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While every state in the U.S. has its own unique and beautiful state parks, the ones in New York are definitely some of the best. New York’s state park system offers impressive waterfalls, fun lakes, peaceful forests, rugged rocks, lovely beaches, and much more. It all just goes to show there’s much more to do in this East Coast state than just New York City! Although every park deserves a visit at least once, here are a few of the best New York state parks to start with to get out in the local nature.
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This state park is sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the East because of how impressive it is. There is a deep gorge here, as well as waterfalls and great hiking trails. Come here for epic gorge views and rafting opportunities. In the winter, this is a popular place for snowmobiling. There are 66 miles of hiking trails to explore when the snow melts or on cross-country skis. Take the kids to the Humphrey Nature Center for programs and exhibits about wildlife, ecology, and geology. You can stay at the Glen Iris Inn here and enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner on site. If you want to rough it a bit, you can stay overnight in the tent and trailer campsites or at a winterized cabin at the park.
A popular weekend getaway in New York, Robert H. Treman State Park is another beloved park in New York and just south of Ithaca. It has a rugged gorge, multiple trails, waterfalls, and great views from the rim. This Finger Lakes region park has 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. You can camp at the park in a tent, cabin, or RV site. Up to two pets are allowed in the campsites and day-use sites unless signage indicates otherwise. Swimming in the lifeguarded area is a popular activity at the park, as well as hiking the nine miles of trails.
People travel from all over the world to see Niagara Falls, which is one of the crown jewels of New York. Cave of the Winds is a popular spot in this state park to get an up-close look at the falls. There are trails here that lead out to Goat Island and some excellent viewpoints of Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. This is a family-friendly park that is also home to the Top of the Falls Restaurant that serves American fare with panoramic views of the falls. It is the oldest American state park, open 365 days a year, and always free to walk in and see the falls.
Rockefeller is a big name to know in New York, and not just with the iconic buildings and landmarks. This Taconic region park offers a quiet countryside experience, forests, hills, valleys, and a location 30 minutes from New York City. Therefore, it’s one of the easiest state parks to get to for city-dwellers. The Rockefeller family used to own this property before it became a state park. Popular attractions are the 13 Bridges Loop Trail, fern garden, Swan Lake, and Rockefeller Art Gallery. Outdoor things to do here include horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, and fishing.
Waterfall lovers will also enjoy taking a trip to Taughannock Falls State Park in the Finger Lakes region. Here you’ll get amazing views from the rim and gorge trails and get to see the namesake falls that plunge hundreds of feet below. You can camp overnight here in a campsite or cabin overlooking Cayuga Lake. There’s a beach, marina, and boat ramp nearby. In the winter, it’s fun to come here to go on the sledding slopes, cross-country skiing trails, and natural skating ponds. Summertime offers concerts along the lakefront and organized tours through the gorge.
Gantry Plaza State Park is a 12-acre riverside park and urban oasis that offers views of the Manhattan skyline. Something unique about the park is the restored gantries that were previously used to load rail car barges. They tell the story of New York’s waterfront history and also offer a fun place to enjoy a concert in the spring and summer. Bring the kids here to enjoy the playgrounds, basketball courts, and fishing pier. On-leash dogs are welcome on paved pathways and plazas here, as well as off-leash in the two dog run parks.
It’s also definitely worth visiting Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountain range. Here you can be immersed in the waterfalls, cliffs, dense forests, and rocky terrain. There are great hiking trails here for beginner hikers through advanced hikers, as well as dramatic cliff views and opportunities for rock climbing. This Palisades region state park has 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths for hiking and biking. To stay overnight here, you can set up in one of the 24 drive-in spots or 26 walk-in spots with your tent between mid-May and mid-November, weather depending.
Head to the Allegany region of New York to experience Allegany State Park and enjoy the five miles of paved bike paths, snowmobiling, fishing, beach, bike rentals, cross-country skiing, and tennis. This is a popular place for camping with its 125 campsites and 144 cabins. This park has abundant wildlife and is known for its Red House Area and everything being centrally located around Red House Lake.
Local residents also love visiting Buttermilk Falls State Park, which is close to Robert H. Treman State park that we mentioned earlier. Buttermilk Falls is a tall waterfall with water cascading to a pool below and rock formations along the way. Pinnacle Rock is a famous landmark here. It’s easy to get to this state park from Ithaca and end your day with a great meal and local craft brew after a day out in nature. Or to make a weekend out of your trip here, you can stay in the lower park campground at a campsite or cabin.
For awesome scenery and a great getaway destination in New York, head to Wellesley Island State Park. Come here to go camping and stay in a tent, trailer, or cabin. You can explore the park in a boat or kayak, check out the onsite nature center to learn something new, and go for a swim here too. In total, the park has 432 campsites and is the largest camping area in the Thousand Islands region. A fun canoe program takes place in the park and tours Eel Bay in the summertime.
Harriman State Park is a large state park with hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Hikers of all skill levels and abilities can find something to love in this park. Better yet, you can hop on a bus to get here from the city and also access the Appalachian Trail from here. The park is home to 31 lakes and reservoirs and many group camps that provide children and families with their first experiences in the outdoors.
This is a wonderful upstate New York park that is just south of the Canadian border. It lies along Lake Champlain and has lots of hiking and biking trails that double as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in the winter. Summertime offers a sandy beach and boat launch for your family vacations, while ice fishing is a popular activity in the winter. There are over 60 designated mooring sites in the Deep Bay, as well as a nature center that offers a variety of programs throughout the year. The city of Plattsburgh is nearby and has some nice dining options to treat yourself after a day of outdoor recreation.