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  • Fly fishing a mountain stream in the Catskill Mountains in New York State
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    The Catskills: Fly Fishing in Paradise

  • Cycling through Saratoga, New York via the city’s bike share program
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    Saratoga: Take a Dip in the Springs

  • Meeting a hawk on the Wild Walk at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York
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    The Adirondacks: Wilderness and Water Sports

  • A tour boat passing Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands in New York State
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    Thousand Islands: Choose Your Own Adventure

  • Stunning views over Niagara Falls, New York
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    Greater Niagara: Exploring the Falls and Beyond

Taking a break in a sunflower field near Martha Clara Vineyards in New York State
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New York State’s Natural Treasures: Chasing Mountains, Lakes and Waterfalls

  • Route distance:
    1888.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Even though New York State is home to one of the busiest cities in the world, it’s also full of beautiful countryside to explore.

Wander through incredible expanses of farmland, dense forests, scenic rivers and rolling hills that invite you to come and stay awhile. Get ready to explore New York, beyond the city lights with a road trip that’s bound to surprise and delight you.

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Fly fishing a mountain stream in the Catskill Mountains in New York State
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The Catskills: Fly Fishing in Paradise

Fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City from just about any destination in the world, rent a car at the airport and in less than three hours, city life will give way to the idyllic Catskill Mountains. Slow down your pace and enjoy the verdant landscape dotted with small town charm. Quaint shipping, farm-to-plate eateries, craft breweries and an ever-evolving arts and music scene only complement the outdoor beauty. With over 280,000 hectares of protected forestry, the Catskills are meant to be explored. Famous for its fly fishing (it’s the birthplace of American fly fishing), anglers and tourists alike can tour the Catskills Fly Fishing Center and Museum. Learn about the history of fly fishing and survey the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. Of course, if you’re up for the challenge, local outfitters can teach you to cast in rivers teeming with shad, smallmouth bass and various trout species. Settle in for a pleasurable meal at The Heron, a riverside bistro in the tiny hamlet of Narrowsburg. Your next stop: Saratoga, renowned for its horse racing and popular spa and thermal springs.

238 km
2.75 hours by car
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Cycling through Saratoga, New York via the city’s bike share program
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Saratoga: Take a Dip in the Springs

Besides a few small towns along the way, the drive to Saratoga is blissfully quiet. Once in Saratoga though, you’ll pick up the pace at least enough for a leisurely bike ride and a day at the park. Rent a bicycle through CDPHP Cycle, the city’s convenient bike share and pedal to Saratoga Spa State Park. The park’s attractions offer something for all ages: museums, golf courses, a public pool, performing arts venues, a Sunday farmers market and even lodging and dining. Back in town, visit Congress Park to stroll the tranquil trails, see the history museum inside the 1870s Canfield Casino and ride the old wooden carousel. If you have time, “take the waters” (a term used for healing ailments with mineral water) from all 21 spring fountains located throughout the city; each one has its own unique taste and is purported to have different healing properties. After you’ve sufficiently relaxed, go visit Mrs. London’s Boutique Bakery for its renowned pastries. But don’t let the name fool you, their specialty sandwiches, salads and quiche make this place a hometown go-to spot. Next: an abundance of outdoor adventures in the Adirondack Mountains.

185 km
2 hours by car
03
Meeting a hawk on the Wild Walk at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York
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The Adirondacks: Wilderness and Water Sports

The landscape becomes increasingly dotted with lakes and waterways, green mountains and trees on the way into the Adirondack Mountains. The Adirondack Park is the largest protected wilderness in the lower 48 states and includes 3,200 kilometers of hiking trails, dozens of mountain peaks and 3,000 ponds and lakes. You can explore at least one of them with a scenic steamboat ride on Lake George. A variety of fun tour options are available, including moonlight cruises and fireworks shows. Olympic sports fans can visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics were held. Next, experience the Wild Walk at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, a system of walking trails, bridges and play areas elevated to treetop level. If you’re a thrill seeker, the spectacular Hudson River Gorge has some of the best rafting in the state during spring, summer and fall. Local outfitters can gear you up for a day on the water. After all your outdoor adventure, settle in for tempting small plates and wine at Top of the Park in Lake Placid. Outstanding views accompanied by blankets and cozy fires in the colder months only add to its charm. Rest up for your drive to the Thousand Islands region – there’s so much to see and do there.

198 km
2.5 hours by car
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A tour boat passing Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands in New York State
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Thousand Islands: Choose Your Own Adventure

With expansive views of pastoral farmland along the two-lane road, the drive to your next destination is a welcome respite. The Thousand Islands, an archipelago located in the St. Lawrence River between the New York and Canadian border, is a true outdoor lovers’ paradise and a destination unlike any other. Each island and its neighboring community offers a unique surprise: golf courses, historical sites, dining, craft beverages, camping, hiking and all sorts of water recreation – even castles! Take a tour of the historic Rock Island Lighthouse or the lighthouse at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, which also offers a summer hostel for guests. Minna Anthony Common Nature Center is a must-visit for families. Located within Wellesley Island State Park, it has a butterfly house, canoe trips, cross-country skiing and guided hikes.

Want to unwind? There’s no shortage of tranquil shorelines to take in the scenery and watch the ships go by. With a long drive ahead, be sure to indulge in some delicious, comfort food at the Koffee Kove Restaurant in Clayton. On your way from Thousand Islands to Niagara (stock up on picnic goodies at 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese before you hit the road), make a stop and discover Letchworth State Park, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” This magnificent park is home to three major waterfalls set between 182-meter-high cliffs with the Genesee River swiftly flowing through its fossil-studded gorge. Go hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, watch wildlife or find a lovely spot for a picnic lunch. Whatever you do, don’t forget to snap some photos of this scenic wonder.

396 km
4 hours by car
05
Stunning views over Niagara Falls, New York
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Greater Niagara: Exploring the Falls and Beyond

Between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie an unforgettable natural wonder awaits: Niagara Falls. This bucket-list destination consists of three waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Niagara Falls has long attracted filmmakers, artists, tourists and, yes, daredevils. Purchase a Discovery Pass ticket at Niagara Falls State Park to experience the most popular attractions, including a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist, which takes you directly under the powerful cascade of water and into the basin of Horseshoe Falls. Thankfully, a rain poncho is included! Choose a hiking trail at the Niagara Gorge Trailhead Center, from the family-friendly Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike to the challenging Whirlpool Rapids Adventure Hike that will take you deep into the gorge and scrambling over boulders. With all this water, anglers have plenty of prime spots to cast a line, including Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Before you head out of town, settle down for wonderful seafood and the freshest oysters at Tide & Vine Oyster House. The drive back to JFK takes about seven hours. Alternately, you can drop your car off at Buffalo Niagara International (BUF) and take a quick flight back to JFK.