12 Incredible Scenic Drives New York State Has to Offer

New York State is huge and has some incredible scenic drives available for both locals and out of state residents to enjoy. Today I’ll be sharing 12 that will really showcase the beauty of NY state for you (and there will be many more added in the future). For now though:

Here is a list of the 12 most scenic drives in New York State:

  1. Palisades Parkway from G.W. Bridge up to Hudson Valley Drive.the 12 best scenic drives in new york state
  2. Hudson Valley Drive itself (Roads 9 and 9D from NYC to Albany).
  3. Interstate 87 from New York to the Canadian border.
  4. Road 9N through Lake George.
  5. Road 23 through the Catskills.
  6. Road 9 from Deerhead to Canadian border.
  7. Road 14 and 96A in Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes.
  8. High Peaks Scenic Byway.
  9. Road 73 in the Adirondacks.
  10. Henry Hudson Drive (from G.W Bridge to Palisades Parkway).
  11. 7 lakes drive at Harriman State Park.
  12. Hawks Nest scenic drive.

I have to admit, out of this list, I have “only” completed 9 of them so I don’t have photos of every single spot but will update this post when I do.

The other 2 however are also suggested and recommended to me by people and other sources. Let’s get into the details of each one:

1) Palisades Parkway:

palisade parkway scenic drive near new york state

I generally access this parkway from the George Washington Bridge after exiting Manhattan. If you live in the city and enter this road, right away, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. Do note, that when you first enter it, you will be in New Jersey, but after about 20 minutes of driving north, you’ll be back in New York State.

This parkway is located a top a pretty high elevation and runs right next to the Hudson river for many, many miles. It is very scenic and cross these incredible parks:

  • Palisades Interstate Park (It’s literally along the Hudson and you’ll find a lot of exits to trails there).
  • Tallman Mountain State park.
  • Harriman State Park.
  • Bear Mountain State Park.

You can choose not to stop at any of these spots, but you can be rest assured that the drive through this area via the Palisades Parkway will be very memorable, especially if you start from NYC and head north.

2) Hudson Valley Drive from NYC to Albany:

hudson valley scenic drive in new york state purple heart memorial bridge

Hudson Valley Drive technically starts once Palisades Parkway finishes (north of NYC) and it will take you through beautiful scenic roads, and passing by awesome parks like this:

  • Bear Mountain State Park.
  • Harriman State Park.
  • Purple Heat Memorial Bridge (right).
  • Croton Gorge State Park.
  • Hudson Highlands State Park.

Once you cross these 2 places (Palisades Parkway and Hudson Valley Drive), you will come to an intersection, and if you turn left, you will pass the beautiful Purple Heart Memorial Bridge, and the scenic drives on the other side of the bridge are amazing.

If you stay on the same road and continue heading north, you will also continue alongside the Hudson River and cross more beautiful places and if you’re into hikes, you may want to check out Breakneck Ridge which is close to Purple Heart Memorial Bridge.

It is one of the most popular and common day hikes in NYC residents take and having personally done it too, I like it because it’s short and challenging.

It also gives you a great view of the Hudson River.

3) Interstate 87 from NYC to Canada:

interstate 87 scenic drive in new york state

This is a common road I take whenever I travel north on road trips or hikes. And some of the most beautiful spots I’ve found in New York State were in great part thanks to this scenic road.

Here are some of those places I’m talking about on Interstate 87:

And that mountain above is called Poke o Moonshine. It’s located in the Adirondacks.

Interstate 87 stretches 100’s of miles from NYC to Canada, so you’re looking at 8 hours or more of beautiful, scenic drives, all through the western end of New York State.

While you travel on it, the most beautiful areas you will see are in the Catskill regions, followed by the Adirondacks a few hours later. And I always find easy hikes near me on this scenic drive.

4) Road 9N in the Lake George area:

lake george scenic drive in new york state road 9n

While Interstate 87 will take you close to Lake George, if you really want to see it and enjoy the scenic drive on it, you’ll want to take road 9N, which stretches all the way along the lake itself for about 30 miles.

On this road, you’ll find beautiful towns, beautiful views of the lake, entertainment areas, very nice hiking trails, overlooks and more, starting from the first town you enter.

Then there’s the tons of towns, camping spots and scenery that stretch for as long as Lake George stretches for. Afterwards, I’d turn towards interstate 87 to continue the scenic drives (it runs parallel to 9N).

5) Road 23 into the Catskills (a scenic byway):

catskills scenic drive in new york state

There is an official road that stretches for over an hour that will take you into the heart of the Catskill Mountains and driving through towns like:

  • Tannersville.
  • Hunter.

And other nice spots, along which are trails to beautiful waterfalls the Catskills and popular hiking trails like Devil’s Path, Hunter Mountain, North South Lake and more.

This road will have many access areas where you can park your car and go into a river for a swim, especially areas like these that I personally visit every time I’m there.

To access this road, you have to exit from Interstate 87 on exit 20 and head into the mountains (just put Hunter into your GPS and it’ll take you there).

You will see a sign for the scenic byway as you enter what is known as Catskill Park and the road for the next 20 minutes is truly memorable. You’ll pass by very beautiful waterfalls, drop offs and plenty of other places that I list in my Catskill adventure article above.

6) Road 9 from Deerhead to the Canadian border:

ausable chasm road 9 scenic drive new york state

Road 9 is actually quite long and you’ll find it even near Lake George (as well as Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain that’s on Interstate 87.

The only problem is, road 9 often doesn’t have many scenic spots if you do it entirely, which is why certain parts of it, like this one should be explored and the rest avoided (unless you really want to try driving and seeing that for yourself).

The good news about Road 9 though is that as you progress further north, there are several areas of this road which turn very scenic.

And the one I suggest taking is the one closer to the Canadian border that is close to Ausable Chasm.

The picture you see to the right is of Ausable Chasm and it’s taken on a bridge that is on road 9. 

Just as well, there is a park entrance into Ausable Chasm itself right by that bridge which you can check out if you’re interested (and I highly recommend you do). 

There are many scenic hiking areas inside Ausable Chasm to explore.

7) Road 14 and 96A in Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes (west of NYC):

finger lakes scenic drive in new york state

In the western areas of New York State lies an extremely beautiful area known as Finger Lakes, where you will find many scenic drives, hikes and places to see such as Watkins Glen State Park.

I personally traveled through Seneca lake (Road 14) during my Appalachian Mountain road trip and one can argue it’s as long as Lake George if not longer (with better views too).

The other side of the lake has road 96A you can travel through as well and you’ll see nice places like Hector Falls there, one of the most amazing waterfalls in New York State in my opinion.

Overall Finger Lakes itself is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen, and not just in New York State, but everywhere I’ve been for that matter.

See my road trip page for details on other beautiful places I’ve seen across the United States.

That says something and let me tell you, you need to see Watkins Glen State Park if you go there. The right picture to the right shows off some of it (there’s much more).

It’s truly one of the most beautiful, and easily accessible places I’ve seen. Parking is easy, access to the park itself is free. And the nature there is just next level.

8) High Peaks Scenic Byway (Adirondack Mountains New York):

high peaks scenic byway drive in new york state adirondack mountains 01

This is the second place I haven’t visited, but it often gets mentioned and it’s in the Adirondack area. If you already traveled past Interstate 87 through the Adirondacks, then you’ll want to make your next trip through this region through the High Peaks Scenic Byway.

It takes you deeper into these mountains (north east).

9) Road 73 (Another scenic drive in the Adirondacks):

adirondack mountains scenic drive in new york state

Since the Adirondacks are so huge and apparently part of the Appalachian Mountains, there are MANY roads you can take there.

While I can’t comment yet on High Peaks Scenic Byway, I can comment on Road 73 which a friend of mine and I took during our 2 road trips through it.

We had originally planned to visit a place called Mount Marcy but a few turns here and there had us driving through Road 73 and while on it, we spotted some awesome sights, including a very beautiful lake we later learned was called Chapel Pond (above):

It is right off the road and you can actually swim there, which we did a few years later when we revisited it on a 2 day trip outside of NYC.

10) Henry Hudson Drive from G.W Bridge to Palisades Parkway:

henry hudson scenic drive near new york state

I just did this drive yesterday and let me tell you, it is A must and it’s the nearest one near NYC you can do.

As you get off the G.W Bridge from Manhattan, you will have the option to travel on the Palisades Parkway or enter the park right near it which is called Fort Lee Historic Park and in this park is where you’ll find the Henry Hudson road.

While this path puts you into New Jersey officially, I could honestly not make this list and not include it because it’s just so close and so awesome.

Here is one of the photos we took on it:

That park stretches parallel to the Palisades parkway and the main road that goes through this area is the Henry Hudson Drive.

It stretches for about 6 miles, and will take you through incredibly beautiful scenic roads, including many stops right alongside the west area of the Hudson River, where you can do picnics, water sports, biking, jogging, and many hikes.

When the drive ends on the northern end of this path, it’ll connect you to the Palisades Parkway again and where you choose to go after is up to you, but by reading this list, you’ll have plenty of choices! 

11) 7 Lakes Scenic Drive at Harriman State Park:

seven lakes scenic drive harriman state park near new york

I can’t believe how long it took me to explore Harriman State Park, considering how it’s only a 1 hour drive from where I live.

But I did and the main road I used to drive through this park is called 7 Lakes Scenic Drive.

I highly recommend this drive if you live near NYC or are just driving north through the state. It takes about 20 minutes to drive through this path, but it’ll basically take you through the entire park.

Additionally, the 7 Lakes scenic drive is the main road that goes through this park and helps you see the best things this park has to offer.

Just like the name suggests, this road will take you through the park and have you cross 7 of the main lakes in it, each of which has their own trails, stops and beautiful, simple hikes people can do.

Whether it be a scenic drive or a nice day trip, this is a short, but very scenic and beautiful drive to take!

12) Hawks Nest scenic drive:

hawks nest scenic drive new york state

Hawks Nest scenic drive is a short route running parallel to the Delaware River (not far from Delaware Water Gap), but it’s located in New York State officially.

When I first saw pictures of this drive, I thought they were actually associated with the High Peaks scenic byway in the Adirondacks, but a some quick research proved I was wrong.

And after seeing how beautiful this drive was, I knew I had to see it for myself and I did a few days ago.

The good news is that Hawks Nest is a beautiful drive, but the bad news is that it’s very short and unless you’re planning to do other activities nearby, like kayak on the Delaware River, camp or drive through there, there’s not much else to see.

I would only recommend going through this path if you’re passing through or looking to see other beautiful parks nearby like High Point State Park.

Otherwise, this scenic drive’s beauty quickly fades and the photo you see to your right is really the only part of that drive that’s worth looking at.

Everything else is pretty boring after that (although the town east of Hawks Nest is pretty nice).

And so these are the 12 scenic drives I recommend you do if you’re in New York!

Depending on the time you have, I’d say the best one to do out of all these (if you don’t have much time) would be Henry Hudson Drive and if you have a few days, obviously go crazy and go as far north as possible on 87 and enjoy the sights, or if you go west, the drives in Finger Lakes are a must too.

More related things to do in New York State:

1) Here is a list of the top 10 day hikes near NYC to explore.

2) Here’s a list of 10 amazing waterfalls across New York State that you’ll find, some of which are close to the scenic roads you saw on this list.

3) Here is a list of 11 amazing nature places to explore near NYC. It’s a list that will grow too.

Want to explore more scenic drives across the country?

If so, then I have a list of the best scenic drives in North America that I’ve done, some of which include roads I’ve passed through in Canada. And here is a page dedicated to scenic drives I’ve done in general.

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