Craving a breath of fresh air? If you’re in need of a way to escape it all and replace the concrete concerns of Manhattan with leafier matters—you’re in luck. Mother nature is beckoning with waterfalls, marshes, cliffs, hawks, and fantastical fauna like the prickly pear cactus—all which can be found in your backyard. To help broaden our horizons, New Jersey Sierra Club director, Jeff Tittel, shares some of his favorite trails near the Big Apple. Perfect for a day trip for Earth Day or a weekend escapade, these trails are all a stone’s throw away from New York City. So trade in those city car horns for some cuckoo caws. As one poet put it, “The earth has its music for those who will listen.”
1. Appalachian Trail
The first on Tittel’s list, the Appalachian is commonly considered the “longest hiking-only trail in the world.” Running all the way from the state of Georgia to Maine, you can pick up this lush trail near Bellvale Mountain, about an hour and a half drive out from New York City. If you’re just looking for a jaunt, you can meander along the first bit of the trail near the Village of Greenwood Lake Recreation Park, and then turn back whenever you feel like it. Highlights of this storied trek include spectacular views, deer, bear, elk, and beaver sightings just to name a few.
2. Buttermilk Falls
A favorite of Teddy Roosevelt, Buttermilk Falls is coincidentally a hop, skip, and a throw away from the Appalachian route. Located in Rockland County, the trail is widely popular for its steep gorges, ravines, waterfalls, and streams. Interestingly enough, the trail is a hot spot for painters who frequent the falls for landscape inspiration. An additional perk? The Edward Hopper House Art Center is nearby.
3. Palisades Interstate Park
Perhaps one of the tri-state area’s most underrated gems, this trail is outstanding for one very good reason: approximately 2,500 acres of untouched Hudson River shorefront viewing. The Palisades—which are the cliffs overlooking the Hudson—provide awe-inspiring, picnic-perfect, sweeping views over Manhattan and Westchester. Hawk sightings make this barely-30-minute drive from Manhattan a must-do.
4. Harriman State Park
Described by Tittel as one of the best spots for viewing some of the prettiest lakes around, Harriman State Park near the quaint town of Tuxedo, New York, is home to approximately 31 lakes and reservoirs in addition to 200 miles of hiking trails. Boating, biking, and camping are all options for the adventurer seeking a supremely peaceful slice of nature. The abandoned old Black Ash Mine gives this park even more character.
5. Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park
On the other side of the Hudson, in Carmel, New York, is the Taconic’s not-to-be-missed 14,086-acre state park. Highlights include spots for…