Fire Island, Long Island: This slender island protecting the mainland is replete with trees, wilderness, and one entire side of gorgeous golden-sand beach. Best of all, cars aren't allowed, meaning bikes and little red wagons are the only things that can run you over. And because the island is 32 miles long but just a half-mile wide, you're never more than a short walk from the ocean's waves and beach. For a truly remote wilderness experience, head to the eastern end, where it'll likely just be you and the deer in the gorgeous environment.
Mashomack Preserve: With more than 2,000 pristine acres in the southeastern part of Shelter Island, this preserve, run by the Nature Conservancy, is about as remote as you can get on Long Island. There are 11 miles of easy hiking trails that run through the oak woodlands, marshes, ponds, and creeks. Keep an eye out for osprey, ibis, foxes, harbor seals, and terrapins.
Kaaterskill Falls: The Catskill Mountains are all about the great outdoors, providing lots of invitations to hike, bike, ski, boat, and fish. But one of those unique spots where everyone is sure to feel just a little closer to nature is Kaaterskill Falls, the highest waterfall in New York State. It's not nearly as powerful and massive as Niagara Falls, though it is indeed higher. An easy but beautiful walk, wending along a flowing creek, takes you to the bottom of the falls.
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Finger Lakes Region: Smack in the middle of the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, at the north end of Cayuga Lake, this 7,000-acre wetlands nature park, established in 1938, is superb for birding and a spectacular nature experience for families. The marshes draw thousands of Canada geese, blue herons, egrets, wood ducks, and other water birds on their sojourns from nesting areas in Canada, reaching temporary populations as great as two million birds during the fall and spring migrations. You can drive, cycle, or walk along a road that takes you up close and personal with birds and other creatures.
Watkins Glen State Park: There are too many great nature spots in the Finger Lakes to even discuss or hope to visit on a single trip, starting with the sinewy lakes themselves, but this 776-acre park is surely at the top of any list. Its centerpiece is an amazing slate gorge carved out of the earth at the end of the last ice age, gradually shaped by the waters of Glen Creek. Along the beautiful walking trails are 19 waterfalls.
St. Regis Canoe Wilderness: It's not easy these days to find a single body of water expressly reserved for nonmotorized boats, and it's even harder to find several bodies of water for the canoer/kayaker. But this remote area, tucked deep in the heart of the Adirondacks, is just that. Take your boat out on these waters and it'll likely just be you and the birds as you cruise quietly through this amazing backcountry.
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.