Explore the Outdoors: Kid-Friendly Albany Area Hikes and Trails
Nestled between the Adirondack, Catskill, and Taconic Mountains, and situated at the juncture of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, the Albany area is full of preserves, parks, and trails that are perfect for your next hike as a family. Many of these hikes also have visitor centers where you and your child can learn about local wildlife, plant species, and geology before setting out on the trails.
Explore a rare local habitat and hike one of the many trails at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The Preserve's 18 miles of trails are sandy, flat, and well-marked, weaving through the pine barren's thousands of acres of forests and sand dunes. When you arrive at their parking lot, check out the Discovery Center first to learn about the multitude of species that call the Pine Bush home, then set out on your own adventure or take part in an educational program.
Take an easy-to-moderate hike with plenty of sights to see. The Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville has a few different trails (12 miles in total) that take visitors through pine woods, along the shores of Lake Myosotis, and past Rensselaerville Falls. The Preserve also has both a research center and a visitor center on-site, and offers special events, such as kid-friendly guided wildlife walks.
The Five Rivers Environmental Education Center began its life with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and has acted as a research site for almost 80 years. Its six trails vary in scenery - gardens, ponds, marshes, orchards, and woods - and there are options for all skill levels. They also have a visitor center and offer many free programs and events to help turn your hike into a learning experience.
Explore Peebles Island, situated where the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers meet. Peebles Island State Park's main trail circumnavigates the island, so you'll have stunning views of the river for most of your hike. There are also several interior trails to explore, as well as plenty of picnic tables scattered across the island. Stop at their visitor center, take in the view from the observation deck, and play a game at the horseshoe pit.
Take an easy hike another another local island. Schodack Island State Park on the Hudson River consists of over 1,000 acres and eight miles of trails. The island is also home to a bird conservation area, campsites, and a playground. The island is long and thin, so the looping hike is a long one, but the trails are flat and run through a wide variety of species.
Grafton Lakes State Park is perhaps the largest on this list, with 2,500 acres and about 25 miles worth of trails. On-site, they have a snack shack, a bird conservation area, several ponds, and a fire tower with an expansive view of three mountain ranges. They have a large number of trails, including simpler ones that are ideal for children. Check out Shaver Lake and its exceptionally clear waters, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as otters, beavers, and moose.
Visit the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center to learn more about Thacher State Park and the Helderberg Mountains, as well as what you'll see on your hike. They offer a variety of exhibits, many educational programs, and optional guided hikes. The trails connected to the Nature Center are easy and kid-friendly loops that run through the fields and woods.
More Scenic Trails & Hotspots
For a peaceful, easy walk with beautiful scenery, take a stroll through the Schenectady Rose Garden in Central Park. Meander through its pathways and discover its collection of about 4,000 rose bushes, with hundreds of varieties. The garden also contains a fountain, a stone bridge, ponds, and a waterfall. Continue your walk by exploring Central Park and its trails, lake, woods, playground, and other family-friendly attractions.
The Center Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail runs between Albany and Voorheesville, and is perfect if you're looking to enjoy nature without going deep into the woods or mountains. The trail's nine miles are paved and flat, ideal for taking the whole family - especially if you have strollers. The trail follows along the site of an old railroad line that used to connect the communities. Bikes are also allowed on the trail if you'd rather go for a spin together.
Take a short hike along the Cohoes Falls Trail and visit one of the largest waterfalls in the state. Explore Falls View Park and its close-up vantage point. The park's trail is only half a mile long but offers many scenic views of the falls. The trail crosses over the Mohawk River, then branches out in two directions, one to a scenic overlook and the other down to the riverbank (which does involve a long flight of stairs). Just downstream, on another impressive perch, is Overlook Park, which offers a bird's eye view of both the Cohoes Falls and its hydropower station.
Whether you'd rather go exploring as a family in the woodlands, on an island, or around a local park or landmark, there are plenty of options near Albany for an easy and scenic hike.