Sugarloaf Hill Trail; Garrison, NY
For a less-crowded hike with a great view, check out this beauty in nearby Garrison. The 2.8-mile trail starts in a large meadow. Stick to the trail and avoid the long grass (read: tick city). Very quickly you enter the woods. You will pass a stream (feel free to frolic). Stick to the red trail for the best view (the blue trail intersects with the red). The final 10-minute stretch is intense but tell your whining kids you’re almost there. And bam, you are, with a view overlooking the Hudson, and oddly, little cacti growing at the top. Have a snack. You earned it.
Scenic Hudson maintains a series of great trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty in the Hudson Valley, from Yonkers to north of Hudson. Two of the best hikes for kids are the Black Creek Preserve in Esopus and Poet’s Walk near Red Hook. The Walkway Over the Hudson, near Poughkeepsie, is an old rail bridge that has been converted to a walking/biking/scooting bridge and it’s great for kids (but can get crowded).
In the Catskills, Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve have many hiking options, including a walk at the base of the famous “Gunks,” on the Undercliff/Overcliff Loop (easy). The breathtaking Millbrook Ridge Trail has 360-degree views of the Catskills (medium difficulty — but fine for most kids!). A great swimming hole and easy hike for kids in Mohonk Preserve is Split Rock, at the Coxing Trailhead; but note that this parking lot fills up early in the day. Also in Mohonk Preserve, the Bonticou Crag Trail has terrific views from the top of a giant rock, and features an optional difficult but fun giant rock scramble to get to the top. (Do not attempt the rock scramble with very small kids!)
If you are near Big Indian or Phoenicia, the Giant Ledge Trail provides a strenuous hike — it’s a moderate to difficult trail with a significant ascent. This in-and-out trail leads to a series of giant rocks with spectacular views of the valley below. Another fun adventure is to look for waterfalls on the way to the Peekamoose Blue Hole swimming hole. Note: The Blue Hole requires a permit on weekends and holidays, and permits are limited. The Tanbark Loop behind the playground and church in Phoenicia is a moderate hike with good views.
For those who want a challenge, the aptly named Breakneck Ridge Trail is the real deal. It earns its “difficult” rating and should not be attempted with small kids or by people who have not hiked and rock scrambled before. But your efforts will be rewarded with glorious views of the Hudson Valley and West Point. This hike is near Cold Spring, and you can get to the trailhead without a car via Metro North.