12 hiking spots for hot summer weekends

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Who wants to hike in a heat wave? It turns out that many people need to spend time outdoors, regardless of the temperature. We’ll leave the tough hikes to the die-hards and instead offer a few moderate trails, all with an interesting twist, from a field of sunflowers to abandoned vintage cars:

Walk among the sunflowers

It’s become a thing, especially for those looking for great Instagram photos, and while it’s not technically a “hike”, you can take your steps as you stroll through these spectacular fields.

Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson exhibits six acres of sunflowers beginning in mid-August. There is also a farm market and activities for children. Different ticket prices are available. Go: 5755 Route 209, Kerhonkson. 845-626-7137, keldersfarm.ticketspice.com/keldersfarm

Sunflower Valley Farm in New Hampton even has a maze of sunflowers. There is a children’s farm and cut flowers to buy. Three cut flowers accompany each admission. The farm opens on August 12 and will be open every day except Monday. Admission is $10 adults (12+) $5 (5-12) cash at the door only. Go: 366 County Route 12, New Hampton, 845-843-9373, sunflowervalleyfarm.com,

Or take a walk among the wildflowers

This guided walk is a great way to experience the vast Rockefeller State Park Preserve with someone knowledgeable. The reserve’s wildflower expert, Patty Butter, will lead this leisurely walk from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on August 6. Walkers will learn summer wildflower identification, and the hope is, eventually, to contribute as a citizen scientist to increasing knowledge about the ecology of the reserve by recording your observations in the iNaturalist app. Pre-registration is required. The group meets in the courtyard of the reception centre. Dress for a moderate hike with sun protection and bring water. In the event of heavy rain, the walk will be cancelled; you will be notified by e-mail the day before. The cost is $3. Register at https://parks.ny.gov/events. Go: 125 Phelps Road, Pleasantville.

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If you’re more into the story

Now operated by the State of New York, the Mills family estate in Staatsburg is a popular tourist destination.  During the 2000s, its name was changed from Mills Mansion Historic Site to Staatsburgh State Historic Site, using the original spelling of the name of the hamlet of the city of Hyde Park.

Staatsburgh State Historic Site in Dutchess County offers guided landscape walks combined with a little history lesson on the Golden Age Estate grounds overlooking the Hudson River. The tour will be approximately one mile of mostly flat terrain, with some uphill steps. The program, including the walk, discussion and viewing of historic photos, will take approximately 1.5 hours. “What You See…and What You Don’t See” shows how the Staatsburgh landscape architect designed a framework that showcased the landscape, but also hid the technology and labor that went into managing a domain at the beginning of the century. Go: July 30 at 10 a.m. The cost is $5 per person (12 and under free). Advance reservations are encouraged: www.bookeo.com/StaatsburghSHS. 75 Mills Mansion Drive, Staatsburg

Walk along the water

A tree marker for the trail is displayed as Kevin McGuinness, the Long Path trail chair with the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, points out the brand new Upper Nyack Trail on part of Marydell's former property, 27 May 2021.

The Upper Nyack Trail is a relatively new 1.5 mile trail that connects the River Trail at Nyack Beach to the Long Path and Hook Mountain, which offers hikers the opportunity to walk through the woods and get views of the river Hudson. The trail is built on huge slabs of diabase and giant boulders, designed and sculpted to form bridges, walkways and stairways – all designed by the NY-NJ Trail Conference’s long-distance trail team. The 30-acre parcel it sits on also adjoins Rockland Lake State Park. Go: The trail entrance is located near the parking lot on Midland Avenue.

One of the lakes in Minnewaska State Park Reserve on October 7, 2018.

chase a waterfall

Carlos Gonzalez is an avid hiker and Tarrytown native who prefers “the undefeated path”. He runs a popular hiking blog, ScenesFromTheTrail.com with dozens of suggestions. A lohud contributor, here is his description of this very scenic trail, the Lower Peter’s Kill Loop at Minnewaska State Park Preserve, which, of course, has a waterfall.

“This moderately challenging 3.5 mile loop hike follows the scenic Peter’s Kill upstream, past an almost endless series of waterfalls and several stunning waterfalls. Along the way, you’ll pass the remains of a massive hydroelectric power station and from a dam, returning by scenic horse-drawn carriage Explore the beauty of several Swanangunks waterfalls which are clustered together Awosting Falls is well known, but nearby are two lesser known falls, Peter’s Kill Falls and Sheldon Falls. Go: Parking at the trailhead is located in the Peter’s Kill area, 5080 Route 44-55, Gardiner, lakeminnewaska.org. There are parking fees applied, Empire Pass Accepted.

Find quiet contemplation

Scenic views of the Hudson River and rustic gazebos and benches make Poets' Walk a perfect spot for a picnic.

This 120-acre Poets Walk Park in Red Hook is part of the Scenic Hudson Preserve. The trails cover approximately two miles, gently sloping as they wind through open prairie and forest, rewarding the visitor with views of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River. From the parking lot, an easy 10-minute walk on a gravel path brings you to the Overlook Lodge, where you can rest before heading to the trails closer to the river. Poet’s Walk was named for Washington Irving and other literary types who supposedly walked here. Go: 776 River Road, Red Hook, scenichudson.org/parks/poetswalk

Climb “Mount Everest of Poughkeepsie”

Easy hiking trails lead to stunning views of Peach Hill Park in the town of Poughkeepsie.

Once dubbed the “Mount Everest of Poughkeepsie”, Peach Hill Park is the highest peak in the city and offers spectacular views of the valley, the Hudson Highlands and even the Catskill Mountains.

Aside from a small parking area and a number of benches and picnic tables, this park, once a large fishing farm, retains its natural terrain and peaceful atmosphere. It’s a place for walking, running, picnicking, dog walking (on a leash) and bird watching, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Several lookouts offer stunning views. There are various hiking trails and interpretive lookouts. The park is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. Go: The parking area is at 32 Edgewood Dr. near Salt Point Turnpike in Poughkeepsie. For more information, visit peach-hill-park.org/

‘Dude where’s my car?’

One of many long-abandoned cars in Graham Hills Park in Pleasantville, pictured June 16, 2019. Hikers and bikers report seeing around six cars in the woods of the park.

If you’re looking for something different, several Westchester County parks are home to abandoned vintage vehicles, ranging from a 1960s VW Beetle to a 1952 Chrysler.

Most hikers and cyclists seem to enjoy seeing the rusting relics in the woods. The vehicles are decades old, offer a unique juxtaposition alongside their wooded locales, and a compelling social media opportunity to boot.

The following parks offer great views and at least one abandoned vehicle:

Cranberry Lake Reserve: This 190-acre Westchester County park has a variety of habitats, including a four-acre lake, mixed hardwood forest, and swamp. Open 8 a.m. to dusk. Nature Lodge and the front door are open Tuesday through Sunday. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 1609 Old Orchard Street, North White Plains, 914-428-1005, parks.westchestergov.com/cranberry-lake

Sprain Ridge Park: The 278-acre county park is heavily forested, with a variety of hiking and mountain biking trails. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to dusk all year round. 149 Jackson Avenue, Yonkers, 914-231-3450, parks.westchestergov.com/sprain-ridge-park

Graham Hills Park: Mecca for mountain bikers. open daily from 8:00 a.m. to dusk all year round. There are no facilities, dogs must be kept on a leash. Route 117, Mount Pleasant, 914-231-4500, parks.westchestergov.com/graham-hills-park

John E Hand County Park to Bald Mountain in Yorktown: find the trailhead and a small parking lot on Blinn Road (just north of Teatown), Yorktown.

Steve Lieberman, Anthony Musso, Debra Keiser, Michael Malone contributed to this story.

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