One of the things the Hudson Valley is known for is the abundance of awesome hiking trails and gorgeous vistas. If you’re looking for a great family-friendly activity that never gets old, hiking is among the best! From flat walking trails to more strenuous hikes and climbing and bouldering, Hudson Valley hiking has got it all. Pack plenty of water, some healthy snacks, and maybe a shirt to change into, and get GOing!
Here’s a list of five easy to moderate hikes in the Mid-Hudson Valley that are perfect for families looking for an active way to spend an afternoon!
Mt. Beacon – Casino Trail
It’s a mile from the trailhead on Rt. 9D to the summit, which sits at 1531 feet. You can expect to make it up in anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, and the views of the Hudson River, the Hudson Highlands, and the City of Beacon are spectacular.
Grab the Fishkill Ridge trail map from ScenicHudson.org and follow the red trailblazer marked Casino trail for a great hike up Mount Beacon to the Casino and Wheel House ruins. If you get to the top and are pumped to keep going, keep following the red trailblazers Southeast until you get to a white trail that leads you just a bit south to the Mount Beacon Fire Tower. Parking is free, and there’s no entrance fee.
Pack a snack, and pair this trip with a history lesson once you’re at the top, and you’re set for an educational and invigorating day out! Along the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, by Gregory Bilotto, is a great read on the history of the once great rail line that climbed Mount Beacon, and it makes a perfect afternoon companion as you relax atop the mountain before making your way back down again.
There’s a porta-potty at the trailhead, so bring some biodegradable wipes and hand sanitizer.
Sam’s Point Preserve – Ice Caves Trail
The Ice Cave Trail at Sam’s Point Preserve is a Hudson Valley must, and for good reason. The Shawangunks offer some of the best views and most interesting outcroppings around. You’ll have to wait until Spring, Summer, or Fall to cross this one off your bucket list, as the trail is closed during the winter, but boy, is it a beautiful hike! You start out at the visitor center and meander your way past gorgeous views and breathtaking rock formations and on to the Ice Caves Trail. From there you’re in for an even bigger treat, as you climb up and down through the cavernous feature and around the ridge.
** Note: ALWAYS obey posted signs! Some trails are closed in the winter. **
Be forewarned— it gets busy enough here that the State Park rangers turn people away once the lot’s full, so to avoid the crowds (and for the best photo ops), plan on arriving before 10 AM or going on a weekday. Maps are available at the visitor center, and if you don’t have an Empire Passport, you’ll be able to pay the vehicle access (parking) fee with cash or card at a kiosk. Hiking boots or nice, grippy, thick-soled sneakers are a must.
Sam’s Point borders (and is officially part of) the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, so those of you with extra energy have the option of looping all the way up through the main parklands.
Here’s a tip from an EveryTrail member who did the ICT and then some: “Bring a thermometer with you to see the difference in air temperature while making your way through the ice caves.“
Restrooms are available at the Visitor Center.
Mohonk Preserve – West Trapps Trailhead
Mohonk Preserve is a beautifully maintained nature preserve in Ulster County, and, like Sam’s Point Preserve, is located on Shawangunk Ridge and borders Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
While the Visitor Center at Mohonk Preserve and the immediate grounds (including the 1/4 mile Sensory Trail) are free to enter, you’ll need to pay a daily fee or be a member in order to go exploring on preserve property. Grab a map for the West Trapps Trailhead, and you’ll start out easy with a jaunt through the remains of the Trapps Mountain Hamlet Historic District. Keep going and you’ll loop around the base of the cliffs where folks climb, affording you views above as well as below into the valley.
The Visitor Center is worth exploring in its own right, and of course, restroom facilities are available there.
Schunnemunk State Park – Trestle Trail
Schunnemunk Mountain (also spelled Shunemunk) is like a shiny pearl that gets overlooked in favor of its more popular, marquise-cut cousins to the north. The trails are nice and easy, with lots of shade and a comfortably gradual ascent, and you’re treated to some decent views as you make your way along the white trailblazed Trestle Trail. You can double back and follow the white markers back to the parking lot, or you can loop around and go East on the yellow marked Jessup Trail, then North on the red marked Otterkill trail back to where it meets the white trail at the trailhead.
There are five trailheads— here’s where the white-blazed Trestle Trail begins on Otterkill Road: Google Maps. You’ll want to start there to get maximum hike value in the shortest amount of time— including altitude and views! You can grab a free trail map from the website here. There aren’t any restrooms here.
Storm King State Park – Butter Hill Trail
Before you even get to the parking lot, you’ll be marveling at the views overlooking the Hudson— they’re beautiful! Just a stone’s throw from West Point, Storm King Mountain comprises some of the most majestic views in the Hudson Valley. Right from the trailhead, get ready for some rock scrambles as you climb your way up to the Butter Hill summit. It’s a fun and satisfying hike up, and in addition to the summit, you’re treated to multiple vistas as you follow the trail loop and head back toward the parking lot.
FYI: The parking lot can only be accessed from the Northbound lane on 9W. There aren’t any restroom facilities, so plan accordingly, or bookend your trip with a jaunt to Cornwall. Here’s a Google Map that’ll get you there: Google Maps. A trail map can be found on AllTrails here.