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Few places on the East Coast have the variety of mountains, forest preserves, and hiking trails of New York State, making it a superb destination for anyone from hard-core trail hounds to casual day hikers. The wild, remote Adirondacks (www.visitadirondacks.com), an area that covers nearly one-fifth of the state, are the state's top location for hiking, with a great hiking trail system to high peaks, waterfalls, and secluded lakes. Serious hikers will want to head to the High Peaks region. Mount Marcy, at 5,300 feet, is New York State's highest mountain, but with a heavy tree cover, there are peaks with better views to be found. One of them is Bald Mountain, east of Old Forge, a 2-mile (steep) climb with gorgeous vistas. The trail to Avalanche Lake is extraordinary, and Phelps Mountain is a moderate climb rewarded by 360-degree views of the high peaks. The DEC's Preserve Protection and Management (tel. 518/457-7433; www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html) publishes free trail maps and literature. Information on the Adirondacks can also be obtained from the Adirondack Mountain Club, or ADK, in Lake George (tel. 518/668-4447; www.adk.org), New York's oldest hiking club.

The Catskill Mountain region abounds with fantastic hiking possibilities. Particularly good are trails in the Minnewaska Preserve and Mohonk Preserve. Hugely popular with climbers, the Shawangunks (commonly known as the 'Gunks), at the southeastern edge of the Catskills, also have great hiking trails. For trail information throughout the region, see www.catskillguide.com/hiking.htm. The Hudson River Valley is more hilly than mountainous, but there are great hikes in Bear Mountain, Hudson Highlands, and Fahnestock state parks.

The numerous gorges and glens in and around the lakes make the Finger Lakes terrific for hiking. The 16,000-acre Finger Lakes National Forest (btwn Cayuga and Seneca lakes) contains nine trails of up to 12 miles in length. See www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/greenmountain/htm/fingerlakes/f_home.htm for more information. In terms of sheer length, nothing (save the Appalachian Trail and North Country Trail, both of which cross through New York State) is on a par with the Finger Lakes Trail (tel. 716/288-7191; www.fingerlakestrail.org), a hard-core 559-mile system of wilderness foot trails across the state. It's part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which upon completion will extend 4,200 miles from eastern New York State all the way to North Dakota. The main Finger Lakes Trail connects the Catskill Mountains with the Allegheny Mountains.

The New York State Canalway System (www.nyscanals.gov) comprises 230 miles of multiuse trails across upstate, including the 90-mile Erie Canal Heritage Trail; the 36-mile Old Erie Canal Park Trail in central New York; the 25-mile Mohawk Hudson Bikeway in eastern New York; and the 8-mile Glens Falls Feeder Canal Trail in the foothills of the Adirondacks (near Lake Champlain). For a free map of the Canalway Trail System, call tel. 800/4-CANAL-4.

A good website for information on hiking in western New York, from Letchworth State Park to Niagara Falls, is www.wnyhikes.com.

For trail information and maps, contact the conservation group (composed of hiking clubs, environmental organizations, and individuals) New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, 232 Madison Ave., #802, New York, NY 10016 (tel. 212/685-9699; www.nynjtc.org). The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation publishes the comprehensive Empire State Trails; for a free copy, contact NYS Parks, Empire State Plaza, Agency Bldg. 1, Albany, NY 12238 (tel. 518/474-0456). Trail information is also available online at www.nysparks.state.ny.us/news/public. New York Parks and Conservation Association (tel. 518/434-1583) has an online trail-finder maps feature, with details on more than 90 trails and over 850 miles of walking, biking, in-line skating, and cross-country skiing. Another excellent resource, with information on organizations, trails, and more, is the A1 Trails website, www.a1trails.com, which has a section specifically dealing with guided hikes and adventure: www.a1trails.com/guides/gdesny.html.

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), based in Lake George but with chapters in all major regions in the state, has more than 20,000 members and publishes guidebooks and the Adirondack magazine. It also manages trail maintenance and operates two lodges in the Adirondacks. For more information on specific trails, call tel. 800/395-8080 or visit www.adk.org. The New York Ramblers in New York City offers hiking and snowshoeing trips. Visit www.nyramblers.org. The Views from the Top bulletin board has postings on the latest trail conditions across New York State; consult www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/ny/index.html.

Following are just a few recommended guidebooks devoted to hiking in New York State; local bookstores will have more options: 50 Hikes in Central New York: Hikes & Backpacking Trips from the Western Adirondacks to the Finger Lakes (W.W. Norton & Co.); 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks: Short Walks, Day Trips & Backpacks Throughout the Park (Countryman Press); 50 Hikes in Western New York: Walks & Day Hikes from the Cattaraugus Hills to the Genesee Valley (Countryman Press); Hiking New York State (Falcon Press); and Paths Less Traveled: The Adirondack Experience for Walkers, Hikers & Climbers of All Ages (Pinto Press).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.