- Tube Class II whitewater rapids at Town Tinker Tube Rentals.
As the days lengthen and the temperatures warm, the Hudson Valley begins to teem with life. Trees and bushes bloom, snow melts, and the streams and creeks of the Catskills rush with increased fervor. It's a time for backyard barbecues, deep plunges into swimming holes, long night walks under star-spangled skies, bike rides, and long drives.
It's also a time for exploration. The bounteous natural landscape of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills is a playground for the adventurer in each of us, and there are innumerable ways to commune with the great outdoors. Here is a guide to 15 summer adventures, with something for everyone—from the boldest thrill-seeker to the most contemplative nature lover.
1. The Hudson River Paddle
Even if you've driven, walked, hiked, and biked the region for years, touring by kayak offers a distinct perspective, providing direct contact with the region's namesake waterway. The five-day Hudson River Paddle is an immersive introduction to this way of communing with nature. Last year's journey, guided by Hudson River Expeditions, went from Albany to Poughkeepsie. This year, from July 8 to 12, paddlers will travel from Poughkeepsie to New York City. The registration for the group paddle includes camping gear, all paddling equipment, and catered meals prepared in HRE's mobile kitchen, so you'll need to bring only a robust sense of adventure. The itinerary includes stops at locations of cultural significance and natural beauty along the river. The odyssey is open to all experience levels, though HRE advises "any previous paddling experience will be beneficial."
2. Tubing the EsopusWe think of tubing as the lazy man's preferred form of riparian engagement, but tubing Esopus Creek requires a little more derring-do. This is no lazy river: Esopus Creek is Class II whitewater, which means waves up to three feet with rocks and other occasional obstacles that require maneuvering around. Thrillseekers up for the challenge can run the 1.5 to 2-hour course that starts just upstream at Town Tinker Tube Rental, in Phoenicia, which opens for the summer on Memorial Day weekend.
- Mountain biking at Windham Mountain Resort.
3. Mountain Biking at Ski ResortsThe ski season may be long over, but many mountain resorts are still in operation. To make the most of their prime slopeside access, more and more ski resorts are building and maintaining biking trails, some of which are accessible via lift. There are several local options to get your legs pumping. Windham Mountain has dozens of miles of trail, including the longest jump trail on the East Coast, for riders of various experience levels. (And there's a skills park.) Plattekill Mountain opens for biking on a limited basis, mostly corresponding with holiday weekends (July 6-7, August 3-4, August 31-September 1, and October 12-13). And Belleayre Mountain offers up both downhill mountain biking and mountain top bike tours.
4. Zipline at Hunter MountainOver at Hunter Mountain, meanwhile, you can take the highest, fastest, and longest zipline canopy tour in North America: the SkyRider tour, a three-hour, 4.6-mile circuit that peaks at 600 feet above the valley, offering stunning views. That's the most extreme of several summertime adventures at Hunter Mountain offered by New York Zipline. The Mid-Mountain Tour is decidedly more family- and beginner-friendly. For a moonlit thrill, adrenaline junkies can opt for the Night Zip Tour, which is the same course done under cover of dark, followed by stargazing.
5. HikingObviously. With more than a dozen state parks and preserves—the Catskills, the Shawangunks, the Hudson and Appalachian Highlands, the Hudson River and all its tributaries—this region is one of the best for hiking in the entire United States. There are hikes of wildly varying terrains and difficulty levels; the challenge is picking which ones to do. Let Scenic Hudson and Hike the Hudson Valley be your guides. (Some of our favorites: Breakneck Ridge, Sam's Point, Mt. Beacon Fire Tower, Gertrude's Nose, Storm King Mountain, Overlook Mountain, Bash Bish Falls, and Lower Peter's Kill Loop.) To add some socialization to your nature, consider joining a club based on skill level or identity, like the Mid-Hudson Adirondack Club or Hudson Valley Queer Outdoors.
6. Rock ClimbingThere are many places to go rock climbing in the Hudson Valley, but it's hard to beat the Shawangunks for accessibility and diversity. (It's the busiest climbing region in the US for a reason). The Trapps are the most popular rock walls and have more than 300 routes to the top, so all skill levels can find something suitable. Peter's Kill, in the Minnewaska State Park portion of the Gunks, is less intimidating for beginnners. There are several licensed guide services in the Gunks (check out Mountain Skills, Alpine Endeavors, or HighXposure). If you prefer to get your climbing legs indoors first, Gravity Vault in Poughkeepsie has 65 rope stations and extensive bouldering areas.