12 Best New York State Parks: Beautiful Parks in NY State

by Jem
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Are you looking for the best state parks in New York? Here’s a selection of New York’s best state parks that promise unforgettable experiences.

Planning a trip to the Empire State? While the dazzling lights of Times Square and the iconic skyline of Manhattan might be the first things that come to mind, New York has a secret up its sleeve: its beautiful state parks. From the cascading waterfalls of the Catskills to the pristine shores of the Finger Lakes, New York’s state parks are a surprise for many.

In this article, we’ll journey through 12 of New York’s best state parks. Each park, with its distinct allure, promises an experience that lingers long after the visit. Whether you’re an adventurer seeking thrilling New York hiking trails, a family aiming for a picturesque picnic spot, or someone yearning for a peaceful retreat amidst nature, New York’s parks have something special in store for you.

Alongside our exploration of these green sanctuaries, we’ll share essential travel tips to make your visit even more memorable. From insights on the best time to visit New York State Parks to pointers on uncovering hidden gems within the parks, we’ve got you covered.

If the idea of discovering New York’s best parks excites you, you’re in for a treat. Pack your essentials, gather your sense of adventure, and let’s set off on this captivating journey through this New York gems. Here are the best New York state parks that you should know about.

The top New Yrok State Parks to visit right now
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Best New York State Parks: 12 Beautiful Parks in New York State

Are you ready to uncover all the top state parks in New York? As highlighted earlier, New York isn’t just about its bustling cities and iconic landmarks. It’s a state that offers diverse natural beauty, perfect for both the young and the young at heart. Keep reading to find out the must-visit state parks in New York.

Are you keen on witnessing the majestic waterfalls of the Catskills? Or perhaps you’d rather embark on a serene hike through the tranquil trails of the Adirondacks? Whether it’s awe-inspiring natural wonders or peaceful nature retreats, New York’s state parks have something for everyone. Here are all the best state parks in New York that you shouldn’t miss.

1. Letchworth State Park

Welcome to Letchworth State Park, a standout in New York’s impressive line-up of natural wonders. Often hailed as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” this park seamlessly combines majestic landscapes with a sprinkle of adventure. The handiwork of the Genesee River is evident in the breathtaking gorge it has carved, and as you explore, you’ll be greeted by three of New York State’s best waterfalls, each telling its tale of nature’s grandeur.

Boasting over 60 miles of trails, Letchworth is a dream for both leisurely walkers and dedicated hikers. Every trail unveils a different aspect of the park’s beauty, ensuring a fresh experience with each visit. For thrill-seekers, the Genesee’s white-water rafting opportunities are a must-try.

And if you’re looking for a unique perspective, how about a hot air balloon ride? Soaring above the park, you’ll capture panoramic views that are a visual treat. Time your visit during the fall, and the park transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, making it one of the best times to visit NY State parks.

All in all, Letchworth State Park is an enchanting destination that beautifully encapsulates the natural splendor of New York. As such, it’s a New York State Park I recommend everyone to visit at least once.

In the stunning list of natural beauties in New York, Letchworth State Park definitely stands out.
In the stunning list of natural beauties in New York, Letchworth State Park definitely stands out.

2. Watkins Glen State Park

Step into Watkins Glen State Park, and you might feel like you’ve entered a fairy tale. Located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, this park is one of the must-visit places in upstate New York. The main attraction? A mesmerizing gorge path that winds its way past 19 waterfalls. Yes, you read that right, nineteen! As you stroll along the Gorge Trail, you’ll be surrounded by cascading waters, stone bridges, and lush greenery, creating an atmosphere of pure enchantment.

For those who love to camp under the stars, Watkins Glen offers some of the best opportunities in New York state for camping. Imagine waking up to the gentle sound of waterfalls and the crisp morning air – it’s an experience that stays with you.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, this park is a dream come true. Every corner offers a picture-perfect moment, especially during sunrise when the golden light plays on the water. And for families, the park’s picnic areas provide the ideal setting for a memorable day out.

Wrapping it up, Watkins Glen State Park offers a blend of natural beauty and outdoor activities that cater to all. From the captivating waterfalls to the serene picnic spots, it’s a destination that promises both relaxation and adventure. Is this one of the state parks in NY? You bet!

Watkins Glen State Park may make you feel as though you've entered a fantasy tale.
Watkins Glen State Park may make you feel as though you’ve entered a fantasy tale.

3. Adirondack Park

Spanning over six million acres, Adirondack Park isn’t just any park. It’s the largest publicly protected area in the United States. This vast expanse is a mosaic of dense forests, shimmering lakes, and rugged mountains. Looking for the best hiking trails in New York State? The Adirondacks offer paths that range from gentle walks to challenging ascents, each leading to breathtaking vistas.

One of the park’s crowning jewels is Lake Placid, a haven for water enthusiasts. If you’re into kayaking, fishing, or lounging by the shore, this lake has got you covered. And if you visit during winter, the Adirondacks transform into a snowy wonderland, making it one of the best parks in New York State for families who love skiing or snowboarding.

The Adirondacks also boast charming towns dotted with cozy cabins, artisan shops, and local eateries serving delicious fare. And for history lovers, the park’s rich past, from the logging era to the 1980 Winter Olympics, offers fascinating insights.

Coined by many as one of New York State’s most beautiful parks, Adirondack Park is a diverse and expansive retreat that promises a myriad of experiences. It’s a place where every visitor leaves with cherished memories.

Unlike other parks, Adirondack Park is unique, it is the biggest region that is publicly protected.
Unlike other parks, Adirondack Park is unique, it is the biggest region that is publicly protected.

4. Niagara Falls State Park

When you think of iconic places to visit in New York, Niagara Falls State Park undoubtedly tops the list. Home to the world-famous Niagara Falls, this park offers visitors a front-row seat to one of nature’s most powerful displays. The thundering roar of the falls, combined with the misty spray, creates an experience that’s both exhilarating and humbling.

Visitors can explore a variety of viewpoints, with the Observation Tower providing an unparalleled panoramic view. For a closer look, the Maid of the Mist boat tour takes you right to the base of the falls, ensuring you feel their full force. And if you’re keen on exploring the New York waterfalls from a different perspective, the Cave of the Winds tour allows you to venture behind the cascading waters.

Beyond the falls, the park offers a wide range of activities for kids and adults alike. Explore the lush landscapes, discover local wildlife, or enjoy a picnic with the falls as your backdrop. Additionally, the park’s history, from its formation to its role in the industrial revolution, offers intriguing insights for those interested in the past.

Niagara Falls State Park stands out as one of the best New York State parks, not just for its iconic waterfalls but also for the myriad of experiences it offers. From its rich history to the diverse activities available, it’s a place that captivates and leaves a lasting impression on every visitor. As such, it’s no wonder this is among the best NY state parks for visitors.

Niagara Falls State Park comes to mind when you think about famous destinations to see in New York.
Niagara Falls State Park comes to mind when you think about famous destinations to see in New York.

5. Robert H. Treman State Park

Discover the allure of Robert H. Treman State Park, a gem nestled in the Finger Lakes region. This park captivates with its mix of rugged canyons, serene woodlands, and the show-stopping Lucifer Falls. At a height of 115 feet, Lucifer Falls cascades with grace, offering a backdrop that’s nothing short of spectacular.

If you’re looking to go hiking in New York State, there are over nine miles of trails to explore, each leading to unique vantage points of the gorge, stone staircases, and quaint bridges. And when the sun shines bright, the park’s natural swimming pool, situated at the base of a smaller waterfall, becomes a refreshing oasis. It’s a top pick among the best parks in New York State for families seeking both adventure and relaxation.

Campers can set up at the park’s pristine campgrounds, enjoying a night beneath the stars. History lovers shouldn’t miss the Old Mill, a testament to the area’s rich heritage.

The best time to visit Robert H. Treman State Park is during the late spring and early summer when the waterfalls are at their fullest, and the park’s flora is in full bloom. Additionally, visiting on weekdays or early mornings can help avoid the larger crowds, ensuring a more peaceful experience.

Robert H. Treman State Park offers a blend of natural wonders and activities, solidifying its reputation as one of New York’s most beautiful parks.

An alluring waterfalls in the Robert H. Treman State Park,.
An alluring waterfalls in the Robert H. Treman State Park,.

6. Jones Beach State Park

Dive into the coastal charm of Jones Beach State Park, one of the best New York State parks for beach lovers. Stretching over 6.5 miles of white sandy beaches, this park is the perfect antidote to the city’s hustle and bustle. Whether you’re sunbathing, building sandcastles, or taking a refreshing dip in the Atlantic, the beach promises a day of relaxation and fun.

Aside from the beach, the park offers a large range of activities. The boardwalk, spanning over two miles, is ideal for a stroll, jog, or bike ride, with eateries along the way serving up delicious treats. For music lovers, the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater hosts concerts throughout the summer, featuring top artists and bands.

If you’re planning a visit during the summer weekends, aim to arrive early. The park tends to get crowded, especially on sunny days. Also, keep an eye out for the annual Jones Beach Air Show, a spectacular event that draws aviation enthusiasts from all over.

From sun-soaked afternoons to starlit concerts, Jones Beach State Park offers a refreshing blend of leisure and excitement. It’s a place where New York’s vibrant energy meets the calming embrace of the sea, creating memories that last a lifetime. Is this one of the top NY state parks? 100%!

Dive into the coastal charm of Jones Beach State Park.
Dive into the coastal charm of Jones Beach State Park.

7. Taughannock Falls State Park

Looking for the best waterfalls in New York State? Discover the captivating beauty of Taughannock Falls State Park, home to one of New York’s most magnificent waterfalls. The park’s centerpiece, Taughannock Falls, boasts a dramatic 215-foot drop, standing tall as one of the highest single-drop waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains. This natural wonder, set against a backdrop of ancient rock, never fails to mesmerize visitors.

Several trails in the park offer unique perspectives of the falls. The Gorge Trail, an accessible path, guides you to the waterfall’s base, where you can almost touch the cascading waters. For a bird’s-eye view, the Overlook provides an incredible panorama that captures the essence of the falls.

Apart from its iconic waterfall, the park’s shores along Cayuga Lake are perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating. And if you’re planning an overnight stay, the park’s campgrounds are a serene escape into nature.

Consider visiting during the autumn months. The vibrant fall colors complement the park’s natural beauty, and the crisp air enhances the hiking experience.

Boasting one of the best waterfalls in NY state, Taughannock Falls State Park offers a unique blend of natural splendor and outdoor activities. Located a mere 10 miles north of Ithaca, it’s a no-brainer when compiling a list of New York State Parks to visit.

A mesmerizing falls in the Taughannock Falls State Park.
A mesmerizing falls in the Taughannock Falls State Park.

8. Bear Mountain State Park

New York’s best parks often surprise with their diversity, and Bear Mountain State Park is no exception. Located on the western bank of the Hudson River, this gem offers a mix of rugged mountains, tranquil forests, and shimmering water bodies. It’s an oasis of natural beauty, just waiting to be explored.

At the heart of the park stands the Perkins Memorial Tower. Climb to its peak, and you’re rewarded with sweeping views: the Hudson Highlands, the distant New York City skyline, and on clear days, stretches of the Appalachian Trail. A sight to behold, it’s a site that provides some of the best views in New York State.

The trails here beckon hikers of all levels, from those seeking a leisurely lakeside walk to the more adventurous aiming for mountain summits. And when winter’s chill sets in, Bear Mountain transforms, offering icy adventures like skating and sledding.

If vibrant fall foliage is on your bucket list, this park delivers in spades. However, be mindful of the parking fee and consider arriving early during these popular months.

Get ready to discover the huge range of sights and attractions Bear Mountain State Park offers. From its scenic vistas to seasonal activities, there’s always a new story waiting to unfold with each visit.

Bear Mountain State Park astound visitors with their diversity.
The most impressive parks in New York frequently astound visitors with their diversity, and Bear Mountain State Park is no exception.

9. Gantry Plaza State Park

In the heart of the bustling city lies a serene escape: Gantry Plaza State Park. It is situated in one of the coolest islands of New York, Long Island City, Queens. This 12-acre urban oasis offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline, the iconic United Nations building, and the shimmering East River. It’s a slice of tranquility amidst the urban jungle, making it one of the best parks in New York for city dwellers and tourists seeking a unique perspective of the Big Apple.

The park’s modern design, complete with repurposed gantries, manicured gardens, and sleek benches, contrasts beautifully with the historic backdrop of the city. The illuminated Pepsi-Cola sign, a nod to the area’s industrial past, adds a touch of nostalgia.

Getting to Gantry Plaza is a breeze. It’s easily accessible by subway, with the 7 train’s Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue station being the closest. Alternatively, the NYC Ferry’s Astoria route stops right at the park, offering a scenic journey along the river.

The park is especially appealing to photographers, couples looking for a romantic backdrop, and families wanting a safe space for kids to play. Evening visits are magical, with the city lights reflecting off the water, creating a mesmerizing ambiance.

Gantry Plaza State Park showcases New York’s ability to blend the contemporary with the historic, offering visitors a unique vantage point and a moment of respite in the city that never sleeps. It’s truly one of the best New York State parks for an urban experience.

Gantry Plaza State Park is a tranquil haven in the center of the busy city.

10. Catskill State Park

Nestled in the heart of the Catskill Mountains is the expansive Catskill State Park. This park, spanning over 700,000 acres, is a dream come true for nature enthusiasts and adventurers. With its dense woodlands, winding rivers, and towering peaks, it’s a top spot on the list of best New York State parks and one of my personal favorites.

From the tranquil waters of North-South Lake to the challenging terrains of Slide Mountain, the park offers diverse landscapes that promise unique experiences. Each trail has its own charm, be it cascading waterfalls, panoramic vistas, or delightful wildlife encounters. And if you’re into camping, the park’s sites are perfect for a night under the stars. Anglers, take note: the park’s streams are teeming with trout.

The park’s size means a bit of planning goes a long way. Being close to major cities, it’s a popular weekend getaway, especially in the fall when the leaves put on a colorful show. And remember, some spots might have a parking fee.

Get ready to discover Catskill State Park, where nature’s wonders meet fun-filled adventures. Trust us; it’s a trip you’ll be chatting about for ages!

For those who love the outdoors and adventure, Catskill State Park is a paradise.

11. Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Perched atop the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a rugged beauty that demands attention. Covering over 24,000 acres, this park is a haven for rock climbers, hikers, and nature lovers. With its sheer cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear lakes, it’s no wonder it’s considered one of the best parks in New York state.

The park’s trails cater to all levels of hikers. The Awosting Falls Carriage Road, for instance, offers a relatively easy hike leading to a stunning 60-foot waterfall. For those seeking a challenge, the Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road provides more rugged terrains with rewarding views of the Hudson Valley.

Lake Minnewaska is the park’s crown jewel. Its pristine waters are perfect for a refreshing swim during the summer months, and the surrounding areas offer picnic spots with unbeatable views.

If you’re into rock climbing, the “Gunks,” as the Shawangunk Mountains are popularly known, are a must-visit. They’re renowned for their unique rock formations and challenging climbs. Take note – the park has a small entrance fee, so come prepared.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve offers more than scenic views; it’s a playground for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike. With every trail, waterfall, and lakeside spot, there’s a story waiting to be discovered. Ready to dive into your next adventure?

The untamed splendor of Minnewaska State Park Preserve begs for attention.
The untamed splendor of Minnewaska State Park Preserve begs for attention.

12. Buttermilk Falls State Park

A stone’s throw away from Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls State Park is the epitome of natural splendor. This park, with its cascading waterfalls and lush greenery, offers a refreshing escape without the long journey. It’s a favorite among locals and tourists – and for a good reason.

The park’s namesake, Buttermilk Falls, is a sight to behold. The water tumbles down in a series of cascades and rapids, creating a mesmerizing display of nature’s power. As you explore further, you’ll find more waterfalls, each with its own unique charm, set against the backdrop of the dense forest.

Hiking trails wind through the park, leading visitors to vantage points that offer panoramic views of the falls and the surrounding landscapes. After a day of exploration, the park’s picnic areas provide the perfect spot to relax and soak in the beauty.

Given its proximity to Ithaca, the park can get busy, especially during weekends. An early start can help you beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience.

We’ve journeyed through some incredible parks in New York State, and arguably, we’ve saved the best for last. Buttermilk Falls State Park showcases the sheer beauty and adventure that makes it one of the best New York State parks. Every visit feels like a grand celebration of nature’s wonders.

Buttermilk Falls State Park, which is close to Ithaca, is the pinnacle of the greatness of nature.
Buttermilk Falls State Park, which is close to Ithaca, is the pinnacle of the greatness of nature.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Best New York State Parks:

Eager to learn more about the top state parks in New York? Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) about the best New York State parks. Hopefully, these FAQs will help you decide where to go in New York State for a day filled with nature.

What are the 5 biggest parks in New York State?

New York State is home to numerous state parks, forests, and recreation areas. In terms of sheer size, here are the five largest state parks in New York:

  1. Adirondack Park: This is not only the largest state park in New York but also the largest in the contiguous United States. It covers approximately 6 million acres, making it larger than several national parks combined. The park is a mix of public and private lands, with vast forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers.
  2. Catskill Park: Covering over 700,000 acres, Catskill Park is located in the southeastern part of the state. Like the Adirondack Park, it’s a mix of public and private lands. The park is known for its forested mountains and is a popular destination for hiking, camping, and fishing.
  3. Allegany State Park: Located in the western part of the state, Allegany State Park spans over 64,800 acres. It’s known for its forests, valleys, and reservoirs. The park offers a range of recreational activities, including hiking, swimming, and winter sports.
  4. Harriman State Park: Located in Rockland and Orange counties, Harriman State Park covers over 47,500 acres, making it the second-largest state park in New York’s park system. It offers over 200 miles of hiking trails, 31 lakes, and multiple beaches.
  5. Letchworth State Park: Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park spans over 14,000 acres along the Genesee River. It’s known for its scenic gorges, waterfalls, and hiking trails.

Niagara Falls State Park is arguably the most popular state park in New York. Located in the city of Niagara Falls, it’s home to the world-famous waterfalls that straddle the US-Canada border. The park offers a range of activities, including the Maid of the Mist boat tour, hiking trails, and observation towers that provide panoramic views of the falls.

What is the most beautiful national park in New York?

In terms of national parks, the Gateway National Recreation Area, which we highlighted earlier, stands out in New York. Spanning parts of New York City, it offers a mix of beaches, marshes, and bird-watching spots. Its unique blend of natural beauty within an urban setting makes it a standout.

What state park in New York has the best waterfalls?

While Niagara Falls State Park is the most famous for its iconic waterfalls, parks like Letchworth State Park and Watkins Glen State Park are renowned for their multiple cascading waterfalls. Watkins Glen boasts 19 waterfalls within a two-mile span, making it a favorite for those seeking the best waterfalls in New York State.

What is the most exclusive state park in New York?

Located at the eastern tip of Long Island in the town of Montauk, Montauk Point State Park is often considered exclusive due to its unique features and limited accessibility. It is home to the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in New York State. Plus, it offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean where it meets Block Island Sound.

This state has a wide variety of natural beauties, making it ideal for both young people and people who are still youthful at heart.
This state has a wide variety of natural beauties, making it ideal for both young people and people who are still youthful at heart.

What is the largest NY state park?

Adirondack Park is the largest state park in New York. It covers over 6 million acres, offering a mix of public and private lands. The park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its vast forests, mountains, lakes, and trails.

Are NY state parks free?

Many New York State parks are free to enter, such as Gantry Plaza State Park and Catskill State Park. However, some parks have vehicle entrance fees, especially during peak seasons or weekends. The fee varies depending on the park and the time of year. It’s always a good idea to check the specific park’s website or contact the park directly for the most up-to-date information on fees.

What is the most famous state park in New York State?

The most famous state park in New York State is Niagara Falls State Park. Located in the city of Niagara Falls, it’s the oldest state park in the United States, established in 1885. The park is renowned for its world-famous waterfalls, which are among the most powerful and most visited in North America.

Visitors to the park can get up close to the falls via various viewing platforms, trails, and the famous “Maid of the Mist” boat tour. The park also features attractions like the Cave of the Winds, the Niagara Discovery Center, and an observation tower that offers panoramic views of the falls and the surrounding area.

While other state parks in New York, such as the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park, are larger and offer a wide range of recreational activities, Niagara Falls State Park’s iconic status and international recognition make it the most famous in the state.

Which New York State Park has the best camping facilities?

For camping enthusiasts, Allegany State Park is often regarded as having some of the best facilities in New York. Located in the southern tier of the state, the park offers over 350 campsites, as well as cabins for those seeking a bit more comfort. With two developed areas, Red House and Quaker, campers have a range of options from tent sites to full-service cottages. The park also boasts miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing opportunities, and even winter sports, making it a year-round camping destination.

What is the most visited state park in New York?

The most visited state park in New York is Niagara Falls State Park. It is located in the city of Niagara Falls in western New York, near the borders of Ontario, Canada. The park offers stunning views of the falls from various vantage points and it’s the oldest state park in the United States, established in 1885.

Closing Thoughts on New York’s Best State Parks

New York State, often overshadowed by its iconic city, holds natural wonders waiting to be explored. From thunderous Niagara Falls to tranquil Gantry Plaza State Park, each destination offers a unique blend of adventure, relaxation, and unrivaled beauty. If you’re a seasoned hiker, a family seeking a weekend getaway, or a traveler on the hunt for the next great photo op, there’s a park in New York that’s tailor-made for you.

Our journey through these best New York State parks has showcased the diverse landscapes and experiences the Empire State offers. And while we’ve highlighted some top picks, remember that every park has its own story, charm, and set of memories waiting to be made. So pack your bags, fly to New York, lace up those hiking boots, and set out to discover the most beautiful parks in New York State. Adventure beckons and the best stories are waiting to unfold.

The best New York state parks for all types of travelers.
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