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The Best Nature Escapes From NYC — That Aren’t Central Park

The Best Nature Escapes From NYC — That Aren’t Central Park

No shade to Central Park, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out of the city to play! The New York area is full of hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems for a much-needed nature getaway, and these eight spots are some of our favorites. Better yet, they’re close enough to the city that you can easily make them a day or weekend trip. Happy exploring! 


The Rockaways


The Rockaways are New Yorkers’ number one beach destination for swimming and surfing. They’re a thin strip of islands just south of Queens, meaning they’re close enough to get to from the city via train or ferry, but just far enough to feel like you’ve been transported elsewhere. If you’re ready to catch some waves, you can rent your surf gear at Station RBNY, and fuel up with a post-surf snack at Claudette’s.


Brooklyn Botanical Gardens


Walking into the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, you’d almost forget that you’re in one of the biggest metropolises of the world. It’s full of beautiful trees, flowers, and lots of walking paths to wander down aimlessly, as well as ponds to admire the fish in. 


Adirondack Mountains


If you’re up for a road trip, the Adirondack Mountains are a fantastic destination for a weekend retreat, about five hours outside the Big Apple. With 44 campgrounds to choose from, the Adirondacks offer a plethora of hiking trails, waterfalls, and vineyards to explore. You can also go whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and rock climbing here. 


Breakneck Ridge


Just about an hour north of the city lies Breakneck Ridge, a hiking trail that winds around a mountain on the Hudson River. This hike is notorious for being somewhat challenging (expect to scramble over lots of rocks on your ascent!), but the views are worth it. 


Mohonk Preserve 


Mohonk Preserve is situated within the Shawangunk Mountains, just about an hour and a half outside of the city. This area is well-known among rock climbers for its famous Gunks climbing cliffs, but there’s plenty to do here if you aren’t up for horizontally traversing the face of a mountain. Horseback riding, hiking, biking, and skiing or snowshoeing are all activities people flock to Mohonk for. 


Watkins Glen State Park

Magical waterfalls await hikers who make the five-hour journey to Watkins Glen State Park. Over time, flowing water has carved a gorge throughout the park, which drops in elevation in various locations, creating scenic, fairytale-like waterfalls. Camping is available at the park.


Catskill Mountains


A three-hour drive north of NYC, the Catskills are a part of the greater Appalaichan Mountain range. Pro tip: head to the Catskills in autumn, when the rolling hills are dotted with beautiful fall colors. Here, you can hike and mountain bike across some of the park’s 700,000 acres, and even take up fly fishing, one of the region’s most popular pastimes. 


Lake Placid


Hiking trails, panoramic views, and lots of water sports are Lake Placid’s claim to fame. Take a kayak or paddle boat out on the scenic water, or explore the surroundings on foot or bike. 


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