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    Most travellers think of the Big Apple when imagining a road trip through New York. But once the 5 boroughs are in your rear-view mirror, you’ll find tons of jaw-dropping natural scenery. From powerful waterfalls to sharp canyons, it’s no wonder New York was home to the country’s first vacation hideaways. A road trip through New York State lets you visit places that mesmerised some of the country’s Founding Fathers.  

    Many of New York’s treasures remain beloved vacation spots for locals and out-of-state visitors. Whether you plan to hike the mountains or chill lakeside, New York is a paradise for nature lovers. Read on to discover the incredible natural wonders of New York you should visit on a road trip.

    1

    Niagara Falls State Park

    Feel the rush of the iconic waterfalls on the US-Canada border

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    The crown jewel of New York’s natural wonders, Niagara Falls is a series of plunging waterfalls that form an international border between Canada and the United States. Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the waterfalls, accounts for roughly 90% of the flow from the Niagara River. Maid of the Mist boat tours departing from the American side cruise to the base of Horseshoe Falls to let you feel its incredible power.

    Walk around Niagara Falls State Park to view American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from above and watch the cascades spill onto the rocks below. To get closer, venture into the Niagara Gorge to stand on the Cave of the Winds walkways just a few feet from Bridal Veil Falls.

    Locatie: Niagara Falls, NY 14303, USA

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    2

    Watkins Glen State Park

    Chase waterfalls inside this peaceful gorge

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    The trickling stream flowing into the gorge of Watkins Glen State Park produces images fit for a nature lover’s fairytale. Nestled in the Finger Lakes region, the 400-ft glen boasts nearly 20 serene waterfalls and beautiful foliage. The Gorge Trail weaves through the canyon and provides the most enchanting views of the peaceful falls and sparkling pools.

    Make sure your camera is ready at Rainbow Falls for a stunning photo of lush forests and a stone bridge perched over the creek. Although the Gorge Trail is open seasonally, year-round rim trails let you peer into the gorge from above. The park offers numerous places for a camping getaway, and there’s even an Olympic-size pool for a refreshing swim.

    Locatie: 1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, USA

    Openingstijden: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm

    Telefoonnummer: +1 607-535-4511

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    3

    Adirondack Mountains

    Summit the highest peaks in New York State

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    The Adirondack Mountains are a hiker’s playground, forming more than 6 million acres of protected landscape. Trekkers across the region flock here to explore the area with more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails to conquer. Mount Marcy stands at an elevation of 5,344 ft to give hikers access to the roof of New York. Drive the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway to reach the summit of Whiteface Mountain for unbelievable panoramic views.

    While the ski resort at Whiteface Mountain held Olympic ski competitions, the nearby Lake Placid village hosted the festivities of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Mirror Lake draws boaters in the summer and becomes an ice-skating haven during winter, while the Moose River Plains offer solitude from the crowds.

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    4

    Letchworth State Park

    Ride a hot air balloon above the Grand Canyon of the East

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    Letchworth State Park features one of the most spectacular canyons in the Eastern United States. Once voted as America’s most beautiful state park, Letchworth follows the Genesee River as it flows through a deep gorge and forms 3 majestic waterfalls. Verdant forests engulf the rugged cliffs that reach heights of more than 550 ft.

    There are 66 miles of hiking trails, and the Gorge Trail leads to scenic overlooks of each waterfall. Other marked trails are suitable for biking and horseback riding, and snowmobilers use the trails during the winter. Daredevils have their choice of navigating Class II-III river rapids or flying high above the gorge in a hot air balloon.

    Locatie: 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427, USA

    Openingstijden: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm

    Telefoonnummer: +1 585-493-3600

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    5

    Thousand Islands

    Cruise the St. Lawrence River and tour beautiful castles

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    The Thousand Islands archipelago consists of around 1,800 islands that create a border between the United States and Canada. Cruising along the forested islands reveals images of opulent mansions, summer cottages, and nautical history. The waterways of the St. Lawrence River were once home to pirates but eventually gave way to luxurious vacation homes at the end of the 19th century.

    Joining a guided boat tour lets you visit fairy-tale castles built for the rich and famous of the era. Boldt Castle enchants romantics with its endearing love tale, while Singer Castle is believed to be a haunted retreat. More adventurous pursuits include fishing excursions and underwater dives to hunt for shipwrecks.

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    6

    Howe Caverns

    Go on the deepest boat ride in New York State

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    New Yorkers are used to magical boat rides above the surface, but Howe Caverns plunges deep underground to explore a geologic wonderland. As the largest cavern in the Northeast United States, cavers of all ages can view the limestone formations and stalactites along the walkways. Colourful lights brighten the path and reveal striking images of the underground river.

    After descending 156 ft into the depths of the cave, board the vessel to sail through the immense cavern. Called the “River Styx,” the waterway flows through rugged corridors, enormous boulders, and beautiful calcite crystals. If you visit during the summer, check out the Adventure Park that includes rope courses, zip lines, and a rock-climbing wall above ground.

    Locatie: 255 Discovery Dr, Howes Cave, NY 12092, USA

    Openingstijden: Wednesday–Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm (closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Telefoonnummer: +1 518-296-8900

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    7

    Finger Lakes

    Taste delicious wines and chill at lakeside retreats

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    The Finger Lakes region consists of 11 glacial lakes that offer year-round outdoor adventures. Many of New York’s gorgeous state parks are here and feature gushing waterfalls, steep gorges, sandy shorelines, and fertile woodlands. Hikers gravitate to the Finger Lakes Trail for over 900 miles of secluded hiking to reconnect with nature. 

    Just a 40-minute drive from Syracuse, the crystal-clear Skaneateles Lake is popular for boat cruises and fishing trips. Keuka Lake stands out for its bizarre Y shape, and its warm waters attract swimmers during summer. Several lakes maintain world-renowned wine trails that spoil wine enthusiasts with some of America’s most delectable vintages. Featuring 35 wineries, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is the largest in the region.

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    8

    Chittenango Falls State Park

    Hike around one of New York’s most elegant waterfalls

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    Only a 15-minute drive from Cazenovia Lake, Chittenango Falls State Park boasts one of Central New York’s most photogenic sights. The park’s main feature is the 167-ft waterfall that tumbles down ancient bedrock into a peaceful creek. A series of walking paths let you view the falls from multiple angles. Beautiful foliage surrounds the cascade, and a stepped pathway leads you to a footbridge near the base.  

    Although the Gorge Trail loop is the most popular hike, there are a few other trails to explore. You’ll also find picnic areas, a playground for children, fishing spots, and unique wildlife inside the 193-acre park.

    Locatie: 2300 Rathbun Rd, Cazenovia, NY 13035, USA

    Openingstijden: Park office hours: Monday–Friday from 8 am to 4 pm

    Telefoonnummer: +1 315-492-1756

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    9

    Catskill Mountains

    Explore nearly 500 miles of trails less than 3 hours from NYC

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    New York City residents searching for a weekend outing in nature often turn to the tranquillity of the Catskill Mountains. Hikers can follow the footsteps of Rip Van Winkle to wander through old-growth forests and past cascading waterfalls. There are trails suitable for all levels, and some paths offer breathtaking overlooks high above the Hudson River Valley.

    Hunter Mountain draws thrill-seekers wishing to ride America’s tallest and fastest zipline. Mountain bikers race through the Catskill Forest Preserve, and anglers cast their reels to catch trout and bass. The numerous creeks, streams, ponds, and other waterways host some of America’s premier fly-fishing spots. Snowy winters draw skiers, snowboarders, and ice skaters to the slopes of Windham Mountain for an alpine getaway.

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    10

    Lake George

    Bring your swim gear to this waterfront paradise

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    Often called the “Queen of American Lakes,” Lake George has attracted New York vacationers for centuries. The Adirondack wilderness encircles the lake, and its village hosts outdoor recreation and cultural treasures. Million Dollar Beach lets you dip your toes in the water or begin a steamboat cruise. The elegant vessels that shuttle you around the lake offer breathtaking images of secluded islands and forested mountaintops.

    Hundreds of campsites adorn the islands to provide an unbelievable night of stargazing. For a bird’s-eye view of Lake George, Prospect Mountain Highway transports you to one of the adjacent peaks overlooking its shores. History buffs can visit Fort William Henry to delve into the stories of the 18th-century French and Indian War.

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    Daniel Grenier | Schrijver

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