The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have a lot to offer for those seeking a rewarding day hike in their local area. Whether you’re looking for a scenic waterfall to picnic by, a challenging summit to reach, or just a relaxing walk in the woods, these day hikes are worth checking out.
Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine
The premier spot to catch a sunrise (more specifically the first sunrise on the East Coast, depending on the time of year), the summit of Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain attracts hundreds of thousands of hikers each year. While you have to start early, hiking Cadillac for sunrise is a bucket list trip for any visitor to the park. Begin at South Ridge Trail’s north trailhead, where the first mile starts off at a gentle grade, becoming more moderate as you go. At the 1-mile mark you’ll cross Eagles Crag Trail, a short 0.3-mile loop that intersects South Ridge Trail. Take the right-hand spur 0.1 mile to reach Eagle Crag overlook and soak up the views of Otter Creek and the Atlantic Ocean. Keep following Eagles Crag Trail to meet back up with South Ridge Trail, turning right to continue your trek upwards. Here the trail enters an open forest of pitch pine and granite. Follow the trail another 1.1 miles through a pocket of jack pine and down a short descent before reaching the Featherbed, one of the highest wetlands in Acadia. After crossing Canon Brook Trail, begin your steepest climb another 1.1 miles to the summit, and return the way you came.
The highest point in Massachusetts and a highlight for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, Mount Greylock provides sweeping views of the Berkshire region and is particularly popular during peak foliage season. For an 8.2-mile hike to the summit, park by the trailhead off Notch Road in North Adams and take Bellows Pipe Trail to the peak, where you can climb to the top of the 93-foot Veterans War Memorial Tower (closed in winter) for views of the Adirondacks, the Catskills, and the Green and White mountains. For a nice loop back to your car, follow a section of the Appalachian Trail about 1.7 miles before turning right on Bernard Farms Trail.
Hike to the highest point in Connecticut, with sweeping views of the valleys below. Located on the Massachusetts–Connecticut state line, Frissell’s summit is actually in Massachusetts, with Connecticut’s high point on the mountain’s southern slope. Park in the small lot off Mount Washington Road and take Mount Frissell Trail 1.2 miles to the summit then continue 0.1 mile to the high point marker. Another 0.5 mile on the trail will lead you to the New York–Connecticut–Massachusetts tri-state marker, with overlooks of both the Hudson Valley and (on a clear day) the Adirondacks. Log your hike in the high-pointers diary, kept in a metal box near the marker, before returning the way you came.
This classic hike gives a ‘best of’ tour of the Hudson Valley. Begin at the Bear Mountain Inn parking area, where you can see your destination poking over the other side of the Hudson River. Head north with Hessian Lake to your left until you reach the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. Be alert, as the AT bears right and tunnels under US 9W/202, passing the pool and entering the wooded paths of the Bear Mountain Zoo. This section of the AT is the lowest elevation of the whole trail, at 124 feet below sea level. Continue on the AT over Bear Mountain Bridge (sticking to the pedestrian path on the north side of the bridge), and then follow the trail into the woods on the right. You will then climb 700 feet over 0.6 mile to a T intersection—bear right to leave the AT and join the blue-blazed Hudson River Trail, which will take you through open hardwoods, past a vernal pool, and eventually onto the open ledges of Anthony’s Nose and Engagement Rock, the outcropping you saw at the start of your hike. Take some time to enjoy the views of nearby Harriman State Park before returning the way you came. (Note: If you prefer to access this hike by public transit, take the Metro-North Hudson line from Grand Central Station and get off at Manitou. From there, it’s a 1.5-mile walk to the Appalachian Trail and Anthony’s Nose—you won’t have to cross the bridge, but at 2.6 miles total, you can easily climb to Engagement Rock and backtrack over to Bear Mountain before catching your train back to the city.)
Ridgewalk and rock hop through a popular section of the Appalachian Trail, past waterfalls and through wooded areas of New Jersey’s Skylands. Start and end your 5.7-mile clockwise loop at the trailhead to the Appalachian Trail, located on Camp Mohican Road, just south of AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center. Turn right on the AT, following the white blazes for 2.4 miles over exposed ridge and views of the Paulinskill Valley, then back into the forest. You will reach a Y intersection and take a sharp right onto the Kaiser Trail, marked by a white square (not white paint). This grassy section of trail will take you past boulder fields and a gorge. At the 3.4 mile mark, you’ll reach a T intersection with Coppermines Trail, turn left to view the gorge and waterfall just 0.2 mile down the trail, then turn around and continue on Coppermines Trail back to the trailhead.
The Pinnacle is perhaps Pennsylvania’s most iconic stop on the AT. Often hiked as a loop that passes the Pulpit, another stunning viewpoint, this route is a must for anyone hiking in southeastern Pennsylvania. Start at the parking lot at the end of Reservoir Road and follow the blue blazes until you intersect with the Appalachian Trail—turn right to head north, winding through the Blue Rocks and over the Pulpit. Continue until you reach a spur trail marked by a huge, hiker-made cairn and walk for 250 feet to the outlook point. Here, you can see Kittatinny Ridge to the northeast and the edge of the Pennsylvania Appalachians. Return back to the trail, continuing along the AT/Pinnacle Trail until you reach the Blue Trail. Here is where the AT splits off—turn left to head south back to your car.