Take a hike this summer at Taughannock Falls State Park...

Take a hike this summer at Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg, New York. Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images/Education Images

State parks on Long Island may be lush, bountiful with wildlife and gateways to area waterways — but north of New York City, the experience is very different — as the natural world upstate is often mountainous and expansive; a place where gorges, waterfalls and other striking sights await. Here are some state parks designed to be hiked, biked and explored:

BIKING

Wellesley Island State Park

Wellesley Island State Park campground in Wellesley Island, N.Y., has...

Wellesley Island State Park campground in Wellesley Island, N.Y., has 10 miles of paved trails that pass by the facility’s nature center, the marina, a beach and many water views. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/Betty Johnson / Alamy Stock Photo

Not many New York State parks are actual islands, but this preserve in the state’s Thousand Island region (found along the St. Lawrence River between Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain, running through parts of Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties) is surrounded by water, and one must cross the Thousand Islands toll bridge (known locally as the “TI”) to get there. The park has 10 miles of paved trails that pass by the facility’s nature center, the marina, a beach and many water views. The difficulty level is low, with the paths generally flat, with a few gentle slopes or hills in the mix. The park is also about 5.5 miles from Thousand Island Park (42822 St. Lawrence Ave., Thousand Island Park; 315-482-2576, tiparkcorp.com), a hamlet and historic district that’s also rideable and notable for its Victorian cottages and more water views (plus a seasonal ice cream sandwich shop known as “The Guzzle”). 

INFO 44927 Cross Island Rd., Fineview; 315-482-2722, parks.ny.gov; Parking is $7 with tolls collected daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Sept. 4.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Views at the Minnewaska State Park Reserve in upstate New...

Views at the Minnewaska State Park Reserve in upstate New York during summer time. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/Felix Lipov / Alamy Stock Photo

Located along the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge in Ulster County, visitors here will find themselves witness to lakes, steep cliffs, ledges, waterfalls and a thick hardwood forest. There are 50 miles of hiking trails, but the park also possesses 35 miles of multiuse trails known as “carriage roads,” which are designated for biking. These roads — originally created to allow for a smoother ride through otherwise rough terrain — give cyclists excellent views of the Catskill Mountains, as well as its related ravines and valleys, with trails that vary in skill level. 

INFO 5281 RT. 44-55, Kerhonkson; 845-255-0752, parks.ny.gov; $10 collected daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through July 31, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Sept. 5.

HIKING

Taughannock Falls State Park

Visitors pose for a photograph at Taughannock Falls State Park,...

Visitors pose for a photograph at Taughannock Falls State Park, in Trumansburg, New York.  Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

Head to the state’s Finger Lakes region to find this fairly easy to climb — yet loaded with natural wonders — park that features more than eight miles of hiking trails. Paths such as the North Rim Trail and the South Rim Trails are worthy to try; they intersect at the park’s Upper Falls and offer views of a gorge and Cayuga Lake. However, its Gorge Trail is just under a mile in length and mostly flat — so much so that it’s considered wheelchair accessible and stroller-friendly — and it leads to the 215 foot-high Taughannock Falls. Visitors can also look forward to native plant gardens and a Summer Concert Series, held Saturday nights from July 2-Aug. 20. 

INFO 1740 Taughannock Blvd, Trumansburg; 607-387-6739, parks.ny.gov; $9 collected daily 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sept. 5.

Taconic State Park

Harlem Valley Rail Trail at Taconic State Park, New York.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail at Taconic State Park, New York. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/George Ostertag / Alamy Stock Photo

Experienced trekkers can explore this preserve found along the Taconic Mountain Range across Columbia and Dutchess counties. Holding more than 7,000 acres of forest, it has about 30 miles of trails — and while there are paths for all skill levels, many are steep and considered difficult. The park also provides views of the Taconic, Catskill and Berkshire Mountain ranges, the Hudson Valley and shares a border with Massachusetts and Connecticut — and some trails actually cross state borders at various points, so a hike here can become an interstate jaunt. One tough track is the South Taconic Trail, which runs 16 miles and passes over the 2,311-foot-high Brace Mountain (the highest point in Dutchess County) and over the 2,250-foot-tall Alander Mountain in Massachusetts. Another border crossing hike is the 1.5-mile Bash Bish Trail, which starts in New York and ends at the 80-foot Bash Bish Falls, the highest waterfall in Massachusetts. 

INFO 253 RT. 344, Copake Falls; 518-329-3993, parks.ny.gov; $8 collected daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m. through Sept. 6 for swimming and picnic areas; some parking around trailheads is free.

STRIKING SIGHTS

Thacher State Park

Tower Optical at John Boyd Thacher State Park at the...

Tower Optical at John Boyd Thacher State Park at the overlook. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/Erika Nusser / Alamy Stock Photo

About 17 miles west of Albany in the Capital District Region, this preserve has an especially rare quality: it’s located on the Helderberg Escarpment, a geological rise that not only offers views that range from the state capital city to the Adirondacks — as well as the Green Mountains of Vermont when the weather is clear — but also sports exposed limestone cliffs that are considered one of the richest fossil bearing regions anywhere in the United States. Hikers who traverse the park’s more than 25 miles of trails should look to the Indian Ladder Trail, which runs 100 feet below the escarpment, providing a view of varying limestone layers, which was once a sea floor millions of years ago. The trail also passes by a pair of waterfalls, but the rest of the trail system also offers views of other cascades plus meadows, forests and karst terrain. Most of the park’s trails are multiuse, which allow mountain biking. Look for a jump course, pump track and a few miles of single-track mountain biking trails near the park’s Hailes Cave area, as well as 70 sport climbing routes (proper gear is required). 

INFO 830 Thacher Park Rd., Voorheesville; 518-872-1237, parks.ny.gov; $6 collected daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 31.

Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park

People swim in a lake at Harriman State Park in...

People swim in a lake at Harriman State Park in Harriman State Park, New York. Credit: China News Service via Getty Ima/China News Service

Although two separate entities, these two neighboring parks are a shared destination. Harriman (Seven Lakes Dr. / Bear Mountain Circle; Ramapo; 845-947-2444, parks.ny.gov) is larger at 47,000acres, with long-distance hiking trails — but the iconic Appalachian Trail crosses through both, as do other lengthy paths. Harriman also has a pair of lake beaches, but hikers there should look for Reeve’s Meadow, a trail that also serves as a connecting point to other trails; Harriman is deemed a bit of a tough hike due to its rockier topography, but still OK for novices. 

Cyclists can find long routes like Seven Lakes Drive, an 18-mile option that traverses the two parks, but Bear Mountain (Palisades Pkwy or RT. 9W, Bear Mountain; 845-786-2701, parks.ny.gov) has allure for long-distance riders. Hikers can also find a unique opportunity in Bear Mountain State Park, where Doodletown was. A number of defunct communities were usurped by the creation of the park, and Doodletown was one — and a trail runs through it. Bear Mountain also has a zoo, which cares for native animals no longer able to re-enter the wild, a merry-go-round, a beach, a pool and an inn with a restaurant and spa open to the public. Hikers should also look for Fort Montgomery, a Revolutionary War base that has archaeological remains to see. 

INFO Harriman State Park has parking fees of $6-$10 to use its lake beaches between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends; Parking at Bear Mountain: $10 collected weekdays 8 p.m. to 4 p.m., weekends and holidays until 5 p.m. through Sept. 5.

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