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Michaella Sheridan | 07.27.2017

With 180 state parks in New York, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start exploring. To get you started, we've picked the nine state parks you absolutely must see while you're in the Empire State. Home to glacial remnants, historic mansions hidden in the woods, and cliff-side vistas, these parks are steeped in history and teeming with panoramic views. Get a taste of New York with these state parks and we guarantee you'll have an appetite for more. 

Schunemunk State Park

Schunemunk State Park is a geologist's dream! On the summit of Schunemunk Mountain you’ll find find some unusual rock features like giant pieces of fissured bedrock and the purple rock remains of a compacted seabed. While the park has eight marked trails that span over 25 miles, take the Trestle Trail for a 1.7-mile climb to the western ridge of Schunemunk Mountain to access views of the Catskills and continue onto an 8- to 12-mile loop path that traverses the entire mountaintop and all of its geological magic.

Hudson Highlands State Park

Home to Breakneck Ridge, which is often rated as one of the best day hikes in America, this park is the jewel of the Hudson Valley. Ascend the park’s popular mountains via history-laden trails that gradually rise from marshlands to exposed rock faces. The highest summit is the Mount Beacon fire tower, from which you can see New York City on a clear day. If you’re more interested in views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, take the pleasant 4-mile Overlook Trail to Lamb’s Hill at the northern end of the Park.

Mills-Norrie State Park

Travel back in time as you follow old carriage roads along the banks of the Hudson River in this unique park. Hike through secluded forests to discover Mills Mansion, which was once owned by a railroad mogul who operated the mansion as a retreat for the wealthy. Explore the grounds to marvel at the Gilded Age architecture and statues. Continue to Dismore Point, where you’ll find a stone boathouse and views of the Esopus Meadows lighthouse and the Catskill Mountains. With campgrounds, picnic areas, and even an environmental center that offers programs for all ages, this park is a must for your summertime bucket list. Additionally, the gradually sloping carriage roads also make this a great wintertime destination.

Storm King State Park

For some of the best views of the Hudson Valley, make the steep but quick ascent to any one of the four peaks in Storm King State Park. We recommend following the Howell Trail and Stillman Spring Trail for a 3.25-mile loop that will take you to the North Ridge of Storm King Mountain, where you can soak up panoramic views of the Hudson Valley. The views from this peak are so beautiful that in 1980, when the mountain was being considered as the home for a new power plant, Hudson residents banded together to successfully advocate for its preservation. That community group eventually evolved into Scenic Hudson, which still plays a major role in preservation and environmental advocacy throughout the region.

Chimney Bluffs State Park

If you find yourself in the Lake Ontario region, you can’t miss Chimney Bluffs State Park, which features an amazing geological feature that you’ll have to see to believe. Situated on the shores of this great lake, the Chimney Bluffs are ever-changing jagged cliffs of sand, silt, and small stones. This iconic ice-age feature is so commanding that it was favored by Canadian smugglers during prohibition as an illicit meeting spot. For easy access to this must-see feature, park at the lot at the end of East Bay Road and follow the Bluffs Trail to the water’s edge.

Franny Reese State Park

Ever wanted to get a bird’s-eye view of the Hudson River and the 3,000-foot Mid-Hudson suspension bridge that stretches across it? Franny Reese State Park is your best bet for achieving just that! Follow the Walkway Loop Trail through 2.5 miles of former carriage pathways to reach the overlook ridge. As if the view wasn’t enough, you’ll also pass by ruins of a 19th century Victorian mansion and meticulously stacked stone walls as you finish the 4.5-mile loop.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve

For a long, meandering hike through iconic New York scenery, visit Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Explore 25 miles of foot paths and 35 miles of old carriage roads that are welcoming to all skill and interest levels. Follow the Upper Awosting (UA) and Castle Point (CP) trails for a 10-mile carriage road loop that will give you a full tour of all this park has to offer. You’ll wind through deep forests, reach wide-open cliffs, and catch views of Lake Awosting. Climbing to the popular Castle Point for expansive views of the surrounding valleys and Catskill mountains.

Bear Mountain State Park

For a family-friendly escape from New York City, drive an hour north to this park, which features an outdoor skating rink, a trailside museum and zoo, a pool, and a merry-go-round. Traverse a section of the Appalachian Trail and catch views of nearby mountains, and maybe even Manhattan on a clear day, by following the 4-mile Bear Mountain + Perkins Tower loop.

Whetstone Gulf State Park

In northern New York, there’s this little park where you can camp, picnic, and explore a 3-mile-long shale gorge. Escape the summer fees and crowds by snowshoeing or skiing the gorge in the winter. Beginners can follow the Gorge Trail for an easy, level route that follows the bottom of the gorge. In the winter, the 5.6-mile Whetstone Gulf Rim Trail can be a challenge due to slippery snow, but experienced adventurers will be rewarded with amazing views and glimpses of the gorge's waterfalls.

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