The 10 Best Nature Escapes In New York State
The big city has its benefits, but in my opinion, nature is even better. Our commitment to the environment is why we plant 10 trees for each item purchased in our store! Sometimes it can be hard to find the peaceful spots of greenery in or nearby any bustling, sprawling city — but if you look hard enough, you can definitely find some great locations that will inspire you to become a better person, and make the world a better place.
1. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
Entering the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is like walking into a different world — sheltered and hidden away from the rest of the borough, it’s filled with peaceful walking paths, beautiful trees and fields of flowers. Sit in the shade of the gazebo and watch fish swim in the water lily pond, or walk around the gardens and rest under a tree for an afternoon nap. It’s here that you’re going to find the peace and quiet we all need once in a while.
2. Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, and it’s the largest in North America! While it’s known for its huge diversity of wildlife, representing some 650 species from around the world, it’s also located in the middle of a huge park and can be a respite from the city. The Bronx zoo will open your eyes to all the different unique living things we share our planet with, and it will remind you to appreciate this beautiful world.
3. The Rockaways
Far less grimy than Brighton Beach or Coney Island are the Rockaways — the thin strip of islands hugging the south of Queens. Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden are especially empty, often giving you a chance to have the beach to yourself, a rarity in the NYC area. Swimming, sunbathing, and even surfing will make you feel like you’re somewhere else, and you’re likely to return to the city feeling happy and refreshed, sun-kissed and renewed.
4. Breakneck Ridge
One of the best things about New York City is how close it is to some of the most amazing state parks and nature reserves along the Hudson River. Hop on the Metro North train and you can find yourself in the middle of the woods within an hour of leaving NYC.
Breakneck Ridge is one of those stops just an hour north of the city. Beautiful in all seasons, it’s a hiking trail that snakes around a mountain on the Hudson River — and it’s generally considered one of the toughest hikes in the East Hudson Highlands. It involves a lot of scrambling over rocks, but it’s worth it for the views, cold mountain air, and feeling of accomplishment.
5. The Adirondacks
Photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik, Creative Commons
The most amazing, and perhaps my favorite, stretches of great hikes and parks in NY state are in the Adirondack mountains — about a 4-5 hour drive north of the city. The Adirondacks are so big that it’s impossible to see them all in one day, but they’ll definitely leave you with a lot of exploring to do. You’ll feel more acquainted with nature and American history after completing an Adirondack hike; these mountains were first traversed by Algonquian and Mohawk nations before Europeans settled there.
6. Buck Mountain / Lake George
If you don’t know where to hike in the Adirondacks, start out near Lake George at the southeastern base of the mountains. It’s a little touristy, but take any of the hiking trails (Buck Mountain is one that affords amazing views of the lake) and you’ll be quite alone in the wilderness soon.
7. Harriman State Park (including Appalachian Trail)
Get a true taste of the Hudson Valley at Harriman State Park, which is also contains part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s only a short distance from New York City, so you can easily make a weekend or overnight trip for plenty of hiking and camping.
8. Bear Mountain
Located near Harriman State Park is Bear Mountain Park. Only 45 minutes away from the city, this park offers visitors a chance to hike, bike, boat, picnic, swim, and even cross-country ski, sled, and ice-skate in the winter months.
9. Mohonk Preserve
If you’re a rock climber, head to Mohonk Preserve as it has over 1,000 different climbing routes. It’s located on the Shawangunk Ridge, which is part of the Appalachian Trial, and close to Poughkeepsie — a small college town about an hour and a half from NYC.
10. Cold Spring
Cold Spring is the place to go on an Indian summer kind of Sunday in September or October, when the Hudson Valley leaves are just starting to turn. You can take the Metro North to the Cold Spring stop and watch the beautiful scenery along the Hudson River unfold through your train window. While Cold Spring may not have any strenuous hikes, it’s a cute small town with plenty of history, great restaurants, and smiling faces. You’re sure to meet a new friend or two.
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