New York

The Top 10 Best Hikes in Upstate New York

by Holly Riddle
Updated September 26, 2022

best hikes in upstate new york
Fall views from Indian Head in Adirondack Park. Photo: Jam Norasett

So you’re planning a hiking trip in Upstate New York?

Your first step is likely going to be deciding where exactly in Upstate New York you want to go. For most New Yorkers (at least those living in NYC), “Upstate” refers to any part of New York outside the city and its suburbs. While those who actually live in Upstate break the region down a little bit further into areas like the Catskills, Finger Lakes and Adirondacks, it’s still the fact that if you say you’re headed to “Upstate New York,” you could be going to a whole lot of different places.

Where you end up going for your hiking adventure will depend on the experience you’re after. If you’re looking for waterfalls and wineries, head to the Finger Lakes. If you want easier hikes but still some mountain views, try the Catskills. For harder, rugged hikes, go to the Adirondacks.

But even after you’ve decided which section of Upstate New York you’d like to visit, you’ll still find tons and tons of hiking trails. While Manhattan is all concrete, all the time, the rest of New York is filled with awesome hiking opportunities at every turn. So, how do you narrow down your hiking picks even further?

To help you nail down your upcoming hiking itinerary, here are just 10 of the best hikes you can find in Upstate New York.

1. Taughannock Falls via the Gorge Trail

upstate ny hikes - taughannock falls
Photo: Steve Cukrov

Why you should go: A quick but spectacular hike in the Finger Lakes

  • Nearest Town: Jacksonville
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 183 feet

The Finger Lakes region is known for its waterfalls and Taughannock Falls is likely one of the most well-known falls in the area. To give you an idea of scale, Taughannock Falls is taller than Niagara Falls, at 217 feet.

Follow a gorge trail to see it up close, but don’t expect to have the views all to yourself. This one is popular for a (good) reason.

Related Read: 7 Drop-Dead Gorgeous National Parks on the East Coast

2. The Glen Creek Gorge Trail

upstate ny hikes - Glen Creek Gorge
Photo: Wirestock Creators

Why you should go: More than a dozen waterfalls at once

  • Nearest Town: Watkins Glen
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 393 feet

The Glen Creek Gorge Trail sits near the Pennsylvania and New York State border and attracts a range of travelers from all around the Mid-Atlantic. The trail is known for being filled with waterfalls and you can expect to see nearly 20 separate waterfalls across just a short, 1.4-mile jaunt through the woods.

This is definitely a trail where you can expect to find a great degree of “bang for your buck,” as the trail is easy, but you’ll be treated to views aplenty.

3. Upper Cascadilla Gorge Trail

upstate ny hikes - Upper Cascadilla Gorge
Photo: Barbara Friedman

Why you should go: A hike in the city

  • Nearest Town: Ithaca
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 45 feet

The Upper Cascadilla Gorge Trail isn’t some remote, out of the way trail that will leave you without cell service or force you to pack a tent for an overnighter in the back country. Instead, this trail sits right in the heart of Ithaca, for an easy getaway near Cornell University.

But just because this trail is in the city, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s just your average, city park walkway. The trail immerses you in a natural setting with paved paths that are only open during the spring to fall, with gorges, water features, and wildlife that’ll make you feel miles away from the city.

Related Read: Take A Dip In Upstate New York’s Best Swimming Holes

4. Breakneck Ridge, Breakneck Bypass & the Wilkinson Loop

upstate ny hikes - Breakneck Ridge
Photo: Ruben Martinez Barricarte

Why you should go: A scenic view situated just a short train ride from Manhattan

  • Nearest Town: Cornwall on Hudson
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,269 feet

For something that’s a little bit harder, but not hard to get to (you can take a train ride from Manhattan into one of the nearest towns), try this difficult-rated loop trail that encompasses Breakneck Ridge, Breakneck Bypass and the Wilkinson Loop. Despite its short length, the loop includes rock scrambles and climbs, and steep ledges.

Make sure you take the trail in a counterclockwise direction, as the steepness going the other way can make for perilous situations. If you can make it through, though, you’ll be treated to some of the best views in the Hudson Highlands.

5. Indian Head & Rainbow Falls

upstate ny hikes - indian head
Photo: Colin D. Young

Why you should go: See why hikers love the Adirondacks

  • Nearest Town: Keene
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 10.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,978 feet

The Indian Head and Rainbow Falls trail in the Adirondacks sports some of the most well-known scenery in the region. However, while this trail is incredibly popular (especially on summer weekends), do note that it isn’t the easiest. While it’s not steep and that 1,978 feet of elevation gain is spread out, you will be walking nearly 11 miles over the course of a day. The good news? There are plenty of scenic spots to stop and rest along the way, including multiple panoramic viewpoints and waterfalls.

Make sure to get your parking reservations before you head out to this trail. The land is owned by the Adirondack Mountain Reserve and paid parking reserved ahead of time is required for all trail access.

Related Read: 10 Terrific Tiny House Rentals in Upstate New York

6. Cascade Mountain

upstate ny hikes - cascade mtn
Photo: Jonathan A. Mauer

Why you should go: Gorgeous views from one of the easier-to-reach summits in the Adirondacks

  • Nearest Town: Keene
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,902 feet

The Adirondacks are known for being particularly difficult to hike, but Cascade Mountain is arguably the easiest mountain to climb in the region (if you’re just looking at the 46ers, or the Adirondack’s 46 High Peak mountains, that is). Even though the Cascade Mountain trail is rated as hard, it’s relatively short and its elevation gain is spread out over nearly the entire four miles.

For being one of the easiest mountains in the Adirondacks, it’s also one of the most rewarding, with 360-degree views from the summit. Do note that this trail becomes highly popular in the summer, welcoming hundreds of hikers each day.

7. Poet’s Ledge


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Why you should go: Embrace your artistic side on this artist-favorite trail

  • Nearest Town: Palenville
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,230 feet

In the Kaaterskill Wild Forest, near Palenville, the Poet’s Ledge Trail offers beautiful mountain views. However, the trail’s artistic and cultural connections are just as interesting as the scenery. Historically, artists from the Hudson River School were known to climb these picturesque mountains in the mid-1800s, where they would then paint the scenery from the various ledges and the summit.

Take your time on this seven-mile hike and stop awhile at the viewpoints and waterfalls. Thanks to the relatively low traffic on the trail, you won’t be rushed.

Related Read: 12 Best Spots to See New York’s Fall Foliage

8. Mount Marcy

upstate ny hikes - Mount Marcy
Photo: Mihai Andritoiu

Why you should go: The tallest mountain in the state

  • Nearest Town: Lake Placid
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 16.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,536 feet

We couldn’t compile a list of some of the best hikes in Upstate New York without including the tallest mountain in the state. Mount Marcy, though, for being the tallest mountain, isn’t the most difficult mountain to hike in New York.

While it is long and there’s a lot of elevation gain, that gain is spread out and the majority of the trail is forgiving to even novice hikers. The last bit of the hike is above the tree line, offering stellar views right up to the summit.

9. The Ausable Chasm

upstate ny hikes - Ausable Chasm
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should go: Why go up, when you can go down?

  • Nearest Town: Keeseville
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 328 feet

But not every trail in New York requires you to climb a mountain. At the Ausable Chasm, you’ll be headed down into, well…a chasm. While this trail is pretty built up and developed, that’s part of the appeal for travelers who want to hike, but don’t necessarily want to dive into the deep forests. Avid hiker or not, you can appreciate this site that’s sometimes called the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, with its towering waterfalls, rushing river and stairways that take you right to the bottom of the chasm, as you hover over the water directly beneath your feet.

Do note that this trail requires a paid entry fee, but you can also pay for other cool experiences while visiting, such as the opportunity to walk a ropes course over the chasm, or to ride an inner tube down the chasm’s river.

Related Read: 11 Unique Places to Stay in New York State

10. The Wittenberg & Cornell Mountains Trail


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Why you should go: Serious views in the Catskills

  • Nearest Town: Phoenicia
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,103 feet

While a lot of Catskills hikes are on the easier or moderate side, at least for frequent hikers, if you’re looking for something a tad more challenging, consider this trail that offers some serious scenery.

Rock scrambles and steep climbs await, but you’ll find gorgeous panoramic views at the summit.

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