10 Incredible Scenic Drives in New York State You Gotta See

New York State is huge and has some incredible scenic drives you gotta take and the following 10 I want to share are truly incredible.  

10 scenic drives in new york state

Here is a list of the 10 scenic drives in New York State:

  • Palisades Parkway from G.W. Bridge up to Hudson Valley Drive.
  • Hudson Valley Drive itself (Parts of Road 9 from NYC to Albany).
  • Interstate 87 from New York to the Canadian border.
  • Road 9N through Lake George.
  • Road 23 through the Catskills.
  • Road 9 from Deerhead to Canadian border.
  • Road 14 and 96A in Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes.
  • High Peaks Scenic Byway.
  • Road 73 in the Adirondacks.
  • Henry Hudson Drive (from G.W Bridge to Palisades Parkway).

I have to admit, out of this list, I have “only” completed 8 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:

10) Palisades Parkway.

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.

9) Hudson Valley Drive from NYC to Albany (visit Purple Heart Memorial Bridge).

This is one of the two drives I didn’t have a chance to do yet but it’s basically on the opposite side of the Hudson River from the Palisades Parkway and gives another awesome viewpoint and nature areas to check out, including the road itself. 

Whereas the Palisades Parkway was on the western side of the Hudson River, the Huston Valley Drive is on the east side of it:

palisades parkway scenic drive

Note: With both the Palisades Parkway and Hudson Valley Drive (the 2 roads which surround the Hudson River in this region), you will be able to pass a beautiful fort called Fort Montgomery and a beautiful bridge called Purple Heart Memorial Bridge which has many nice areas to hike and kayak through (just watch out for ticks, there’s plenty of them there).

Note: Parts of the Hudson River Valley drive are actually pretty boring, so my recommendation is this:

As you exit Manhattan and head north, stay on I 87 as it will remain pretty scenic, until you get to areas close to the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge, then stick to Road 9 and take it all the way up to Breakneck Ridge, and it will be scenic again.

Here is the location of it:

8) Interstate 87 from NYC to Canada.interstate 87 scenic drive

This is a common road I take whenever I travel north. And here the spots I’ve visited more than once and found thanks to this Interstate (they are all very close to it):

With how long Interstate 87 stretches from NYC to Canada, you’re looking at 7 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 the Catskill regions, followed by the Adirondacks a few hours later.

You’ll see beautiful places like Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain:

poke o moonshine mountain scenic roads new york

7) Road 9N in the Lake George area.

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. On this road, you’ll find beautiful towns, beautiful views of the lake, entertainment areas, very nice hiking trails, overlooks and more. Here’s one photo from the drive on it:

lake george scenic overlook drive

You’re looking at one hour of enjoyable driving time through this area in New York State.

6) Road 23 into the Catskills (a scenic byway).

catskill scenic byway

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 like Kaaterskill Falls, popular hiking trails like Devil’s Path, North and 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:

scenic byway catskills

You’ll pass nice places like Bastion Falls and parking areas where you can enter cliff diving areas:

bastion falls

5) Road 9 from Deerhead to Canadian border.

Road 9 is actually quite long and you’ll find it even near Lake George, but it’s not very scenic there. I have personally found the most beautiful spots in the northern areas around the Adirondacks where it starts in Deerhead and goes north through Ausable Chasm, then parallel to Lake Champlain and then reconnects with Interstate 87:

road 9 scenic drive new york state

The drive through Ausable Chasm itself is worth stopping for and you’ll know why when you arrive.

Here’s at least one picture where you will see this spot on road 9:

ausable chasm road 9

4) Road 14 and 96A in Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes (west of NYC).scenic drive finger lakes new york

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 road trip there and one can argue it’s as long as Lake George if not longer.

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.

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.

That says something and let me tell you, you NEED to see Watkins Glen State Park if you go there.

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 is just next level.

Here is just a small sample of how beautiful it is there:

watkins glen new york state

3) High Peaks Scenic Byway.

This is the second place I haven’t visited, but it often gets mentioned and it’s in the Adirondack area.

2) Road 73 in the Adirondacks.

road 73 adirondacks

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 road trip through it.

It is very beautiful and you have to make a stop at Chapel lake if you visit. Here is why:

chapel pond road 73 new york

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

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. 

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:

henry hudson scenic drive new jersey

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.

Note: I included the hikes in this park as one of the best hikes to do near NYC (in addition to 9 other awesome hikes near the city).

When the drive ends on the northern end of this path, it’ll connect you to the Palisades Parkway again.

And so these are the 10 scenic drives you need to do. 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.

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