New Yorkers aren’t the kind of people that let a little thing like cold weather and snow keep them from enjoying the outdoors. In fact, most people who live in the state actually embrace winter and all of the adventurous opportunities that it presents. Fortunately, New York is a state that is blessed with some amazing outdoor playgrounds, including the Adirondacks, the Finger Lakes, and the Catskills Mountains. Each of those destinations offers plenty of great hiking all year long, but in the winter they are especially beautiful and captivating. So put on some warm layers, grab your favorite jacket, and lace up your boots.
Cascade Mountain is located in the Adirondacks and is a popular hike during the warmer months of the year, often drawing hundreds of visitors on its busiest days. In the winter however, it is far less crowded, but no less spectacular. The 5.6 mile Cascade Mountain Trail is an out-and-back hiking route that takes visitors up to the summit where they are afforded 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. In the winter, those areas are often covered in a fresh blanket of snow, giving it a pristine, glimmering look that is tough to match. Expect to spend 2-3 hours trekking to the summit on a trail of moderate difficulty.
Located not far from New York City, Bear Mountain State Park is easily accessible, even for urbanites. It stretches out across 5000-acres of mountainous terrain with numerous hiking trails to explore throughout the park. Take the 4.2-mile Bear Mountain Loop trail to the summit of its namesake peak and you’ll experience some epic views of the surrounding countryside, including the Hudson River meandering by below. The hike is a moderate walk during the warmer seasons, and a bit more challenging during the winter, with a steep approach to the top. Your efforts will be rewarded however with breathtaking scenery from the summit.
Located in the Finger Lakes district, the Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area is the largest of its kind within the state, encompassing more than 11,230 acres. Sharp eyed hikers can spot deer, wild turkeys, beavers, black bears, and a host of songbirds as they trek through the region. There are a number of unique trails to explore, most of which can be moderately challenging in the winter months. For a quicker—and somewhat easier—hike stick to the Bob Cameron Loop, which is a popular walk all year round. If you’re up for more of a challenge, the 8.5-mile Finger Lakes Trail is the way to go, although snowshoes may be more of a necessity. Either way, the chances of spotting wildlife along the trail are fairly high.
During the winter, Fahnestock State Park designates a specific section of its 16,000 acres specifically for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The Winter Park, as it is known, offers two different trails, each 1.5 miles in length. The Ojigwan Path is the easier of the two, and a good place for those out on a more leisurely stroll. But for a true challenge, hit the Appalachian Way, which follows a portion of the Appalachian Trail. This route offers plenty of climbing and will definitely get your heart pumping, but it rewards the adventurous with amazing views of nearby Canopus Lake. Be warned however, this trail is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. It is recommended for experienced winter hikers only.
It may seem odd to include New York City’s Central Park on this list, but the 800-acre outdoor playground is a wonderful place for a walk during the winter months. Since it is located right in the heart of Manhattan, you’re less likely to get the trails and walkways to yourself, but in terms of access and convenience it is tough to top this wonderful destination. The paved paths make for an easy trek and are usually well maintained. But if you’re looking for something a little more wild, head to the Park’s 90-acre North Woods where you’ll find more traditional trails, and maybe even some seclusion. You’ll be amazed at how the sounds of the city fade away as you wander through this area, but its also nice to know that a hot cup of cocoa and a snack are just a few minutes away.