At first mention, New York conjures images of towering skyscrapers and masses of people. The state is much more than a large, energetic city. New York is home to 180 beautiful state parks for you to explore. We will outline 20 wonderful New York state parks to visit.
1. Letchworth State Park
Home to the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park sits in Livingston and Wyoming counties in western New York. The Genesee River carves a 600-foot-deep picturesque gorge with dozens of waterfalls. Many visitors focus on three breathtaking waterfalls easily accessed along the famous Gorge Trail.
The park contains many scenic hiking trails through woods and along the river, including the Autism Nature Trail (The ANT) for visitors on the autism spectrum. You can camp, swim, and watch for birds and wildlife. Enjoy a delicious meal at the charming Glen Iris Inn in the park when you want to take a break from exploring.
2. Harriman State Park
The second largest New York state park, Harriman State Park, holds 200 miles of hiking trails, 31 lakes and reservoirs, two beaches, miles of scenic roads and flowing streams, and spacious camping areas. It is about thirty miles north of New York City.
Lake Welch, the park’s largest beach, sits on the edge of the Ramapo Mountains, welcoming you to a half-mile-long sandy beach where you can enjoy water activities. Visit the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area for picnicking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
3. Saratoga Spa State Park
You will find a national historic landmark and a unique state park in the southernmost foothills of the Adirondack region. More than a century ago, people believed the waters of Saratoga Springs had healing powers. Accordingly, they built spas and health centers, and bottled and sold the precious water.
Saratoga State Park resulted from an effort to preserve the mineral springs. The area was designated a state park in 1962 and a national historic landmark in 1987. Many visitors aim to see the park’s lovely classical architecture and tranquil mineral springs.
The peaceful park provides miles of nature trails, serene picnic areas, swimming, golf courses, and a creekside education center that offers year-round programs. You can enjoy ice skating, ice hockey, and cross-country skiing in winter.
4. Minnewaska State Park Preserve
The rugged, rocky terrain of the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge engulfs the beautiful Minnewaska State Park Preserve. You will discover three glassy lakes, breathtaking waterfalls, lush forests, ledges that yield surreal views, and clear streams coursing through valleys.
The park, surprisingly only an hour from New York City, has 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of trails that you can bike or hike. Other activities include rock climbing, bouldering, camping, swimming, picnicking, and boating. No matter which activity you choose, the alluring scenery at this New York State Park will bring a broad grin.
5. Watkins Glen State Park
Exploring the surreal beauty of Watkins Glen State Park is a joy. You will pass through tunnels, cross stone bridges and climb stairs as you admire 200-foot cliffs and 19 cascading waterfalls. The journey takes you above, below, and behind waterfalls and face-to-face with shale cliffs. Your rewarding views make the moderate hike worth every step.
You can find the park along Seneca Lake in upstate New York. After your hike, tour some of the fantastic wineries and restaurants in Watkins Glen.
6. Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Head to the eastern foothills in Pleasantville, along the Hudson River, and you will find Rockefeller State Park Preserve. It is the former property of the John D. Rockefeller and William Rockefeller families.
The park holds 45 miles of crushed stone carriage roads where you can walk through forested hills, valleys, and sprawling pastoral fields. Highlights of the trails include beautiful gardens, Swan Lake, stone and wood bridges, babbling brooks, and weathered stone walls. Beyond the peaceful walks, it is a fantastic place for horseback riding, photography, birdwatching, and observing wildlife.
7. Allegany State Park
New York’s largest state park, with nearly 65,000 acres is Allegany State Park. It sits in the western part of the state just north of the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. Two sections comprise the park: Red House Area and Quaker Run Area. Both areas offer similar experiences.
The park has hiking trails, naturalist walks, sand beaches, picnic areas, and museums. You will find five miles of paved trails at Red House for walkers, runners, and bicyclists. In warm weather you can go mountain biking or cross-country skiing in cold weather.
The park offers winterized cabins and 90 miles of trails designated for snowmobiles. Camping, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and snowshoeing are other popular activities.
8. Niagara Falls State Park
America’s oldest state park, Niagara Falls State Park, delivers views of the famous namesake waterfall, hiking trails, and interactive exhibits. The iconic attraction consists of three distinct waterfalls:
- Horseshoe Falls
- American Falls
- Bridal Veil Falls
You can ride the Niagara Scenic Trolley to learn about the park or feel the power of the falls as you get soaked on the Maid of the Mist boat ride. You can also take the walking tour to Cave of the Winds.
The beauty and power of the falls are breathtaking. Observe Niagara Falls at night, illuminated in bright, colorful lights, for more inspiration.
9. Robert H. Treman State Park
Located in the Finger Lakes, this gorgeous park stretches across the towns of Ithaca, Enfield, and Newfield. Winding trails take you along Enfield Glen, a rugged gorge with a dozen cascading waterfalls. At the 115-foot Lucifer Falls, you gain a 1.5-mile perspective of the wooded gorge snaking its way to the lower park.
Robert H. Treman State Park has cabins and campsites for tents and RVs. You can swim in a stream-fed pool beneath a waterfall or explore nine miles of hiking trails throughout the park, soaking in the natural beauty of rocky cliffs, breathtaking waterfalls, and dense forest.
10. Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve
A series of separate parcels of primarily undeveloped land along the Hudson River, Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve has varied habitats from river banks to deciduous forests to rugged, rocky ridges. With over 70 miles of paths, the park offers hiking trails that span from easy to challenging. Opportunities abound for popular activities like boating, fishing, and birding.
Undeveloped land filled with natural beauty is rare in today’s world. The park is a dream come true for hikers and those who love to explore the great outdoors.
11. Bear Mountain State Park
Nestled in rugged mountains on the Hudson River’s west bank in Rockland and Orange counties, Bear Mountain State Park has a lot to offer. Amid natural beauty, you can hike, bike, swim, fish in a lake or river, cross-country ski, and enjoy lunch in a shaded picnic grove.
Bear Mountain State Park offers a vast playfield in warm weather. It features an outdoor ice skating rink in cold weather. If you have children, ride the merry-go-round and visit Trailside Museums and Zoo inside the park. You can stay at the gorgeous Bear Mountain Inn during your visit.
12. Buttermilk Falls State Park
Located southwest of Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls State Park features a waterfall descending in a foaming cascade from Buttermilk Creek to a plunge pool. You will find a playing field, lake, picnic grounds, and wooded trails along the gorge and rim of the waterfall.
The lower park contains a natural pool, campgrounds, and a nature trail leading through a beautiful wetland area called Larch Meadows. You can swim in the gorge’s natural pool, relishing its surreal beauty.
13. Stony Brook State Park
The namesake brook, a small post-glacial stream, carves a deep, narrow gorge with many accessible waterfalls. It sits in the rolling hills of western New York in Steuben County.
Popular activities in Stony Brook State Park include camping, swimming, picnicking, and hiking. You will also find a tennis court, baseball field, volleyball and basketball courts, and playgrounds here.
Stony Brook State Park offers three moderately difficult hiking trails, each about a mile long with stairs. The most accessible and most scenic is the gorge trail, passing a stream-fed pool and three major waterfalls. Observe many fascinating rock formations along the way.
14. Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park is a 597-acre park that sits in the town of Huron along Lake Ontario’s southern shore. Giant earthen pinnacles that stretch up to 150 feet above waves rolling ashore dominate a half-mile stretch of the coast.
The clay spires, called drumlins, started as glacial deposits, forming over many years from erosion, which continue to shape the drumlins today. You can appreciate the unique bluffs from above or along the lakeshore.
Hike or picnic during summer and cross-country ski and snowshoe during winter.
15. Montauk Point State Park
Located at the eastern tip of Long Island’s South Shore, Montauk Point State Park provides spectacular views of converging tides from the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound. Watch seals basking in the sun on offshore rocks or observe Block Island in the distance.
Take time to visit the oldest lighthouse in the state, Montauk Lighthouse, commissioned in 1792 by President George Washington. Surfing and surf fishing are popular activities along the beautiful rocky shoreline. You can also hike or cross-country ski on the park’s nature trails.
16. Rock Island Lighthouse State Park
This unique park is only accessible by boat. Enjoy the scenery as you cruise to the island courtesy of Clayton Island Boat Tours.
Rock Island Lighthouse State Park is in the Thousand Islands along the picturesque St. Lawrence Seaway, 4.5 miles northeast of Clayton off Fisher’s Landing.
Walk the island and climb the stairs of the park’s historic lighthouse for a spectacular view from above. You can explore the keeper’s quarters to learn about the history of the island and the St. Lawrence River.
17. Taughannock Falls State Park
With an enchanting waterfall that plunges 215 feet, Taughannock Falls State Park offers gorge and rim trails with breathtaking views. Wide paths blaze through the peaceful forest, providing a leisurely walk to the main attraction.
You will find people with wide grins and leashed dogs with wagging tails. With views of the waterfall, campsites, and cabins overlooking Cayuga Lake, no wonder everyone here is so happy. Visitors enjoy the park’s skating ponds and sledding slopes in winter.
Taughannock Falls State Park is in the Finger Lakes area just northwest of Ithaca. Nearby you can chase more waterfalls, attend a farmer’s market, or taste delicious wines.
18. Green Lakes State Park
What is special about Green Lakes State Park? It contains two meromictic lakes, Green Lake and Round Lake.
At least once a year, deep and surface waters physically mix in ordinary lakes. This mixing often occurs in spring and fall. Because sediment kicks up, many lakes appear brownish or muddy.
However, surface and bottom waters do not mix in meromictic lakes. Sediment remains on the bottom and does not decay.
Green Lake is 195 feet deep, and Round Lake is 180 feet deep. Due to their depth and the lack of sediment kicking up, Green and Round Lakes’ mirror-like waters take on a bluish-green color.
These glacial pothole lakes potentially hold evidence of ancient plant and animal life. No outside boats are allowed to preserve the nature of the unique lakes. However, you can boat and swim in designated areas.
Beyond admiring the glacial lakes, many visitors go to Green Lakes State Park to play a round of golf or disc golf. The park also offers camping, hiking, winter snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. You can find the park east of Syracuse, in Manlius.
19. Gantry Plaza State Park
Contrary to what some think, you can find wonderful state parks in New York City. Gantry Plaza State Park is a 12-acre park along the East River in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City. The neatly manicured oasis provides spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.
Gantry Plaza State Park, a former dockyard in a manufacturing district, is named for the restored gantries once used to unload and transfer cargo from rail cars to barges. The oasis contains four piers, beautiful gardens, and a mist fountain.
Gantry Plaza State Park is the perfect place for a relaxing stroll. Or, you can enjoy the view from one of the riverside chairs and benches. If you are seeking recreational activities, the park has basketball and handball courts, playgrounds, and a fishing pier.
20. Point Au Roche State Park
Situated near Plattsburgh on the northwestern shore of lovely Lake Champlain, Point Au Roche State Park delivers a sandy beach area and a mix of open and forested hiking trails. The delightful hiking and biking trails wind through habitats ranging from the shoreline to forest to marsh.
Popular water activities include boating and fishing. Boaters will find 60 mooring sites in Deep Bay. For those willing to brave the cold, the park offers ice fishing.
Point Au Roche State Park’s nature center provides various programming throughout the year. Many visitors enjoy playing a game of softball or volleyball. It is a beautiful place for a family outing.
Wrap-up: New York State Parks You Should Visit
New York is more than a famous city that attracts tourists and dreamers. The state offers gorgeous landscapes and exciting recreational opportunities across its park system. Put these 20 New York state parks on your bucket list and explore “the Empire State.”
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.