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Searching for an unforgettable Northeast hiking experience but find yourself wading through the same old, boring trails? Perhaps you’re tired of elbowing your way through crowds, or longing for those serene wildlife encounters that seem just out of reach. You’re not alone in craving more from your hiking experiences. I’m here to guide you through the hidden gems and unspoiled paths of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut. With over 30 years spent trekking across these landscapes and 15 national parks under my belt for quality assurance, I’ve gathered the best 30 state parks and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Hiking To Heal

My journey into hiking was born not just from a love for the outdoors but as a profound path to healing. After navigating personal trauma, I discovered the transformative power of solo hiking. It offered not just an escape but a way to reconnect with myself and the world around me in a deeply meaningful way. This connection to nature has been my compass, and led me through some of the most beautiful and underappreciated trails in our region. Eventually, it inspired me to create this blog, and began my passion for mindful travel.

Top Trails For You

This post is crafted with you in mind—self-aware women in your fifties seeking to level up your hiking adventures with excitement, peace, and maybe a touch of self-discovery. Whether you’re lacing up your boots for the first time or you’re an experienced hiker looking to stray from the beaten path, I invite you to join me on this journey. We’ll uncover the best-kept secrets of the Northeast’s state parks, promising trails that are anything but boring, beautifully uncrowded, and alive with wildlife. Welcome to the world of best state park hiking in the northeast.

Finally, if you’re a regular reader of my blog (if so thank you!) then you know my lists never countdown to a #1 best. Everyone is different and varied, so I leave it to you to decide which is best. Besides, deciding what YOU like is the best part of self-healing! So here we go:

Connecticut

Connecticut offers a great mix of coastal walks and forest trails. It’s a nice destination for hikers looking for serene nature strolls and moderate climbs. Its trails wind through historic landscapes and offer glimpses of New England’s beauty, from peaceful rivers to rolling hills.

1. Housatonic Meadows State Park, Sharon

river bed with large boulders and rocks among the grass

Housatonic Meadows State Park in Connecticut is a hiker’s delight, featuring trails through lush forests and alongside the serene Housatonic River. Covering 452 acres, this park offers both easy walks and challenging hikes in its many northwestern hills. With its gorgeous Housatonic River views and diverse wildlife, it’s a perfect spot for quiet moments for nature lovers. The park also provides picnic areas for a restful break amidst your hiking adventures.

2. Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden

hiking trail surrounded by fall foliage colors with trail leading up and beyond view

Named for its mountainous ridge resembling a slumbering giant, this park offers over 30 miles of hiking trails. The Tower Trail is a popular choice, leading to a stone observation tower that provides panoramic views of Long Island Sound and the New Haven area. Sleeping Giant State Park is a serene haven where mindful people can immerse themselves in nature. It offers a peaceful escape to spend time reflecting and recharging. It’s a perfect place to connect with yourself and the natural world around you.

3. Talcott Mountain State Park, Simsbury

glistening sun through a gorgeous forest of yellows and reds

This park is home to the Heublein Tower, which stands atop Talcott Mountain. The main trail to the tower is a 1.25-mile hike that rewards you with stunning views of the Farmington River Valley and beyond. On clear days, you can see as far as Massachusetts and New York!

Sleeping Giant State Park is not just a natural curiosity but also steeped in local Native American legend. According to lore, the “giant” was Hobbomock, a powerful spirit who was put to sleep by another spirit to protect the people from his wrath. This blend of natural beauty and folklore adds a mystical element to your hike.

4. Devil’s Hopyard State Park, East Haddam

double waterfall with overflowing streams along thick rock bed

Located in the eastern woodlands region of the state, Devil’s Hopyard is known for its picturesque waterfalls, deep gorge, and the legend-laden Devil’s Hopyard Bridge. The park offers various trails that cater to casual walkers and serious hikers alike. The Vista Point Loop is particularly noteworthy for its breathtaking views of the Connecticut River Valley.

Fans of ancient mysteries will love the pothole stones, circular holes drilled into bedrock by the powerful swirling of water carrying sand and rocks. If you have a penchant for the occult, Devil’s Hopyard will satisfy your curiosity. 

5. Macedonia Brook State Park, Kent

tall pines in a line reflecting off pond at dusk

This park’s rugged terrain and the Blue Trail loop that crosses Cobble Mountain and other high points offer challenging hikes with rewarding vistas of the Taconic and Catskill mountain ranges. The park’s varied topography makes it a favorite among more experienced hikers. Small but packs a powerful hiking punch, Macedonia Brook offers approximately 20 miles of hiking trails.

New Jersey 

Hiking in New Jersey means trails with everything from soft sands to those mixed with thick beds of pine needles. From the serene beauty of the Pine Barrens to the rugged trails of the Appalachian Mountains, the state’s unique combination of scenic coastal views, dense forests, and historic sites provides a nice variety. New Jersey is my home sweet home and will always have my heart, but just make sure to have bug spray including tick prevention.

6. Batsto State Park, Hammonton

sandy pitch pine forest adjacent to Batsto lake

Batsto Village within Wharton State Forest in New Jersey offers a unique hiking experience that combines natural beauty with historical exploration. The park features a variety of trails that meander through the New Jersey Pine Barrens. You’ll  hike pass the historic Batsto Village, an ironworks village dating back to the 18th century, along serene lake shores, through dense pine forests, and across vast wetlands. These trails cater to all levels of hikers, providing both easy walks and more challenging hikes. It’s an ideal destination if you’re looking to enhance your outdoors experiences with cultural and natural history of the region.

7. Parvin State Park, Pittsgrove

view of Parvin Lake through forested trees and hikes

Located in the southwestern part of New Jersey, it offers hikers settings across its diverse landscapes, including pine forests, a swamp hardwood forest, and the serene Parvin Lake. Ideal for hikers of all levels, the park’s trails wind through these varied habitats, offering peaceful walks and opportunities for wildlife observation. Parvin State Park is also rich in history, having served as a camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps and a protection site for displaced Japanese-Americans during World War II.

8. Bass River, Tuckerton

bright oragnge and brown light up the Bass River forest hiking trails

Bass River State Forest, stretching between Ocean and Burlington counties in New Jersey, is your entrance into the Pine Barrens’ unique ecosystem. It features over 23 miles of marked trails that meander through pine forests and around the serene Lake Absegami. While hiking, you’ll cross through the West Pine Plains Natural Area including a pygmy forest, a globally rare stunted forest ecosystem consisting of pine and oak trees that reach a canopy height of as little as four feet at maturity. The forest supports the endangered broom crowberry and twelve rare species of moth. Bring your camera for Instagrammable photos of the sunset. 

9. Belleplain State Forest, Woodbine

view of Belleplaine Lake Nummy beyond pine trees along the shore

Situated in southern New Jersey, Belleplain spans over 21,000 acres of the Cape May Peninsula. It’s a hiker’s haven, featuring extensive trails that traverse through mixed oak and pine forests, alongside streams and lakes. One of the highlights for hikers in Belleplain State Forest is the East Creek Trail, a scenic route that meanders alongside East Creek Pond, offering picturesque views and opportunities to observe a diverse array of local wildlife in their natural habitats. Besides hiking, biking, camping, and bird watching are also crowd favorites. 

10. Wharton State Forest

small footbridge inviting hikers to continue into Wharton Forest - one of 30 state parks for northeast hiking

The largest state forest in New Jersey, Wharton lies in the heart of the Pine Barrens. It boasts an extensive network of trails, including parts of the Batona Trail, which cross diverse landscapes of dense pine forests, wetlands, and historic sites like Batsto Village. A hike here will take your through the homeland of the beloved Jersey Devil. Rumored to be the cursed 13th child of Mother Leeds in the 18th century, he’s a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Over time, this menacing figure has become a cherished part of local folklore, influencing sports team names and sparking numerous reported sightings.

11. Brendan T Byrne State Park

hike along cranberry bogs and swamp land at Brendan T Byrne state park

Also located in the Pine Barrens, Brendan T. Byrne offers an extensive network of trails that provide a serene hiking experience through its characteristic pine forests and cedar swamps. Home to some of New Jersey’s oldest and most productive cranberry bogs, they are the state’s leading cranberry producer. During the fall harvest, these bogs turn a vibrant red, offering a stunning visual and insight into cranberry farming traditions.

12. Allamuchy Mountain State Park, Byram Township

yellow and orange foliage in the trees and lining the trail at Allamuchy

Allamuchy presents a contrasting landscape with its rugged terrain and diverse natural features. Located in Northern New Jersey, the park boasts over 34 miles of marked trails that cross dense woodlands, rocky outcrops, and tranquil lakes. Hiking in Allamuchy Mountain ranges from gentle walks to challenging climbs, offering breathtaking views and a variety of outdoor activities. A fun fact about the park is that it encompasses the historic Waterloo Village, a restored 19th-century canal town, providing hikers not just with natural beauty but also a glimpse into the past. If you’re looking for a modern day historic town, visit nearby Lancaster, PA.

New York

New York offers lots of opportunities for mindful trips, and has all kinds of hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for easy walks near the city or bigger mountains like the Adirondacks and Catskills, NY has got it all. It’s a great place for anyone to go hiking and find beautiful forests, tall mountains. These five parks also provide excellent access to water for swimming, wading, and photographs.

13. Robert H. Treman State Park, Tompkins County

geological rock formations the backdrop for waterfalls for hiking at Robert Treman

Hiking in Robert H. Treman State Park in New York is an unforgettable experience. The park features rugged gorges and stunning waterfalls, including the famous Lucifer Falls, which drops over 100 feet. Trails wind through scenic terrain, offering hikers a variety of landscapes from dense forests to streamside paths. The Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail form a loop that showcases the park’s natural beauty, making it a rewarding hike for both novice and experienced hikers. Along the way, visitors can enjoy swimming holes, picnic areas, and breathtaking overlooks, making it a perfect destination for those looking to explore the great outdoors.

14. Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Gardiner 

sunset at Minnewaska park in NY with glassy lake and colorful sky hues

Minnewaska in New York is a remarkable natural sanctuary located on the Shawangunk Ridge, known for its rough terrain, scenic waterfalls, crystal-clear sky lakes, and one-of-a-kind views. Encompassing over 24,000 acres, the park offers a wide range of activities, including hiking, biking, rock climbing, and swimming. Its extensive network of trails leads visitors through unique, diverse landscapes, including dense hardwood forests, rocky outcroppings, and serene water bodies. Minnewaska’s elevation and panoramic vistas make it a favored destination for nature enthusiasts seeking adventure and tranquility alike.

15. Letchworth State Park, Castile

suspension bridge above the rock waterfalls at Letchworth

 Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park boasts over 60 miles of hiking trails alongside the Genesee River, which carves through the gorge, creating breathtaking waterfalls and vistas. The Gorge Trail, in particular, offers stunning views of the main falls and the dramatic cliffs. With its deep gorges, lush forests, and scenic waterfalls, Letchworth provides a memorable hiking experience for all skill levels.

16. Adirondack Park, St. Lawrence County

aerial view of mountains and foliage with slice of river in the far background

 While not a state park in the traditional sense, as it encompasses both public and private lands, the Adirondack Park is one of the largest publicly protected areas in North America. Offering over 2,000 miles of hiking trails that traverse rugged mountains, serene forests, and pristine lakes, the park is a hiker’s paradise. Trails range from easy walks to challenging mountain summits, including the popular High Peaks region, where hikers can summit Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York State.

17. Bear Mountain State Park, Stony Point

Bear Mountain hiking with views of mountains and sky reflected in the water

 Located on the west bank of the Hudson River, Bear Mountain State Park offers a variety of trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail. The park’s diverse landscapes feature rugged mountains, peaceful forests, and meadows. The ascent to Bear Mountain summit provides panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands and the river below. The park is a popular destination for day hikers from New York City and the surrounding areas.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has lots of awesome hiking, and is underrated for its variety of hiking experiences. From gentle slopes of picturesque countryside to challenging terrains of the Appalachian Trail, the trails here will not disappoint. Here are five state parks to get your started.

18. Promised Land State Park, Pike County 

barren and beautiful trees wintering for hikers to see for miles

Nestled in the Delaware State Forest is a hiker’s retreat, offering trails for every level of experience within its 3,000 acres of natural beauty. Promised Land State Park features approximately 50 miles of hiking trails, offering a wide range of experiences for hikers of all skill levels. The park’s diverse landscape includes easy, scenic loops around its serene lakes and more demanding trails that weave through dense forests, perfect for those seeking both tranquility and a physical challenge. 

19. Ricketts Glen State Park, Benton

trickles of waterfalls for layer after layer of stacked rock with lush forest and greenery in backgound

If you love waterfalls, you’re going to love this park. Falls Trail allows hikers to view 21 magnificent waterfalls, the tallest of which, Ganoga Falls, drops 94 feet. The trail system offers a challenging yet rewarding experience as it winds through both forests and along streams. It’s a must-visit for any hiking enthusiast, particularly in the spring when the water flow is at its peak or in the fall for the beautiful foliage. However, for hikers with mobility issues, the slick steps could present difficulties.

20. Ohiopyle State Park, Ohiopyle

soft hues of yellow and red set behind the quickly flowing water over slightly submerged rock

 Famous for its beautiful waterfalls and whitewater rafting, Ohiopyle also offers more than 79 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the 70-mile long Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. This park is perfect for hikers looking for a variety of trails ranging from easy to challenging, with stunning views of the Youghiogheny River Gorge.

At Ohiopyle State Park, every present moment counts, inviting you to feel content as you immerse yourself in a world of natural beauty, where the rush of waterfalls and the quiet of wooded paths remind you to savor life’s simple pleasures

21. Worlds End State Park, Forksville

forest of tall trees at close range with trail marker in sight and yellow sunshine poking through

True to its dramatic name, Worlds End State Park offers rough and natural beauty with vistas that make you feel at the edge of the world. The park’s hiking trails navigate through the Loyalsock Creek canyon, with the High Knob Overlook and the Canyon Vista Trail offering particularly breathtaking views of the Endless Mountains region.

At World’s End State Park, you can open your body and mind to something extraordinary. Take in the natural beauty that invites you to connect deeply with the environment and marks a date with adventure.

22. Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Gardners

large rock protrudes from the earth as millions of years of geologic formations are now used for climbing and leisure

This park is best known as the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail, making it a significant location for through-hikers. The park itself offers a variety of trails, including the challenging Pole Steeple Trail with its iconic overlook providing sweeping views of the Cumberland Valley. The park’s history as a former iron furnace site adds an educational aspect to its trails.

If you go in June, check out the Appalachian Trail Museum Festival. It’s a weekend-long event featuring a banquet, hikes, guest speakers, music, and children’s programs.

Vermont

Vermont is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and extensive network of trails for all levels of hikers. Hike here once and you’ll be hooked. From gentle green hills to challenging treks up mountains, Vermont has it all.

23. Molly Stark State Park, Wilmington

aerial view from fire tower at Molly Stark state park with ominous views of dark clouds in the distance

Molly Stark State Park, situated in southern Vermont, offers hikers the chance to explore the serene beauty of the Green Mountains. Named after the famed heroine of the American Revolution, the park features the Mount Olga Trail, a moderate hike that leads to the top of Mount Olga, where an old fire tower provides panoramic views of the surrounding forests and hills. The trail winds through picturesque landscapes, making it a delightful experience for those looking to enjoy Vermont’s natural splendor.

24. Underhill State Park, Underhill

trail of rock and boulders, most covered with moss and steep mountains closing in the path

For a more intense hiking experience, check out Underhill State Park. Located on the western slopes of Vermont’s highest peak, the park serves as a gateway to several well-marked trails. Among these trails, the Sunset Ridge Trail stands out for its direct route to the top of Mount Mansfield. This hike offers unobstructed, breathtaking views of the Green Mountains, Lake Champlain, and on clear days, the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Hiking routes vary from the relatively moderate CCC Road to the more strenuous Sunset Ridge Trail, which leads directly to the summit.  

25. Emerald Lake State Park, East Dorset 

Emerald Lake in the winter of frozen solid ice for skating and fishing

Nestled in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains, Emerald Lake offers peaceful hiking trails from easy to moderate. Most trails wind around picturesque Emerald Lake, aptly named for its rare green tint. It’s a perfect spot for families and individuals seeking a tranquil nature walk with the opportunity for swimming and picnicking. In the winter, besides pristine New England snow to hike, you can also ice fish, ice skate or even camp.

26. Mount Ascutney State Park, Windsor 

view from ridge line at Mount Ascutney state Park shows views of Green Mountains

For a quintessential New England hiking experience, with ridgeline hiking and tall evergreens, hike Mount Ascutney. Trails here present more challenging hiking adventures and reward your efforts with summit views of its namesake mountain. 

Offering several routes to the top, including the Windsor Trail and the Weathersfield Trail, you’ll enjoy varying levels of difficulty. All options culminate in spectacular panoramic views from the summit’s observation tower. 

The park’s diverse landscapes, including wooded areas, rocky outcrops, and small waterfalls, make Mount Ascutney an excellent day hike in Vermont.

27. Jamaica State Park, Jamaica

waterfall at end of West trail hiking at Jamaica state park. swimmers enjoying the brick waters

Situated in the southeastern region of Vermont, Jamaica offers a unique blend of scenic beauty and historical significance. The park is home to the West River Trail, which follows the river’s course through a deep, forested gorge. It’s a distance of 2 miles, and a brisk water swimming hole at the end thanks to the beautiful waterfall. 

You can enjoy easy to moderate accessible walks along the river, leading to the spectacular Hamilton Falls, one of Vermont’s highest waterfalls. The park also features remnants of the old railroad and dam, adding an element of historical exploration to the hiking experience. 

28. Gifford Woods State Park, Killington

old growth forest at Giffford Woods provides unique experience of ancient forest experience

At the base of Killington and Pico peaks in central Vermont lies Gifford Woods State Park. Offering a rich hiking experience through old-growth hardwood forests, a hike here is truly a New England one of a kind. 

Another rarity of Gifford Woods is its access to both the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail. This suits hikers of various skill levels with paths that range from easy, scenic walks to more challenging, elevated treks. The park is especially popular in the fall, when the foliage turns spectacular shades of color, making it a must-visit for those looking to immerse themselves in Vermont’s autumn beauty.

29. Grand Isle State Park, Grand Isle

Lake Champlain with White Mountains in distance as a sail boat dots the horizon

 Set on the largest island in Lake Champlain, Grand Isle State Park is known for its gentle, family-friendly hikes and beautiful lakeside views. This park doesn’t offer the rugged terrain found in Vermont’s mountainous regions but instead provides a serene setting for leisurely walks and picnics by the water. The easy trails and open spaces are perfect for those seeking a tranquil day out in nature, with plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, and enjoying the scenic beauty of Lake Champlain’s islands.

30. Quechee State Park, Quechee

Quechee gorge provides wading and splashing opportunity along the rock paths and trails

Best known for the Quechee Gorge, Vermont’s deepest gorge, this park offers various trails that provide views of the gorge and surrounding forest. The trails are family-friendly and offer a more relaxed hiking experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Northeast Hiking

What is the best state to hike on the East Coast?

Vermont stands out for all hiking in the Northeast. It offers the serene Green Mountains and part of the Appalachian Trail to choose from. Its diverse landscapes promise rich experiences from challenging treks to peaceful walks, and is surrounded by the best fall foliage and historic trails.

What is the most famous trail in the northeastern US?

The most famous trail in the Northeastern U.S. is undoubtedly the Appalachian Trail (AT). This iconic footpath stretches over 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine, and passes through 14 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

What is the best state park for hiking in the northeast?

Letchworth State Park in New York, often called the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is the top choice for state park hiking. It offers over 66 miles of hiking trails that range from easy walks to more challenging treks, and showcases stunning views of gorges, waterfalls, and the Genesee River.

What is the hardest hiking trail in the Northeast?

The Devil’s Path in New York’s Catskill Mountains stands as the Northeast’s most strenuous hiking trail. Spanning approximately 24 miles, it features steep ascents, tough terrain, and challenging descents across several peaks.

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