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New York State's 24 national parks include splendid natural spots like the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Fire Island National Seashore, in addition to famous historic monuments. One extremely popular natural area is the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System; it runs 73 miles along the New York-Pennsylvania border, making it the Northeast's longest free-flowing river. Perfect for boating and kayaking, the Upper Delaware is known for its Class I and II rapids, public fishing, and wintering bald eagles. An interesting fact: Nearly all the land along the Upper Delaware River is privately owned; only 30 acres belong to the U.S. government. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor (www.eriecanalway.org), the newest national park in New York State, comprises four navigable waterways (Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca) and sections of the first Erie Canal, totaling more than 500 miles in upstate New York. More than 230 trail miles along the corridor have been equipped for biking and hiking. The Fire Island National Seashore (www.nps.gov/fiis), located in Patchogue (1 hr. east of NYC), is the site of beautiful ocean shores, an ancient maritime forest, and historic lighthouses and estates. Outdoor activities include backpacking and birding.

Crossing New York State are two of the nation's most important scenic trails. The famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.; www.appalachiantrail.org), which opened as a continuous trail in 1937 and was designated the first National Scenic Trail in 1968, is a 2,167-mile footpath that crosses the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia. The trail is very popular with day, weekend, and other short-term hikers, section hikers, and through-hikers (who hike the entire length of the trail in one season). The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT; www.northcountrytrail.org) crosses seven northern states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Detailed national park information covering travel and transportation, facilities, fees and permits, hours, wildlife, and more is available through the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov.

National & State Park Passes

The best way to visit national parks not just in New York State but across the country is with the National Parks Interagency Annual Pass ($80, valid for 1 yr.), which provides admission to any national park that charges an entrance fee. The pass covers the pass holder and three accompanying adults. It can be purchased at national park sites, online at http://store.usgs.gov/pass or http://www.recreation.gov, by calling tel. 888/ASK-USGS, ext. 1, or by sending a check or money order payable to the National Park Service for $80 (plus $3.95 for shipping and handling) to National Park Foundation, P.O. Box 34108, Washington, DC 20043-4108. The new Senior Pass ($10, for seniors only; lifetime membership) replaced the old Golden Age Passport in January 2007 (plastic Golden Age passports are still valid for lifetime; paper passports may be exchanged for the new Senior Pass, free of charge). Other old passes, including the National Parks Pass, Golden Eagle Hologram, and Golden Access and Golden Eagle Passports, will continue to be honored until they expire. For additional information, call tel. 888/ASK-USGS.

The Empire Passport provides unlimited day use and vehicle access to most New York State parks ($65, valid Apr 1-Mar 31 of the following yr.), and it is available by calling tel. 518/474-0458 or at www.nysparks.com/passport.

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.