The family that adventures together...well, they’re just an awesome family, and we bet they’d really like the Hudson Valley. Nestled on the eastern edge of New York state, this area is full of adventures that range from "easy peazy" to "woah baby." This list is a grab bag of mountain climbing, riverside picnicking, and historical attractions that are easy to access and a great way for the family to enjoy some cheap thrills in the great outdoors. Pile into the minivan, and get ready to have some fun.
Croton Point Campground: Sitting on a peninsula on the Hudson River, Croton Point Park is a great place to spend a summer day with the family. With several picnic areas, a swimming beach, and even a nearby nature center, this park is perfect for your next outing. Stay for the weekend at one of the RV sites, tent camping sites, or cabin rentals. The Metro North Railroad is only a mile from the campground, so the whole family can hop on the train for a convenient excursion to New York City.
Black Rock Forest: With about 4,000 acres of forest and 30 miles of trails, Black Rock Forest is a great place to spend the day exploring. Managed by the Black Rock Forest Consortium, who uses the forest for scientific research, this natural oasis is a great place for kids to get excited about the natural sciences. Little naturalists will delight in the fact that the rocks in this forest are over a billion years old, making them some of the oldest rocks in New York State.
Bear Mountain and Perkins Tower: A short ride from New York City, Bear Mountain State Park has over 5,000 acres of land and features many family-friendly attractions including Bear Mountain Inn, an outdoor ice skating rink, the Trailside Museum and Zoo, a pool, and a merry-go-round that features 42 hand-carved native animal seats. Take a scenic 4-mile hike to Perkins Tower to soak up 360-degree views of surrounding Hudson Highlands.
Mills Norrie State Park: This park is an easy but exciting getaway that offers your basic park amenities plus a couple of surprises. Enjoy trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas before venturing off to find this park’s gems. Follow old carriage roads along the Hudson River to discover Mills Mansion, an impressive Gilded Age home that was once a retreat for a wealthy railroad mogul. At the southern tip of the park, the former “Point Inn” is home to an environmental center where environmental programs are offered to people of all ages. Be sure to also check out the Dutchess County Community College aquarium museum and field station.
Breakneck Ridge: The name might sound foreboding, but this hike is considered one of the best day hikes in America. Located in the heart of Hudson Highlands State Park, this popular hike will give you a birds-eye view of the Hudson Valley. The 5-mile loop from white to red to yellow trails is a challenging hike, so wear sturdy shoes and only attempt it under good weather conditions. Over 100 cars can fit in the trailhead parking lot, and you can also take the Metro-North train to Breakneck Station or to Cold Spring Station and walk to trailhead.
The North Ridge: For a low-key hike that still offers amazing views, take the family to the North Ridge in Storm King State Park. Follow the 3.25-mile loop along Howell Trail and Stillman Spring Trail. It’s a steep ascent at first, but you’ll quickly be rewarded with amazing views of the Hudson Valley. In the summer, enjoy picking wild blueberries and admiring the wildflowers that line the path toward the summit.
Mount Taurus / Bull Hill: Families looking for a more challenging hike will enjoy the 5-mile round-trip hike on the Washburn Trail up Mount Taurus/Bull Hill in Hudson Highlands State Park. At the top you can explore unmarked foot paths to discover an old quarry that dates back to the American Revolution. As you stand on the edge of the mountain, see if you can spot Bear Mountain Bridge and Tappan Zee Bridge in the distance. If it’s a clear day, see who can be the first to spot the Manhattan skyline.
Scofield Lane and Maple Ave Loop: This 4-mile hike is located in Stewart State Forest, which has a lot of access points and interconnected paths, making it easy to design your own adventure. Before being conserved, the Forest was destined to be a town, so a lot of paths are old roads that are wide and easy to follow. You’ll pass by evidence of the town including crumbling foundations and stone walls as you hike, run, or ski the trails. The forest features several marshlands and fields that are great for birdwatching and wildlife observation.
Saugerties Lighthouse: For an easy and rewarding family adventure, take a half-mile hike to the historic Saugerties Lighthouse, which sits on the banks of the Hudson River. Admire the operating brick lighthouse as you enjoy the surrounding boardwalks and picnic areas. You can also make reservations to get a tour of the inside of the lighthouse on Sundays throughout the summer.
Ninham Mountain Fire Tower: The family that likes heights has to make it to a Hudson Valley fire tower, and the one on top of Ninham Mountain is an excellent pick. Accessed via an easy 1.5-mile trail, the 82-foot high fire tower offers amazing views of nearby hills, hollows, and reservoirs. A gravel parking area and kiosk at the trailhead offer stress-free access. Hunting is permitted in the area, so be sure to wear blaze orange during hunting season.