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The 10 Best State Parks in New York

New York State park

The state parks in New York are among the best in the country. These parks have everything anyone could want when it comes to exploring nature, from crystal clear waterfalls, lush forests, winding trails, to fabulous campgrounds. Some parks such as Green Lakes are full service parks and exist close to civilization, while others such as Chittenango Falls are perfect for those who wish to spend some time away from civilization. In order to make your visit to New York's state parks an easier one, New York state has developed an app to help you out. Called the 'Parks Explorer App', its main function is to provide tourists with all the information they'll need to make decisions on everything from park amenities to parking.

10. Chittenango Falls State Park

While some state parks in New York are close to civilization like Green Lakes, others such as Chittenango Falls are not. Chittenango Falls is an amazing place for those visitors who wish to truly escape the rat race and embrace nature. The trails are breathtaking, the falls are pristine, and the overall atmosphere is one of serenity and peace. It's strongly recommended that you wear good hiking shoes. Also, since there are no facilities here, bring enough food and beverages to keep you for the entire day. A word of warning: The main trail is steep, so the walk up will take some effort and the walk down can be daunting for some.

9. Adirondack Park

Adirondack Mountains are the main draw for this protected, New York state park. Another draw are the fabulous array of fall colors as the foliage gets ready for winter. With plenty of hiking trails, camping facilities and canoeing available, this dog friendly park has much to offer individual adventurers and families alike. During winter, visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Top hiking trails include the Goodnow Mountain Trail, Stewart Mountain Trail, and the Northville Placid Trail.

8. Green Lakes State Park

Visitors who come to this state park, often do so to golf on the fabulous golf course designed by the famous course architect, Robert Trent Jones. Other reasons are the gorgeous lakes and beach front activities and facilities. As such, be prepared for one thing: This park can get crowded fast. If camping is your thing, it's a good idea to call ahead and inquire about the available spots, if there are any. Other than that, this hidden gem of acreage in upstate New York will provide you and yours with much in the way of hiking, swimming, boat rentals in the summer, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

7. Letchworth State Park

Feed your soul with a relaxing expedition to the "Grand Canyon of the East", Letchworth State Park. Grab your Go-Pro and set your sights on recording your travels through a rich lush world laden with ravines, waterfalls, and towering cliffs. Those of you who relish feeling the dirt under your feet as you trek through the wilderness will be happy to know that Letchworth State Park is packed with gorgeous hiking trails as well. Before you embark, know that food and other services are few and far between, so dress appropriately and bring your own food and beverages.

6. Minnewaska State Park

Located in the Shawangunk Mountain Range, Minnewaska State Park is a paradise for tourists who enjoy hiking. Suitable for both beginning hikers to advanced, each trail brings you closer to the natural world. Some trails take you close to cascading waterfalls, lush, green forests, and spectacular cliff faces. Trails are marked so if you find the standard trail maps difficult to grasp, the trails may be all you need to carry you through. Some of the easiest treks are those around the lake. If you plan on spending the night in the park, know that there are plenty of facilities open to you.

5. Bear Mountain State Park

For many travelers, the fall season is one of the most beautiful. The colors, bright oranges, sunny yellows, and ravishing reds dot the landscape as the flora gets itself ready for a long winter sleep. One of the best places to view this seasonal transition is Bear Mountain State Park. In fact, you can book the Hudson Valley Fall Foliage Helicopter Tour to get the most of the spectacle. Other features include the park's Merry-Go-Round, hiking in the Hudson Highlands, Perkins Memorial Tower and Trailside Museum and zoo.

4. Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls State Park boasts the tallest waterfall in New York at 215 feet, besting the Niagara Falls by at least 33 feet. Pronounced Tuh-ga-nick, which is Algonquin for "in the trees", this is a full service park which is packed with activities for you and yours to enjoy such as swimming, boating and hiking. For those of you who wish to stay over, know that the park has well-maintained camping areas and even cabins to rent. Please note that this is a very popular state park, so can get crowded during the peak season.

3. Belmont Lake State Park

Belmont Lake state park is an absolutely gorgeous place for some family fun. As a full service park, they offer the best in amenities. While they do have walk-in camping, it's advised that you make reservations for a spot ahead of time, as camping spaces at this park fill up fast. Activities include hiking, biking boating and even horseback riding. In the winter many come to get some cross-country skiing in. There also have playgrounds to keep the kids busy, as well as a few basketball courts if you're so inclined. Nearby attractions include the American Airpower Museum and Argyle Park. If you've a mind for something sweet, may we recommend Villabella Bakery which specializes in Italian baked goods.

2. Niagara Falls

One of the most famous of all state parks in New York is Niagara Falls. Indeed, for over 200 years, Niagara Falls has been known as the honeymoon capital of the world. It all started in 1801 when Aaron Burr's daughter Theodosia and her hubby Joseph Alston encountered the Falls for their honeymoon. Later Napoleon Bonaparte's brother and his bride, Elizabeth Patterson helped to cement Niagara as the destination for newlyweds everywhere. In 1839 poet Grenville Mellon wrote, “Their roar is around me. I am on the brink Of the great waters—and their anthem voice Goes up amid the rainbow and the mist.” upon seeing the great falls. Years later, the Falls remain a place of wonder, captivating visitors from all over the world. Visit the Observation Tower, Adventure Theater, or have a meal at the Top of the Falls Restaurant. Top trails for fans of hiking are the Goat Island Scenic Walk, and the Gorge Rim Trail.

1. Watkins Glen State Park

If you're into waterfalls, then a visit to Watkins Glen State Park should be on your bucket list. Watkins Glen has grand total of 19 crystal clear, churning waterfalls within its park boundaries. Watkins Glen is also the perfect destination for families looking to enjoy some quality time together as the park is host to well-kept campgrounds, park tours, hiking trails and even an Olympic style swimming pool. Attractions within 3 miles of the park include the International Motor Racing Research Center, Quest Adventure Gaming, and Seneca Lake Wine Trail.

Final Thoughts

Janice Anderson once wrote that “Nature is one of the most underutilized treasures in life. It has the power to unburden hearts and reconnect to that inner place of peace.” A true statement to be sure, but harder and harder to re-create in our everyday lives. As such, wide open spaces such as the state parks in New York have become more and more valuable. They offer a chance for people to escape from the rat race, even for a day or so. State parks allow people to separate from their devices, and spend some time relaxing under the stars with friends and a good meal, refreshing their spirits as well as their minds and bodies.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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