Some people have mythical, trusted sherpas who can relay all of the details of different Hudson Valley hikes to them. For everyone else, there’s Google, which leads to Mike Todd and Hike the Hudson Valley.
Going on a hike requires a lot of information, and his site has the goods. On his 75+ hiking guides, he covers how to get there, where to park, where the trail starts, if your dog is allowed, what supplies you may need, what points of interest there are on the trail (with pictures), maybe a place where you can relax and get pizza afterwards, and throws in lots of dad jokes along the way.
He’s been adding and updating hike guides since 2011 by his lonesome, and his site has provided an incredible amount of value to hikers: it’s gets over 1.5 million hits annually! We profiled Mike in our article about Hudson Valley Influencers, and we also partnered with him last winter on a very exclusive Hike the Hudson Valley apparel Kickstarter.
We just launched a massive responsive overhaul of the site in WordPress. In addition to looking slicker and performing much better on different devices, there’s more search functionality and discoverability of new hikes, a blog section, and room for future expansions like region-specific guides and ongoing merch sales. Also, instead of just having Google serve up generic ads, we’ve now opened the door for local businesses and organizations to advertise across the site or on specific hike guides. It’s a great way to intersect with hundreds of thousands of people making plans to visit the Hudson Valley.
As part of our process for working on the site, we wanted to know which local hikes get Googled the most. It’s the #1 indicator of how much activity and interest different natural attractions are generating. Here they are.
By the way, if you’re coming up via Metro North, you’re probably going to need a little extra hop in a car to get to most of these places (except Breakneck Ridge). If you enjoy this article, consider using our affiliate link to rent a Zipcar, which partners with Metro North to have cars at their stations. We’ll get a couple of bucks and you’ll have a car to get to exactly where you’re going.
1. Breakneck Ridge
Is Breakneck Ridge popular because it’s a stop on the Metro North train line, or because it has some of the best views in the entire region? Why not both? News of its temporary closure for maintenance and the construction of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail turned out to be premature, but if you’re planning on visiting in 2019, make sure you double-check that it’s open.
2. Kaaterskill Falls
In addition to being Googled like crazy, the falls are also the second-most Instagrammed location in the entire Catskills region. They first went viral in the 1820s, when Washington Irving mentioned them in Rip Van Winkle, leading to Kaaterskill’s first deluge of artists and tourists. We actually have two Kaaterskill Falls hikes on our site, for both the upper and lower trailheads.
Like Breakneck Ridge, Kaaterskill’s wild popularity is forcing governmental organizations and non-profits to step up their games about promoting and enabling responsible hiking; both in terms of hiker education and building safer trails and features.
3. Minnewaska State Park
This park opened in 1993 with over 20,000 acres of hiking, biking, swimming and running, and has climbed its way to being visited by a reported 300,000 people annually. In addition to the hike guide for the preserve at large, HtHV also has a writeup of Gertrude’s Nose, which, for our money, is one of the best hikes available to us in the Hudson Valley.
4. Vanderbilt Mansion
This isn’t 100% a hiking destination; there’s considerable interest in the museum and the gardens of the historic site. It’s one of the several Gilded Age estates located along Route 9 in Hyde Park.
5. Bear Mountain State Park
According to NY-NJ Trail Conference’s headcount for 2017, Bear Mountain is the second-most popular hike in their purview. Part of it is its proximity to New York City; it’s only 50 miles north. The other element is that there’s a parking lot at the summit of the hike, so it provides an accessible experience for people who can’t or don’t feel like tackling a steep climb.
6. Walkway Over the Hudson
This is already popular, and it’s going to get even better with Ulster County’s $4.6M investment to connect the Walkill Valley Rail Trail (which goes from Walden to Kingston) to the Walkway over the Hudson, which connects to the Dutchess County Rail Trail from Poughkeepsie to Hopewell Junction. This span marks a major highlight of that journey, although if you’re on a bike, you definitely have to slow down and dodge around pedestrians.
7. Locust Grove
This is located behind the Route 9 “strip mall-a-palooza,” and is part of Poughkeepsie’s Morse Estate, which combines a historic building, museum and nature preserve with five miles of carriage paths. All of the searches aren’t necessarily about hiking; Locust Grove is also a sought-after wedding and event destination.
8. Bash Bish Falls
The tallest waterfall in Massachusetts, the falls are easy to get to after a short hike that starts in Copake, NY, right off the Taconic Parkway. It’s a big destination for the Berkshires, and if you’re ever headed that way, make sure you check out Great Barrington too! We went to Great Barrington once and it was awesome.
9. Olana State Historic Site
This one isn’t on the list of hikes (yet), and it’s a pretty leisurely mile loop around the estate of a famed Hudson River School artist named Frederic Edwin Church. It’s credited with drawing 170,000 visitors to Columbia County annually. The newest exciting development is that there’s an almost $15M investment proposed by NYS to create a Hudson River Skywalk that will connect Olana, in Hudson, to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, by extending pedestrian trails to reach a walkway that’s already at the Rip Van Winkle bridge.
10. Storm King Mountain
This is the sibling mountain of Breakneck Ridge; it can be seen right across the Hudson from the Breakneck train station. It’s south of Cornwall and has a quick (albeit steep) 2.5 mile loop to get “some of the best views of the Hudson Valley without renting a helicopter.”
If you’ve ever heard of Scenic Hudson, or visited one of their many protected properties in the Hudson Valley, Storm King is where it all started. This Wikipedia article goes into it, but the organization was formed in 1963 to fight the construction of a Con Edison power plant on the mountain. It’s said to be the first time U.S. citizens mounted a legal challenge to development on environmental grounds.
11. Overlook Mountain
Overlook also made our list of the Most-Instagrammed Places in the Hudson Valley, owing to the fire tower at the top and the burned out hotel ruins along the way. In April of this year, the Town of Woodstock unveiled an expanded parking lot, two new trails and some additional camping areas off to the side.