Winter Hikes in New York: Embrace the Cold

This blog was updated from an earlier version

New York State Winter Hikes on the Empire Trail
Manhattan Greenway Trail

Distance from Moynihan Train Hall: 3.7 miles to The Battery

Ready to hike, but not looking to travel too far? The Manhattan Greenway Trail is the perfect destination for city residents who want to stay close to home or for anyone who prefers urban trails. Strolling through New York City may not provide you with mountain views, but it surely has its perks. This trail is the first segment of the Hudson Valley Greenway Trail. The trail takes hikers on a walk along the beautiful Hudson River. Starting at The Battery, hikers can begin wherever they want on the trail.  It’s easy to forget New York’s natural environment when living in the concrete jungle, but the Greenway Trail will be sure to remind anyone that Manhattan has its own natural beauties, especially in the winter.

William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail
Walkway Over the Hudson

Distance from Poughkeepsie Station (POU): 0.9 miles to Walkway Over the Hudson

Taking Amtrak to the  Poughkeepsie Station provides hikers with access to two trails. The Walkway Over the Hudson is an attraction unto itself; but it also connects two trails with the Empire State Trail. On the Dutchess County side of the Walkway, hikers can complete the 13.4-mile William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail, which extends east to the restored Hopewell Depot in Hopewell Junction. Hikers will be able to experience both the beautiful winter scenery of the Hudson River and a wooded winter wonderland. You can cross-country ski and snowshoe on any unplowed section of the Dutchess Rail Trail. 

Hudson Valley Rail Trail
Hudson Valley Rail Trail

Distance from Poughkeepsie Station (POU): 0.9 miles

On the other side of the Walkway Over the Hudson is the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which takes walkers from Lloyd to New Paltz on a 9-mile hike. The first seven miles are paved and reserved for bicyclists and hikers only; the final two miles are considered “off-road”, appropriate for experienced bicyclists and walkers comfortable traveling on road shoulders next to vehicle traffic. Typically, completion of this trail takes around three to five hours on foot and one hour by bicycle in the warmer months. In the winter months, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available as well.  If you forget to pack a lunch on the trail, there is a variety of eateries along the way.

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

Distance from Poughkeepsie Station (POU): 11 miles to Water Street Market in New Paltz

Once you’ve reached the end of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, you’ll find the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.  The 22+-mile rail trail winds along the former Walkill Valley Railroad corridor from Gardiner to Kingston,  with access points in Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale and Kingston. Just like the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, you’ll find plenty of things to do and places to eat while on your hike. You’ll enjoy thick forestry, sprawling hills and the presence of the Walkill River on the unpaved stone trail which is open from dawn until dusk. You may also notice a familiar attraction. The Springtown Truss Bridge, famously featured in the popular film, “A Quiet Place,” starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, can be seen and hiked along the way. Horses are also welcome.

Albany-Hudson Electric Trail
Albany Hudson Electric Trail

Distance from Hudson Station (HUD): 2.6 miles from Lorenz Park in Hudson.

Opened in December 2020, this 36-mile trail runs from the city of Hudson north to the city of Rensselaer.  The trail, built on the path of a former electric trolley rail, is 10-feet wide with gentle slopes. Most of the trail is paved asphalt, except for some rural sections in Columbia County that have a compacted stone dust surface. For visitors who are looking to complete the entirety of the trail, there are multiple locations to spend a night or weekend. Hikers opting for a shorter hike can walk the 11 miles from Hudson to Kinderhook, which should take approximately four to six hours.  Like to hike with your furry friend? Bring your leashed dog along with you. In the winter, the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail will remain unplowed, which makes this trip the perfect opportunity to break out your snowshoes, snowmobile and cross-country skis.

Empire State Trail

Distance from Syracuse Station (SYR): 3.3 miles to the beginning of the trail on Wallace Street.

The Syracuse section of this Empire State trail is a great option for hikers looking for something quick and easy. This Syracuse to Dewitt section, all on road and paved, is only six miles. While on this trail, bicyclists and walkers must stay alert for vehicle traffic at many road crossings and intersections.  A new trail segment runs east for three miles in the grass median on Erie Blvd.  Treat yourself to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in downtown Syracuse when you’re done!

Erie Canalway Trail

Distance from Rochester Station (ROC): 3.6 miles to the Genesee Valley Park Gateway

The Erie Canalway Trail covers a vast portion of Upstate New York, stretching 360 miles from Cahoes (outside of Albany) to Buffalo. Because of the great length of the trail, hikers may be interested in traveling a shorter section. By taking Amtrak to the Rochester Station, hikers can begin their trek from Genesee Valley Park Gateway. From here you can opt for the shorter segment of Rochester to Fairport for a 14-mile hike, lasting approximately five to seven hours on foot. Much like the other segments of the Empire State Trail, the Erie Canalway Trail is home to fascinating historical landmarks, including the current operational New York State Canal System.