The beautiful Hudson Valley is home to 18 New York state parks, which offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy easy hikes near NYC along tree-lined trails with stunning panoramic views, and lots of special features like waterfalls, swimming lakes, and sandy beaches. With so many beautiful easy hikes near NYC, it's hard to know where to start.
To help, we've picked our favorite kid-friendly easy hikes in the Hudson Valley. In addition to opportunities to enjoy nature and wildlife, some of these Hudson Valley state parks—like Bear Mountain and Franklin D. Roosevelt state parks—have additional attractions such as zoos, playgrounds, pedal boats, and even a giant swimming pool. Best of all, these easy hikes near NYC make for a quick day trip for families coming from the city or Lower Westchester. Read on for all our top picks for easy hikes in the Hudson Valley's beautiful state parks, and find more green spaces to explore in our Guide to the Great Outdoors.
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Bear Mountain is the perfect family day trip destination for a variety of easy hikes near NYC. For an easy walk with a stroller or a toddler, take the paved trail along the shores of Hessian Lake. Stop at the Trailside Museum and Zoo on the east side of the water (there is a restroom near the underpass that takes you there), where you'll find a variety of rehabilitated wild animals including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. At 1,300 feet, the park’s namesake mountain is a fairly strenuous hike for young children. But for families with tweens and up, the peak offers spectacular views of the Hudson Valley and, on a clear day, Manhattan. At its peak, the Perkins Memorial Tower relates the history of the park and the surrounding region through beautiful tile mosaics. If you’d like to visit the summit with small children, you can drive to the tower from April through December. If you’re visiting in summer, take a row- or pedal-boat out on Hessian Lake. From October to March, there's an outdoor ice-skating rink. And the historic and beautiful Bear Mountain Inn has restrooms, provisions, and treats galore.
At more than 46,000 acres, Harriman State Park is enormous and offers hikes of every variety, from flat, well-worn trails leading to easy hikes near NYC around various lakes and reservoirs (It has 31!), to steep and strenuous mountain climbs, including an 18-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. To get the lay of the land, stop at the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center for a map. From there, embark on the Pine Meadow Trail and take lefts at the next three trail junctions—Stony Brook Trail, Hillman-Torne-Sebago (HTS) Trail, and the Tuxedo-Mount Ivy (T-MI) Trail—to reach the shores of Lake Sebago in about 2 miles. This larger lake is a good place to go if you enjoy paddling. It has a comfort station with a first-aid clinic, bathrooms, and vending machines, plus a campground with tent sites and cabins nearby.
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The loop around Pelton Pond in Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park is a short and sweet all-ages hike.
In addition to numerous trails for easy hikes near NYC, this 14,086-acre park, spread across Putnam and Dutchess counties, features a popular beach and campground, along with picnic areas, fishing, boating, birding, and more. For a short and sweet nature hike with little ones, try the 1.1-mile loop around Pelton Pond, located near the Putnam Valley. The trail is relatively flat—though footing can be a bit tricky in spots—and you can expect to see beavers, ducks, geese, and plenty of wildflowers along the way. For the easiest access, park in the lot on the east side of Route 301. From there, go up the steps and turn right on the Pelton Pond Loop Trail at the stone picnic pavilion. During summer, make a day of it and head over to the park's Canopus Lake and go for a swim.
Soak up majestic views of the Hudson at Nyack Beach State Park, which offers 61 acres of riverfront. If you want to stay on relatively flat ground at water level, stroll the 1.6-mile Nyack Beach/River Trail, a wide stone-dust path that follows the river. To extend your hike and add a bit of altitude, you can veer off the path and take a zigzagging trail up to a serene, grassy plateau about 150 feet up. This quiet area, abutting the Palisades and dotted with picnic benches and shaded by trees, is a sweet spot to relax. River views are obscured during the late spring and summer, but you might spot some deer, as well as eagles, ravens, hawks, and vultures soaring overhead.
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Gaze at gorgeous Lake Minnewaska from above, then cool off with a swim when you reach the beach below.
2022 update: Currently, there are multiple trail closures at Minnewaska, so take note before heading out. The park is wildly popular, and visitors are turned away once parking lots reach capacity, so make sure to arrive early or have a backup plan.
The beautiful Minnewaska State Park Preserve is packed with easy hikes near NYC. One of our favorites departs from the park office and sends visitors along the Awosting Falls Carriage Road for 1.2 miles to Lake Minnewaska. The carriage road inclines steadily the whole way but is doable with a jogging stroller or young children as long as you are not in a rush. Bicycles are also permitted. Once you reach the lake, you can enjoy a small beach and use the comfort station. If the hike to the lake is too rigorous, park near the office and head downhill to visit Awosting Falls, which is just a 1/4-mile away. Or pick your own route along the 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths. Save for the wide gravel carriage trails that lead up to Lake Minnewaska, it’s hard to tell Minnewaska State Park Preserve was a resort for the well-heeled in the 19th century. The densely forested park covers 18 square miles of forest on the Shawangunk Ridge. Keep in mind there are no concessions in the park. After your hike, stop in nearby New Paltz for lunch and other family fun.
This recreational park has everything you need for a day of fun, from a large playground to an enormous swimming pool that can hold more than 3,000 people. There's boating (including pedal boats), fishing, picnic pavilions, and nine short trails offering easy hikes in the Hudson Valley. You really can't go wrong with any of the trails; which you choose depends on what your crew is most interested in, and what everyone is up for. If you want more of a walk than a hike, try the 2-mile, stroller-friendly paved loop that ends at the playground, where you'll find swings, climbing walls, and more. For something a little more nature-y, check out the 2-mile Crom Pond trail, which takes you across charming footbridges and down to the water's edge.
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Stroll the lush green paths at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Photo by Sara Marentette
This preserve is manicured, austere, and inviting. The Rockefeller family donated the land for the creation of a public park in 1983. Forty-five miles of hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails crisscross its 1,400 acres. From the park office, take the easy, sand-and-gravel Brother’s Path around Swan Lake (1.1 miles) to spot wetland wildlife. If your family is up for a moderate grade, head up the 0.7-mile Overlook Trail for a panoramic view of the lake below. The National Audubon Society has designated the park an Important Bird Area, and more than 180 different species can be found here. You can also fish for bass on Swan Lake and brown trout in the Pocantico River or go horseback riding (permits are required for both).
You'll find stunning river views, a historic mansion, and plenty of kid-friendly trails at this gorgeous northern Dutchess County park. A combination of Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park and Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills State Park, Mills-Norrie comprises 1,000 acres and offers picnic areas, campsites, fishing, and a variety of historic buildings, including an ice house and barn complex. To get the most out of your first visit, your best bet is to do a mix of the River Trail, which takes you right along the Hudson, and the Blue Trail, which takes you to the Staatsburg Historic Site. Both trails are easy hikes near NYC and great for kids, but not for strollers, so bring a carrier if you've got babies or toddlers in tow. Check out this map to get the lay of the land, and read more about the trails here.
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Kids can ride, scoot, or walk over the Walkway Over the Hudson. Photo by Fred Schaeffer
Once the longest railway bridge in the world, the Walkway Over the Hudson is an ingenious repurposing of this decommissioned structure. Built in 1888, the 1.28-mile-long bridge was closed after a fire in 1974. Thanks to the advocacy of its namesake nonprofit group, it reopened in 2009 as a spectacular pedestrian thoroughfare that stretches 212 feet above the Hudson River. It is perfect for bicycles, scooters, strollers, and toddlers. Plaques chronicle the history of the bridge and surrounding area, making it a fascinating stroll through the past for visitors. There are restrooms at both ends of the bridge, as well as picnic tables allowing visitors to take in the scenic views. Find more fun things to do in Poughkeepsie here.
If you want your easy hikes in the Hudson Valley to come with a side of swimming, head to this Rockland County state park, where you’ll find a 3.2-mile path that circles Rockland Lake that’s great for biking, scootering, walking, and more. Once you’ve worked up a sweat, take a dip in the 25,000-square-foot seasonal swimming pool, which includes water slides and a splash pad. There’s also a playground, tennis courts, fishing, and plenty of other activities to keep the whole family busy.
Situated 2 miles north of Cold Spring on the banks of the Hudson River, Little Stony Point is a sweet little park that's part of the Hudson Highlands. It was an island before a mining company filled in the channel that separated it from the mainland, and it's been part of the state park since 1970. The .9-mile loop takes you over a bridge that crosses the Metro-North train tracks and past several river-access points, including a long, sandy beach with a spectacular view of the Hudson. There are no lifeguards, and swimming is not allowed, though some people do it anyway. Play on the sand or sit on a piece of driftwood to have a snack; at low tide, you can walk across a sandbar to a little island. If you want to extend your hike and add a little adventure, you can explore an old quarry cave located just off the trail (bring a flashlight!). The park entrance is located on Route 9D, just north of the intersection of Route 301.
All of the state parks listed here accept the Empire Pass. To read more about these and other easy hikes near NYC, check out the resources on Hike the Hudson Valley.
This post was originally published in 2014 with reporting by Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert, authors of Outdoors with Kids NYC: 100 Places to Explore in and Around the City.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of NYS Parks.