With everything from historic sites to outdoor recreation activities, New York state parks are among some of the most impressive and distinct parks in the entire country.
I grew up in New York, spending many of my formative years getting to know New York’s state parks. I can tell you firsthand, there is a lot to see and do. But while many people think that the best time to visit New York state parks is in summer, there is also a ton of stuff to do in the winter months.
If you’re curious about New York’s state parks, then you’ve come to the right place. Here, I’m going to break down the best parks across the state.
Table of Contents
- 21 Best State Parks in New York
- Letchworth State Park
- Harriman State Park
- Saratoga Spa State Park
- Minnewaska State Park Preserve
- Rockefeller State Park Preserve
- Allegany State Park
- Niagara Falls State Park
- Robert H. Treman State Park
- Hudson Highlands State Park
- Gantry Plaza State Park
- Buttermilk Falls State Park
- Bear Mountain State Park
- Watkins Glen State Park
- Riverbank State Park
- Moreau Lake State Park
- Stony Brook State Park
- Fair Haven Beach State Park
- Chenango Valley State Park
- Taughannock Falls State Park
- Evangola State Park
- Green Lakes State Park
- FAQs About New York Parks
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21 Best State Parks in New York
Letchworth State Park
A maze of hiking trails, cliff views, and waterfalls that’s earned the nickname “The Grand Canyon of the East”.
If you only have time to visit one of New York’s state parks, make it Letchworth. Also referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East” because of its beauty, it’s located right near the Finger Lakes.
The park offers a myriad of different activities for visitors, such as 66 miles of hiking trails and giant waterfalls cascading between cliffs. There are also a bunch of winter activities to do here like cross-country skiing and snow tubing.
If you fall head over heels in love with Letchworth, you can even use it as the venue for your next special event. Just contact the National Park Service to learn more about catering and banquet services.
Harriman State Park
Relax beachside or do water activities at one of this southern NY park’s 31 lakes.
Harriman is the second-largest park in the whole state. There are 31 different lakes and reservoirs within the bounds of Harriman Park. So, it’s the perfect spot for people who love spending time by the water.
The state park also offers camping and it’s a good area for spotting wildlife.
Saratoga Spa State Park
One of New York’s interesting historic sites complete with a golf course and pool in Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Spa is an upscale state park that’s designated as a National Historic Site. Besides its status as one of New York’s historic sites, Saratoga Spa has a lot more to offer.
The park has standard features like swimming pools, golf courses, and pavilion facilities for events, along with more unique attributes like the Gideon Putnam Resort, the Museum of Dance, and the Saratoga Automobile Museum.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve
A popular spot for rock climbing and biking in the Hudson River Valley with one of the best lakes in the state.
Minnewaska State Preserve is one of the most beloved state parks in the Hudson Valley. Its most prominent attraction is its massive lake, which is host to a wide range of activities including scuba diving, swimming, and boating.
There are also a bunch of great New York hiking trails winding throughout the park that bring you up to some panoramic viewpoints.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
An enormous state park featuring historic roads that used to be for carriages in Pleasantville.
It’s always fun to wander through a state park with an intriguing history. If that sounds like your type of thing, you’ll really love Rockefeller State Park. It’s located about 45 minutes north of Manhattan and is filled with intertwining historic carriage roads through the forest hills.
It’s a lovely spot for walking around, going for a run, or even horseback riding. It’s also a popular spot for bird watching.
Allegany State Park
A Western New York state park with places for swimming, hiking, and boating.
One of the best things you can do in a state park is to spend the night camping. The campfire, the marshmallows, the laughter. If you’re looking for a prime place for camping in New York state, check out Allegany State Park.
There are plenty of activities throughout the park, including swimming and boating. Along with endless beautiful spots for camping.
Niagara Falls State Park
A state park with one of the most famous raging waterfalls in the entire world.
This state park has a name that you will probably recognize: Niagara Falls. Over 3,000 tons of water flow over Niagara Falls every single second.
The famous waterfall lives in a beautiful and free-to-enter state park. You can visit this well-known attraction and the 400-acre state park around it all year round. Since it’s located in the western-most area of the state near the border of Canada, it’s the perfect stop for the end of a New York road trip.
🌳 Local Trivia: Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States of America. It was established over 135 years ago in 1885 originally known as the Niagara Reservation.
Robert H. Treman State Park
A 1,000+-acre park featuring a stunning wild gorge called Enfield Glen in Ithaca.
Robert H. Treman is a park where you find something new and cool to see every time you visit. It’s a fairly massive park with over 1,000 acres to explore. Inside, there are lots of great activities, including hiking, fishing, and even spots for grilling your catch.
However, the main sites are waterfalls and gorges. There are 12 major waterfalls in Robert H. Treman with easy access, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. The park is also home to a beautiful wild gorge called Enfield Glen.
Hudson Highlands State Park
A massive state park along the Hudson River encompassing over 7,000 acres.
The Hudson River is one of New York state’s most beautiful features. At Hudson Highlands State Park, you can discover over 7,000 acres of wilderness nestled right up next to the beloved river.
It’s an excellent location for hiking as the park features an abundance of trails for a variety of skill levels with lovely views of the area. I’d specifically recommend the Breakneck Ridge hike.
Gantry Plaza State Park
This park stretches along the East River in the borough of Queens, NYC.
Most people assume that there are absolutely no escapes into nature in the concrete jungle that is New York City. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Besides all the fun outdoor activities in Central Park, New York City actually has several awesome state parks like Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens. If you’re searching for incredible views of Manhattan’s city skyline, Gantry Plaza is the place.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
Stroll the myriad of hiking paths and spot this state park’s 10 gorgeous waterfalls.
Another one of New York’s well-known waterfalls is Buttermilk Falls. It also happens to be surrounded by a charming park. While Buttermilk Falls is the most popular of this park’s waterfalls, there are actually 10 different falls in total.
In addition to its many waterfalls, Buttermilk State Park offers nature trails and playgrounds for the kiddos. Along with reservable camping locations and picnic tables. It’s a very family-friendly state park.
Bear Mountain State Park
One of the biggest state parks in New York on the west bank of the Hudson River.
Bear Mountain State Park is located in southern New York, only about an hour outside of Manhattan. This particular park is a true mountain park. There are lots of activities and recreation areas, but it’s truly out there in the mountainscape.
The trails throughout Bear Mountain Park serve a multitude of purposes. From hiking and biking to cross-country skiing and even ice skating in some places. There are also facilities and playing fields for recreational activities.
If you’re traveling alone, then I’d highly recommend Bear Mountain Park. It provides an expansive forest atmosphere that’s still safe to wander by yourself.
Watkins Glen State Park
A magical state park in the Finger Lakes Region complete with lakes for fishing, 19 waterfalls, and views.
New York waterfalls are some of the most breathtaking natural attractions in the United States, and one of the best is located in Watkins Glen State Park. The mystical waterfall is called Rainbow Falls and is every bit as magical as it sounds. This is an especially fun park to visit with kids because the walking trails are manageable and otherworldly at the same time. A difficult balance to find at most state parks.
🌳 Local Trivia: Watkins Glen State Park has 19 different waterfalls to see along a hiking trail that is less than 2 miles long! It’s called Gorge Trail. It’s considered one of the best places to see waterfalls in the Finger Lakes area.
Riverbank State Park
A riverside state park in Manhattan with a variety of recreational activities for all ages.
Another amazing state park in New York City is Riverbank State Park. It’s located right along the Hudson River. Here you’ll find a bunch of activities that can appeal to all different ages. There are a couple of pools, an all-year-round skating rink, an athletic complex, and a cultural theater.
If you need a place to play all your favorite sports, there is nowhere better than Riverbank State Park. There are tennis courts, basketball courts, paddleball courts, a running track, a soccer field, and a softball field. The only downside to this park is that it can get very crowded. However, that’s to be expected for a popular recreational area in a big city like New York.
📚 Related Reading: Riverbank State Park is located near the West Harlem neighborhood in New York City. If you want to learn more about NYC’s many neighborhoods, check out our list of the 15 best New York City neighborhoods.
Moreau Lake State Park
A lowkey and quiet park in Ganesvoort next to a beautiful lake for boating and fishing.
If you’re looking for a day relaxing by one of New York’s best lakes, consider an afternoon at Moreau Lake State Park. This state park is situated right next to the expansive and gorgeous Moreau Lake 20 minutes south of Lake George.
Visitors can walk the trails with views of the bright blue lake, or partake in recreational activities on the lake itself. Or, if you prefer to stay shoreside, there’s a lovely beach on the banks of the lake with lots of room. It’s one of the more private and quiet NYS parks.
Stony Brook State Park
A lovely state park with opportunities for camping and walking trails along an impressive gorge.
Located in Western New York, Stony Brook State Park is a favorite among overnight campers. Not only are there plenty of places to pitch a tent and grills to cook dinner, but this park also features a lot of fun things to do.
Popular activities include swimming in the refreshing waters of the park’s natural wild gorge. Or visiting the animals at the nearby petting zoo. This state park is particularly fun for families with children.
Fair Haven Beach State Park
A beautiful state park near Lake Ontario with gigantic sandy beaches to relax on.
Another NY park with a heavenly beach is Fair Haven Beach State Park. It’s located approximately an hour east of Rochester near the shores of Lake Ontario.
As you may have guessed, this park’s most alluring feature is its enormous lakeside sandy beach. The beach is over 1,500 feet long. If you like the area enough, you can even camp in the area overnight. For people who prefer land activities, Fair Haven Beach Park also has an 18-hole golf course.
Chenango Valley State Park
This state park’s two giant kettle lakes were formed from melted glacier pieces in Chenango Forks.
Located 15 minutes outside of Binghamton, the unique feature of Chenango Valley State Park is its two kettle lakes – Lily and Chenango Lake. There are lots of spots for fishing rich with trout and bass, boat rentals, and a beach with swimming accessibility. There’s also a golf course inside the park.
Like many of New York’s state parks, Chenango Valley allows visitors to extend their stay by camping. But, if you want to elevate the experience, you can stay in one of the park’s 24 cabins available for rent. It’s recommended that you book in advance if you want to stay in a cabin at Chenango Valley.
Taughannock Falls State Park
Find your way to this state park’s 215-foot waterfall with spots for swimming near Ithaca.
Located right near the city of Ithaca, Taghannock Falls State Park is best known for its picturesque 215-foot waterfall of the same name. The park’s trails will lead you to views above and below the gushing falls that cascade over a rocky cliffside.
Taughannock Falls State Park has things to do no matter the season. In the summer, you can go boating or relax on the beach by Cayuga Lake. In the winter, it’s a popular location for sledding and cross-country skiing. Plus, the crystalized falls are especially beautiful in the colder months.
Evangola State Park
An ideally-located state park with natural beaches along the shore of Lake Erie.
Conveniently located right on the shore of Lake Erie, Evangola State Park has one of the most beautiful beaches in New York state. It’s located in a super scenic area with three different campground loops that can host a lot of visitors.
There are even rentable yurts and cabins available. If you want to book one of their yurts, you can check the current availability at Reserve America. The park also features facilities for swimming, basketball, baseball, and tennis. Along with a nature center.
👉 Pro Tip: If you’re planning on camping at a state park overnight, you need to arrive prepared. Even in the summer, it gets chilly in New York at night. That’s why I’d recommend investing in a high-quality camping blanket like the Get Out Gear Down Camping Blanket. It’s super warm, but still compact enough to be convenient.
Green Lakes State Park
A hidden treasure of a state park known for its vividly emerald lakes in Fayetteville.
In my opinion, Green Lakes State Park is one of the most stunning parks in all of New York state. Even better, it’s one of the lesser-known NYS parks. So, it never gets overly crowded even when the weather is at its best.
The most popular summer activity at this park is the golf course. During the winter, the park becomes a hotspot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Whichever season you decide to visit, you’ll always find pretty views at this park.
👉 Read Next: Top Places to Visit in New York State
FAQs About New York Parks
What are the 5 biggest parks in NY state?
What is the most famous state park in New York?
Niagara Falls State Park is the most famous state park in New York. Even though the area is best known for its raging waterfall, it all belongs to a world-renowned state park. It’s one of the most visited state parks in New York state for its beauty and attractions.
How many state parks are there in New York State?
There are 180 parks in New York state, each with a unique range of activities. New York’s parks span thousands of acres and are located in every corner of the expansive state.
Are NY state parks still free?
Most state parks in New York offer free entrance, but they typically do charge a vehicle fee to park near the grounds. This fee usually ranges from $5 to $10 depending on the park. Some NY state parks also charge a small fee for certain activities like access to historic sites or camping overnight.
You’ve finished my guide to the best state parks in New York! If you’re planning on spending some time in New York’s legendary Hudson Valley, then don’t forget to read our list of the 25 best things to do in Hudson Valley.
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