If you need an escape from the bustling streets of New York City, there is a variety of backpacking trails with gorgeous landscapes all within driving distance. Hikes can be found for all experience levels, often offering shelters along with campsites. Here are some of the most noteworthy mountains of New York that can help you unwind from the hustle of the city.
Rim & Gorge Trail Loop
Located near Ithaca, New York, you’ll find a gorgeous trail in the Robert Treman State Park called the Rim & Gorge Trail Loop. The trail takes you around the Treman Gorge, which features a beautiful wooded ravine with 12 distinct cascades. The most notable waterfalls are Lucifer Falls, which are 115 feet tall along with the Lower Falls at 70 feet. Also, hikers who visit tend to take advantage of the vast number of plunge pools and multiple cascades in Enfield Creek. The Rim Trail begins by the old mill climbing up through the Upper Gorge, bringing you to an elevated view of Lucifer Falls.
After passing the falls, the trail begins its descent, taking you to a steep staircase. This staircase is also known as Cliff Staircase. Eventually, you reach the intersection of the Gorge Trail where you continue to the swimming area of Enfield Creek. The trail then takes you through a stone walkway and large limestone cliffs passing the Red Pine Trail intersection. Hiking the trails, you eventually find yourself at the mouth of Lucifer Falls for a closer view.
As you head toward the end of the Gorge Trail, you will cross a large stone bridge above a waterfall. This gives you a wide view of Enfield Creek and the beautiful cascades. In total, the loop is 5.3 miles and rated as a more advanced hike.
Giant Ledge At Catskill Mountain
The Catskill Mountains offer some of the best trails of the New York Mountains located in the southeast corner of the state. One of the most highly acclaimed trails is the Giant Ledge which is a moderate hike about 3.75 miles out and back. Additionally, the name was derived from the five ledges along the trail. It offers views of tree-lined rolling hills. Close to the ledges, you’ll find campsites where you can do some star gazing after dark.
The hike is rated easy to moderate as it gets fairly rocky at parts. It takes you through the dense forest most of the way until you come to the openings at each ledge. Here, you can choose to continue to Panther Mountain if you are up for the challenge.
If you do decide on taking the challenge of Panther Mountain, you’ll be rewarded once you reach the summit. At the top, you’ll be able to see an awesome panoramic view of the area. The trailhead is located off route 47 outside Oliveira. It can also easily be searched on Google maps.
Giant Mountain Via Roaring Brook Trail
Stretched over 160 miles is the Adirondack Mountains. It is located in Northeast New York. One of the highest peaks found here is Giant Mountain—towering over the Keene Valley. Roaring Brook Trail is one of the best options, taking you up the mountain. The trail is 3.6 miles long there and back. Additionally, it is a strenuous steep hike so it isn’t recommended for beginners.
Starting with a gradual incline, you’re taken through the beautiful forest for the first mile. You will also cross an intersection for Zander Scott Trail which offers a campsite near the Washbowl. Continuing on Roaring Brook Trail, you will then reach the top of Roaring Brook Falls where you can admire a scenic view. However, extra caution should be taken near the falls as the rocks may be slippery.
Additionally, just beyond the falls, the path becomes steep and rugged, eventually leading to a wooden climbing ladder. Once you pass the steepest grade, the trail connects with several others, eventually leading to the summit where you get a 360-view of the area. Also, winter hiking is possible with proper snowshoes, though only recommended for experienced hikers.
Catamount Mountain Trail
If you are looking for a less crowded option close to the Adirondack Mountains, the Catamount Mountain is an easy alternative. About a 30-minute drive north of the Adirondacks, the Catamount Mountain Trail leads hikers across exposed ridges. Also, along the ridges are smooth rocks which leads to an open summit.
The trail is 3.6 miles there and back, and well-marked with yellow disks. The trail takes you through the lush forest for the first mile until it comes to a false summit. After taking in the view, you should continue on the trail which descends into the forest for a while before you incline again. While hiking, you will also reach several more ridges, offering wonderful views until you reach the summit of Catamount Mountain.
The Devil’s Path
Known for being one of the hardest trails in the New York Mountains, the Devil’s Path will challenge you to your death. The trail is 23 miles from point to point with 7,800 feet of vertical gain. It takes you through caves, creeks, waterfalls, and mountain peaks—all with stunning views. Additionally, it covers five different Catskill Mountains: Twin Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Hunter Mountain, Plateau Mountain, and Indian Head Mountain.
Breaking the hike into several days, you’ll want to take side trails to campsites. You will feel well accomplished after several days with parts of almost vertical climbing. Be well prepared with good hiking boots and stay hydrated.
Part of the 900-mile Finger Lakes trail system, you’ll find the noteworthy Letchworth Trail within the Letchworth State Park. This trail stretches 25 miles from point to point with about 1,800 feet elevation gain. It is ranged as an easy to moderate trail, though you will come across ample narrow areas with steep cliffs. The hike offers some of the most gorgeous views of the canyon and the Middle Falls.
Several side trails can be taken to access beautiful viewpoints such as Owl’s Fork Revine and Fiddlers Elbow. Also, two shelters are located along the trails to break the trip up into several days. However, you do require permits to set up camp. In general, this trail offers more solitude as it gets less crowded when compared to other Letchworth State Park Trails.
Shawangunk Ridge Trail
Located in the Minnewaska State Park about a two-hour drive from New York City is the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. Though the entire trail is 70 miles, it can easily be broken into sections. For backpacking, the southern half of the trail offers several places to set up camp. The hike passes through waterfalls, rolling hills, cliffs, wetlands, and towering views covering land from five different states. The Shawangunk Ridge Trail hosts a run/hike race in mid-September to celebrate its preservation.
Avalanche Pass Loop
Located in the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness in Northern New York, you’ll find the Avalanche Pass Loop. This particular hike is 25 miles and splits across 2-3 days. While hiking, there’s no way you can miss out on the picturesque Avalanche Lake cradled within two Adirondack Mountains. Along with this amazing scenery, you’ll also pass several beautiful views while climbing Mount Marcy.
This is the highest mountain in New York set at 5,344 feet. In the lower parts of the hike, you will be taken through several gorgeous lakes surrounded by lush forest. It is rated as one of the more challenging hikes in the area, much of the trail is scrambled and recommended to bring walking poles.
Algonquin Peak Via Adirondak Loj Trail
Found in the MacIntyre Range is the second highest mountain in New York, Algonquin Peak. The shortest route reaching the peak is by the Adirondak Loj Trail which is about 9 miles there and back. Rated as a more challenging hike, many parts are steep enough requiring you to be on hands and knees.
The Algonquin summit offers a 360-view of the area and is also home to rare vegetation. Hence, it is best to stay clear of the area in order to conserve the environment. The trail tends to draw large crowds on the weekends and can pose a challenge finding open campsites or shelters, so it may be worth backpacking during the week.
Stretching 138 miles across the Adirondack Mountains is the notorious Northville-Lake Placid Trail. Much of the entire trail can be done in merely 12 days, taking you back and forth through ponds, lakes, forests, mountains, and rivers. There is no shortage of scenic places to set up camp given the number of lakes and riverbanks you will come across. The trail often sees snow through the month of May, making the end of spring, summer, and start of fall foliage the most common time for backpackers.
Cold River-Seward Range Loop
Another noteworthy trail in the Adirondack Mountains is the Cold River-Seward Range Loop, which offers striking views of the Cold River. This is a less crowded option compared to the other trails in the New York mountains. The loop is 30 miles, offering 10 shelters along with several open places to set up camp. The hike takes you through dense forest with a wide variety of trees including fur, pine, fire, spruce, and cedar. The loop encircles Seward Ranch, offering many side trails some of which take you to the mountain summit of Seward Range. In many parts of the Cold River, you’ll find swimming holes, cascades, and large rapids.