No matter how much you love the city sometimes you just feel the need to get up and go! There are plenty of opportunities to do so, surprisingly close to home. Hiking offers a fantastic getaway from the busy city, a chance to escape into nature and get some exercise while you’re at it. And you don’t need to leave the kids home — these 7 hiking spots are perfect for children of any age, and at under 2 hours from the city, they’re well worth the trip.
Palisades Interstate Park
Located under an hour's drive from the city, the NJ Palisades Park offers gorgeous views and scenic routes, as well as about 30 miles of trails of varying difficulty. This means there's a trail for any level of hiker, including small children. We recommend the State Line Lookout trails for their variety in terrain and difficulty. Taking the trails from the Lookout means getting views of the Hudson River and finding some hidden treasures like a tree swing that makes for awesome photo-ops, and the Women's Federation Monument. Before you go, ensure that everyone is wearing hiking shoes (not sneakers or running shoes) -- the terrain can get rocky.
Location: Alpine, NJ
Difficulty: Easy to hard
Drive time from NYC: 50 min.
More info: njpalisades.org
Arden Point and Glenclyffe
Bring a bit of history into your hike by visiting Arden Point and Glenclyffe. In this relatively easy hike, you and the kids can retrace the footsteps of Revolutionary War general Benedict Arnold as he made his escape in 1780. It's an excellent way to bring history to life for older kids who might be studying this period in American history. The trail also offers some views of the river, but if you've had enough of that there's plenty more to see, like the 1950s railroad track that is still in use today for freight, and a few historic buildings that date back to the 18 and 1900s.
Location: Garrison, NY
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Drive time from NYC: 1 hr 25 min
More info: nynjtc.org
The Muttontown Preserve trail is one of the easiest on our list, with winding but relatively flat trails through 550 acres of fields, woods, and ponds. The trails here are less like hikes and more like nature walks, allowing everyone to take in their surroundings without getting overtired -- perfect for little feet and beginners. The trails also take you through a number of estates, as well as the curious remains of the mansion of King Zod, the last Albanian monarch. It is now in ruins, and covered in some colorful graffitti, making for an interesting sight among the trees. The trails markers can leave something to be desired here, however, so come equipped with a map, a compass, and/or a GPS or you may end up spending a bit more time here than you meant to!
Location: East Norwich, NY
Difficulty: Very easy
Drive time from NYC: 50 min
More info: nassaucountyny.gov
Greenbelt Conservancy Parks
Sometimes we forget there is nature in our own backyard. If walking through Prospect and Central Park is not exciting enough, take a day trip to Staten Island's Greenbelt Conservancy parks. This foundation oversees 2800 acres of public park -- including 30 miles of hiking and walking trails -- and consists of High Rock, WIllowbrook, and LaTourette Parks.
The parks under this umbrella include High Rock, All three are hidden pockets of nature and offer hours of leisurely hiking trails through wooded areas, marshes, ponds, and other gorgeous landscapes. Both destinations are a perfect starter for the kids due to their location and the ease of the trails. They can wet their little hiking boots here (but not literally, of course) then move onto the more challenging or lengthier trips.
Location: Staten Island, NY
Drive from NYC: 35 mins
More info: nycgovparks.org
Eagle Rock Reservation
The hiking at the Eagle Rock Reservation is easy enough for kids to keep up, and without much of a trail to follow you are left to blaze your own path through the woods. But the walking itself is not what will keep the family coming back: hiking here rewards you with an amazing panoramic view of Manhattan. Before you head out on your walk, make sure you pay a visit to the 9/11 memorial.
Location: West Orange, NJ
Drive from NYC: 45 min
More info: nynjtc.org
If you’d rather spend more time hiking than driving, you can look closer to home: Anthony’s Nose is a short hike up a section of the Appalachian Trail that ends with a view of the Bear Mountain Bridge and a scenic overview of the Hudson River. Be prepared for a bit of legwork, because Anthony has a pretty steep nose. The walk is relatively short distance of about three miles round trip, but it’s a mix of climbs and straight paths. The climbs are more like a staircase thanks to the rocky layout of the inclines, but they can be tough on beginners. If you still have time — and energy! — when you finish the hike, you and the kids can take a walk across the Bear Mountain Bridge, visit the small but free zoo, or ride a carousel. All make a perfect reward for your trek up the trail!
Location: Westchester County, across from Bear Mountain
Difficulty: Moderate to hard
Drive time from NYC: 1 hr 20 min
More info: hikethehudsonvalley.com
Schunemunk Mountain is another fantastic spot to take the kids. The prehistoric beach offers over 25 miles of hiking trails and varied terrain, but it's not suitable for beginners so prepare accordingly. The mountain boasts some spectacular features, like a 3,000 foot pink rock and wild blueberries ripe for picking in late spring and early summer. Some of the (literally) biggest attractions along the mountain trails are the giant megalith boulders at the top of the mountain, but be prepared to do some sweating on your way up — the diverse terrain is beautiful but it can get tough.
Location: Orange County, NY
Drive time from NYC: 1 hr 40 min
More info: nynjtc.org
— Yuliya Geikhman
feature image: Andrew Turner via Flickr