Discover the 10 Best National Parks in New York

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: May 25, 2022
Image Credit Jim Vallee/Shutterstock.com
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Home to many of America’s most renowned sparkling lakes and craggy gorges, New York boasts not only the serene landscapes and the bubbling Buttermilk Creek but also the phenomenal Niagara Falls. Set in the northeastern United States, New York is a place that has long captured people’s attention globally.

Apart from the high-flying business tycoons, classy restaurants, and flashy Broadway performances, New York’s high ranking has also been attributed to its world-class recreational centers and national parks that protect a plethora of astounding scenery and nature. The government created state and national parks in New York to protect the environment, and lots of archeological sites spread throughout the region. 

With so many amazing things to check out and different outdoor activities to explore, New York is truly one of the best and most breathtaking places to visit. Choose which place to visit first with our list of the ten best state and national parks in New York.

1. The Adirondack Park

The Adirondack Park
The Adirondack Park features massive hiking trails through forested areas that lead to the spectacular scenery of the surroundings.

Kathryn Merrill/Shutterstock.com

The Adirondack Park
LocationWarren County
Size5,999,965 Acres
Animals to SeeBlack bears, White-tailed deer, Moose, Bobcats, and Foxes 
Attractions to SeeMirror Lake, Bald Mountain, Gore Mountain, The Wild Centre, Lake Placid, Adirondack Carousel, and the Olympic Ski Jump Complex

One of the largest protected parks on this list, the Adirondack Park, is located in Warren County, in the northeastern part of New York. It offers incredible views of the forested mountains, pristine lakes, and mind-blowing waterfalls.

The Adirondack Park is one of the best places to be, especially if you’re looking to enjoy a range of activities in nature. The park features massive hiking trails through forested areas that lead to the spectacular scenery of the surroundings.

Strolling along Saranac Lake, inhaling the sweet scent of the park’s lush forest, snowboarding at Whiteface Mountain, exploring the gorgeous landscapes of Fort Ticonderoga, and riding gondolas at the Olympic Ski Jump Complex will help you forget about your work life – at least for a little while.

Look out for the Wild Centre. It’s a perfect place to take the kids to learn and have fun in nature. You can do activities like walking up through the suspension bridges and even playing in nets. There is a chance you might spot white-tailed deer and other animals around this area.

2. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
The surrounding area of Niagara Falls offers breathtaking views and multiple attractions, making it a perfect destination for a vacation.

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Niagara Falls
LocationNorthwest of New York along the US/Canadian Border
Size400 Acres
Animals to SeeFox Squirrels, Canvasbacks, Red Squirrels, Warblers, Deer, Elks, Black Bears, and the Nineteen Species of Gulls
Attractions to SeeNiagara Gorge Discovery Centre, Cave of the Winds, the Hurricane Deck, and the Aquarium of Niagara

Home to the most impressive falls and awe-inspiring cliffs in the world, Niagara Falls, formed by the Niagara River, is a magnificent sight that is hard to tear your eyes from. You can view the falls right up close in the spray or from the Inspiration Point. Aside from getting soaked up in the gushing water, there are many other things to do at Niagara Falls.

The surrounding area of Niagara Falls offers breathtaking views, gorgeous landscapes, historical exhibits, and multiple attractions, making it a perfect destination for your vacation. You can take some of the available sight-seeing tours, such as Maid of the Mist, to get a different close-up experience of the falls and their surroundings.

Get all the information, tickets, and maps about the different attractions at Niagara Falls. Spend a night at the falls to enjoy the fireworks often presented throughout the year.

3. Robert H. Treman State Park

Robert H. Treman State Park
Robert H. Treman State Park is home to deer, foxes, bears, and numerous species of birds and fishes.

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Robert H. Treman State Park
LocationFinger Lake Region
Size1,110 Acres
Animals to SeeDeer, Foxes, Bears, and numerous species of birds and fishes
Attractions to SeeEnfield Glen, Suspension Bridge, Lucifer Falls, Ithaca Falls, and Cascadilla Gorge Trail

With winding trails following the rugged gorge past the 12 waterfalls, Robert H. Treman State Park is a beauty to behold. Whether you want to have fun on land, in the dense forests, mountains, or water, Robert H. Treman is the place to be. It’s safe to hike at the park, but there are stairs, and uphill/downhill walks within the area.

Hike the Gorge Loop Trail and the main Rim Trail, and enjoy the spectacular views of the rocky gorges and wooded sections. The Gorge Trail will also take you through the unbeatable views of the giant waterfalls and wildlife.

Check out the scenic Enfield Falls swimming hole, one of the most popular attractions at the park, because it offers a limitless number of fun possibilities. It’s highly crowded throughout the year, but still, you’ll enjoy a peaceful swimming experience in nature.

4. Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park is one of the most popular attractions in New York, with more than 50 waterfalls to explore.

Jim Vallee/Shutterstock.com

Letchworth State Park
LocationSpans two counties (Wyoming and Livingston)
Size14,427 Acres
Animals to SeeCoyotes, Cerulean Warblers, Woodchucks, Bald Eagles, White-tailed Deer, Red Fox, and Henslow’s Sparrows
Attractions to SeeGenesee River, Railway Bridge, Charcoal Corral, Silver Lake Drive-In Theatre, and Mount Morris Dam

Best known as “the Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is one of the most popular attractions in New York, with more than 50 waterfalls to explore. Home to the most scenic and magnificent areas, it’s sure to delight outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who need real adventure.

Walk to the West Rim to get some of the best views of Letchworth. Hogsback Overlook and Mt. Morris Dam are also other places to consider, more so if you’re entering the park from the north. Archery Field Overlooks and Great Bend are some of the popular sites for photographers.

Make sure you visit the Upper Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls. They are the most impressive falls in the park, and you will most likely hear the thundering sounds of the water even before you see them. Early spring is the best time to see the falls at their best.

5. Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Rockefeller State Park Preserve is a perfect place to relax and enjoy outdoor activities.

Linda Harms/Shutterstock.com

Rockefeller State Park Preserve
LocationWestchester County
Size1,775 Acres
Animals to SeeRaccoons, Owls, Coyotes, Muskrats, Foxes, and Deer
Attractions to SeePeony Monument, Hudson River, Rockefeller Art Gallery, Carriage Road System, and Swan Lake

Talk about an epic getaway! Rockefeller State Park Preserve is a perfect place to relax and enjoy outdoor activities. The park is named after the famous Rockefeller family, who donated some portions of the estate in Pocantico Hills as part of the Preserve land in 1983. There are several miles of trails and different wildlife species to explore at Rockefeller.

Hike the 13 Bridges Loop Trail, which takes you through open meadows, beautiful dense forests, picturesque landscapes, and fascinating views of Swan Lake. You can view the Hudson River from the carriage road system, one of the most remarkable features of the park.

6. Hudson River Valley

Hudson River Valley
Hudson River Valley is a perfect place to enjoy a city break.

Akitzhaber/Shutterstock.com

Hudson River Valley
LocationWestchester County to Albany
Size46,258 Acres
Animals to SeePeregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, Humpback Whale, Seahorse, and Diamondback Terrapin 
Attractions to SeeWalkway Over the Hudson, New York State Museum, Lyndhurst Mansion, Shawangunk Ridge, Mohonk Mountain House, and Storm King Art Centre

Stretching about 150 miles along the famous Hudson River, the Hudson River Valley is a perfect place to enjoy a city break. Along with the unbeatable vistas, the Hudson Valley is full of quirky villages, animal sanctuaries, historic sites, mansions, pristine lakes, cultural institutions, and mountain ranges.

Visit the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park between spring and fall to get spectacular views of the river and some fresh air. You can also enjoy the views of villages along the river banks from this steel cantilever bridge.

There is no better place for history buffs to visit other than the New York State Museum, situated in the Hudson River Valley. The museum showcases lots of history programs, science, art, nature, exhibitions, and collections from the state throughout the years.

7. Gantry Plaza State Park

Gantry Plaza State Park
Gantry Plaza State Park offers wonderful places for dog walks and romantic strolls.

James Andrews1/Shutterstock.com

Gantry Plaza State Park
LocationLong Island City
Size12 Acres
Animals to SeeDifferent species of birds
Attractions to SeeEmpire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, The Plaza- A Fairmont Managed Hotel, The Museum of Modern Art

Brimming with natural beauty in Long Island City, in the New York suburbs, Gantry Plaza State Park is the place to visit for a relaxing and refreshing getaway. There are plenty of attractions to explore, like Times Square and the Empire State Building. Gantry Plaza also offers wonderful places for dog walks and romantic strolls. There are also numerous playgrounds for kids to play on.

You can visit the Museum of Modern Art to learn about the use of modern and contemporary art. Aside from the sweet scent you will get from the park’s gardens, there are no animals or massive waterfalls to view. However, there are hundreds of birds hovering above the skies. You may catch sight of eastern bluebirds and blue jays, among others.

8. Catskill State Park

Catskill State Park
At Catskill State Park, you can expect to see lush forests, legendary mountains, lakes, wetlands, meadows, and more.

The American Wanderer/Shutterstock.com

Catskill State Park
LocationSpans four counties: Delaware, Sullivan, Ulster, and Greene
Size700,000 Acres
Animals to SeeTurtles, Raccoons, Coyotes, Foxes, and White-tailed Deer
Attractions to SeeBethel Woods Centre for the Arts, Bronck Museum, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Zoom Flume Water Park, and Hudson-Athens Lighthouse

A spectacular highlight established in 1885, Catskill State Park is among the best places to visit any time of the year. At Catskill State Park, you can expect to see lush forests, legendary mountains, lakes, wetlands, meadows, and more.

Visit some of the antique and art galleries in the villages, such as Woodstock, Phoenicia, and the Andes, to admire the contemporary arts’ great sense of calm and wholeness. Explore some of the most popular wildlife trails like Huckleberry Point Trail, Artist Rock, and Sunset Rock via the Escarpment Trail to see different species of animals within the park.

9. Buttermilk State Park Falls

Buttermilk Falls
Hike the Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail and Rim Trail to see the main attractions in the shortest time possible.

Eric Dale/Shutterstock.com

Buttermilk State Park Falls
LocationSouthwest of Ithaca
Size811 Acres
Animals to SeeTurkey, Broad-Winged Hawks, Coyotes, Flying Squirrels, Chipmunks, Opossums, Raccoons, Cottontail Rabbits, and Woodpeckers
Attractions to SeeFinger Lakes, Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail, and Ithaca Falls Natural Area

Visit Buttermilk State Park Falls if you’re a fan of waterfalls. The park is named after the massive waterfall that flows through the deep valleys, rock rims, and forests within the park’s borders. Besides camping, you can do all the other activities in the park in a single day if you arrive early.

Hike the Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail and Rim Trail to see the main attractions in the shortest time possible. These trails are also among the best bets for wildlife encounters in the park. There is a campground near Buttermilk Falls Gorge Trail if you’re someone who enjoys spending a night in the wilderness.

10. Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of the most unique and beautiful parks in New York.

Cory Seamer/Shutterstock.com

Minnewaska State Park Preserve
LocationUlster County
Size24,000 Acres
Animals to SeeCoyotes, White-tailed Deer, Dragonflies, Turkey Vultures, Black-Pilled Cuckoos, and Timber Rattlesnake
Attractions to SeeShawangunk Mountain Range and Lake Minnewaska

No matter the season, there’s always something to do at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. It’s one of the most unique and beautiful parks with diverse features like verdant hardwood forests, cliff-edges, crystalline sky lakes, rugged rocky terrains, and waterfalls.

Explore different outdoor activities, including boating, horseback riding, scuba diving, hiking, picnicking, biking, bouldering, and marvel at the park’s magnificent scenery from different viewpoints. Cross-country skiing and snowboarding along the mountain ranges are also available during the winter.

Enjoy a wonderful camping experience by spending a night at Shawangunk Gateway Campgrounds. You will be able to have the most memorable camping experience, judging from the peaceful ambiance of the campground. 

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I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on real estate, nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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