Did you know that New Yorkers without cars can take public transportation to adventure travel activities (hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing) within two hours of New York City? It’s true! As one of those New Yorkers I am sharing some of the best hikes near NYC that don’t require a car!
Rural areas within two hours of midtown Manhattan offer hundreds of opportunities to paddle, peddle, slide, and tromp. New York’s bus and train lines radiate outward like spokes on a wheel, making them available via public transportation. The following New York outdoor adventure destinations are all accessible via bus or train. The directions on which type of transportation to take is included below as well.
Appalachian Trail, Pawling, New York
Eighty-nine miles of the world-famous Appalachian Trail wind through New York’s Hudson Valley, about 70 miles from New York City. The AT even has its very own train station on Metronorth’s Harlem Line, a few miles north of Pawling. (service only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays). Trains leave Grand Central Station; the ride takes just over an hour and a half.
On the trail, hikers can head north (toward Maine) or south (toward Georgia). The hiking seems surprisingly remote considering it’s within a whistle of a New York commuter train. Northbound leads through fields, past old farms, and up and down several small hills.
Overnighters can stay in Wiley Shelter, 5.9 miles out. Southbound, the Telephone Pioneers Shelter is only 3.1 miles away; the Morgan Stewart Shelter is 10.7 miles. Either way, navigation is easy: follow white blazes painted on trees, fence posts, rocks, highways signs, and the corners of buildings.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy (maps and guidebooks): (304)-535-6331.
Thunder Ridge Ski Area, Patterson, New York
Tiny Thunder Ridge, just 65 miles north of New York, can’t compete with the ski resorts of New England or the Catskills. The family-run area has only three chairlifts and one t-bar, and none of the trails takes more than a few minutes to ski.
But slow, gentle slopes meet the needs of beginning skiers and snowboarders, and a couple of advanced slopes have steep pitches.
Thunder Ridge offers a sweetheart weekend deal for New Yorkers, including roundtrip train fare from Grand Central or 125th Street to Patterson, a shuttle to the ski area, all-day/all-night lift tickets (no night skiing on Sundays), and a $5 discount on rental equipment.. The ski package is available at all Metro-North ticket offices and ticket machines.
Thunder Ridge Ski Area: (845) 878-4100.
Harlem Valley Rail Trail, Millerton, New York
Here’s a new take on the rail-trail idea: Use the rail (MetroNorth Railroad) to take your bike to the trail (the Harlem Valley Rail Trail).
From Grand Central, take the Harlem Line to Wassaic (end of the line). Metronorth allows bicycles on trains, but a $5 permit, available at Grand Central Station at Window 27, is required. (Space is limited, for details, call Metronorth.)
Plans call for the Hudson Valley Rail Trail to start at the Wassaic Train Station, but the three-mile segment from the station to Amenia hasn’t yet been built. In the interim, either ride the shoulder of Route 22 (watch for heavy traffic).
Or loop south one-half mile, then cut east to Wassaic to pick up slower, less trafficked Old Route 22. Both lead north to Amenia, where the rail trail starts just off of Mechanic Street.
The village of Millerton is eight miles farther. Take a break in one of the local diners or restaurants, or visit Oblong Books and Music, where you can pick up regional guidebooks.
Harlem Valley Rail Trail: (518 )789-9591.
Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania
At the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Delaware River cuts a deep gorge in the Kittatiny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Interstate-80 cuts through here, too, but only because the river did all the hard work first, leaving in its wake one of the most scenic gaps in the entire Appalachian chain.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area includes 40 miles of the Delaware River and almost 70,000 acres of land along the river’s New Jersey and Pennsylvania banks. Activities include hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, canoeing, rafting, and climbing.
From the Port Authority Terminal on 8th Avenue, take the Martz bus company’s service to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and get off at Route 611 in the town of Delaware Water Gap PA, just before Stroudsburg. The bus stop is near the Ramada Inn and the Pack Shack, which offers a variety of outfitting options including kayaks, canoes, and rafts; they also offers rock climbing lessons. Call ahead for a shuttle from the Martz Travel Center.
Martz:: 800-220-3133; Packshack: (570) 424 – 8533.
Breakneck Ridge, New York
Like the Appalachian Trail, Breakneck Ridge has its own train station – or rather, platform. Take Metronorth’s Hudson Line just past Cold Spring to the Breakneck Ridge platform (limited service).
From the platform, walk south along Route 9D almost to the tunnel. The trailhead is at the base of a building that marks the New York City Aqueduct. The first mile of trail ascends steeply, rewarding the effort with panoramic views. Don’t try to walk and watch at the same time: Falls can be fatal here! Instead, take advantage of the viewpoints and rest areas.
Once atop the ridge, two miles of ridge-walking offers more views. A network of trails makes it possible to shorten or lengthen the hike, or make a loop via the Wilkerson Memorial Trail and Sugarloaf Mountain to avoid having to retrace steps.
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (maps and guidebooks): (201) 512-9348.
The bottom line: No car? No problem: New Yorkers can head out to hike, camp, paddle, ski, or bike with their gear and a train or bus ticket.
What is your favorite place to travel to outside of New York?