Escape the city: 6 adventures in Upstate New York and beyond

Upstate New York

Looking to escape New York City’s stifling streets for the great outdoors? Just a few hours north, destinations like Rochester and the Finger Lakes offer more wilderness than you might imagine. Here’s a look at five adventures that await you by foot, paddle board and even jetboat.

Sam's Point, Upstate New York, Verkeerderkill Falls
Sam’s Point, Verkeerderkill Falls

Sam’s Point Preserve Trail Hike

Hiking doesn’t get better than Sam’s Point Preserve. The strenuous 8.5-mile hike is not for the faint-hearted, but its spectacular views open up along Shawangunk Ridge where hikers will discover Sam’s Point lookout and ice caves formed by glaciers.

Found within Minnewaska State Park, two hours northwest of NYC, parking at the trailhead is limited, so get there early.

Meander Finger Lakes Wine Trails

If Rochester gives you too many city vibes, head just east to the Finger Lakes, encompassing 11 glacial lakes and 11,000 acres of vineyards. The most extensive of the area’s three wine trails, Seneca Lake Wine Trail encompasses 35 member wineries, two breweries and even a pair of cideries.

Belhurst Estate Winery, a castle on the north end of the lake, samples world class varietals, like a gold medal-winning Chardonnay. On the southeastern end of the lake, Chateau Lafayette Reneau sits on 140 acres of woodlands and vineyards. It’s known for its Late Harvest Riesling.

Paddle Board Lake Placid

While Lake Placid—two hours from airports in Albany, NY, and Burlington, VT—is best known for winter activities, during spring and summer the region heats up as the paddle capital of the Adirondacks with glassy waters prime for stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.

Ten miles west is Saranac Lake, another great spot for boarding. There you can paddle to nearby Hocum or Duck Island, while the truly daring can head to the Saranac Islands and their 79 campsites.

Jetboat Niagara River

For a serious adrenaline rush, carve through class five whitewater rapids in high-speed powerboats. Jetboating offers the thrill of whitewater rafting, with extra safety. Expert river captains steer the boats through the scenic Niagara River Gorge, which begins at the base of Niagara Falls and continues for nearly seven miles.

Jetboat tours take off from Lewiston, NY, just north of Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. Companies like Niagara Jet Adventures offer closed-cabin boats, so you wont get wet, while others like Whirlpool Jetboat Tours seat passengers at the front of an open-air boat where you’ll undoubtedly get drenched.

Hot Air Balloon Ride over Letchworth State Park

Take in the sunrise while sailing over the Grand Canyon of the East. Letchworth State Park spans 17 miles of diverse terrain encompassing a dramatic gorge, 20 waterfalls and the Genesee River, ideal for a hot air balloon ride.

Balloons Over Letchworth (the area’s only hot air balloon operator) launches from the park’s gorge, 60 miles south of Rochester. Sailing 2,000 feet above ground, flights last around an hour, ample time to take in towering 550-foot rock walls and the Lower Falls of the Genessee River.