Best Places to Hike in Upstate NY


Grafton Forest Loop. (Photo Credit: Samantha Simmons)

By Samantha Simmons | November 1, 2021


If you are not from Upstate New York, you may be unfamiliar with all of the scenic hikes located in our area. Of course, there are the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks, but what about those a little closer to home? There are 21 trails local to the Albany area.

All Trails is an app that will show you the hikes and trails in whichever area you are interested in, with the ability to filter it to your activity specifications. The app lets users download maps that will allow you to stay on track even without service. There is also an option to leave comments on the hikes after you have completed them to let others know the conditions of the trails.

Easy Hikes:


For hikes that do not involve scaling too much terrain, there are relatively flat trails for those who prefer to simply get out and get moving while enjoying the pretty sights.

You can arrive at the Tivoli Nature Preserve in a 15-minute drive from the UAlbany campus right off of I-90. This hike is a 2.3-mile loop with a small elevation gain of 150 ft. If you are not up to the full 2.3 miles, there is an option to hike a smaller loop that is just under a mile in length. Some of the scenic features of this trail include a lake and stone path.

Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is an 18-mile out and back trail meant more for walking and biking rather than hiking but fits into the easy category of trails. If you are looking to go for a walk or somewhere away from traffic to ride your bike, this is the perfect spot. There are a few other trails in the area similar to this such as the Mohawk-Hudson Canalway Trail, and the Zim Smith Trail, further north towards Saratoga.

Moderate Hikes:


The Southern Waterfall Spur Trail in Rensselaer Tech Park is an out and back trail that is just about 2-miles long with roughly 250 ft. of elevation gain. According to users on All Trails, it is well-marked and not overgrown, but with rain, it can be muddy and slippery on the hills. This is an estimated 15-minutes from campus by car.

For more of a difficult yet still moderate hike, the Grafton Forest Loop in Grafton, NY is a 4.4-mile loop with 600 ft. of elevation with great views and huts along the way to stop if you need to. It can get rocky and the drive up to the start is in somewhat of a rough condition, but the trail overall is a good loop. Watch for salamanders while you’re out there. This one is 40 minutes from campus so it is further than others, but much more of a hike for those who enjoy a challenge.


Difficult Hikes:


To get a more intense hike, you will have to travel further north. In Lake George, there are many easy to moderate hikes, but this is also where the terrain turns into the Adirondacks.


Prospect Mountain is a 2.8 mile out and back hike with over 1,500 feet of elevation. The trail also happens to run along an old railroad. Towards the top, there is a scramble (hands needed to climb) that can be tough, but doable. This trail is also said to be slippery most of the time.


south of Albany is the Labyrinth Trail, a short 2-mile out and back trail with just over 200 ft. of elevation gain. This one does charge a $30 fee, but users on All Trails say that it is well worth the fee and access to other trails along the way. At the end, there is a crevice that you have to climb over. This is where the ‘hard’ level of the trail comes into play.



Tips to staying safe and warm:

- Try not to wear cotton layers. Cotton is not an insulator and will stay wet leading to the risk of hypothermia. Even in the cold, you are sweating.

- Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately. Now that it is getting colder, layers will be your best friend. You can take them off as needed if you get too warm.

- Know the area you will be working with. Some of the high peaks have already received snow. You would not want to hike up only to realize you need microspikes or snowshoes. For the hikes listed here, that level of gear shouldn’t be necessary, but make sure you have the proper footwear. Hiking boots are best.

- Bring extra socks. No one wants wet feet.

- Share your location with someone and provide check-in points with this person

- Carry pepper spray if you can. You never know what you may run into.


Happy hiking!


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