27 Prettiest New York State Parks to Visit + Hidden Gems

Living in New York City is insanity and that’s why I love it. Life is never monotonous. However, I still crave some tranquility, particularly if it comes in the form of an outdoor natural area. This list of State Parks in New York is filled with great places to visit if you need to re-charge. New York has all of it. The parks in Upstate New York have mountains and forests. The preserves and trails on Long Island have beaches and salt marshes. All of the 180 New York State Parks have things to do, whether it’s a simple leisurely walk or the option to strap on some skis and cross-country ski in the winter. 

Visiting New York State Parks: Native American Heritage

You might notice that a lot of the parks have Native American names. The Lenape, Mannansett, Mohawk, and more are the original peoples who lived in New York. Their presence is still seen in a lot of the names used to this day. Usually, it’s the Dutch, French, or English version of the tribe’s name and not the name they actually call themselves in their language. It’s always good to give recognition and acknowledgment to the people whose land you’re on so check out this amazing map created by Canadian non-profit Indigenous-led Native Land Digital. 

Entrance Fees for New York State Parks

a beach state park and people swimming in it
Jones Beach State Park by Ricky Shore

Entrance = Vehicle Fees

In New York, fees are charged by vehicle for the parks. Most of the parks are not accessible by public transportation which is why they don’t charge per person. There is a handful, like Minnewaska State Park in the Hudson Valley, where you can walk the several miles from the nearby town of New Paltz that’s accessible by public transport, to the park. You won’t be charged if you just walk into the park without a vehicle.

Empire Pass

If you plan on going to as many state parks in New York as you possibly can, then consider purchasing an Empire Pass. The pass for one calendar year is $80. Remember that no matter what month you buy the pass – January or July – it expires December 31 of that year. There is a discount for applying and renewing your pass online. There is a three-year, a five-year, and even a lifetime pass that you can purchase. The pass is shareable within a household and not linked to a specific vehicle. 

LONG ISLAND – Best New York State Parks

Orient Beach State Park

Orient Beach State Park is at the very end of the North Fork of Long Island. Thanks to American media, a lot of people outside of New York are aware of Montauk and the South Fork of Long Island. Fewer people know about the North Fork. The good news is that less tourism means the beaches are less crowded and there’s a higher chance of seeing some amazing marine wildlife and birds, like Great Blue Herons. 

The park is a National Natural Landmark, has a beautiful maritime forest, and is the perfect place for a picnic table lunch. After you’ve spent the morning and early afternoon walking the pristine sandy beach and you’re driving back to New York City, make a stop in Riverhead for some local fruity beers at North Fork Brewing Company

  • Entrance Fee: $8 USD per car; $10 USD per car during peak season
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset during peak season; Open 8:00 am – 4:00 pm during rest of the year
  • Rentals: Stand up paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes can be rented during peak season 

Montauk Point State Park

Montauk Point State Park has spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. The tip of the South Fork is the end of the known world for many New Yorkers. The 6.2 mile Montauk Point Loop trail is perfect for a leisurely walk to see all of the rocky coastlines. During the winter season, surfing is allowed in the park. Personally, I love to watch the surfers from my perch on the cliffs wrapped in a scarf, gloves, and four layers. 

The Montauk Lighthouse is a historic site because it’s the oldest lighthouse in New York State and was commissioned by George Washington. It’s worth the entrance fee if you love lighthouses. For reference, my father has paid to go inside the lighthouse several times over thirty years. The entrance fee is $12 and it’s worth it to see the views from the top. I did it once and that’s good enough for me. 

There are tons of towns in Long Island to pick from if you want to stop for some food on the way out of Montauk. There’s the small, walkable town of Montauk itself with a host of shops, cafes, and restaurants. You can also stop at one of the clam shacks in Amagansett or channel your inner bougie self and eat in the Hamptons. 

  • Entrance Fee: $8 USD per car during peak season and weekends during the shoulder seasons; rest of the year is free (one of the reasons the surfers love it)
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Surfing: Surfing is allowed from sunrise to sunset December 15 – March 31
  • Hunting: There is some small game hunting during the winter. Read the website for more details. 

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve is located on a peninsula along the northern coast of Long Island. If you want to stick close to New York City and not travel all the way to Montauk or Orient Point, but still visit a state park in Long Island, then Caumsett is the perfect place. The manor house on the grounds was built in the eighteenth century and is surrounded by miles of paths and trails. 

This preserve has a lot of things to do on offer. You can scuba dive, go horseback riding, fish, cross-country ski, and more here depending on the season. The salt marsh and remaining meadowlands are beautiful so they should be a must-see on your list of Long Island hiking trails.  

  • Entrance Fee: $8 USD per car during peak season and weekends during the rest of the year
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Cross-country skiing is allowed from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm during the winter; scuba diving is allowed Apri 1 – December 31 and you have to get a permit at Babylon Headquarters

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park is perfect for a beautiful late spring day if you like flowers and are looking for a stroll, rather than a hike. It’s an old estate with a Tudor-style mansion, Coe Hall, and over 400 acres of land to wander through. It’s an arboretum so it’s an ideal visit if you have a green thumb. Maybe you kill most of your plants, like me, but you still like to look at flowers and greenery and hope that the next plant experience will finally be different. 

The park also hosts events that you can find listed on their website. The greenhouse at the park has the largest camellia collection in the northeast United States and hosts a Camellia Festival in the late winter. 

  • Entrance Fee: $8 USD per car during peak season and weekends during the shoulder seasons; rest of the year is free;
  • Hours: Coe Hall is open Wednesday from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm and Thursday – Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The greenhouses are open Wednesday – Monday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Tours: A guided tour of Coe Hall is available for $10 USD 


Chimney Bluffs State Park

Chimney Bluffs State Park is located about midway between Oswego and Rochester along the southern shores of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes. It’s a perfect place to visit in upstate New York if you’re in the area or exploring central/western New York. The park features a four-mile hike through a forest and a great view of the dramatic rock spire formations that give the park its name. 

Chimney Bluffs is great if you want to break a sweat, soak up some Lake Ontario views, and keep your trip to just a couple of hours. There are picnic tables if you want to bring some snacks and have a bite after your hike.

  • Entrance Fee: $5 USD per car during peak season
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Hunting: Deer hunting and small game hunting are allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details. 

Chittenango Falls State Park

Chittenango Falls State Park has a beautiful waterfall and tons of picnic areas. These lovely glacier-made waterfalls are found throughout New York because a passing glacier carved out large areas of the state about 15,000 years ago. A spectacular view of the waterfall is accessible via stairs, but the stairs can be slick so be careful. 

It’s a great park for birding and features a small nature trail around the falls and the surrounding gorge. The park isn’t very large so you can stop here for just an hour or two to see a waterfall and stretch your legs on your road trip visiting New York State Parks.

  • Entrance Fee: $5 USD per car during all seasons
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year

Green Lakes State Park

One of the best cities to visit in Upstate New York is Syracuse. It’s a small university city that boasts a great little downtown area and easy access to natural areas like Green Lakes State Park. Green Lakes State Park is just outside of Syracuse. It has two lakes, a golf course with a  clubhouse and restaurant, a boathouse, and a forest with nature trails. In addition to a campground, there are cabins that can be rented.

During the summer, you can swim in the lakes and rent kayaks from the boathouse. In the winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski along the miles of trails located within the park. It’s a perfect park in upstate New York for every season. 

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car year-round
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Deer and waterfowl hunting are allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details. 


Niagara Falls State Park

The oldest state park in the United States is also one of the most well-known tourist spots in the country. It’s pretty different than most New York State Parks on this list because it isn’t really known for its hiking trails, and there’s even an amusement park vibe on the Canadian side of the falls. Fear not, there are several hiking trails to explore, caves under the falls that you can explore on guided tours, and an observation tower.

You can stay in one of our favorite Niagara Falls boutique hotels or in another charming town of Western New York.

There are so many activities in Niagara Falls State Park to do! You can take a boat trip on the world-famous Maid of the Mist boat, eat at the Top of the Falls restaurant that overlooks the falls, and more. 

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car year-round to park in any of the designated Niagara Falls parking lots.
  • Hours: The trails are open sunrise to sunset all year, but as previously mentioned, Niagara Falls is a large attraction that’s more than just the State Park so these hours aren’t the same for anything else.
  • Fun fact: Niagara Falls is also a major source of hydroelectric power.

Allegany State Park

Allegany State Park has extensive woodlands and is the largest state park in New York. Birders love this park as birding opportunities are plentiful here. There’s also a large “rock city” known as Thunder Rocks is in Allegany State Park made up of bedrock that resembles a city. For geology lovers, a natural history museum explains the geographical history of the region. 

You can camp at Allegany State Park or stay in cabins or cottages. There are miles of trails for hiking and biking, a beach along the Allegany River where you can swim in the summer, and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing paths in the winter. 

  • Entrance Fee: $7 USD per car during peak season
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Hunting: Deer and small game hunting are allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details. 


Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park’s deserved nickname is the “Grand Canyon of the East.” There are three waterfalls, and they’re some of the most picturesque gorge waterfalls in the United States. This park has over 60 miles of hiking trails so you could spend a few days visiting Letchworth. There are even more trails for horseback riding and biking, as well as trails for cross-country skiing snowmobiling in the winter. 

Letchworth has so many spectacular views that there is even a hot air balloon company that you can take a tour with over the park. There also are guided tours and history and performing arts programs. The park also has some of the best cabins in upstate New York to stay in for both daily and weekly rates. Letchworth State Park has everything you could ever want from a nature park.

The most unique and wonderful thing about Letchworth State Park – the Autism Nature Trail (ANT). The ANT is a mile-long trail with eight different sensory stations for individuals and families of individuals to experience and explore nature. 

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open 6:00 am – 11:00 pm all year
  • Hunting: Deer, small game, and big game hunting are all allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Watkins Glen State Park

watkin glen park's gorge with the little waterfalls and the bridge state park of ny

Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the Finger Lakes Region. It’s at the southern tip of Seneca Lake and should definitely be included on your journey along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. Yes, you read that right. There are wine tours in the Finger Lakes. Seneca Lake Wine Trail is just one of them. 

Before you sample some wine from the area, check out the 19 (Yes – 19!!) waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park. Glen Creek winds through the small park and descends past rocky cliffs to cascading waterfall after waterfall. It’s a nice walk along the nature trails and after you’ve soaked in the views, hit up some Finger Lake wineries

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Hunting: Deer hunting is allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Robert H. Treman State Park

Another great place in the Finger Lakes region is Robert H. Treman State Park. It’s between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake and is the perfect day trip from nearby Ithaca. Ithaca is one of the best towns in Upstate New York to visit. It’s a university town on the edge of Cayuga Lake and makes a great base for exploring the rest of the region. 

The Enfield Glen gorge is the highlight in Robert H. Treman State Park with 12 waterfalls. There are nine miles of nature trails and you can camp in the park. What makes this one of the best state parks in NY is that there is also a natural watering hole that you can swim in! Perfect if you’re visiting in the summer and want to cool down after your hike. 

  • Entrance Fee: $9 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Hunting: Deer hunting is allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

There are so many things to do in the Finger Lakes, from the wine trails to the parks that you can pick a different park and winery to visit every day and still not see it all. Don’t miss Buttermilk Falls State Park. There’s a lake, another gorge, more waterfalls, and beautiful woods to wander through. The foaming cascade made by the falls gives the park its name.

There are also campgrounds and cabins that you can stay at. If you stay at the park, make sure to visit the local Wegman’s in Ithaca. Wegman’s has achieved cult status for many Upstate New Yorkers for a reason. 

  • Entrance Fee: $9 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Hunting: Deer hunting is allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Taughannock Falls State Park

The highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains is in Taughannock Falls State Park. It’s located along the western border of Cayuga Lake. All of the parks are great places to stay in the Finger Lakes or can be visited for just the day. But Taughannock Falls State Park is the perfect place to stay because the campgrounds and cabins overlook the lake. 

You can take paddleboarding and kayaking lessons in the summer. In the winter there are trails for cross-country skiing, lakes for ice skating, and even sledding slopes. It’s a perfect visit for the summer or winter and should definitely be on your list of New York State Parks to visit.

  • Entrance Fee: $9 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • Hunting: Deer is allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.


Saratoga Spa State Park

Saratoga Spa State Park has 12 miles of trails that can be used in the summer and winter. In the summer, visit the Peerless Pool Complex. It has a huge main pool, a children’s pool with a fountain, and a pool with a water slide where you can live out your childhood dreams. A large golf course is also located in the park for use in the peak season. In the winter, you can cross-country ski, ice skate, and snowshoe on the paths.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center is a large amphitheater located in the park that hosts concerts, performances, and events in the summer. Check out the events calendar and see if you can end a day of hikes and pool time with a live event. If there is no event to attend, there are still tons of picnic areas and places to sit and have a relaxing day after all that water sliding you’ll be doing. 

In addition to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, there is a National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Auto Museum. This is a park where there is something for everybody to enjoy. The museums cost extra and so do some of the pool facilities so read the various websites closely. You can also rent snowshoes during the winter months. 

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year, but certain facilities like the pool are only open during the summer month so check the website every year.
  • Roosevelt Spa Bath: Starts at $50 USD

John Boyd Thacher State Park

Thacher State Park is the perfect day trip from Albany. If you like geology and all things rocks, this park is for you. The park has miles of limestone cliff-face and is considered to have one of the richest fossil-bearing rock formations in the world. Translation for us non-science people: a LOT of fossils are found here. It’s easy to find them because of the way the rock is exposed and the time period it was exposed.

Thacher State Park is perfect if you want to get in some rock climbing or a good proper all-day hike on the 20-plus miles of trails. There are spectacular views of the Adirondack Mountains to the north and the Hudson Valley to the south. You can stay at the campgrounds in the park and there is a Nature Center that’s perfect for kids. 

  • Entrance Fee: $6 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year, but certain facilities like the pool are only open during the summer month so check the website every year.
  • Winter: You can rent snow shoes during the winter months. 
  • Hunting: Deer and small game hunting are allowed depending on the season.

Personal Note: Seriously, this is a rock lover’s paradise. My brother-in-law is a geologist and this is one of his favorite places in New York to visit. He randomly just finds fossils and “good” (No, I do not know what a geologist considers a good rock.) rocks to bring home. His backpack is always 20 lbs. heavier after he’s been in Thacher State Park. 


Wellesley Island State Park

Saint Lawrence River in Wellesley Island State Park, New York by Nicolas Raymond

The Thousand Islands is an archipelago of 1,864 islands in the Saint Lawrence River that lie on the Canadian-United States border. There are several New York State Parks in this area. Wellesley Island State Park is the perfect place to stay in Upstate New York if you want to stay in the region for a while because it has the largest camping complex in the Thousand Islands. 

Wellesley Island State Park also has an educational Nature Center with a seasonal butterfly house. There is a small gold course on the island, but the real selling point for Wellesley is the fishing and the beaches. There are several miles of trails to walk or bike, and most are along the picturesque shoreline.

  • Entrance Fee: $7 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year
  • The Minna Anthony Common Nature Center is open Wednesday – Sunday from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm year-round, except some holidays.  
  • Hunting: Archery hunting is allowed depending on the season.

Robert G. Wehle State Park ★

Robert G. Wehle State Park is on the shores of Lake Ontario and is the newest park in the Thousand Islands region. There are over ten miles of paths for hiking, biking, and winter activities along the cliffs. The park also has a tennis court for use. 

The park used to be a private estate so there is a residential compound with a main house, guest quarters, and more that can be rented and accommodates up to 8 people. It’s a beautiful homestead. Rental accommodations can be booked through Reserve America

  • Entrance Fee: $7 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year 
  • Hunting: Be careful – some hunting is allowed depending on the season, but it’s unclear what kind. Read the website for more details.

Cedar Point State Park

By Bradley Pirie

There are tons of state parks in the Thousand Island region so it’s hard to pick which one to stay at or visit. Cedar Point State Park is not the place to go to if you’re looking to get in a full day of hiking. It’s the perfect place in Upstate New York to sit on a dock, watch some boats go by, and put your feet in the Saint Lawrence River. There is a picnic area and campgrounds if you want to stay. It’s got that relaxation vibe we’re all looking for these days.

  • Entrance Fee: $7 USD per car during peak season. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year 
  • Waterfowl hunting is allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Point au Roche State Park

Point au Roche State Park is on the eastern side of New York. It’s on the western shores of Lake Champlain and is an easy day trip from Plattsburgh or Burlington, Vermont if you’re on a Vermont road trip. It’s filled with forests and great trails for hiking, biking, and winter sports. 

There is a Nature Center in the park and it’s a popular place for boating. In the winter, you can even go ice fishing on Lake Champlain. This park is pretty far north so it doesn’t see as much tourism as many of the other parks on this list making it perfect if you want a nice beach and forest hike all to yourself for the day.

  • Entrance Fee: $7 USD per car during peak season in the beach area; $6 USD per car during peak season in the non-beach area. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year 


Minnewaska State Park

Minnewaska State Park is one of my favorite places in the whole world. I grew up 20 minutes from Minnewaska and my parents would tell me stories about the (very dangerous) cliff-diving they used to do as teenagers in the park. Minnewaska is also a busy place. A lot of tourists come and go for good reasons. It’s not too far from New York City and there are three sky lakes surrounded by 25 miles of trails

Minnewaska has short accessible walks and strenuous mountain hikes that take up the whole day so pick your adventure when you visit. In addition to hiking, biking, and swimming, you can scuba dive, rock climb, and boulder here. It’s easy to get a little lost in the sprawling forests along Shawangunk Ridge, where Minnewaska State Park is located, but try to stick to the path and look for the countless vista spots to figure out where you are.

Please keep in mind that Minnewaska lies right alongside Mohonk Preserve. It can be confusing because the two share the same ridge, but Mohonk is a private preserve and costs extra to visit.

  • Minnewaska State Park Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car all year. 
  • Hours: Open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm year-round. 
  • Garbage: There are NO trash cans at Minnewaska. It is a carry in, carry out park so make sure to think that through if you’re bringing food and other disposable items. 
  • Permits: Scuba diving and rock climbing require permits and special passes so contact the park before you go if you plan on doing one of these things.
  • Hunting: Seasonal deer hunting is allowed. Read the website for more details.

Bonus: Town of New Paltz

After visiting Minnewaska State Park, head into New Paltz and the surrounding area for some local farm-to-table food or visit one of the many breweries and cider houses in the Hudson Valley. Some personal recommendations are The Parish for dinner and Kettleborough Cider House for a gorgeous view of the New York State Park you will have just spent the day in and a crisp apple cider.

Hudson Highlands State Park

Tim Drivas

Hudson Highlands State Park is one of the most-visited State Parks in New York. It’s over 7,000 acres of forest and mountains on the eastern side of the Hudson River in the lower Hudson Valley. If you live in New York City, you’ve probably heard of the Hudson Highlands State Park. An infamous hike called Breakneck Ridge that’s located on a mountain of the same name is in the park and it’s actually accessible by public transportation from New York City. 

There are a lot of options in the Hudson Highlands State Park. If you love birding, there are often nesting eagles in this park and you can see them soaring around. Many of the hikes have stunning vistas with spectacular views of the Hudson Valley. Breakneck Ridge is one of the most challenging hikes in the Hudson Valley and requires a lot of rock scrambling so make sure you’re wearing proper footwear and: Keep. To. The. Trail. Every year, Search and Rescue have to get called in because somebody got lost, stepped off the designated path, and is wearing flip-flops. This is not that type of excursion so come prepared. 

You can hike one of the many, many other trails in the park that are less taxing than Breakneck Ridge, and then visit one of the many charming Upstate New York towns in the region. I recommend visiting Beacon. The food scene is excellent, the town is walkable, and there are tons of local shops and bookstores to support

  • Entrance Fee: This park has no entrance fee. It’s large and covers a variety of mountains like Sugarloaf and Breakneck Ridge so sometimes there is no parking lot and you have to park on the side of the road depending where the trailhead is located.
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year 
  • Check out Bannerman Castle, located within the park, a crumbling castle on the Hudson River that can only be access by guided kayak or boat and requires booking tickets ahead of time. 
  • Small game and big game hunting are allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain State Park is where you go to get the money shot of Bear Mountain Bridge and the Hudson River. The park has dozens of trails and different levels of difficulty. If you’re not a hiker, but you want to see that killer view, or you’re looking for accessible vistas, you can drive to the top of the mountain. 

A beautiful merry-go-round is open during the peak season in the park. In addition to hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing, there is a swimming pool that’s open in the summer months. You can stay at the Bear Mountain Inn if you want to finish out the day with a hot shower in a rustic cabin setting atmosphere.

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car during peak season and weekends all year round. 
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year 

Storm King State Park

storm king state park from above, mountains and hudson river between them

Storm King State Park is another park in the Hudson Valley with stunning views. This one has views that let you see all the way to the Catskills if it’s a clear day. The main feature, Storm King Mountain, is not as strenuous as Bear Mountain or Breakneck Ridge. The park is perfect for a hike that only takes up half of the day and leaves you time to explore the Hudson Valley. 

The various nature paths around the park are accessible from Cornwall-on-Hudson, a cute town in the Hudson Valley that has one of my favorite cafes in all of New York. Cornwall Coffee Co. & Mercantile has great coffee and every barista is cute (Yes, I can tell that even with masks on!!) and friendly and charming. Go and find that Hudson Valley barista and get married in a rustic, but chic, barn.

  • Entrance Fee: There is no fee for this park.  
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year 
  • Big game hunting is allowed depending on the season. Read the website for more details.

Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park is the second-biggest State Park in New York, and right outside of New York City. There are 31 lakes and reservoirs and 200 miles of hiking trails of various difficulty levels. You can even get a view of New York City on a nice day from a couple of viewpoints. There are beaches along some of the lakes and camping areas so you can get your nature fix only a stone’s throw from the Big Apple. 
The park also features paths for biking in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter. It’s an excellent place to visit if you don’t want to spend the night away from New York, but you want to get a taste of fresh air in the beautiful New York woods. 

  • Entrance Fee: $10 USD per car during peak season
  • Hours: Open sunrise to sunset all year

A Note on the Adirondacks & Catskills State Parks of NY

The Adirondacks and the Catskills are two mountain ranges in New York State that are both regions and state parks; so they are unique compared to the rest of the New York State Parks. The Adirondacks encompasses one-third of the entire state of New York so it’s also huge. Both don’t have definitive boundaries like the other state parks or designated parking areas where you pay a fee. There are towns, private lands, public forests, and more located within both regions.

Tip: If you are hiking somewhere in the Adirondacks or the Catskills, I highly recommend letting someone know where you’re going and when to expect you to return. A lot of the areas in and around these mountainous regions have terrible service – like no 3G, 4G, 5G, anything. This is great if you want to disconnect but not so great during emergencies. Sometimes, you’ll get service at the summit.

The Adirondacks (State Park of New York)

Monika Murren

The Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. The park shares the same name as the Adirondack Mountains, known simply as the Adirondacks. It’s the kind of place that most Americans think only exists in the western United States, and certainly not New York. It’s one of the most amazing places to visit in Upstate New York during any season, even in the winter. The region sees a lot of snow.

As the area is massive, it’s tough to recommend only a few places. Lake Placid and Lake George are both located in the Adirondacks. Both are great Upstate New York towns with hotels, tourist facilities, cafes, restaurants, and outfitters helping visitors participate in every outdoor activity you can think of.

You can do any type of hike in the Adirondacks: a slow walk around Lake George on fairly flat trails, hike some of the mountains on a one-day trip or do a full-on multi-day mountain summitting trip. Some people do the 46 High Peaks Challenge and hike all 46 high peaks in the mountains. It’s a must-visit if you want to see the best that the New York State Parks have to offer.

Check out the Adirondack Park tourism website. It has TONS of information about the region.

The Catskills (New York State Park)

Similar to the Adirondacks, but on a smaller scale, the Catskill Mountains, also known simply as the Catskills, is a region, a New York State Park, and a mountain range. It’s a little closer to New York City than the Adirondacks so a lot of New Yorkers spend long weekends here, renting an Airbnb, glamping, and getting their nature on.

The Catskills also have a mountain challenge – the Catskill 3500 Challenge. You hike all 33 peaks above 3,500 feet in elevation. In the Catskills, you can hike, rock climb, visit cute towns like Tannersville, and more. If you visit Tannserville, have a coffee at Bear and Fox Provisions.

A lot of the mountains can be hiked in a day, but there are a few hikes that many people recommend either a very early start or an overnight car-camping near the trailhead. I recommend reading the Catskills regional tourism website to see what you want to do when you visit this beloved area.

Important Tips for Visiting New York State Parks

Tallgrass in Orient Beach State Park by Joe Shlabotnik

The New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation website is filled with information about each park and historic site on this list of state parks in New York. Most parks have a peak season that lasts from spring-fall. 

  • MOSQUITOES: Consider covering up or wearing bug spray like this in summer to avoid mosquito bites.
  • SUNSCREEN: Consider wearing non-toxic sun screen like this one ALL year round. Don’t be fooled if it’s an overcast day. The sun is still strong so always wear that protection. 
  • TICKS: Keep an eye out for ticks, especially in the woods and meadows. New York is filled with these little devils and lyme’s disease, as well as all other tick-born illnesses, isn’t fun.
  • HUNTING: Many of the New York State Parks have places to hunt. It’s dependent on time of year and game available. If in doubt and you’re out in the woods of New York, if you see an orange sign pinned on a tree, that usually means you’re in or nearing hunting territory.
    • Don’t panic – that doesn’t mean there is hunting happening at the moment and even if there is hunting at the moment, you can usually still be there, the signs are just alerting you to be aware.
    • Our list below will mention if there may be hunting within that specific New York state park.
    • Always double-check the New York DEC timeline for hunting and that individual park’s official website. 

About the Author: Leah Wersebe

Leah is a TV aficionado and a recovering 9-5 office worker. Her permanent home is in New York, but she has traveled to over 25 countries in search of the perfect latte. In 2022, she’s temporarily living in Galicia, Spain. Leah loves being in debt so has degrees from universities in international politics, film, and wildlife conservation. Follow her on Twitter at @LDWersebe.

About Dominican Abroad

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