Best Nature Spots in New York: Nature-Lovers Guide to NY

Enormous skyscrapers and busy streets are usually the first images that come to mind when we think of New York, but you’d be surprised to know how much nature there is all around the state!

The Empire State doesn’t lack when it comes to glorious natural wonders, especially if what you’re after is to get as far away as possible from the bustle and hustle of the city in order to get in close contact with the outdoors.

From botanical gardens to secret gorges and towering mountains, here’s the ultimate list of wonderful places to visit in New York for a nature-filled escape!

7 Places in New York You’ve Got to Visit if You Love Nature

Map of top nature spots in new york with a collage of pictures depicting nature

1. Catskill Mountains

Set under a two-hour drive away from New York City, the Catskill Mountains are a wonderful mountain range perfect for an outdoorsy getaway that still offers a ton of city-like amenities like restaurants, hotels for all budgets, and lots of activities to keep you entertained during your visit.

USA New York Nature - Catskill Mountains

Waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and a vast array of mountains to conquer (there are a total of 98 peaks in the Catskills, of which 30 of them rise above 3,500 feet above the ground!) are just a few of the sights you’ll get to gawk at while visiting this mountainous area in New York.

As for what to do in the Catskills, there’s no shortage of wonderful activities! During the winter months, the area becomes a mecca for world-class winter sports, including skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and more. Once the snow melts, camping, rafting, and hiking are just a few of the activities on offer!

2. Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes region is one of the most amazing natural areas in the entire state, with superb hiking trails, captivating lakes, and picturesque wineries spread all over the region waiting to enchant visitors.

USA New York Nature - Finger Lakes

Even though Finger Lakes is mostly famed for its top-notch wine production, two other great reasons to pay this part of New York a visit are its gorgeous scenery and fabulous outdoor activities.

During your visit, you can spend your time hiking amid the forest in search of waterfalls, rent a boat, lay at one of the many sandy beaches that line the lakes, or opt to spend a night sleeping under a billion stars.

3. Niagara Falls State Park

I’m pretty sure you don’t need an introduction to one of the world’s most famous waterfalls, but what if I was to tell you there’s a whole lot more to see at Niagara Falls than the falls themselves?

USA New York Nature - Niagra Falls State Park

If you’re up for treading off the beaten path during your visit to America’s oldest state park, you’ll be in for a real treat. After seeing the falls from the top, head down into the heart of the Niagara Gorge by following a hiking trail that will take you right to the base, where you’ll get amazing (and solitary) views of rapids!

4. Mohonk Preserve

If horseback riding is your jam, Mohonk Preserve is probably the best place in entire New York State to do it thanks to its many designated trails for an equestrian escapade.

USA New York Nature - Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve is set just 72 miles away from New York City, making it a perfect day trip away from the city. This amazing preserve protects over 8,000 acres of mountain ridges, fields, streams, ponds, forests, and other environments where you can spend the day riding horses, biking, hiking, and even rock-climbing.

During the colder months, Mohonk becomes a winter wonderland perfect for world-class winter sports, with cross-country skiing across 40 miles of trails being a favorite activity for visitors!

5. Innisfree Garden

Boasting a dreamy 150-acre garden, Innisfree has been constantly recognized for being one of the world’s best gardens.

Featuring a Chinese-inspired design, this garden in Millbrook offers gorgeous water features, stone walls, rocks, and carefully curated plants displayed in order to delight visitors’ senses, making you feel as though you’re walking inside a fantasy movie!

Found in Millbrook, just 90 miles north of Manhattan on the Taconic State Parkway, Innisfree Garden makes for a wonderful day trip from NYC, the perfect outdoor escape for nature lovers (note advance reservations are required).

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: Flower lovers rejoice! Come late summer, there are many sunflower fields in NY that colorfully burst into life across the state.

6. Adirondack Park

Adirondack is not your usual park. Located inside New York’s Forest Preserve, you won’t exactly encounter a guarded entrance when you arrive, but instead, you’ll find a land that’s free for all. Established for “the free use of all the people for their health and pleasure” back in the late 1800s, this unique park is a mix of private and public lands where people live, work, and play surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.

USA New York Nature - Adirondack Park

While visiting, you’ll get to choose from an array of outdoor adventures spread over the 6 million acres that make up the park. Visiting sugar houses and farms, going apple picking, or touring vineyards and breweries are just a few of the activities offered here! Hiking is also huge here, with thousands of miles of trails on the menu.

If you’re into scenic driving in NY, you’ll find options aplenty here. Adirondack boasts tons of beautiful byways and highways, all of which will take you deeper into the park and have you skirting your way through hamlets, villages, and historic towns.

7.  Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park is all about its beautiful gorges and waterfalls. Boasting a total of 19 falls cascading down from rocky walls, the main thing to do at this beautiful state park is going on a waterfall-chasing adventure.

USA New York Nature - Watkins Glen State Park

The absolute best way to hunt as many of them as possible is by hiking the famous Gorge Trail, which will have you following a gorge, weaving through caves, and stumbling across most of the waterfalls found in the park.

What are some other amazing places in New York to visit for all things nature? Let me know if you know of any others worth adding to the list in the comment section below!

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