Top 10 Scenic Drives in New York

New York state isn’t all about the Big Apple. Away from all the noise, lights, and excitement, natural wonders abound in this region. From the picturesque Catskills to beaches along the coasts of the Long Island Sound or one of the state’s many rivers, there’s something to delight the eye at nearly every turn. Take time to see another side of New York than that seen on the big screen or imagined in books by traveling off the beaten path. Start your exploration with one of our favorite New York scenic drives, and you’ll be on your way to shaping a new opinion of this state:

No. 10 – River Road

River Road New York
Flickr user: A.D. Wheeler

Starting Location: Portageville, NY
Ending Location: Leicester, NY
Length: 20 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive following the Genesee River and the outskirts of Letchworth State Park may be short, but it isn’t short on natural beauty. In fact, the area has been referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the East” and is a favorite place for locals to enjoy the outdoors. There are several hiking trails to waterfalls, and anglers have been known to find honey holes along the river’s shores.

No. 9 – Route 10

Route 10 New York
Flickr user: David

Starting Location: Walton, NY
Ending Location: Deposit, NY
Length: 27 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring,Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Just the right length to while away a lazy morning or afternoon, this drive along Route 10 is full of stunning views of the Cannonsville Reservoir and the Catskill Mountains on the horizon. Be sure to fuel up before you go and pack any necessary provisions because there’s nothing along the way between Walton and Deposit except for towns that now lie underwater. There are, however, several nice places to stop by the water and enjoy the outdoors.

No. 8 – Long Island’s North Shore

Long Island’s North Shore New York
Flickr user: Alexander Rabb

Starting Location: Glen Cove, NY
Ending Location: Port Jefferson, NY
Length: 39 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re a character in The Great Gatsby or another classic as you drive along the coast of the Long Island Sound. This region once inspired great authors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, after all. With plenty of picturesque towns on the shore and wineries to tour, it’s easy to turn this relatively short trip into an intimate day or weekend getaway full of romance and relaxation.

No. 7 – Cherry Valley Turnpike

Cherry Valley Turnpike New York
Flickr user: Lisa

Starting Location: Skaneateles, NY
Ending Location: Cobleskill, NY
Length: 112 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring
See this drive on Google Maps

Highway 20, once known as the Cherry Valley Turnpike for which this route is named, goes through a different side of the state full of farmlands and gently rolling hills. Take a tour of the Ommegang Brewery just south of Milford for some time to stretch your legs and a hoppy sample. In Sharon Springs, feel transported back in time as you stroll in the historic downtown or treat yourself to a relaxing hot bath and massage in one of the many spas.

No. 6 – Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway

Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway New York
Flickr user: theexileinny

Starting Location: Schenectady, NY
Ending Location: Waterford, NY
Length: 21 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring
See this drive on Google Maps

Twisting and turning along the Mohawk River where a well-traveled Indian trail once was, this route passes through lush woodlands and quaint towns. Before setting off, be sure to check out the historic homes in the Stockade Neighborhood of Schenectady as well as the restored Proctor’s Theatre. A short hike to the 62-foot-high Cohoes Falls past Vischer's Ferry rewards those who go with gorgeous views and photo ops.

No. 5 – Harriman State Park Loop

Harriman State Park Loop New York
Flickr user: Dave Overcash

Starting Location: Doodletown, NY
Ending Location: Doodletown, NY
Length: 36 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive snaking through various lakes located in and around Harriman State Park showcases a wooded wonderland. Take a break in Arden to peek at some of the historic buildings, including the site of the 1810 ironworks that crafted the famous Parrott Gun during the Civil War. To enjoy a dip in the water to cool off or see if the fish are biting, Shebago Beach on Lake Welch is a good spot with plenty of picnic tables for a lunchtime spread.

No. 4 – Seaway Trail

Seaway Trail New York
Flickr user: David McCormack

Starting Location: Buffalo, NY
Ending Location: Cornwall, Ontario
Length: 330 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

With the picturesque start and finish of the Saint Lawrence River shore and Niagara Falls, the middle of this drive has much to live up to, and it doesn’t disappoint travelers along its way. Stop in the Village of Waddington to watch ships from around the world roll by or browse the specialty shops in its historic downtown. For those who enjoy lighthouses, this route will certainly delight with 30 of them, including the 1870 Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse.

No. 3 – Cayuga Lake

Cayuga Lake New York
Flickr user: Jim Liestman

Starting Location: Ithaca, NY
Ending Location: Seneca Falls, NY
Length: 41 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring,Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Hugging the western shore of the largest of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake, this drive is full of opportunities to enjoy the water throughout the year from boating to fishing to swimming when the weather is right. Hikers will enjoy the trail to the 215-foot waterfall in Taughannock Falls State Park. There are also over 30 wineries on the way that offer tours and samples.

No. 2 – Lakes to Locks Passage

Lakes to Locks Passage New York
Flickr user: diane cordell

Starting Location: Waterford, NY
Ending Location: Rouses Point, NY
Length: 173 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Largely following the shores of Lake Champlain, this route between the Adirondack and Green Mountains is full of recreational and photo opportunities. Travelers this way are treated to a variety of terrain ranging from sandstone gorges to verdant forests, and there are a few historic points of interest, such as in Saratoga National Park where the tide of the Revolutionary War turned. Don’t miss the unusual rock formations in Keeseville, which include one of the United States’ first tourist attractions of the Ausable Chasm.

No. 1 – Catskill Mountains

Catskill Mountains New York
Flickr user: Aby Jose

Starting Location: East Branch, NY
Ending Location: Shoharie, NY
***Length: 88 miles
Best Season to Drive**: Spring
See this drive on Google Maps

This scenic route through the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York is full of sweeping vistas from great heights and quaint, sleepy towns. Stop in the village of Margaretville, the site of several feature films, to enjoy its historic buildings dating back to the 1700s and water recreation on the Pepacton Reservoir. Railroad enthusiasts may enjoy a two-hour train ride in Arkville while more athletic types can hit the slopes of Belleayre Mountain or a hike to Kaaterskill Falls in Palenville.

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