As our screen time keeps growing and our schedules become busier and busier, summer remains a good time to unplug, relax and reconnect with friends, family and nature.
Upstate New York offers a dizzying variety of options of outdoor activities. Many of them can be found in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park -- the largest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi -- but nature is pretty much everywhere as soon as you head north and west of the city. The following is a list of where to go and what to do -- not by any means comprehensive, but some suggestions to get you started.
Canoeing and kayaking
Going for a splash actually is a favored upstate tradition: We have about 7,600 lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, not to mention access to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
Canoeing has long been a favorite pastime in the state. An iconic destination is the Adirondacks’ St. Regis Canoe Area, which is made up of about 50 bodies of water. You can spend an hour practicing your J-stroke on a pond, or you can lake-hop on a daylong or multiday trek involving portage. The most famous itineraries are the “seven carries” and “nine carries” routes — be warned that they can be arduous and require a minimum fitness level as you must carry your boat on rough paths. The Saranac Lake-based St. Regis Canoe Outfitters (canoeoutfitters.com) provides a wide array of services, from gear rental (including camping equipment) to guided trips to food packs.
If you don’t have time to trek up to the northern Adirondacks, you may want to look into Atlantic Kayak Tours, (atlantickayaktours.com), which offers guided tours for all levels on the Hudson and in the Catskills, not too far from New York City and Long Island.
Pictured: Adirondacks State Park
Biking options abound upstate, but a classic is the Canalway Trail. This network encompasses about 300 miles of multiple-use trails on abandoned rail corridors and old towpaths along the New York State Canal System — including along the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Albany (ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal).
Mountain biking is even more rugged, especially if you head to the Whiteface region, pictured, near Lake Placid (whitefaceregion.com/recreation/biking/mountain-biking). While the area can accommodate beginners, its road and mountain races are best for experienced riders.
Splitting the difference is Port Jervis, where New York meets Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which has been developing trails by three reservoirs and the Delaware River (discoverportjervis.com/biking). Port Jervis’ Watershed Park and Recreation Area was completed last year and features 28 miles of mountain-biking tracks that aren’t quite as hair-raising as Whiteface’s. The area also offers scenic road itineraries, including the 70-mile Old Mine Road, which follows a route built in 1659 by Dutch settlers.
For those who prefer a different position on the water, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has a completely different vibe from canoeing and kayaking. Majestic Lake George, pictured, offers quite a few places to try, but a pair of good outfitters benefit from relatively quiet locations: Patty’s Water Sports (pattyswatersports.com) is on the eastern shore, while Lake George Kayak Co. (lakegeorgekayak.com) is in Bolton Landing — both away from the busy Village of Lake George.
Zip lines are another popular family activity and New York Zipline at Hunter Mountain (pictured, ziplinenewyork.com) has them covered. Its Skyrider Tour boasts five dual zip lines covering 4.6 miles at speeds of up to 50 mph — the site cautions that this ride “may not be for everyone.” Fortunately, there are less-intense options available.
Meanwhile in Barryville, Kittatinny’s dual racing lines drop you from a 36-story height (kittatinny.com/dual-racing-ziplines). Then you can cool off with some mellow tubing in the nearby Delaware River.
Not all New York waters are as mellow as a lake’s, and the state has plenty of options if you enjoy rafting — the melt for this year’s good snowfall should ensure above-average white-water action. Good places to start are the Adirondac Rafting Company (lakeplacidrafting.com), based at Indian Lake, and North Creek Rafting (northcreekrafting.com) near Gore Mountain.
Pictured: Hudson River Gorge by Indian Lake, near Gore Mountain
The abundance of water means a lot also happens under it, and New York is a great place to fish. Among myriad options is the west branch of the Ausable River, pictured, which is famous in the Northeast for its trout. In Wilmington, the Hungry Trout Fly Shop (hungrytrout.com/fly-shop) and the AuSable River Two Fly Shop (ausablerivertwoflyshop.com) will get you ready to cast whether you’re a beginner or experienced.
For the best way to combine land and water, head over to the Ithaca region. The Finger Lakes are famous for, well, a handful of large, beautiful lakes, but the area’s waterfalls are just as worthy of a road trip. Some are so stunning you have to wonder why they aren’t international attractions. But then this relative obscurity also means you can easily find yourself alone on a shady path, the only noise around that of water ricocheting off stone formations. Many of the area’s waterfalls are close to each other so you can see several on relatively moderate hikes. In the southern part of Lake Cayuga, for instance, Buttermilk Falls State Park (pictured, parks.ny.gov/parks/151) and Lucifer Falls (nyfalls.com/waterfalls/robert-treman-state-park) are must-sees.
More dedicated hikers should head over to the Adirondacks and explore their 46 peaks. On all local bucket lists should be Mount Marcy, pictured, the highest point in the state at 5,344 feet.
And of course, you could also try the New York section of the iconic Appalachian Trail, (appalachiantrail.org/home/explore-the-trail/explore-by-state/new-york), which runs 90 miles and meanders by Greenwood Lake and through Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks.
Not too far from those locations some of the state’s toughest climbing routes can be found in the Shawangunks. Outfitters such as Alpine Endeavors (alpineendeavors.com) and High Xposure (high-xposure.com) can rent out gear and guide you to the spots most appropriate to your skill level. Farther upstate you can trade the “Gunks” quartz for Adirondack granite at Chapel Pond (mountainproject.com/v/chapel-pond-pass/105912143) in the Keene Valley. Also in the Adirondacks, Rock and River (rockandriver.com) can arrange a wide range of outings, including climbing ones, and even offers accommodations in two lodges.
More family-friendly is Ausable Chasm (ausablechasm.com), called “the Grand Canyon of the East,” where the activities include rock climbing, rappelling and even a via ferrata (a climb route facilitated by fixed anchors and cables).