The NYC Explore More Guide

When the screeches of sirens and subway tracks fill your day, it can be tough to feel like there’s nature in and around NYC. Yet, NYC itself is full of pockets of green spaces and incredible adventures from surfing to hiking to mountain biking. 

Thanks to the city’s robust public transit options to get to hiking, paddling, and camping, New York is one of the best places to be an adventurer without a car. And a few hours North, the Adirondacks offer over 6 million acres of pristine wilderness in one of the country’s most impressive state parks.

Here we outline our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors in and around New York City. Our partner, The North Face, is helping us bring this guide to life with The NYC Explore More Challenge, which starts September 10, 2019. Read on below to find out how you can win prizes, find new adventure buddies and most importantly, get outside.

The Explore More Challenge

The Explore More Challenge, presented by The North Face, is a multi-month challenge that rewards you for going outside with new Mappy Hour friends. Each participating chapter will launch a guide with 10 challenges (see below) that can range from exploring your city to finding further afield outdoor gems in your state. Each adventure, which will be selected by your chapter leaders, will hold a point value. Mappy Hour members will compete to complete the challenges (aka go outside!). The North Face is further supporting this new program with prizes for all chapter members who complete the challenge and an even bigger prize for the first person to complete it in each chapter! 

The NYC Explore More Challenge Details:

  1. Our challenge dates run from September 24, 2019 to August 24, 2020. You can complete adventures any time between those dates.
  2. Get 60 points to complete the challenge and win a prize from The North Face! The first person to 60 will win an even bigger prize from The North Face. If you complete all the challenge items, there’s another reward awaiting you.
  3. We’ll have a logbook at every Mappy Hour at The North Face, with locations in Soho and the Upper West Side,  this year. You just have to come to Mappy Hour to “sign in”. Bring a picture of yourself doing the challenge and your chapter leaders will sign off in the logbook.
  4. We know that sometimes you miss a Mappy Hour — no worries, you can do an adventure in October and then sign in the following March.

Our first four challenges are within the city limits, the next 4 can be done in a day, and the final two are overnight adventures. Number 11 is a bonus.

Adventure 1: Biking in New York City

Biking in NYC
The Challenge: Bike over 5 bridges in NYC.

One of the true joys of living in NYC, in our opinion, is skipping the subway altogether and navigating the Big Apple by bike. Our favorite spots include riding up the Hudson River Greenway and over the George Washington Bridge and summer rides to Rockaway Beach

Over the past ten years, there has been enormous progress in creating bike lanes, launching shared bike services (CitiBike) and providing cyclist education. However, an uptick in cyclists deaths in NYC during 2019 is a sober reminder that the city’s car culture continues to dominate. The safest option for cyclists is to ride on protected bike lanes, which are highlighted on the NYC Bike map with the bold green lines. 

The Challenge:

While much of our bike lanes offer flat routes, head to the bridges for a cardio challenge. Get your hill workout in and visit a new borough by biking over 5 of NYC’s almost two- dozen bridges with bike paths. (5 points) 

Pro tip: Skip the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Adventure 2: Hike in New York City

outdoors in nyc Inwood Park
The Challenge: “Bag” each of the boroughs highest peaks

Yes, you heard that right! Hiking is available in every single one of our lovely boroughs. Trail options range from a few paved miles in Manhattan’s Inwood Park to over 80 miles of rock-filled, undulating hills on the Staten Island Greenbelt. It’s all free, and much of it is accessible by subway. 

The Challenge:

Bag each of the 5 “peaks” of NYC (here’s a handy guide). Plus, 2 points go to the first person who writes us a blog post about these 5 peaks. (13-15 points)

Pro tip: Don’t go alone at night, it’s still NYC after all. 

Adventure 3: Surf in New York City

Surfing in NYC by Dave Knapp
The Challenge: Surf in the Tri State Area. Bonus: Winter Surf

The Rockaway Peninsula in Queens has miles of surf-able shoreline and an ever -growing number of hip restaurants and bars (and abandoned vehicles?). While it isn’t the most beginner friendly spot for new surfers, early mornings can offer clean offshore waves if you’re willing to get up early. It’s refreshing to explore Rockaway just for its relaxed vibe in a city famous for its hustle and bustle. 

The Challenge:

This one’s simple: go surfing in NYC (5 points), do it in the winter (extra 5 points). 

Pro Tip: If you haven’t surfed before, take a lesson — it’s worth it. 

Adventure 4: Ski in NYC

The Challenge: Ski within one of the five boroughs

Of the NYC adventures on this list, this one is the trickiest because of both weather and gear. Should we have an excellent winter full of many flurries (or powder-filled white-outs) and consistent cold temps (the skier writing this has her fingers very crossed here), there are a few key places that you’ll enjoy cross country skiing in the boroughs. However, we are currently unaware of any stores that rent cross country gear locally, which means you’ll need your own set-up or have a friend with similarly sized feet. If we’re wrong about this one, drop a comment on where you could rent. 

The Challenge:

Ski in NYC. 5 points. 

Pro Tip: If you can’t find the skis, go roll around in the snow anyways. You don’t get any points but the joy of New Yorkers on a snow day is priceless.

Adventure 5: Rock Climb in Central Park or the Gunks

Climbing in Central Park by Izzy
The Challenge: Rock Climb in Central Park or in the Gunks

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that some of the best climbing in the country, is a mere 1.5 hours from our fair city. The spectacular Shawangunks sit right outside of New Paltz, New York and are known for their classic multi-pitch traditional climbs. There’s also a myriad of options for bouldering and maybe one or two bolted climbs if you’re low on gear. 

The Challenge:

Climb in the Gunks. That could mean bouldering or roped climbing, as long as you get yourself on that beautiful Shawangunk Conglomerate (10 points). P.S. 5 bonus points for climbing Central Park! 

Pro Tip: There’s a brewery about 8 miles west of the Trapps parking lot called Rough Cut and their beers are amazing. 

Adventure 6: Hike a 3,500 peak in the Catskills

Hunter Mountain View
The Challenge: Hike one of the Catskills 3500 Peaks

Get ready for steep and rocky terrain as you explore the Catskills, which is home to 35 3,500-foot (or greater) peaks. While not all are suitable for a day hike or even marked (read: you will have to bushwhack), there are still quite a few marked routes to choose from. Some adventurers even challenge themselves to hike all of them, joining the illustrious Catskills 3500 Club and earning their very own patch.

The Challenge:

Hike a 3500 peak in the Catskills (see the full list here).

Pro Tip: Wittenberg Mountain has, in our humble opinion, the most beautiful view.

Adventure 7: Ski the East  

The Challenge: Ski anywhere on the East Coast. Note: if you ski in NYC, that counts for this too.

… if you can.

The Challenge:

Head to a Northeastern Resort (or to the backcountry) and enjoy a day out on the slopes skiing or riding. From the annual powder day to boilerplate ice, the regions’ skiing offers something for everyone. Weather can vary from wicked cold and white out visibility to warm rain and, sometimes, sun! Here’s a comprehensive list of every mountain you can reach from NYC without a car. 

Pro Tip: If you don’t know how to ski yet, many resorts offer great deals for beginner skiers and riders.

Adventure 8: Hike the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail, 150 miles of which cut through New York and New Jersey, first went under construction  New York State in 1923. On the AT, as the locals and those who have hiked it call it, you’ll find everything from rocky steeps to smooth wooden boardwalks over swamps. Various sections of the trail can be accessed by bus and train from NYC. If hiking during the summer, don’t be surprised if you’re passed by hairy hikers with odd nicknames heading North (ahem, thru hikers).

The Challenge:

Hike a section of the Appalachian Trail (10 points), do so without using a car (extra 5 points). 

Pro tip: Make a weekend out of it. 

Adventure 9: Paddle in the Adirondacks

The Challenge: Paddle in the Adirondacks

The most spectacular of adventures on this list is the backcountry waters of the St. Regis Canoe Area, located in upstate New York’s Adirondacks. The five-hour schlep from the city (more on holidays) makes this adventure a time commitment, but worthy nonetheless. The Adirondack Park includes over 6 million acres of wilderness, an area larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon and the Great Smokies National Parks combined. The St. Regis Canoe area is a dedicated area for non-motorized boats, meaning you’ll have to paddle and portage between the lakes to get to your campsite.

The Challenge:

Paddle any type of human powered vessel in one of the Adirondack’s gorgeous lakes or rivers. (10 points)

Pro Tip: Don’t go in the spring, the black flies are intolerable. 

Adventure 10: Hike the Presidential Traverse

White Mountains by Josh Laskin for offMetro
The Challenge: Hike the Presidential Traverse.

Head to New Hampshire’s White Mountains for a Northeast adventure so classic, it warranted a dedicated New York Times article. The Presidential Traverse is a multi-day (or single day if you’re overly ambitious) trip that connects eight peaks in the Presidential Range, each named after our nation’s early presidents. Itineraries for the traverse can range from 1 to 3 days depending on your fitness and tolerance for pain. Trekkers can choose between camping and staying at the staffed Appalachian Mountain Club huts (Cost is around $120 a night and includes meals). 

The Challenge:

Complete the Presi- Traverse (any season, any amount of days) – 15 points 

Pro Tip: Mount Washington is known for its unpredictable and sometimes extreme weather. Luckily, the incredible Mount Washington Observatory offers local forecasting so you can stay abreast of potentially dangerous weather patterns. 

Bonus Adventure: Give Back 

Help strengthen the outdoor community of New York City by volunteering at a local non-profit! We created a guide to a few local non-profits but any group that helps protect nature or get more people outside is good by us. If you’d like to see your organization added to the list please email with more information about your work! 

The Challenge: Spend an afternoon, day or weekend volunteering


The NYC Explore More Challenge

 Completed at 60 Points

Adventure Points
Spend the day volunteering 10
Bike over 5 bridges in NYC 5
Bag each of the boroughs highest peaks 13
Surf in the Tri State Area. Bonus: Winter Surf  10, 5 point bonus 
Rock Climb (or Boulder) in the Gunks, bonus for climbing in Central Park 10, 5 point bonus
Ski within one of the five boroughs 5
Hike a 3500 Peak in the Catskills 10
Ski the east 5
Hike a section of the Appalachian Trails (10 points), without a car (5 extra points) 10, 5 point bonus
Paddle in the Adirondacks  15
Hike the Presidential Traverse,  +5 bonus for a winter traverse 15, 5 point bonus
BONUS: Get 1 extra point for every time you adventure with a new Mappy Hour friend 1
Bonus: Take someone on their first adventure  1

About the Challenge

The Explore More Challenge is a multi-month challenge that rewards you for going outside with new Mappy Hour friends. Each chapter guide includes 10 challenges that can range from exploring your city to finding further afield outdoor gems in your state. Are you ready to explore more?

Swing by in-person at one of over 30 events at North Face stores across the country.

Explore More