10 Best Hikes in Upstate NY
September 25, 2020
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When you think of New York, you’re probably not picturing forests and hiking trails. In NYC, hiking is often redefined as climbing to your fifth floor walk up with one too many bags of groceries. However, there are actually tons of amazing hikes once you get outside of New York City. I’ve hiked all over the world, from Annapurna Base Camp to Grand Teton hiking, but today’s guide will focus on some hikes closer to home. This guide will cover many of the best hikes in Upstate NY, for any season. I’ll be covering everything from easy walks to sunset spots, to 12 mile mountain adventures — perfect for every type of hiker and fitness level.
For any of these hikes you are going to need a car. If you don’t own a car, you have the option of either renting a car in NYC, or hopping on the Metro North to first get out of the city, and then renting a car further north. The Metro North is a train line that services Westchester and Connecticut from New York City.
Preparing for the Best Hikes in Upstate NY
Before I even get into the hikes, I want to do my part in encouraging everyone to be responsible on the trails. This includes dressing properly, packing adequate water, and following all of the guidelines of Leave No Trace. I want to share all of these amazing hikes with you all, but I also don’t want to contribute to the damage that is happening to our trails during the pandemic due to an influx of tourists. So please do your research to keep yourself and the trails safe.
The Best Hikes in Upstate NY
OK Slip Falls + Ross Pond
The OK Slip Falls and Ross Pond hikes are located in the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area. The trailhead parking lot is located on the south side of Route 28. After parking, you will need to walk about 0.2 mile along the highway from the parking lot to reach the trailhead. Once you reach the trailhead you will have a number of trails to choose from, including trails to both OK Slip Falls and Ross Pond.
This area was previously inaccessible, until New York State purchased the 2800 acres of land in 2013, and the trails were opened a year later. From the trailhead you will need to hike about 0.8 mile before reaching a fork in the road. The left trail takes you towards Ross Pond, while the right trail heads towards OK Slip Falls.
OK Slip Falls is the most popular trail, and by far one of the best hikes in upstate New York. The waterfall is one of the tallest in all of New York. From the trailhead, it is 3 miles to reach the falls (6 miles round trip). The terrain is relatively flat, but can be a bit muddy. The trail starts through a densely wooded area, and eventually you will hit a main road. Once you reach the main road you are only 0.8 miles from the OK Slip Falls viewpoint. As of April 2020, the last bit of the trail that leads to the bottom of the falls was closed due to unsafe conditions, however you can still get an amazing few from the top.
The trail to Ross Pond is much less trafficked, but still a beautiful trail and lake. From the fork, it is an additional 1.8 mile (3.6 round trip) out and back to the lake. While we did hike this trail during the off-season, we didn’t see a single other hiker along the way. Ross Lake is an awesome spot to stop for a picnic lunch.
We opted to hike the trail to Ross Lake first, and then tackled the OK Slip Falls hike, totalling almost 12 miles for the day. While this is definitely doable, I would recommend hiking the trails on different days if you have the time.
Nick’s Lake is a picturesque lake, just a few minutes drive outside of Old Forge, NY in the Adirondacks. The lake can be reached in just a few minutes walk from the parking lot, making it super accessible for any fitness level. During my months living in Old Forge, I visited a number of times, for sunset views and outdoor workout sessions.
Nick’s Lake also offers a number of campsites and cottages for hikers to overnight at, with over 100 campsites available. There are plenty of hikes in the area, both longer and shorter, many of which offer incredible lake views.
Whether you’re looking to spend the day at Nick’s Lake in Old Forge, or overnight for a few nights, there is plenty to do. The lake is a great place to take out a boat or kayak, or throw in a line for some fishing. It is also a great sunset spot, with impressive views over the lake. It is accessible all year round, and easily beautiful in any season.
The loop hike to Deer Pond is definitely one of my favorite, and one of the the best, hikes in Upstate New York. The trailhead is located just outside of Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks. The loop to Deer Pond is just over 7 miles, and remains relatively flat with some nice rolling hills. We did this hike on a snowy day in March, and it was absolutely beautiful. You’ll definitely want to make sure that you are wearing waterproof boots, otherwise you’re in for a wet hike.
The trail offers a range of sceneries, from barren trees to snow capped trees, rolling hills, and expansive lakes. During the winter months, Deer Pond is a great place to break out the skies for some cross country skiing.
The Deer Pond is located just off of the intersection of Route 30 and Route 3 in Tupper Lake. When you reach the intersection of Route 30 and Route 3, follow Route 3/30 toward Saranac Lake. Continue for just over 5-miles until you reach the trailhead on the left hand side.
The pond can either be accessed by an out and back trail, or by completing the entire loop. The loop adds an extra mile or so on to the hike, but is worth it for the scenic views.
Moss Lake Loop
The Moss Lake Loop is an easy two and a half mile loop for any fitness level. The trail is flat throughout, making it a great family hike. When you start along the trailhead from the parking lot, you can turn either left or right to complete the full loop around the lake. If you’re looking to head straight to the lake, follow the trail to the right.
The trail is open year-round, and is beautiful during any season. During the colder months, you can enjoy an easy snowy hike. The trail is shaded, so it is not too hot even during the summer. When the weather warms up, however, the lake is the perfect place for a swim to cool down. If you’re looking for a fun workout, try swimming out to the island and back! Moss Lake is definitely one of my favorite every day hikes in upstate NY.
If you’re interested in camping, there are a number of camping spots along the trail, especially if you head left from the parking lot.
Bug Lake + Eagle’s Nest Lake Hikes
The trails are located just outside of Inlet, NY. The trailhead for hikes to Bug Lake and Eagle’s Nest Lake in the Adirondacks is located at Eighth Lake State Campground. Take Route 28 towards Raquette Lake until your arrive at the parking lot for the trailhead.
Both of these hikes are relatively short and easy, with flat terrain throughout. Eagle’s Nest Lake can be reached within a mile, and Bug Lake is about a mile and a half each way. Bug Lake has some awesome campgrounds, and access to a lake for canoeing/kayaking or fishing.
Middle Settlement Lake
Middle Settlement Lake Trail is a 5.7 mile out and back trail. The trailhead is in the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness, just west of Old Forge, and is one of the lesser known trails in the Adirondacks. The trail is open year-round but is best from March until November, however expect snowy and icy conditions on the ends of that month range.
The hike starts pretty steep, but quickly flattens out. The lake is a beautiful spot to stop for lunch and take a break, before heading back out. In order to reach Middle Settlement Lake you will need to follow the yellow trail. Make sure to key your eyes open for trail markers, as we missed the marker on the way in and added a few extra miles onto our hike.
Bald Mountain, or the Rondaxe Fire Tower, is located in the central Adirondacks between Old Forge and Inlet. Bald Mountain is a quick, easy hike with incredible views. The out and back trail is only 1.9 miles, with an elevation gain of 416 feet.
The trail starts in the forest, but quickly becomes a steep hike up the rock ridge. The trail is open year-round, but be sure to wear proper shoes if you’re hiking in the winter as the trails can be very icy.
I recommend hiking up in the early morning to catch some epic sunrise views.
Mount Marcy, located just outside of Lake Placid, is easily the longest and most difficult hike on this list. If you arrive at the Adirondack Loj parking lot and follow the Van Hoevenberg Trail, the hike clocks in at around 15 miles round trip. There is an elevation gain of over 3,000 ft for this hike, so it is definitely a challenging hike.
This goes for all of the hikes on this list, but I especially want to emphasize it for this one, please research the trails before venturing onto the mountain! This guide is only meant as an overview for each of these hikes, but it is so important that you understand each of the trails, the difficulty, and current weather conditions. The peak of Mount Marcy, which is the highest mountain in New York State, sits at over 5,300 feet. Because of this, weather conditions can change quickly. When we started the hike I was absolutely sweating in a t-shirt. However, by the time we reached the summit a few hours later, the wind chill and temperature dropped to the 30s, with snow still piled up at the top. Additionally, Mount Marcy is home to endangered alpine terrain, so be sure to always stick to the marked pathways.
The first 2 miles or so of the trail are relatively flat until you reach the Marcy Dam. This is a great spot to stop for a photo, as the views of the mountain are incredible. Once you pass the Dam, the incline begins. There is a ton of elevation gain, so prepare yourself for a sweaty hike up. I swear I couldn’t walk the next day! If this hike is too challenging for you, you may want to consider camping on the mountain to break up the hike, or doing the shorter hike to Phelps Mountain instead.
There is a $15 fee to park in the lot.
Slide Mountain is the highest peak in the Catskill Mountains, in Upstate NY. This hike is considerably closer to NYC than many of the other hikes on the list. The Slide Mountain Trail is a 6.3 mile loop. The trailhead is located near Big Indian, New York. The hike is very popular, so I recommend visiting during the week or during the shoulder seasons. I recommend visiting in October or early November for beautiful fall foliage colors.
The Pinnacle hike is a fun 1.5 mile out and back trail that originates from Bolton Landing, NY. The trail is accessible year round — whether you’re hiking up in the snow, or on a warm sunny day. The hike is relatively steep, and can be a bit difficult if you’re heading up in snowy weather. Overall, this is an easy, family-friendly hike.
What to Pack for the Best Hikes in Upstate NY
- Hiking shoes – The path can be quite muddy and wet depending on the season. It is important to wear proper shoes to avoid any injuries. Even better if you have a pair of waterproof hiking boots.
- Sunscreen – Better safe than sorry, even in the winter months!
- Bug spray – It can be quite buggy in this area, especially around May and June. I recommend packing a bottle of bug spray to protect yourself from any unwanted bites or illnesses.
- Camera – These trails are truly impressive, and a great opportunity to snap some photos. If you’re looking for a good starter camera, I highly recommend the Sony a600.
- Water/Snacks – Most of these trails don’t have any options for purchasing food or water along the way. I always recommend bringing some of your own snacks and water. My go-to hiking snack is a burrito! I also always pack at least one full reusable Vapur water bottle.
Tips for Completing Hikes in Upstate NY
- Always download an offline map or carry a paper map
- Carry a headlight or flashlight in case you get lost and are still hiking after the sun sets
If you’re visiting NY, here are some articles that you should check out:
- Best Things to do in New Paltz
- Siamese Ponds Wilderness Camping
- Local’s Guide to NYC
- Best Instagram Spots in NYC
If you enjoy hiking, here are some other posts that you might like:
- Best Hikes Around the World
- Best Hikes in Banff National Park
- Mt. Batur Sunrise Hike
- Grand Teton Hiking Trails