Like many wanderers, I’ve been temporarily grounded from distant adventures, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fantastic destinations close to home!
My current home is in New York. No, not New York City. I’m from the Hudson Valley. Only a short drive north of the city, the Hudson Valley is a highly-trafficked tourist destination for good reason. It has rich culture with local stories and historic sites as well as lush countryside. From the Hudson Highlands to the legend-filled Catskill Mountains, the Hudson Valley has it all.
- Breakneck Ridge
If you’re looking for a difficult trek, you’ll find one just south of Beacon, NY. Breakneck Ridge consists of a steep rock scramble (hence the name) overlooking the Mid-Hudson River Valley. After this tough climb, you’ll deserve the insane views and a cookie! (Sadly, there aren’t any cookies up there unless you BYOC.)
- Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park
My family makes a few trips there to walk the dogs on cool days because the pavement can get dangerously hot in the summer. We prefer parking on the Highland (west) side of the bridge because it’s a shorter walk to get above the water.
- Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Cary Institute is an independent environmental research non-profit in Millbrook, NY. Serving as an outdoor classroom, the 2,000-acre campus has several trails for peaceful nature walks. The map can be found here.
When visiting the Cary Institute, you might see scientists conducting field research. Please be respectful of the environment.
- Dover Stone Church Preserve
Dover Stone Church is an easy hike in Dover Plains, NY. A gentle stroll will lead you to a cave at the end of a gorge. Inside the cave, you’ll hear the peaceful sound of a stream rushing through.
The small-town preserve also has three other moderate trails. My favourite is the up-and-back blue trail which leads to a scenic overlook.
Parking is not allowed at the Dover Stone Church trailhead. If possible, park across the street at the local elementary school. More details can be found here.
- Innisfree Garden
At this 185-acre garden in Millbrook, NY, you’ll experience the breathtaking work of landscape architect Lester Collins. Innisfree Garden is a tranquil spot where you’re sure to be inspired as you venture through lush gardens and around the lake.
Details about admission to Innisfree can be found here. There are currently specific visitor protocols due to the covid-19 pandemic.
- Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary
Audubon New York is a conservation non-profit committed to the protection of birds. Buttercup Farm in Stanfordville, NY is one of several Audubon locations. There, you’ll have access to six miles of trails and prime bird-watching. (They even have a downloadable bird checklist!)
- Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
At Vanderbilt in Hyde Park, NY, you’ll be blown away by a Beaux-Arts mansion, extensive grounds, Roman gardens, quiet trails and refreshing riverfront.
At the lower end of the property is Bard Rock, closed to vehicular traffic. This area of bedrock is right along the river’s edge and the perfect place for a picnic and plenty of photos.
- Ferncliff Forest
Ferncliff Forest is located in Rhinebeck, NY. It’s a great spot for walking, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping and skiing. Perhaps the best activity is climbing the fire tower which boasts sweeping views of the Hudson Valley with the Catskills rising in the background. During the fall, the foliage is unreal!
- The Catskill Mountains
Ever heard of Rip Van Winkle? These mystic mountains are his territory! They’re filled with folklore and adventure.
There are endless activities in the Catskills so check out this list. My favourite area so far is Kaaterskill Falls. I’ve camped at the nearby North-South Lake Campground from which there’s easy access to several epic trails. Day-trippers can park at the campground for a small fee.
For an unforgettable sunset, venture to aptly-named Sunset Rock along the Catskill Escarpment. (This trail is not for folks who dislike heights. There are narrow sections of the trail on steep cliffsides.)
- Kingston Point Beach, Rotary Park and Rail Trail
Kingston, NY is a historic city and village on the east side of the Hudson. At the waterfront of Kingston Point, you’ll find plenty of space for outdoor recreation.
- Ashokan Reservoir
The Ashokan Reservoir supplies clean drinking water to New York City and serves as a scenic place for biking, walking, running and other activities. On the southern shore, there’s a 2.8-mile paved path called the Ashokan Promenade with views of the Catskills and local wildlife.
- Minnewaska State Park Preserve
You’ll find this Hudson Valley gem in Kerhonkson, NY. The 23,000 acres of Minnewaska State Park Preserve include waterfalls, lakes and 50 miles of trails. The $10 parking fee is worth every penny!
You can download the free trail map here.
This is only a handful of what the Hudson Valley has to offer. I’ll soon be posting a list of historic sites in the Hudson Valley. To get updated, click “follow”. (You’ll only get two or three emails per month! I promise!)
Let’s give a massive thank you to all the park rangers and staff in the Hudson Valley and beyond! Their hard work is invaluable. The covid-19 pandemic has placed an even greater burden on them. Please remember this when you visit outdoor locations by respecting the natural environment and its caretakers.