Warm weather will soon arrive in New York City, which means it’s time to start thinking about all of the ways you’re going to spend time outdoors in the next few months. There are plenty of things to do in the five boroughs, of course—public art to see, parks to visit, and the like—but sometimes you just want to get away from the hectic pace of the city and into nature.
But if you’re car-less and craving nature, never fear: The trains and buses of this great metropolis can whisk you from the belly of Grand Central to the base of a mountain in an hour. We scoured hiking resources to present you with several spectacular hikes that you can get to via public transportation. And for those who want to keep things closer to home, we included one fantastic NYC option that feels like it’s a world away from Manhattan.
Breakneck Ridge is just over an hour from Grand Central on the Metro-North. The hike begins at river level and ascends some 1,500 feet up a steep, rocky ridge. The roughly four-mile hike is strenuous and involves some scrambling over big rocks, but climbers are rewarded with sweeping views of the Hudson Valley at several points along the trail. Storm King Mountain sits across the river, Bannerman Castle on Pollopel Island is to the north, and on a clear day, the Manhattan skyline is visible.
How to get there: The trail can get crowded on weekends, when the Metro-North stops at the trailhead. (Note: Construction is due to begin on the station sometime in 2020—check the Metro-North website before you head out to ensure trains are stopping there.) If you want to hike in more solitude, take the train to Cold Spring on a weekday, then take a cab the rest of the way there.
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
This is a less strenuous hike that follows that path of the Old Croton Aqueduct, which was built in the 19th century and ferried fresh water from upstate down to New York City. A 26.2-mile portion of the old aqueduct is now a linear park that connects the Bronx to the Croton Dam, and it’s perfect if you’re new to hiking, or simply looking for a leisurely stroll that will bring you to historic sites.
How to get there: According to the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, the trails are accessible from Metro-North stations between Greystone to Ossining on the Hudson Line. (The NY/NJ Trail Conference recommends going to Ossining; they have detailed directions on their site.) If you want to visit the Keeper’s House, which doubles as a visitor’s center, take the train to the Dobb’s Ferry station.
This is a rugged ridge in the Hudson Highlands near Cortlandt Manor. A steep, 500-foot rock staircase takes you up the first section of the 2.6-mile hike, then a relatively flat trail leads to an overlook with views of the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge. Those looking for a longer hike can start on the Camp Smith Trail.
How to get there: This spot is accessible from multiple trailheads, but the easiest access point for the carless is a slice of the Appalachian Trail that ascends from Route 9D. On the weekends, the Metro-North Hudson Line stops at Manitou, and the trail entrance is about a 1.5-mile walk from the station.
Mount Beacon Park
- The highest point in the Hudson Highlands is located in Beacon, one of the more popular Hudson Valley destinations for NYC day-trippers. Mount Beacon, as it’s known, rises to 1,611 feet at its highest elevation. According to Scenic Hudson, an advocacy group for the area’s natural resources, it’s “[a] strenuous hike offset by interesting rock formations, [and] historic sites along the way.” Once you get to the summit, climb to the top of the fire tower for some amazing views of the Hudson Valley.
How to get there: Take the Metro-North’s Hudson Line to the Beacon station. The start of the trail up Mount Beacon is a pretty hefty walk from the train station; you might be better served taking a cab to the intersection of Wolcott and Howland avenues, where the trailhead is located.
Harriman State Park
This park has thousands of miles of trails, and two scenic options are accessible from a trailhead at the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center. A seven-mile trail takes hikers on the Pine Meadow path across a few brooks, up rocky ledges, along the mountain ridge, and to the edge of Pine Meadow Lake. A shorter 5.4-mile hike follows the Reeves Brook trail, with beautiful cascading brooks and small waterfalls.
The Lake Skenonto Loop is longer—eight miles, to be precise—but closer to public transit; it starts near the NJ Transit Tuxedo station, just one hour from Penn Station. The trail leads hikers over forested hills to the tucked-away lake at the foot of Black Ash Mountain. It’ll take about five to six hours, so be sure to bring a picnic to enjoy on the lake shore.
How to get there: Getting to the trailhead requires about a 1.8-mile hike from the Sloatsburg station on the NJ Transit/Metro-North Port Jervis Line, but the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference provides detailed directions.
Arden Point and Glenclyffe
This hike isn’t only stunning, but is also historic—parts of the path were used by Benedict Arnold to escape during the revolutionary war. This hike makes a 3.7-mile circuit with a bit of step-retracing necessary to see all of the vistas the area affords, namely to outlooks towards West Point Naval Academy, the vantages of the Hudson River, and even the former home of New York governor Hamilton Fish.
How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to the Garrison Station. Just south of the southern entrance to the station, you’ll see two markers and a sign for Arden Point - Hudson Highlands State Park. Follow the road for about half a mile until coming to a sign for Marcia’s Mile. Hang a right and walk over the steel truss bridge—then you’ll officially be en route to Arden Point.
Van Cortlandt Park
You don’t technically have to leave the city to find a scenic hiking spot—simply take the 1 train to the end of the line, hop out near Van Cortlandt Park, and find the trail you want to take. There are a few within the park: The Putnam Trail is a 1.5-mile loop that’s billed as “the perfect place to begin hiking” at Van Cortlandt, according to the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, thanks to its relatively easy terrain. Those in search of a bigger challenge can try the 1.5-mile John Muir Trail, which traverses the park from east to west and covers some relatively steep terrain.
How to get there: Take the 1 to Van Cortlandt Park-242 Street and follow the signs for the trails. The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park also has specific directions for each trail; depending on the trailhead, you might have to take a bus to get to the starting point.