PSP Member Recommended Family Friendly Day Hikes

This page includes tips and recommendations of where to hike close to NYC from members of the PSP Hiking and Camping Group, plus resources around the web they recommend.

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Lake Minnewaska is a favorite hiking destination for PSP members. Photo via here.

Lake Minnewaska


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Related PSP articles

PSP member-recommended hikes

Not-so kid friendly hikes to be aware of

Recommendations for trickier (but great) hikes for adults and older kids



NYC Park’s list of Hiking Trails

New York New Jersey Transit: Where You Can Go By Bus or Train
"We looked up some trails here."

The Gone Hikin' blog
"The Gone Hikin' blog has descriptions of lots of easy hikes, mostly in NJ. There is at least one park in NJ accessible by train, but I don't know the details."

Long Island Trail Enthusiasts MeetUp
"I've also joined Long Island Trail Enthusiasts (LITE) on meetup and it seems they do a fair amount of planned hikes. we haven't yet joined them, but thought i should mention it."

Tales of a Mountain Mama
"I've found this website super helpful."

New York City Day Hiking

Interactive hike-finding map from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

AllTrails app for finding trails and recording your hikes


Related PSP articles:

Hiking and Camping with Babies and Toddlers

Top Tips for Hiking in the Age of Coronavirus


PSP member-recommended hikes:


(also see what hikes members do NOT recommend here)


Alley Pond


Appalachian Trail
“The Appalachian Trail is accessible on weekends from Metro-North's Harlem line, and by bus from a few places. Those are probably on the NY-NJ trail conference site.”

"We ended up doing part of the Appalachian trail near Lake Canopus this last weekend. It was lovely and I think it would be a nice walk for children."


Ashokan Rail Trail

"The Ashokan Rail Trail is excellent...flat carriage road next to the reservoir. We took the stroller from the entrance at Boiceville. There is a Bread Alone nearby, too."


Bailey Arboretum


Bald Mountain and Doodletown
We ultimately decided to go with a car rental. and we did this 6-mile loop/trail, Bald Mtn & Doodletown. More info >


Bear Mountain
“To catch more fall foliage we went hiking again at Bear Mountain. It's about an hour drive up the Palisades Parkway, about 40 minutes before Breakneck ridge. This was also a really scenic hike with the fall colors changing. we think since the trail was wide this time, our 2.8 year old didn't walk on her own as much - she was distracted by the rocks and leaves on the ground (which she had to collect) - we had to do a fair amount of carrying her, esp. on the steep incline and on the way back down. My husband mentioned it was more scenic than the breakneck ridge hike - the hike itself and the views at the top."

"We love Bear Mountain. It's short train ride to Peekskill from Grand Central (little over 1hr) and 15min or so cab ride from the station. We have a dog also and usually stay at the Overlook Lodge which is dog friendly. There is a small zoo and museum nearby too and the hike is not too strenuous for child or dog. You can go for dinner at the Bear Mountain Inn. Nice little day or weekend trip for the family."


Blue Heron Park


Blue Hill’s Property
“Blue Hill's property is lovely and easy, good cafe to end up at toward the day's end too.”


Bull Hill
“Bull Hill is a good one.”


Cheesequake State Park

"Cheesequake State Park in New Jersey is about 45 minutes away, and has nice short loops to hike (and a lake for swimming in the summer). We’re going there today!"


Cold Spring
“Cold Spring is here. There are 2 trains early in the morning, I think, that also go to Breakneck Ridge if you're up for the scrambling steep climb too and you can take the train back from Cold Spring (runs every hour) at the end. There is a fun bar with outdoor seating right by the train tracks where I've hung out after hikes waiting for the hourly train. The trailhead is about a 1 mile walk from the Cold Spring train station.”

"Anything in and around Cold Spring, except maybe Breakneck Ridge (for obvious reasons!!)."

"Cold Spring is also lovely! Take Metro North from Grand Central there. Walk to town. Then either get taxi or walk to trails. Breakneck Ridge is near and popular. 11 year old can definitely hike it. Lots of cafes for breakfast, late lunch or early dinner. You can also walk along Hudson River front there. Beautiful.


Cornish Estate Trail near Cold Spring
“There are also some great dairy farm ruins called "Cornish Estate."  It's accessible by MetroNorth, but maybe a mile hike from the train to the trailheads so a car might be better. There's a great "hidden" pond to swim in after your day of hiking called "Little Stony Point Park."

"Very toddler friendly."


Cranberry Lake Preserve
“Bonus feature - there's a ‘Ralph's Italian Ice’ right there in town, and we stop there for afternoon snack before we drive home each Friday. My favorite so far has been a milkshake that I think they call the Campfire Ralphie."


Dater Park
“I don't know of anything around 30 minutes away, but we frequently go to Dater Mountain with our 2 year old. We usually go on Sunday  mornings and it takes us about an hour and 15 minutes to get there.” More info >


Delaware Water Gap

"This is more than two hours - it’s probably 3+ but worth it for the views! Do it off of rush hour and it is completely amazing!"


Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary

"Also Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye. Plus you get views of LI Sound and Rye Playland for a bonus!"


Floyd Bennett Field

"Floyd Bennett Field is empty of people and there is an unmarked trail if you go to Aviator sports complex parking lot and just head further away from the buildings. It is maybe a 20 minute walk that leads to the bay.  Do a couple of loops. Poke around for a minute you will find it. It is unknown.  Until now..."


Fresh Kills Park

"Fresh Kills Park is also pretty nice, but it isn't open all the time."


Greenberg Nature Center


Hardscrabble Wilderness Area

"Now I feel like I'm really giving away my pandemic secrets, but in the fall and winter, when we wanted to try to maximize our chances of encountering literally zero other humans while on a close-to-NYC hike, we headed up to Westchester for the Kitchawan Preserve and the Hardscrabble Wilderness Area."


Harriman State Park
“Harriman State Park is really close on the Metro North.” 

“Harriman is wonderful and tons of hikes at various lengths.”


Inwood Hill Park
Other options might be Inwood Hill park, or some of the other relatively wild city parks."


Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
“We had a nice time recently at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, in the middle of the bay at Broad Channel.  Technically accessible via the A, but I recall the walk as long and not that pleasant.  A very easy drive, though, maybe 40 minutes for us.”

"Definitely check out the Jamaica wildlife refuge in Queens. Very easy to get to and lots to see. Right now is the perfect time to go as once it gets consistently hotter (end of May, June, etc.) the mosquitoes come out and are quite vicious."


Kakiat Trail
“One more we like...Kakiat Trail. This one is close to Dater Mountain, just about 15 minutes longer drive.” More info >


Kitchawan Preserve

"Now I feel like I'm really giving away my pandemic secrets, but in the fall and winter, when we wanted to try to maximize our chances of encountering literally zero other humans while on a close-to-NYC hike, we headed up to Westchester for the Kitchawan Preserve and the Hardscrabble Wilderness Area."

"So lovely! (But it's a popular dog spot--we brought ours. Without a dog or with a toddler nervous about dogs maybe not the best). No views except of Croton Reservoir, but in my experience hiking with our 2 yo it's not about views, it's about going very slow, looking for slugs and worms and ants, examining mushrooms, climbing rock walls and generally just celebrating their curiosity and incredible observation skills.

It's only an hour away!

Very flat."


Lake Minnewaska Trail

“Easy, beautiful, space to swim in the lake!”

“There are some great hikes in Minnewaska.”

“Minnewaska state park near New Paltz has lovely hiking, and New Paltz is a nice day trip with restaurants, shops, wineries, if you have a car.”

"Minnewaska State Park Preserve has a great carriage road that's well maintained, shaded and has some beautiful scenic vistas of the foliage around the lake"


Marine Park Salt Marsh

"Marine Park Salt Marsh is very nice, very uncrowded."


Mashomack Preserve

"We have gone to Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island and we loved it. Easy trails for kids."


Mohonk Preserve
“Mohonk preserve is my favorite.”

“We were up near New Paltz hiking in the Mohonk Preserve. The trail along the stream at the Coxing Trailhead turned out to be great for our 18 month old, so I thought I'd share our experience with the group. It wasn't a lengthy "hike" for us but more of an exploratory ramble: the trail follows a wonderful stream that has a series of small waterfalls and little pools, and Aubrey enjoyed watching the water flow, throwing pebbles in the stream to make plunking sounds, touching the soft mosses growing along the stream bed, looking at the spring flowers, walking along the boardwalks, and clambering around on the rocky flats beside the water. There's a lot to see down at her level, so we just took it slow and followed her curiosity. We also ate in the pleasant picnic area at the trailhead, where there's enough space for kids to run around and play.
The trail isn't steep but it has a lot of exposed roots, so I'd say it would be best for those who are either surefooted and mature enough to pay attention to where they're walking or young enough to agree to hold your hand. And you would want a change of clothes, for even on a cool spring day we couldn't help getting close enough to the water to get wet (in the summer, a lot of people go swimming in these pools--including a group of local nudists, just as a head's up!). The Mohonk Preserve can be a bit pricey, though: unless you have a membership, they charge $12 a person for adults; children under 12 are free.”  


Napeague Trail

"I’ve taken my toddler on the Napeague Trail. Sometimes we just hike to the bay and turn around but the entire trail is a child-friendly 1-2 mile hike."


New Canaan Nature Center


NY Botanical Gardens
“NY Botanical has some lovely trails in a real forest.”


“Giant Stairs at The Palisades, also other easier options if this is too challenging (and it is pretty challenging). You can even take a $9ish bus there from Port Authority.”


Pelham Bay
Other options might be Pelham Bay, or some of the other relatively wild city parks."


Ramapo Valley County Reservation


Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park

"Just a cool shaded loop."


Rockefeller State Park Preserve

"There's one hike we've done as a family three times in the last year and it's been perfect for our kids (now 2 and 4): the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville, NY. It's a gravel path circling a lake but there's an offshoot trail that takes you up a hill (and eventually back to the entrance) that is just challenging enough for little ones and rewards them with a great view and a sense of accomplishment.

It's not too far a drive (about an hour on weekend mornings) and there are restrooms in the parking lot to make things easier. One note is they don't allow picnics, but there are some tables in the parking lot that you can use.

We've even gone when it's been wet and with some boots and Muddy Buddies it's still worthwhile."


Sam’s Point
“Just wanted to report back that the hike thru Sam's Point was amazing. with the fall colors and the incredible scenic views, it was truly breathtaking. It was not easy as we chose to take the long loop at 8.5 miles, but the last three miles were not too rough as it was just the carriage road back to the parking lot at the conservation center. our daughter hiked with us for about half the time, and was on my back for the other half. we ended up splitting up with a faster group of friends, while the slower group stayed with us and hiked slowly. it took us about 6.5 hours with a 45 min. Break for lunch at the waterfall. The temps were perfect, just had to bring layers for the AM and for the sunset.”


Shirley Chisholm State Park

"Also Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn is fun. Not a total nature experience, but it has lovely views."


South Mountain Preserve


Staten Island Greenbelt

"We've been enjoying the Staten Island Greenbelt. You can park at a few different lots and there are a bunch of easy, well-marked trails. In fact, we're probably headed there this morning."

"There are really nice trails starting from the Greenbelt Nature Center in Staten Island. It's only about 45 min away (depending on traffic)."


Sterling Forest


Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining (Westchester)

“About 1 and 1/4 drive away [...] and has a number of trails of varying difficulty, including one mile around a lake that's great if you're carrying a baby in a backpack carrier. There's also a nature center with some animals and nice clean bathrooms!

"My wife and I had a lovely time with our 2 yr old in the pack walking the trials at Tea Town. Lots of spots for them to walk, a lovely lake and a solid workout for the adults."

"Although I wouldn't call it hiking per se, we just did the 1.5 mile Lakeside Loop at Teatown Lake Reservation this weekend with our 2.5 year old. It's very flat so he was able to walk about half of it on his own. Lots of ducks, geese and a pair of swans to look for, and the Nature Center has turtles, snakes and other small animals on view."

"[We] visited Tea Town and did the loop trail there around the lake last weekend. It was fun and lots of things to see for the little ones (they have a nature center and outdoor section with turtles, owls, hawks and other animals)! Our 2 yr old needed to be carried for most of the route -- so I'd def suggest a hiking backpack for those thinking about this trip. (We also had our 8 mth old with us so initially had the stroller out -- we soon realized that the route isn't stroller friendly so we put her in a carrier for the walk.)"


Tuxedo Park
“Tuxedo Park has some good trails and you can take Metro North. The station is right by the entrance to the trails.” More info >


Walkill Valley Rail Trail

"Walkill valley rail trail is BEAUTIFUL this time of year (about two hours from Brooklyn). Goes through multiple towns with great stops for coffee/lunch/bathrooms."


Walking Dunes

"The Walking Dunes in Amagansett are perfect for those ages. Lots of easy trails in Montauk near the lighthouse too."


Watchung Reservation

 "It's close by, lots of easy trails, and there is a great playground there too. I've gone a couple of times now (last fall and this summer). Did hikes with my son in the hiking carrier and with him walking on his own when he got squirmy."


And some not-so kid friendly hikes to be aware of:



“[We went on a] hike of cascade mountain in Keene, NY of the Adirondacks. it's nearly 5 miles round-trip and I don't think we made a wise choice given the tricky ascent and descent. I've heard Sleeping Beauty and Giant Mountain trail are probably better for kids, that are kid-friendly (Ii looked this up after the fact, oh well. so much for planning).
We chose Cascade b/c the last time hubs and i did this, i was pregnant with the little one. Now 5 years later we get to make the ascent again, this time with her in tow. The last mile or so she was quite upset. but up until that point, she hiked like a champ. it was quite windy and cold at the top.”



“There's at least one port authority bus that drops you off at a trailhead at Harriman. I did a 7 mile hike while 8 months pregnant this way. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, I was tired, but it was great.”


Recommendations for trickier (but great) hikes for adults and older kids:


Black Rock Forest

"I recently did a 9 mile loop in Black Rock Forest, just north of Harriman. It was great - there are a lot of different options for routes to make it longer or shorter. There were a couple spots with pretty views and the hike overall was very pretty. Some steep spots but overall, not too much of a climb. I left early and got there in about an hour 20 and the return trip took about an hour 45."


Breakneck Ridge

"Breakneck Ridge near Cold Spring is one of our favorites."


Cold Spring to Beacon

"If you like to stay in the area: we loved the hike from Cold Spring to Beacon - check alltrails-app for details."


Devil's Path

"My husband and I did Twin Mountain and Indian Head Mountain via Devil's Path this summer without the kids. It's about 8 miles, a bit strenuous and nice views. The drive is a little longer than 1 1/5 hours though. Have fun!"


Mohonk Preserve

“Lots of options at Mohonk Preserve."