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  • Matt Carter

Best Hiking Near NYC (via train or bus)

New York City is often associated with skyscrapers, crowded streets, congested subways and constant noise, but it's also a city surrounded by nature. New York state is home to more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails, many of which are accessible via public transportation. The hikes recommended on this blog are for the city dwellers who want to escape but who don't have a car to get them outta here!

Escaping the concrete jungle is as easy as it is fun. Just an hour or two spent on a bus or train and you can start taking in those big deep breaths without choking on traffic fumes. Depending on how easy it is to get to a trail, the more crowded it might be, so sometimes spending a little more time on the train can be worth the wait. Each of the trails listed below has a bus or trail line that easily connects you from NYC to the trail head.

When to Go

All of these hikes can be done at any time of the year, so long as you're prepared with the right type of gear (ex. crampons or snowshoes in winter). And the great thing about changing seasons is that it can transform a hike you've done tens of times into a completely different hike, providing you with a different perspective and appreciation for the trees and views around you. Whether you want to see beautiful wild flowers, swim in a stream, see the leaves turn, or make a snowman, each season has its own special experience to offer. If you're able to hike during the work-week (Monday - Friday), this is often the best time to go, as even some of the busiest trails (ex. Breakneck Ridge) can be entirely yours.

What to Pack

  • Map (downloading a map on your phone and packing a printed copy is recommended)

  • Water

  • Electrolyte tabs

  • Snacks (granola bars, trail mix)

  • Layers of clothing so that you can take and put on clothing as the temperatures change

  • First Aid Kit

  • Winter gear such as crampons/micro-spikes and snow shoes, if hiking in frozen conditions

Best Hikes Accessible by Bus / Train from NYC

Breakneck Ridge Trail Loop

The Breakneck Ridge Trail Loop may only be 3 miles but it is considered one of the most strenuous hikes in the East Hudson Highlands. There is a rock scramble up the beginning of the trail (that necessitates good footwear) with multiple viewpoints that provide jaw-dropping views of the Hudson River. If you're feeling extra energetic, you can take the longer Breakneck trail (8+ miles) or connect to one of the other nearby trails on the same mountainside. The one downside to this hike is that it tends to be very crowded on the weekends with hikers practically forming a conga line up the mountain.

  • 3.3 miles

  • 1,236 feet in elevation

  • All Trails map is available here

  • NY/NJ Trail Conference map is available here

  • Getting There: Hikers can take a MetroNorth train to Breakneck Ridge (80 minutes), the trail starts just a couple minutes from the "train stop" and ends on Route 9D, just a few minutes from the town of Cold Springs, where you can catch your return train back to the city.

Bull Hill Trail

The Bull Hill Trail is neighbors with the Breakneck Ridge trail, along the same mountainside. This trail is longer in distance than Breakneck but is much easier to hike (there are a few bits of steep elevation, but for the most part it is a moderate hiking trail). The hike has a couple really nice view points that are especially stunning in the fall, and terrain that changes throughout the trail. At the end of this hike, you'll again be in the town of Cold Springs, which has restaurants and antique shops that are worth a stop before you head back home.

  • 6 miles

  • 2,014 feet in elevation

  • All Trails map is available here

  • NY/NJ Trail Conference map is available here

  • Getting There: Hikers can take a MetroNorth train to Cold Springs, NY (75 minutes) and walk about 10 minutes through town and along Route 9D before getting to the trail. You'll return home from where you started.

Mount Beacon Trail

The Mount Beacon trail is a bit further from the city but offers amazing panoramic views of the Hudson River, Minnewaska State Park, and the Catskill mountains (that are even better if you climb to the top of the summit's firetower). After climbing 200 stairs (a real warm up), you'll start along the steep trail that takes you passed a burnt down casino and an old cable car system that's been out of commission for years. At the top of the mountain sits a fire tower that allows hikers views far and wide across the beautiful Hudson River. If you hike this trail in summer, be sure to pack extra water as you're exposed to the sun for almost the entire way.

  • 8.2 miles

  • 2,398 feet in elevation

  • All Trails map is available here

  • Getting There: Hikers can take the MetroNorth train to Beacon, NY (90 minutes) and walk about 35 minutes towards the trail. Once you're done with the hike, the town of Beacon is a great one to explore with lots of great stores and restaurants to satiate your hiker's appetite before heading home.

Harriman State Park: Bear Mountain

On the west side of the Hudson River you'll find Harriman State Park. Home to more than 200 miles of hiking trails, you could spend years hiking this park, but the the area that's most easily accessible from the city is Bear Mountain. You can actually drive to the top of this trail, so it can be crowded, but there's enough space at the top to spread out. In the summer, a lot of people BBQ around the lake that's at the bottom of the mountain, which also has paddle boats for rent. It's a great full-day trip for people of all hiking abilities. And if you want to stay more than a day, you can rent a room at the Bear Mountain Inn.

  • 3.6 miles

  • 1,059 feet in elevation

  • All Trails map is available here

  • National Geographic map is available here

  • Getting There: Hikers can take a Coach USA bus from Port Authority (1 hour and 40 minutes) to Bear Mountain and the trail starts just a couple minutes past the drop-off point. You'll return home from where you started.

Recommended Books

Recommended Apps & Tech

Technology these days make hiking a literal walk in the park -- I recommend downloading a hiking app and saving each of your planned trails onto your phone. The apps can track your progress so that you can see exactly where you are on the trail and help you through every tricky fork in the road.

If you want to get extra high-tech you can choose to purchase a smartwatch or other GPS device. I use a GPS enabled Suunto Spartan watch that can pre-upload a route to track the trail I'm on, or leaves "breadcrumbs" that allow me to navigate when lost -- a lifesaver if you end up in a snowstorm.



Happy hiking!