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Top Summer Hikes for Car-Free New Yorkers

By Mathew Katz | July 8, 2013 7:12am | Updated on July 8, 2013 9:06am
  All you need to get to the best hikes the area has to offer is a train ticket and some well-worn boots.
Taking a quick train ride can easily get you from the city to amazing hiking trails.
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NEW YORK CITYMany New Yorkers are happy to live without cars in a city with extensive public transportation, but that lack of wheels can make it hard to hit the great outdoors.

Luckily, with a bit of planning, it's easy to get to some of the area's top hiking paths. Many trains and buses from Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal drop you just steps from the trailhead, and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has a fantastic set of maps.

Katie Mohrhauser, 27, a Brooklyn resident, has been using public transit to travel to hiking trails since moving to the city a few years ago.

"It's harder, because you're beholden to someone else's schedule," she said. "You've got to get up early to catch the train, but you want to get up early when you hike anyway."

For the car-free hiker, DNAinfo New York has assembled a guide to the top public transit-accessible hikes just outside the city.

Breakneck Ridge

Difficulty:  Medium-Hard

Distance: 5.5 miles

Hiking Time: 4-6 hours

This is one of the easiest hikes to get to — the train drops you off just steps from the trailhead — but one of the hardest to complete. True to its name, Breakneck Ridge throws you right into a steep scramble up hundreds of feet of rock, but the payoff is worth it — a sweeping view of the Hudson Valley.

Travel Time: 1 hour

Transit Directions: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line from Grand Central Terminal and request a stop at Breakneck Ridge. Trains only run to Breakneck Ridge on weekends.

Weekend Round-Trip Cost: $26.50 Adults, $13.50 Children


Difficulty:  Easy-Medium

Distance: 6 miles

Hiking Time: 4 hours

This hike starts in Cold Spring and continues up toward Breakneck Ridge, with several opportunities to hit other trails in between, including the Washburn and Brook paths. Because of the variety, you can make this hike as long and strenuous as you want it to be, and the high peaks will give you soaring views of the Hudson Valley without the steep incline of some other trails. 

You can also hit the trail from the midway point up Breakneck Ridge, taking you to a peak on the other side of the valley that will let you see where you hiked up the ridge itself.

After the hike, head to the Cold Spring Depot Restaurant for a victory beer on the patio — this restaurant, built into an old train station, is just steps from the regular Metro-North train back into the city.

Travel Time: 1 hour

Transit Directions: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line from Grand Central Terminal and stop at Cold Spring. Follow signs to the trailhead.

Weekend Round-Trip Cost: $26.50 Adults, $13.50 Children

Fishkill Ridge

Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 5 miles

Hiking Time: 4 hours

Just north of Cold Spring, Beacon is a great little town with easy-to-access trailheads just steps from the Metro-North station. This 1,600-foot ascent is full of great views of Beacon, but it isn't for beginners. The rugged terrain can make a challenging but rewarding hike.

Along with the day trail, Fishkill Ridge is home to Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground, where you can set up your tent for $48 to $80 a night.

Travel Time: 1 hour

Transit Directions: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Beacon, then follow Main Street east until it becomes Mountain Lane. The trail begins where the road ends.

Weekend Round-Trip Cost: $30.50 Adults, $15.50 Children

Pine Meadow at Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Distance: 7 miles

Hiking Time: 4.5 hours

There's more than 235 miles of trails in the Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks, and most can be accessed from the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center, which is a short walk from Sloatsburg.

The Pine Meadow trail loops up toward Pine Meadow Lake, which is a great place to cool off if you're looking for a quick dip. From there, you can follow the Diamond Mountain trail to get an upward hike that offers numerous panoramic views of the area. 

Travel Time: 1 hour

Transit Directions: Take the NJ Transit/Metro-North Port Jervis Line from Penn Station to Sloatsburg Station. Head north on Ballard Avenue, then turn right on Academy Avenue and right on Seven Lakes Drive. Continue walking for just under a mile to the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center.

Weekend Round-Trip Cost: $26.00

Anthony's Nose

Difficulty: Easy-Medium 

Distance: 2.6 miles

Hiking Time: 3 hours

A quick hike that still gives you great views, Anthony's Nose takes you up a 500-foot climb to an overlook of the Hudson River and vistas of the Bear Mountain Bridge. 

The initial steep climb, up a staircase-like set of rocks, eventually gives way to a less strenuous trip up to the summit of the mountain, which was named for the schnozz on St. Anthony of Egypt.

Travel Time: 1 hour

Transit Directions: Take the Metro-North Hudson line to Manitou Station. Like Breakneck Ridge, trains to Manitou only run on weekends. Follow signs south to Route 9D. Turn right on 9D, and follow it until you hit white blazes on the left leading you uphill.

Weekend Round-Trip Cost: $26.50 Adults, $13.50 Children

Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop

Difficulty: Medium

Distance: 7 miles

Hiking Time: 5 hours

Near several historic landmarks, Garrison is a great place to head out for a hike, then enjoy a drink or meal at the Tavern at Highlands Country Club after a long day's hike.

Following the carriage road of an old country estate, the hike up Sugarloaf Hill has the brick remains of old Hudson Valley grandeur scattered along it, along with loads of natural beauty.

From the top of Sugarloaf Hill, you get a sweeping view of the United States Military Academy at West Point, along with a chance to check out Castle Rock, a huge stone castle-like mansion near Garrison.

Travel Time: 1 hour

Transit Directions: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Garrison station. A trail on the southern end of the parking lot will lead to the trailhead.

Weekend Round-Trip Cost: $26.50 Adults, $13.50 Children

Appalachian Trail

Difficulty: Medium

Distance: Varies

Hiking Time: Varies

Surprisingly enough, it's fairly easy to get to the famous 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail on Metro-North. Parts of the trail make their way across Bear Mountain State Park and continue south into New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Travel Time: 2 hours

Transit Directions: Take the Metro-North Harlem line to Appalachian Trail Station. The train from the city only runs on weekend mornings.

Round-Trip Cost: $30.50 Adults, $15.50 Children