Looking for something fun, healthy, educational and free to do with the family this weekend? Why not take a hike? The Hudson Valley is home to some of the most gorgeous views in the country.
Teach your children the different kinds of trees and animals that can be found around the Valley, and enjoy an afternoon of exercise—all close to home. Pack a lunch, load the car (or jump on a bike) and explore these trails:
Norrie Point Trail, Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Old Post Rd., Staatsburgh. 845-889-8851; www.nysparks.state.ny.us
A great family hike along the Hudson River. This trail is one-of-a-kind because of its proximity to the river’s edge. For about 2.5 miles, enjoy breathtaking views (and a refreshing breeze) as you stroll along with the family. Make plans for before or after the hike to visit the Mill’s Mansion on the grounds—an elegant county estate built during America’s Gilded Age.
Manitoga: The Russel Wright Center (Garrison) 584 Rte. 9D, Garrison. 845-424-3812; www.russelwrightcenter.org
For a variety of unique and interesting hikes, visit the home of Russel Wright, American home-furnishings designe. Hike over 4 miles of paths through a 75-acre designed landscape with links to the Appalachian Trail. Each path was built to illuminate the beauty of nature and create an adventure through the forest. All of the paths were designed to go in one direction, and all begin at Mary’s Meadow, named for Wright’s wife. Enjoy a picnic while hiking (carry in-carry out) and pets are welcome if they are kept on a leash.
The Cary Institute, 2801 Sharon Turnpike (Route 44), Millbrook. 845-677-5343; www.ecostudies.org
The Cary Institute’s hiking trails immerse visitors in a range of ecosystems, from old fields and upland forests to wetlands. It’s the perfect place to let your children explore their natural habitat and learn about the ecosystems around them. For older kids, try identifying the types of trees you pass or the species of birds you hear or see. The Cary Institute offers several trails: Cary Pines Trail, Wappinger Creek Trail, EdVenture Trail and Sedge Meadow Trail. Visitors may also tour the Internal Road System by car, bicycle or foot.
Bear Mountain State Park, Rte. 9W, Bear Mountain. 845-786-2701; www.nysparks.us
Bear Mountain State Park features miles of hiking trails with some of the most breathtaking views of the Hudson River you’ll find. Let your kids discover the wonder of nature on the park’s trails, or wander down to the zoo for an afternoon of adventure. If you’re looking for a quiet day in the woods, this isn’t it, but the park has lots of options besides hiking, including a beautiful merry-go round, playground, pool, and boat rentals.
Black Rock Forest, Rte. 9W, Cornwall. 845-534-4517; www.blackrockforest.org
Northwest of West Point, Black Rock Forest has marked and unmarked trails ranging from short walks to long hikes. First-time visitors will find maps and other materials at the parking lot on the southbound lane of 9W. This is not an excursion for very young walkers, unless mom or dad are willing to carry. Older kids will enjoy it.
Belleayre Mountain, Rte. 28, Highmount. 845-254-5600; www.belleayre.com
Belleayre Mountain offers hiking in the picturesque Catskill Forest Preserve. Miles of paths and trails offer journeys through various terrain suited for different levels of ability. Hike any ski trail, hike to the summit, to Pine Hill Lake or try the new Belleayre Mountain Interpretive Adventure Trail.
Minnewaska State Park
Preserve, Route 44/55, New Paltz. 845-255-0752; www.nysparks.state.ny.us
Found on the beautiful Shawangunk Mountain ridge, Minnewaska boasts some of the best views of the Hudson Valley. The park is open for hiking, swimming, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and rock climbing. Open daily and year-round.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail
Entrance by Water Street Market, New Paltz; www.gorailtrail.org
Transformed from an abandoned Railroad in 1983, the Walkill Valley Rail Trail is now a linear park where people can enjoy hiking, biking, cross country skiing and other outdoor recreation. The path stretches from Rosendale to Gardiner, passing through scenic New Paltz, including Historic Huguenot Street.
Minnie Falls Park, Mountain Lakes Rd., Bethel; www.scva.net
Enjoy a walk through the country in this nine-acre park. Complete with a wooded glen, rushing stream and quiet forest, the park is also home to a scenic water fall off the North Mohican Trail. Minnie Falls Park is open year-round, dawn to dusk.
Delaware & Hudson Canal Linear Park, Rte. 209, Town of Mamakating. 845-794-3000 ext. 3072; www.co.sullivan.ny.us
Step through history on the 45-acre Delaware and Hudson Canal Linear Park. Travel along three and a half miles of trail that passes the remains of original locks, drydock and waste weirs. Signs are located throughout the park to explain the different canal structures. Take the kids for a hike and an afternoon filled with history!
Mohonk Preserve, New Paltz. 845-255-0919; www.mohonkpreserve.org
At the Preserve, you’ll enjoy scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and peace & quiet. There are carriage roads and trails for hiking, running, mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. The internationally renowned “Gunks” cliffs offer world-class technical rock climbing routes. Mohonk offers events throughout the month for different levels of hiking.
Coleen McDonald is a freelance writer living in Orange Country who plans to get outdoors as much as possible.