Despite the notoriety of its metropolitan landscapes, like New York City, New York, which covers 54,555 square miles, is geographically dominated by meadows, forests, farms, mountains, and lakes. There are 3607 named mountains in New York. The two mountain ranges that draw the most visitors are the Adirondack Mountains and Catskill Mountains.
The Adirondack Mountains, located in the northeast portion of New York, are home to the tallest peaks in the state. The Adirondacks are a wild, rugged, rocky mountain range that is sparsely developed and highly protected by the state. Widely considered the state’s most recognizable mountain range, the Adirondacks contain 6.1 million acres of the Adirondack Park, a constitutionally-protected Forest Preserve.
Covering over 9,100 square miles, the Adirondacks contain more than 40 summits higher than 4,000 feet including Mount Marcy, the tallest point in the state, Algonquin Peak, the second tallest in the state, and Whiteface Mountain, one of the state’s most famous peaks for outdoor recreation. Interestingly, the Adirondacks do not form a single connected range but form a dome-like circular set of isolated summits and small groups of mountain peaks.
The Adirondack High Peaks, a portion of the Adirondack Mountains, are a set of 46 mountain peaks within the Adirondack Mountains that were believed to encompass all of the Adirondack peaks higher than 4,000 feet. Noteworthy peaks named in the Adirondack High Peaks (including the peaks mentioned above) include Mount Haystack, Mount Skylight, Dix Mountain, and Gray Peak. Despite recent surveying determining that some peaks do not reach the 4,000-foot elevation requirement, New York locals maintain that climbing all 46 peaks warrants eligibility to join the Adirondack Forty-Sixers club. This club was designed to recognize hikers that have hiked the highest mountains in the state, and is a goal for many New York State outdoor enthusiasts.
Despite the common belief that the Adirondack Mountains lie within a physiographic province of the Appalachian Mountains, this fact is widely debated. In fact, some geologists maintain that the Adirondacks may be the only mountains in the eastern United States that aren’t geologically Appalachian and are actually a part of the must older Canadian Shield.
Although the Adirondack Mountains are not technically a part of the famed Appalachian Mountains, New York does lie within a portion of the Appalachian Mountain System, a striking mountain range that stretches from southeastern Canada to Central Alabama in the United States. In fact, 90 miles of the National Scenic Trail, the Appalachian Trail, are found within New York.
The Catskill Mountains, a physiogeographic province of the Appalachian Mountains in southeastern New York, are characterized as a dissected plateau and are another popular area for outdoor recreation. Within the Catskills is the 700,000-acre Catskill Park, as well as notable peaks over 3,500 feet, often referred to as the Catskill High Peaks, like Slide Mountain, Hunter Mountain, Black Dome, Blackhead, Thomas Cole Mountain>, and West Kill Mountain.
The Shawangunk Mountains, referred to as the “Gunks” by locals or Shawangunk Ridge, are a notable ridge of bedrock in southeastern New York. The Shawangunk Ridge is a continuation of the easternmost ridge of the Appalachian Mountains and stretches for 50 miles from Kingston, NY to the New Jersey border. The Shawangunk Ridge protects nearly 25,000-acres of wilderness, but the most popular areas include the Mohonk House, Mohonk Preserve, and Minnewaska State Park.
There are approximately 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks. Some hikers will attempt to scale them all, earning them a spot in the ADK 46ers club. However, you don’t have to hike all of the high peaks to enjoy the Adirondacks.
Take a hike to the top of Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain via the Cascade Mountain Trail. This 5.6-mile trail is rated as moderate and takes you to the top of 4,085 ft Cascade Mountain, one of the Adirondack High Peaks. Nearby Porter Peak is an easy side trip along this trail. This hike features panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and wilderness.
Mount Colden is the eleventh highest and one of the most popular mountains in the High Peaks. There are two major routes up Mount Coldon, via Lake Arnold and Avalanche Pass. The easier ascent from Lake Arnold is a 6.3-mile trek, while the longer, more scenic approach from Avalanche Pass is 7.3 miles. The trail may require some scramblings, so planning ahead is recommended when attempting to hike to the peak of Mount Coldon.
Mount Haystack is the third highest peak in New York and one of the more difficult hikes of the Adirondack Mountain High Peaks. Unlike other peaks in the Adirondacks, Mount Haystack has a bald dome shape. The main trail from The Garden in Keene Valley is an 8.8 mile hike each way and also takes hikers over Little Haystack.
Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest peak in the High Peaks and is accessible by motor vehicle, so you don’t have to hike to the top to take incredible views from the summit. Whiteface Mountain is a popular place for winter recreation and is home to the major ski area that hosted the alpine skiing competitions of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Overlook Mountain the southernmost peak of the Catskill Escarpment. The hike to the peak of Overlook Mountain via a moderate 5-mile out and back trail features a historic fire tower, cabin, and 360-degree views at the summit.
Graham Mountain is the seventh highest peak in the Catskills and a popular 8-mile trail traverses dense hardwood forest to the ruins of a relay station built for Instructional Television before reaching a fire tower at the summit. Part of the trail remains unmarked and on private property, so it’s recommended that you gain permission before heading out.
Letchworth State Park is a 17-mile,14,427-acre state park that features three large waterfalls and 550-ft deep gorge. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park offers 66 miles of hiking trails, as well as a variety of other outdoor recreational activities like whitewater rafting, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and biking. Letchworth State Park is not only considered one of the best State Parks in the country, it is also one of the best places to experience Fall foliage in New York.
Niagara Falls and the Niagra Falls State Park area are arguably the most popular outdoor attractions in New York. Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls straddle the Canadian border and are considered one of the natural wonders of the world. In addition to viewing the waterfalls from several nearby platforms, visitors have access to acres of pristine hiking trails and scenic wilderness.
A premier resort nestled in the woodlands surrounding Lake Placid, in the heart of the Adirondacks, the Whiteface Lodge is a popular lodge for visitors looking to hit the ski-slopes and trails of Whiteface Mountain. The Whiteface Lodge has received numerous national accolades for its luxury accommodations and is considered to be one of the best resorts in the country.
The Mohonk Mountain House is one of New York’s most historic resorts. This Victorian castle-style resort sits within 40,000 acres of forest in the Hudson Valley. The resort offers a variety of luxury accommodations, as well as a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities including snowshoeing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing.