When many people think of the areas surrounding New York City, they think of the infamous Meadowlands, industrial campuses with large smokestacks, and polluted waterways from the most populous city in the United States. But there are hidden gems peppered in and around New York City that allow you to escape the noise and crowds of urban life.
One such place is right across the Hudson River from The Bronx borough, easily reached by traversing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Thousands of commuters drive next to it every day, likely without even realizing it. The Palisades Interstate Park is a narrow strip of park land between the Palisades Interstate Parkway and the Hudson River, measuring approximately ½ mile wide and 12 miles long. The park offers a little bit of something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors, from families with young kids, to hikers and anglers. And for those that don’t want to completely escape the shadow of New York City, the riverfront of Palisades Interstate Park provides sweeping views of the city skyline.
Trails and Hiking
The Palisades Interstate Park boasts 30 miles of trails, ranging from leisurely strolls on flat well-groomed paths, to more challenging scrambles over large rocks and boulders. The park website is nice enough to provide guides on their website for easy, moderate, and challenging hikes, with maps and themes for each trail. Be sure to note the length and terrain of each trail, as some can be full-day hikes.
Despite the relatively narrow strip of land that the Palisades Interstate Park covers, you will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of scenery that you can experience while hiking the park. Trails will take you through dense woods, past tall flowing waterfalls, along steep cliff edges, and by the river’s edge. The park’s trails provide something for everyone.
Information about the different trails and downloadable maps can be found on the Palisades Interstate Park website.
Fishing and Crabbing
You may not consider the Hudson River by New York City an ideal place for fishing, but the area actually provides a great setting for catching a nice variety of fish because of its tidal waters filling the area with salt and freshwater. Anglers have success catching small and large fish off the seawalls and shores, including Striped Bass, Largemouth, and Smallmouth Bass, and Bluefish.
Palisades Interstate Park provides several designated areas for fishing, including picnic areas, which are great for families with youngsters, or along the Shore Trail. Some fishing spots can get crowded near the picnic areas during peak outdoor season. But if you are up for walking a bit with your gear, you can find nice private fishing spots all along the shoreline.
The Palisades Interstate Park website even provides updated daily tide predictions and peak fishing times on their website. Take a look before you go to see when the best fishing times will be in the morning or evening.
Paddling and Boating
If you’re looking to get out on the river and see the Palisades Interstate Park from the water, the park does allow launching from the shore for small boats, such as canoes, kayaks, and jet skis. If you are interested in partaking in a paddle powered boat, you should note that the river can have strong currents, running either north or south, depending on the time of day. So, if you are not a strong paddler, you should be weary of the tides and currents. Also be weary of the large boat traffic that regularly travels the Hudson River. Stay closer to shore in your small vessel.
There are multiple areas to launch your small paddle boat: the Englewood Picnic Area in Englewood Cliffs and the Alpine Picnic Area in Alpine. Both areas have small marinas with parking lots. You will launch your boat from areas north of the marinas. You must be able to carry your boat to the launch point by hand, so try to park close to the launch point, or drop your boat off and park. Alpine Marina also offers charters and tours, if you are interested in having a captain take you out for stunning views of the Hudson River and New York City. The Ross Dock Picnic Area also has a boat ramp for you to launch larger vessels.
More information about rules and launch points at the Palisades Interstate Park can be found on the park’s website.
Picnics and Grilling
If you’re looking to spend the day in the park, the picnic areas are great for “home base” locations. The Palisades Interstate Park has four designated picnic areas with parking, grill stations, and open lawns. The grill stations are first come, first served. So, if you plan on going for a picnic and using the park’s grills, you will want to arrive earlier than peak meal time. If you are organizing a gathering of more than 25 people, the park requires you to have a permit.
Ross Dock Picnic Area is the largest picnic area in the park, located just north of the George Washington Bridge. The picnic area juts out into the river, providing gorgeous 180º views of the Hudson River. In this area, you’ll find picnic tables, grills, restrooms, a concession stand, a playground, and a boat launch ramp. Given its proximity to the bridge and quick access from the city, the Ross Dock Picnic Area also tends to be the busiest.
Englewood Picnic Area stretches along the shoreline for about a half mile. This is another popular picnic area just north of Ross Dock Picnic Area and fills up quickly during the peak season. Englewood Picnic Area also includes picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and access to fishing, crabbing, and small paddle boat launch areas.
The Undercliff Picnic Area and Alpine Picnic Area are further north and more “rustic” as the park website describes, for their lack of amenities compared to the other two picnic areas. These two picnic areas are a little more remote, so you will not have to deal with spaces that are as crowded. They also provide some unique elements, such as the historic Kearney House and the ruins of the old bath house that was built in Undercliff Picnic Area in the 1920’s.
Find more information about each of the picnic areas, rules, and regulations on the Palisades Interstate Park website.
Plan an escape to the Palisades Interstate Park and bask in a slice of nature that has been so well-preserved in a region that is so over-developed.