In the spring, I’m a refreshing way to welcome the warmer weather. In the summer, I’m a healthy way of getting in essential exercise. In the fall, I’m a perfect opportunity to catch views of fall foliage. What am I?
The answer is – you guessed it – a hike!
Hiking preserves both our health and natural environment. With all of its national and state parks, woodsy trails and swampy lands, locals are gifted with plenty of opportunities for hikes in the Northeast.
The following list includes hikes in the area that range from easy, moderate to challenging levels of difficulty.
Note: Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, please see official websites before visiting to check for restrictions or closures.
Alley Pond Park
Queens, New York
The second-largest park in Queens has several trails that wind through forest, and along ponds and a salt marsh. Saunter on the Tulip Tree Trail, which passes the Alley Park Giant, a tulip tree that might be New York City’s oldest organism at between 350 and 450 years old.
This conservation park on Cape Ann in Massachusetts is what’s left of a settlement from 1693, which was named Dogtown after the dogs that women kept while their husbands were fighting in the American Revolution. The park is full of dense woodland with several trails for hiking. Be sure to hike the Babson Boulder trail to see the famous boulders with words of inspiration carved into them. A notable boulder is “The Whale’s Jaw,” which it resembled before collapsing in 1989. And, yes, dogs are welcome.
The Appalachian Trail
More than 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail cut a scenic swath west of the Housatonic River. There are more than 10 parking sites, from Salisbury to Kent, where hikers can leave their vehicles and set out for a day hike. See sights like the Great Falls, the “Giant’s Thumb” rock formation, the Indian Rocks outlook, the Housatonic River and more. If you’re up for a challenge, climb Bear Mountain, the state’s highest peak at 2,326 feet.
Read about one AAA member’s epic experience taking on one of the most well-known hikes in the Northeast.
Wolf Hill Forest Preserve
This preserve is home to a few hiking trails, a couple of lookouts and a World War II memorial. After 30-40 minutes of following the World War II Memorial Trail, you’ll see the memorial honoring three Army Air Corps servicemen who lost their lives in an aircraft crash at the site. On your way back, you can stop at Mercer Lookout, where you’ll get a great view of the Providence skyline. If it’s a clear day, you might also catch Brayton Point in Somerset, Mass., upper Narragansett Bay and the Mount Hope Bridge in Bristol, R.I. The paths can be rocky and sometimes aren’t clearly marked; bring the appropriate sneakers or hiking boots.
Purgatory Chasm State Reservation
Glacial meltwater carved out this natural granite playground sometime during the Ice Age. The resulting 70-foot-high cliffs and craggy valley are a blast to climb, full of cleverly named rock formations like Fat Man’s Misery – a narrow crevasse – and the Devil’s Pulpit. Be careful after rainstorms; the rocks can be slippery. Dogs are welcome, but ensure that your dog is capable of the climbing you’ll be doing.
Ausable Chasm Adventure Trail
Ausable Chasm, known as “the Grand Canyon of the East,” provides the thrills you’re looking for on the Family Adventure Trail. It takes you through the gorge while you’re in a harness attached to a steel cable, which runs along the rock. You’ll cross over the river on cable bridges, traipse across a cargo net climb and brave the edge walks, giving you the illusion of danger, but while fully protected. This is a hike in the area for families and other groups of people who aren’t afraid of an adrenaline-pumping challenge. Closed-toe shoes are required.
Of these hikes in the Northeast, this is the most challenging, as this 10-mile loop takes you through five mountains: Little Windbeam, Windbeam, Bear, Board and Harrison. The constant up and down is what makes this hike a serious workout. Though the steep mountainside makes you work for them, the views this hike allows you to see are spectacular. You can see the Wanaque and Monksville Reservoirs from the peaks of the small, but mighty mountains. Visit any time from March until October for optimal hiking.
Have you taken on any of these hikes in the Northeast? Where are some nature hikes near you that you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments. Check out more nearby hiking trails.