too but don’t, take the hike instead.
The Berry Hill Fire Tower, Bowman Lake State Park (5.6 miles RT)
This trail starts at the lake area of Bowman Lake State Park and follows the Finger Lakes Trail to the Fire Tower. This is an easy hike, mostly flat with only a 360′ elevation gain. The hike is through hardwood forest until you come to the Tower Hill Road, there you can continue across the road to the trail which goes to the tower or simply take Tower Hill Road straight to the fire tower.
The Berry Hill Fire Tower was restored so you will be able to climb to the top. Trace you steps back into Bowman Lake State Park. If you still want to hike more, there is a 1.6-mile loop around the lake which is also a pleasant hike.
As a note, this park is a camper’s paradise so if camping is your thing, I would recommend staying at this park for a few nights. I’ve camped here many times and you won’t regret it.
Finger Lake Region Trails
The Finger Lakes are known for their “finger looking” long narrow lakes and its beautiful stunning waterfalls. It’s also New York’s wine country so in between hiking make sure to stop at several wineries (I think they have at least over 90) when traveling to this area.
Also between Seneca and Cayuga Lake is the Seneca Army Depot there is a herd of “Seneca white deer” which are white-tailed deer lacking their brown color. These deer are not albino because they do have some brown coloring to them (especially the eyes). So when in this area be sure to take a ride and try to see some of these unusual deer.
Now back to great hikes in this area:
Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail & Indian Trail Loop 2.4 miles
Watkins Glen State Park is rated the #1 state park in New York. The Gorge Trail & Indian Loop Trail is the most popular in the park.
You see beautiful views of the gorge along the trail with 19 waterfalls and 200-foot cliffs as well. There are stairs (about 800 steps) to climb but is well worth it and there are flat areas between the steps. You can walk behind 2 of the falls. This is a hike not to be missed when in the area.
Note: This trail gets very crowded so I recommend you go early in the morning to avoid some of the crowds.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
You begin this hike at the base of the last cascading falls. Buttermilk Falls is a series of waterfalls. You hike up a stone path and steps through the gorge overlooking several waterfalls along the way. Take a rest as the stairs are steep and enjoy the views along the way.
Upon returning at the base of the falls is a natural swimming pool where there are lifeguards in peak season for your swimming pleasure.
Taughannock Falls State Park Gorge Trail
This easy trail goes along a wide well maintained path beside the creek. You will be following the gorge wall which will continue to get higher until its almost 400 feet.
There is a bridge you will cross over right before you get an amazing view of the tallest single waterfall (at 215′) east of the Mississippi, about 30′ taller than Niagara Falls.
You will continue to the end of the path to get another viewpoint. You will retrace your steps back to the parking lot for a total hike of 1.9 miles.
These items will be helpful on your hike too:
The Adirondacks Region
There are over 6 million acres of land in the Adirondacks Region. It is New York’s wilderness area and outdoor recreation gets no better. Here are just some hikes in this area:
Bald Mountain Fire Tower
This is the most popular hike in the Eagle Lake/Old Forge area of the Adirondacks. The hike starts off easy through the woods but gets steeper as you get closer to the fire tower.
The trail follows the ridgeline to the summit and has some beautiful views along the way. Once on the top, you are able to climb the restored fire tower for even better views.
This 2-mile road trip trail does get busy during the summer, especially on weekends.
Pilot Knob Preserve Hike
This hike is a short drive from Lake George and gives you beautiful views of the southern part of the lake. There is a gazebo at the end of the trail as well as an open field overlooking Lake George. Follow the orange trail signs for this 1.4-mile road trip hike.
If you want to hike a little further (1-mile) follow the blue trail signs (just south of the gazebo) to a seasonal waterfall (great in spring but usually dry by late summer and fall).
Mo Jo Loop Trail Lake Placid
This is a 1.8-mile loop in the middle of the high peaks in the Adirondacks. It’s an easy to moderate hike especially compared to the other high peak hikes.
This hike brings you above Heart Lake and offers stunning views for little effort. The trail is through a hardwood forest to the summit with a total elevation gain of 600′. On top of the summit, you can relax have some lunch or a snack before heading back to your car.
I hope you enjoy this list of short hikes that can be enjoyed by many. These are only a few that upstate New York has to offer. What are some of your favorite hikes in upstate New York?
“Go Take a Hike”, Kathy xoxo
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9 thoughts on “Short Hikes in Upstate New York”
Wow! These are some magnificent hike ideas! New York state is so beautiful and many just seem to stick around the city.
Yes they are beautiful and the best part anyone can do them you don’t have to be in perfect shape!
I love short hikes and plan on traveling everywhere once this whole pandemic finishes. Im going to add this list and try to map everything out when I visit NY!
I love short hikes too and New York has many beautiful ones
Oohh I like hikes. I like short hikes. I like short hikes with marvelous scenery even better. This is a good guide for visiting upstate New York
Have you been to Letchworth State Park? I haven’t been in years but I remember it being amazing and one of the most beautiful hikes ever.
Yes it most definitely is. Beautiful park.
Someday we’ll get to NY so that we can take some of these hikes. It’s a long haul from Texas though.
I bet Texas has some great hiking too.