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Hudson Highlands State Park, NY
Hop on the Hudson Line in Manhattan and escape the city to Bull Hill. This 5.5-mile hidden gem in the Hudson Highlands has all the charms of crowd favorite 1,260-foot Breakneck Ridge but half the people. Hop off the train at Cold Springs and walk a quick warm-up mile north to the Washburn trailhead, then head uphill on the white-blazed Washburn Trail. Hit the first good viewpoint just before the 1,421-foot summit (mile 2), where a rocky outcrop offers views over the Hudson River to Bear Mountain Bridge 8 miles to the south. The most scenic spot on the trail, though, comes 1.6 miles later, where a gap in the trees opens on center stage Breakneck Ridge, the Shawangunk Mountains, and the distant Catskills—some of the Tristate Area’s finest wilderness. At mile 2.5 veer left onto the Notch Trail to head along Breakneck Brook, then turn left on the Brook Trail and left again on the Undercliff Trail to return to the parking lot and train station.
Northridge and Sunset Trail
Angel Island State Park, CA
For a landmass that’s just over 700 acres, the historical and natural wonders of Angel Island State Park seem endless. Start your 4.8-mile journey on the public ferry from Tiburon (the $15 ferry price includes your park admission fee), then head left from the dock to pick up the Northridge Trail. Climb 2 miles to the summit of 788-foot Mt. Caroline Livermore, named after the conservationist who led the campaign to establish the park in 1954. Coast live oak and madrone trees dot the path, often with hawks and hummingbirds perched in the branches. From the summit, soak in horizon-to-horizon ocean views anchored by the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge, then backtrack .3 mile to the intersection with the Sunset Trail, which winds through trees and open meadows back to the ferry dock. The evergreen madrone trees along the trail bloom delicate white flowers early in the spring, but their distinct bright red bark seems to glow as it peels back all winter. Detour down to the beach before heading back to the mainland for a chance at spotting harbor seals and sea lions lounging in the sun.
Sand Creek Regional Greenway
Escape the urban crush without leaving the city in this natural oasis nestled in the greater Denver urban area. The 14-mile Greenway connects the High Line Canal in Aurora to the South Platte River Greenway in Commerce City, and is a short walk from three different Denver lightrail stations: Fitzsimons, Central Park, and Peoria. For a full day of wandering (a Denver RTD day pass is $10.50), head to the Fitzsimons station and join the Greenway at Sand Creek Park. Head west for about a mile, watching the mixed woods and grasslands for herons and bald eagles. Turn onto the Bluff Lake Nature Center’s Primary Trail and loop around the tree-edged lake through wetlands frequented by beavers, egrets, and coyotes. Views of the Rockies between the willows and cattails add to the sense of respite from the city. Hike the 1.5-mile loop around the lake in the evening for the best chance of glimpsing some of the park’s wildlife. Once you complete the loop, head back down the Greenway to Sand Creek and out to the lightrail to finish your quick 3.5-mile jaunt away from Denver’s urban center.
Important Note: Before you head out, check your local transit’s website for up-to-date service information and COVID guidelines.