North America

5 Beautiful Nature Areas Near New York City

nyccover.jpgIn May of 2019 work brought us to the area of Jersey City/New York City.  We were there for 6 full weeks.  If you follow my blog or social media at all, you’d know I am not much of a city person.  I prefer greenery, nature, wildlife, etc.  For this reason, you know I had to scope out any and all natural areas or green parks that were nearby.  Although there are so many beautiful natural areas more than an hour away from the city in the state of NY and NJ, the list below focuses on 5 places that are 45 minutes or less from the city and all free. 

  1. Palisades Park

    • Palisades is a New Jersey state park on the Hudson River.  It stretches 12 miles from the George Washington Bridge up to the NY/NJ border.  It is one of the largest natural areas near the city.  It was also my favorite.  There are multiple hiking and biking trails, both on the bottom along the water and up on top of the cliffs.  The trails offer multiple viewpoints of the river, the GW bridge, the city, etc.  Away from the viewpoints it is very quiet and green with a lot of wildlife.  We saw a few small waterfalls, deer, a groundhog, chipmunks, and so many birds including a bald eagle!

      viewpoint on south end of park of GW bridge and city

    • The 2 parking lots on the south end of the park cost $5 to park (and are located on the bottom by the river).  The parking lot on the north side by the state line lookout is free to park and located on the top of the cliffs.  Overnight parking is not permitted in any part of the park.

      Me standing on the cliff for size scale

      hiking on the north end near the state line lookout parking lot

    • There is a parkway on top of the cliffs you can drive on or a smaller more scenic parkway through the middle level of the park (but is often closed for maintenance and weather).  You can also view the park’s impressive cliffs by boat.  There is one docking area.  For docking prices and more info visit the parks website here.


      palisades cliff view from a boat

  2. Reservations in Orange

    • There are multiple reservations just west of Jersey City in the Orange area.  The one we walked around (and spent in the night in) was called South Mountain Reservation.  (others include Eagle Rock and Watchung).  South Mountain Reservation has multiple hiking and biking trails and a couple waterfalls.  We hiked to a waterfall called Hemlock falls.  There are multiple parking lots in the reservation.  Overnight parking was allowed (as of May 2019).  We stayed there on a weeknight so it was very quiet.  It was nice to wake up to the sounds of birds instead of honking horns.

      hiking in South Mountain Reservation


      Hemlock Falls


      South Mountain Reservation overnight

  3. Liberty State Park

    • A popular park, but still green nonetheless.  Located in New Jersey directly across from lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  On a weekday the park is peaceful.  I walked through this park multiple times while only seeing a handful of other people and a lot of geese.  However on weekends there are often events and crowded is an understatement.  So the amount of people depends on when you go.  There are multiple car parks, and majority of them cost between $5-$7/car per day to park.  There is one lot on the north side that is free for up to 2 hours.  The south end of the park has direct views of the rear side of the Statue of Liberty.  I mainly used this park to lay on a blanket in the grass and get some fresh air away from the city bustle.  It was MUCHHHH quieter than Central Park (next on this list).

      large quiet grassy fields in Liberty State Park


      beautiful flowers in the spring in Liberty State Park

  4. Central Park

    • This is an obvious one.  Couldn’t make this list without mentioning it.  I personally didn’t enjoy Central Park as much as other people love it.  It reminded me more of an amusement park than a natural park because of the amount of people. Without the crowd, I would have appreciated it’s beauty more.  But it is still a huge park so worth mentioning.  I walked it in entirety from the north end to south end.. and also walked from the southeast to the northwest on a different route.  I can say that the quietest area by far was near the northwest part of the park on a path that follows along a little creek.  In that area there were multiple little paths off the main trail that I had to myself.  But mainly, people come to this park to relax in the sun, go biking or running, have a picnic, etc.

  5. Mt. Loretto Unique Area + Butler Manor Woods & Beach

    • I found this area by zooming in on Google Maps while looking for quiet areas.  It was a pleasant surprise to find!!

      the beach I had to myself


      the small lot on left that we parked at/slept in overnight

      The only downfall was the cost to get there.  We had no idea how much the bridge cost to get to Staten Island.  Apparently its $15/car every time you cross that bridge.  And unfortunately even more for us because we have dually wheels in the back so it was $41 just to cross a bridge!  But once we got to this spot, I was super happy.  We spent the night in a small local parking lot directly on the water.  I went for a walk twice along the beach and was the only person the entire time (granted it was an overcast weekday, but still).  During my walk, I realized Mt. Loretto & Princes Bay Lighthouse were right next to the Woods we stayed at.  It had a few walking trails that were SO pristinely clean and well-maintained and quiet.  We saw a deer and a few other wildlife.  One negative thing I can say about this area is that the fishermen ruin the beach.  They don’t clean up after themselves and throw their bait and filet’d fish on the shoreline so most of it is like a fish cemetery. But it was still a nice quiet getaway from the city.


      Butler Manor Woods/Beach


      near Princes Bay Lighthouse where we saw deer

 There they are.  5 beautiful, natural, green areas near New York City and Jersey City that you can escape to for a relaxing day or night.  If you have any questions feel free to email me at or send me a message on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel. ←Follow me on there for more travel and van life adventures ♥


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