A Guide to Hiking Near NYC without a car

Thank you to Melissa Goodwin of Girl Gotta Hike for speaking at our last Mappy Hour event and writing this great blog post! All photos included courtesy of Girl Gotta Hike.

Major thanks to everyone who came out to talk some trail at May’s Mappy Hour event at Arc’teryx Soho with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

There were a ton of awesome trail suggestions that were shared between us, and I hope that some of the more creative solutions and mulit-modes of transport for getting you a little further afield have already gotten your future adventure gears turning.

How to Find Trails

In our digital era, trails and trail recommendations are abundant! Google is a great first step! You can also talk to your Mappy Hour friends, check out the NYNJTC’s online trail finder, utilize social apps like AllTrails, and Facebook groups to spark ideas and get your footing. Read through user comments for helpful tips and be sure to follow up and cross-reference any recommendations with your destination’s official park maps, often found right on their homepages. Download GPS enabled maps from the NYNJTC ahead of your hike or use apps like Far Out Guides that will work in airplane mode to help keep you on track once you’re out there.

Actual physical guide books are a great resource too! NYNJTC has a ton of compilations for regional hikes, as does The Appalachian Mountain Club and other publishers. I’ve purchased plenty of my regional guidebooks from used bookstores to get different perspectives and suggestions – just keep in mind that the specific transit information listed in an older book may no longer be accurate so cross-referencing is key.

Public Transit Basics

Thankfully in the greater NYC region, there are a ton of Public Transit options to get us out there! The MTA’s Metro North, New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad, and the Trailways Bus system will move you the farthest and fastest, but don’t overlook options like The Staten Island Ferry and our amazing subway and bus system to get you out to the further reaches of the outer boroughs. The regional and county bus systems can help get you into and between smaller upstate towns, so check out the Bee-Line in Westchester County, Coach USA / Rockland Coaches in Northern NJ and Rockland County New York, The Hudson Link between Peekskill and Nyack, Dutchess County Public Transit (including the free Beacon Loop), Ulster County Area Transit and more!

The towns that cater to train-traveling tourists and those that that serve commuters or/or college students will likely have more options once you arrive for taxis, Lyfts and Ubers, but sometimes you may just have to hoof it an extra mile (or a few) on local town roads to get to a trailhead.

Whatever the public transit system you choose to use, be sure to always check for the latest schedule updates before you go. Construction and weather delays can happen anytime.  Some routes run more frequently in the summer, and either only on weekends (like the AT stop on Metro-North’s Harlem line), or not at all on the weekends (like Rockland Coaches). Some commuter lines significantly reduced their service during the pandemic, so while options may be limited now, more frequent service should become available as workers continue to return to the office.

MTA Metro-North

Leaving from Grand Central, you can take the Metro-North to the popular hiking towns of Cold Spring & Beacon, as well as loads of other trail adjacent towns alongside the Hudson River. Utilize their Harlem Line for direct access to the Appalachian Trail in Dutchess County, or opt for some seaside strolls in Connecticut by utilizing the New Haven Line. You can catch the Metro-North on the west side of the Hudson too, via the Port Jervis and Passaic Valley trains. 

*Port Jervis & Passaic Pro Tip – While technically Metro-North lines, you’ll have to buy your ticket from New Jersey Transit & start your trip from Penn Station. You’ll board a NJ Transit Train, then switch at Secaucus to access the Port Jervis and Passaic Lines. Be sure to keep your ticket / transit app handy, because you’ll have to scan your ticket again when you transfer in Secaucus.

General Tips – Not all of the train stations have bathrooms, so be sure to use one onboard before your stop. Some stations are so small you have to be in a particular car to exit onto the platform, so ask a conductor or listen for the announcements ahead of your stop to make sure you’re in the right place.

Recommended Metro-North Hike: Beacon Fire Tower + Bull Hill

Hike from Beacon to Cold Spring in the Hudson Highlands State Park! Buy two separate one-way tickets & you’ll save a few bucks.

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New Jersey Transit

Train and bus system that gets you out out of the city quickly to nearby county parks!

NJ Transit is a convenient and quick option from midtown Manhattan. You can head straight out west, or transfer at Secaucus for additional destinations.

General Tips – enter the station from the 7th Avenue / 32nd Street entrance under the Madison Square Garden marquee and head toward the NJ Transit ticket office. Track numbers aren’t posted until about 10 minutes prior to departure, so if you wait by the ticket booths, you’ll have a good view of the boards. There is little to no cell service once you head underground, so be sure to activate your e-tix prior to heading downstairs. When transferring in Secaucus, you’ll need to have your ticket handy to re-scan at the gate. Be sure to bring battery backup for your phone to avoid buying a new ticket on-board on your way home!

Recommended New Jersey Transit Hike: A Loop at South Mountain Reservation

A perennial favorite, South Mountain Reservation is one of Girl Gotta Hike’s top local destinations — especially in the fall and winter months when the days are short but you still want to get out there!

Read more.


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