Towering over the Hudson River on the New York side are enormous skyscrapers, but closer to the river there are geological marvels that rival the magnificence of the steel jungle – the cliffs of The Palisades. The bluffs are encompassed by Palisades Interstate Park, a 12-mile-long and half-mile-wide area that includes parts of New Jersey and New York and is filled with trails, views, and historical sites galore. Suffice it to say that there is not a dull experience to be had in the Palisades.
What to Expect
We began by pulling into the parking lot at State Line Lookout (which has restrooms, a refreshment stand offering food and drinks, a gift shop, and free parking) and were greeted with a panoramic overlook of the Hudson River and our neighbors in New York (sadly they were too far away to hear us shouting hello).
We proceeded along the Long Path, which took us through a wooded area with an occasional glimpse of the river and landscape below. The path then descended on steep stone stairs and we were deposited at Peanut Leap Cascade, a scenic area complete with views of the cliffs above, a waterfall, and a shoreline vista. NOTE: we would suggest that those with children or those who are not in the greatest physical condition turn around here and finish the hike by returning back on the Long Path.
After spending some time gawking at Peanut Leap Cascade, Kyle and I continued south along the Shore Trail, which unsurprisingly traverses the shore of the Hudson. Following this trail led us to perhaps the most incredible (and hazardous) part of our hike, the Giant Stairs.
By climbing up the cluttered array of boulders, we were afforded a magnificent vantage point of Hudson, the George Washington Bridge, and, much to our dismay, the impending storm clouds that would soon unload buckets of rain on us. We continued to navigate through the Stairs; this took considerably longer than walking along the dirt path earlier, and it was more than challenging, so we advise hikers to be wary. The loop finished with a strenuous 500-foot climb back to the top of the cliffs, which was followed by a short walk back to the parking lot.
This is not a short hike – it took Kyle and I almost three hours to complete, which was about an hour longer than we had expected, and we were duly rewarded by being stuck in a torrential downpour for the final 20 minutes of our trek. We were also moving at a relatively fast pace, so to really slow down and take in all the surroundings, allocate at least three hours to do so. Also, note that this hike is EXTREMELY TREACHEROUS in some areas; Kyle and I are in above-average physical shape and we struggled mightily during the Giant Stairs section of the trail as well as during the final ascent. The loop we hiked is not for young children or those not in good physical condition, and we cannot stress this enough. Luckily, the Palisades are full of easier hikes, which can be found at http://www.njpalisades.org/trails.html. For a printable PDF of the loop Kyle and I did, click here.
You’ll need to get onto the Palisades Interstate Parkway, either from exit 13S off I-287 or exit 72 off I-95. Once there, follow the Parkway to exit 3 toward State Line Lookout and take this to the parking lot.
Kyle and I went on a Sunday, and we had no problem finding parking. However, if the lot is full, you can park on either side of the street.