The verdant, open country. The sheer cliffs. The rocky, forested mountains. The placid lakes. The rushing streams.

From the Palisades to the Taconic to the Catskills to the Long Island Sound, the Hudson Valley offers breathtaking views and awe-inspiring vistas -- a jewel waiting to be explored. The six counties north of New York City, bound by the Delaware River to the west, the Berkshires to the north and Connecticut to the east, are a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts -- hikers, bikers, campers, anglers, boaters, bird watchers and rock climbers, to name a few.

What makes the region such an irresistible getaway? A legacy of awareness and love of nature rooted in history.

"A major part of the environmental movement in this country was born in the Lower Hudson Valley," said Edward Goodell, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which created and maintains numerous hiking and biking trails in the region.

"It goes way back to the late 1800s, to the overlogging, when the Palisades were quarried to build the cities," Goodell said.

The Rockefellers and other rich industrialists who lived in the area wanted to protect their views. So the Palisades Interstate Park Commission was born and today manages 24 state parks.

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In all, the Lower and Mid-Hudson counties have more than 100 state parks, including state-owned preserves open to public recreation. Among them are Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks -- New York's second-largest, with 31 lakes and reservoirs and 200 miles of hiking trails. Many others are managed by the counties and communities, each eager to boost local tourism.

More locals and visitors alike are increasingly realizing the treasure trove of greenery that is the Hudson Valley, as attendance in parks rises. The number of visitors to parks in the state in 2012 soared to 60,272,818 -- the highest in 14 years -- according to the parks office.

"State Parks located within the Hudson Valley are an outdoor enthusiast's paradise," said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

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To help you make the most of the Hudson Valley's great outdoors, Newsday offers its guide to places to bike, hike, boat, fish and camp.