When most people hear the words New York, they immediately think of yellow taxi cabs, crowds of people speed walking up Fifth Avenue, and the bright lights of Times Square. New York is also a state that is home to a great deal of striking natural beauty. Those who are willing to drive a few hours north of New York City should prepare to bask in the splendor of rivers, mountains, and dense forests that are a welcome reprieve from the Big Apple’s frantic pace.
WHITEFACE MOUNTAIN, WILMINGTON
Whiteface Mountain is one of the loftiest peaks in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. Hikers who summit Whiteface Mountain can see all the way to Quebec. There are plenty of waterfalls, babbling brooks, and evergreen forests to view en route to the top. Whiteface Mountain is also home to a popular ski resort which features a gondola that runs year-round. Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway allows visitors to drive to the very top of Whiteface Mountain. The Whiteface Ski Resort offers plenty of delectable food options, including a wine bar which pours J. Lohr Cabernet.
ETERNAL FLAME FALLS, CHESTNUT RIDGE PARK
Eternal Flame Falls looks like the type of place that an ancient oracle would visit to receive messages from a divine source. Eternal Flame Falls features a trickling waterfall with a bright orange flame that continually flashes in the middle. A pocket of seeping methane is responsible for the eternal flame. The seemingly incompatible combination of crackling fire and rushing water is a surreal sight that you will not soon forget. On occasion, the flame flickers out—but can easily be relit with a large lighter. If you attempt to restart the eternal flame, please exercise caution to avoid burning yourself.
GREEN LAKES STATE PARK, FAYETTEVILLE
Green Lakes State Park features two stunning aquamarine-colored glacial lakes. Green Lake is of particular interest to the scientific community because it is a meromictic lake—which means that the top and the bottom layers of the water do no mix. As a result of Green Lake’s status as a scientific curiosity, boating and other forms of water recreation are limited. Green Lakes State Park does allow swimming. Green Lakes State Park visitors can also rent a kayak or rowboat during certain times of the year. Visitors can fish, hike, or play golf on a scenic golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones. Green Lakes State Park features cabins and campsites for those who wish to stay in or near the park.
AUSABLE CHASM, NEAR KEESEVILLE
Some say Ausable Chasm is overrun with tourists. However, sometimes things are wildly popular because they are worth seeing. Ausable Chasm has been attracting visitors since the late 1800s. Ausable Chasm is a breathtaking sandstone gorge which is surrounded by cascading waterfalls. Visitors of all ages and abilities can hike or float on a raft to take in the magnificent beauty of Ausable Chasm. Particularly adventurous visitors can opt to go rock climbing or explore Ausable Chasm after dark with a lantern. If you’re looking to warm up to a spot that attracts throngs of tourists, Ausable Chasm is an excellent first foray to a tourist hotspot that is worth the trip.
CHIMNEY BLUFFS STATE PARK, WOLCOTT
From a distance, the rocky spires of Chimney Bluffs State Park look like the castle of a powerful wizard. Chimney Bluffs distinctive stone pinnacles—which were sculpted by thousands of years of wind, rain, and slowly shifting glaciers—are some of the most striking rock formations in North America. Paddling across the serene blue waters of Lake Ontario in a kayak is an excellent way to get a full view of the jagged spires of Chimney Bluffs State Park. Visitors can hike or fish during the warmer months, Chimney Bluffs State Park is a popular snowshoeing destination in the winter, since the rocky spires take on the appearance of an ice palace.
NATURAL STONE AND BRIDGE CAVES, POTTERSVILLE
Natural Stone and Bridge Caves features an expansive marble entrance that can be enjoyed from many different angles. Visitors can journey inside of the cave system to view bats, lovely slabs of marble, and pristine pools of clear, cold water. During the warmer months, visitors can hike around the cave entrance to view waterfalls and babbling brooks. Seasoned explorers can take a more involved cave tour which requires crawling through some very tight spaces. Winter travelers can snowshoe to a fire pit located in a nearby forest where they can warm their frozen fingers and toes by a roaring fire. It is important to note that Natural Stone and Bridge Caves is closed during certain times of the year. Please check local listings before planning a trip there.
HIGH FALLS GORGE, WILMINGTON
Upstate New York is celebrated for its many thundering waterfalls. There is no question that High Falls Gorge is home to some of the most stunning. High Falls Gorge is incredibly easy to access, as it is located on privately owned land that is meticulously maintained. A short, low impact hike offers visitors a breathtaking view of a thundering waterfall. There are several other walkways, bridges, and trails that offer visitors a panoramic view of 4 separate waterfalls. High Falls Gorge is also home to an anorthosite rock that formed over 1.5 billion years ago. If you’re searching for the perfect backdrop for an engagement photo, nothing says commitment quite like a rock that is over 1 billion years old.
KAATERSKILL FALLS, HUNTER
Kaaterskill Falls has inspired painters, poets, and novelists for centuries. Kaaterskill Falls is a tall yet slim waterfall which cascades down two separate tiers. Kaaterskill Falls requires a short yet steep hike. Once you get an unobstructed view of Kaaterskill Falls, it will be quite clear why more than one Native American tribe considered the falls to be a sacred place. Perhaps the cascading waters of Kaaterskill Falls will inspire you to write your own poem. It will be hard to top Washington Irving’s fanciful description of the falls in his famed story “Rip Van Winkle.”