The Most Beautiful Mountains in New York to Hike, Drive, and Visit

From the Catskills to the Adirondacks, these 18 peaks offer all the adventure and scenery for a weekend getaway.

Stunning panoramic views? Check. Flourishing forest trails? Check. Unique rock formations? Check. The state may be known for New York City but outside the metropolis, it has both beauty and adventure from Niagara Falls to Albany, but the following mountains top it all. From the easiest family hikes to the adrenaline mountain biking to a simple scenic getaway, there are options for many different skill levels and interests.

There are three main mountain ranges in New York: the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and part of the Appalachian Mountains. The Adirondacks cover a massive space of varying terrain; more expansive even than Glacier National Park, the Everglades, Grand Canyon National Park, and Yellowstone combined. That is a lot of space to explore. The Catskills, just outside the Hudson Valley, are a natural playground of 98 peaks spanning 700,000 acres and parts of four counties.

READ MORE: I Moved 400 Miles Across New York State to Live, Hunt, and Fish

And most of these peaks, aside from those in a state park, are completely free to drive through, hike in, or visit for the weekend. Here, the 15 most beautiful mountains in New York to visit.

What to Know About Visiting the New York Mountains 

Some popular hiking areas now require parking permits. The Adirondack Mountain Reserve, a privately-owned gateway to popular Adirondack vistas including Indian Head, Rainbow Falls, Noonmark Mountain, Round Mountain and Gothics Mountain, grants access to the public via an easement with the state. There is no fee to hike in the Adirondacks, but certain trailhead parking locations do require a reservation, particularly those located on Adirondack Mountain Reserve property.

Another important consideration when hiking in New York is to follow Leave No Trace principles, meaning, do no harm and leave no evidence of the visit. So, research the destination beforehand, make the plan, and then get out there and enjoy the views and fresh mountain air.

1. Mount Severance


Elevation: 1,693 feet

Mount Severance, located near Schroon Lake, is a perfect beginner hike in New York's mountains. It starts out with a fun walk through tunnels located underneath I-87. The trailhead and register are found at the end of the tunnel. From there the hike is mostly gradual with just a few limited steep sections. Hikers are rewarded with two outlooks at the end with views of Schroon Lake, Pharaoh Mountain, and Paradox Lake.

2. Cascade Mountain


Elevation: 4,098 feet

Cascade Mountain is one of the more challenging hikes on the list. It is among the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondacks, which gets quite busy with hikers trying to earn their badge. Out and back, Cascade is a 4.5-mile hike. (The trailhead is located near Keene.) Many hikers combine Cascade with Porter Mountain because the hiking trails are so close to each other and combined make a 5.6-mile hike. While enjoying the incredible, 360-degree panoramic views on Cascade's summit, take care to avoid trampling the fragile alpine vegetation by always staying on the rocks.

3. Giant Ledge


Elevation: 3,200 feet

Giant Ledge is one of the most popular hikes in the Catskills. This 3.4 mile round trip has multiple lookouts, providing varying views, all of which are gorgeous. As a bonus, camping is allowed. The hike starts from the Giant Ledge Trailhead, located at the hairpin curve along County Route 47. The blue marked trail is steep in spots. 

4. Blue Mountain


Elevation: 3,750 feet

Blue Mountain is an Upstate New York favorite with a lot going for it: stunning mountain views from the summit, a fire tower, and a variety of wildlife to explore.

It's also a birdwatcher's delight. So many species of birds thrive on Blue Mountain, including Eastern Wood-pewees, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Least Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireos, Boreal Chickadees, Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Swainson's Thrushes, Hermit Thrushes, many warbler species, including Blackpoll Warblers near the summit, White-throated Sparrows, Bicknell's Thrushes, and several species of woodpecker. After Whiteface Mountain, it has the second largest population of Bicknell's Thrushes in the Adirondacks.

Don't miss visiting the Adirondack Experience, a history museum located near the base of Blue Mountain, chock-full of unique and interesting exhibits, plus a robust gift and bookstore.

5. Piseco's Panther Mountain


Elevation: 2,415

Of the New York Mountains on this list, Panther Mountain is probably the shortest hike. The end of the trail for most hikers is often Echo Cliff, which from the trailhead is only an elevation gain of 652 feet. The trail is rocky with a small scramble at the last bit. Despite the relatively mild gain in the elevation, this short hike pays off with a punchy view of Piseco Lake, Spy Lake, and miles of Ferris Lake Wild Forest. Seasoned adventurers can bushwack up the rest of the mountain, but there is no clear lookout. (Brief views of the surrounding landscape can be glimpsed between trees, but the real gem of Panther Mountain is Echo Cliff.)

Bonus: Piseco Lake at the base also has some of the best state-operated campsites in New York's mountains.

6. Poke o' Moonshine Mountain


Elevation: 2,170 feet

With a fun name and an even better view, Poke o' Moonshine Mountain is a consistent local favorite. The summit affords hikers an amazing 360-degree view of the Adirondack High Peaks, Lake Champlain, and Vermont's Green Mountains.

7. Gothics Mountain


Elevation: 4,736 feet

Gothics Mountain has been called one of the greatest peaks in the northeast, due to its unique trail and bald summit which offers spectacular 360-degree views. This is one of the mountains accessed via the Adirondack Mountain Reserve that requires a parking reservation.

8. Jay Mountain


Elevation: 3,600 feet

Jay Mountain has a 2.5-mile, well-marked trail through a mixed forest that ends on an open rocky ridge. The route is 8.7 miles there and back, with the trailhead located in the town of Jay. For adventurers willing to go beyond that path, even more views await. There is a herd path that continues along the ridge up the mountain, forming a "highway in the sky" that gives adventurers the reward of an outstanding view around every bend. Some spots are tricky along the Jay Mountain ridge route so, as always: use caution and common sense.

9. Chimney Mountain

Rebecca Lambertsen/Getty

Elevation: 2,708 feet

Chimney Mountain is a special place in New York's mountains due to the unusual geological chimney formation surrounded with a maze of caves and crevices near the summit. A draw for both expert spelunkers and amateur geologists, Chimney is an interesting spot to explore. It is a moderate hike, so be prepared to move those muscles a bit.

10. Mount Arab


Elevation: 2,525 feet

Mount Arab is a treat for many reasons. It's a short hike - the distance from the trailhead to the summit is just one mile. It is located near Tupper Lake, one of the Adirondack's coolest little towns. At the top of the mountain is not only a fire tower (one of just two left in St. Lawrence County), but also an educational museum housed inside a rustic cabin.

A walk up the five flights of stairs to the high point of the fire tower reveals a lovely view of Tupper Lake and the surrounding wilderness. Mount Arab is a great hike for families and beginners, plus it is also a part of the Fire Tower Challenge and the Tupper Lake Triad.

In addition to the goodies at the top, an additional lookout area located a short distance before the summit provides views of Mount Arab Lake and Eagle Crag Lake.

11. Noonmark Mountain

Andrew Fraielli/Getty

Elevation: 3,556 feet

Noonmark tends to be a very popular hike in the summer and fall. It is a moderate hike that starts out slowly and adds difficulty as the hike progresses. The final stretch to the summit is steep and rocky. The open rock summit gives a 360-degree view of the High Peaks Region. Many hikers also tackle nearby Round Mountain during the same trip. This allows them to bag an extra peak and to stretch the visit to the mountain's wilderness even longer.

12. Mount Marcy

Ultima Gaina/Getty

Elevation: 5,344 feet

As the highest point in all of New York state, Mount Marcy towers over the Adirondacks, providing hikers with a strenuous full day climb and big bragging rights. There are several routes to take to summit Marcy, so research thoroughly beforehand. The shortest way up to the mountain is more than seven miles over steep and rocky terrain. Take care near the top to avoid trampling the endangered alpine vegetation.

13. Ampersand Mountain

Katie Dobies/Getty

Elevation: 3,353 feet

Not easy, but well worth it could be the best way to describe New York's Ampersand Mountain. The 2.7-mile (one way) trail up Ampersand is recommended for experienced hikers, as it becomes steep and rocky about 1.5 miles into the hike. The view from the top is spectacular, the Saranac Lakes, the St. Regis Ponds, and the High Peaks mountain range all visible. Ampersand's trailhead is located near the fun and funky town of Saranac Lake. This peak is part of the Saranac Lake 6er Challenge.

14. Whiteface Mountain


Elevation: 4,867 ft

The only mountain in the Adirondacks that is truly drivable, Whiteface Mountain has an access road that winds its way up the mountain to a parking area near the top. From there, a short walk either up the staircase or to the elevator brings them closest to the top. Be aware that there is a charge to drive the access road, called the Veterans' Memorial Highway.

Of course, Whiteface can be hiked as well, and often is. It is a tough, but very popular climb rewarded with stunning views of Lake Placid. Expect to run into other hikers. While in town, check out all the shops and restaurants in the nearby town of Lake Placid.

15. Mount Haystack


Elevation: 4,960 feet

Mount Haystack, the third highest High Peak, is no easy walk in the park. It is a challenging hike, both due to its long distance and rugged terrain to cover. Named for the summit that resembles a mound of hay, it is sometimes hiked as part of the Great Range Loop by hikers attempting to bag all 46 highest peaks in New York.

16. Kaaterskills Falls

Carrie Thompson/Getty

Elevation: 2,211 feet

Kaaterskills Falls, a cascading two-stage waterfall in the eastern Catskill Mountains, is one of the highest waterfalls in New York. This is a moderate hike with well-groomed trails and man-made stairs. The path is still steep and sturdy shoes are recommended.

17. Slide Mountain

Olig Albinsky/Getty

Elevation: 4,184 feet

Slide Mountain is the tallest, and easily the most heavily visited, wilderness trail system in the Catskills. It has an extensive network of trail routes and numerous trailside vistas. Because of its popularity, hikers are likely to encounter other hikers while on the trail.

Slide Mountain is home to lots of native wildlife, including deer, bear, bobcat, porcupine, fisher, and hundreds of species of birds.

18. Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain New York

Elevation: 3,810 feet

There are a lot of well-known Sugarloaf's in New England, there's Sugarloaf Mountain, the ski resort in Maine, and Sugarloaf Hill located along the Hudson River. But the Catskill's Sugarloaf Mountain is the one we love best: Part of the Devil's Path range, this mountain is all rolling green hiking hills. It also sits on the watershed of the upper Hudson River. Its main trail is the Devil's Path hiking trail, which runs along the summit ridge of the mountain and is part of the bigger Long Path, a 357-mile long-distance backpacking trail.