Well, well, well, it seems Memorial Day Weekend is HERE!
Still haven’t decided how to best use your extra time off? Let me give you my TOP PICKS for excellent weekend activities both near and further! And don’t worry, these activities are great allllll summer long, so you may as well add them ALL to your to-do list ;) Here goes!
My Top 10 Outdoor Activities for Memorial Day Weekend:
1. Backpack the Catskills
With over 300 miles of hiking trails and 35 peaks over 3,500 feet in elevation, the Catskill Mountains are an excellent place to backpack and escape from it all.
We've taken on the Cornell-Wittenberg-Slide loop (hiking guide HERE) as well as trekked the Escarpment Trail around Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountain (seen above) - both superb areas to bag some peaks!
One area we've hiked but have yet to backpack is Devil’s Path (seen above), supposedly the most difficult backpacking trail on the East Coast with strenuous scrambles and treacherous pathways...sounds like fun! You can get a taste for this trail with our day-hike of Indian Head Mountain along the Devil's Path HERE.
For more information on backpacking and hiking the Catskills, consult the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
Heading out on your first-ever backpacking excursion? Check out my Backpacking 101 guide!
2. Visit the Lehigh Valley Gorge, PA
This area of the Pocono Mountain Region in Pennsylvania has it all, from biking, hiking, white water rafting, kayaking, and even cultural goodness in the town of Jim Thorpe. Biking is a snap when you take a shuttle with bikes in tow from Jim T. to various points along the Lehigh Valley Gorge. Last year we did a 25 mile trip from White Haven back to town, featuring waterfalls and expansive vistas.
On top of biking, don’t forget to take in the series of cascading waterfalls that is Glen Onoko Falls. Check out the details of this 2.1 mile out-and-back hike HERE.
3. Explore the Gunks!
OBVIOUSLY this local haunt should not be overlooked! Now that camping is permitted in Mohonk Preserve, you have all the MORE reason to spend some time in this ecologically unique landscape. Even without camping, there is puh-lun-ty to do!
You can hike out to Gertrude’s Nose or Millbrook Mountain, bike the carriage roads in Minnewska State Park Preserve, explore the Lost City of Mohonk Preserve (seen above), or test out your climbing skills at the West Trapps!
Oh, and let’s not forget the Shawangunk Wine Trail ;) ...I mean, there are UNICORNS!
4. Go Birding in Cape May, NJ
It’s Cape MAYgration, y’all! Time to spot as many feathered friends as possible as they make their way north for the summer. At Cape May Point State Park, there is an unimaginable amount of avian activity.
From shorebirds like Terns, Black Skimmers and Sandipipers, to Neotropical songbirds hailing from South America, this location is pure MAGIC, even if you are just beginning to bird.
Check out the New Jersey Audubon Society’s website for more information on this area as well as the Cape May Bird Observatory.
5. Backpack, Hike, or Kayak the Adirondacks
Ah, the always wonderful Adirondacks, what better place to be at the beginning of the summer season?
The High Peaks region offer exceptional backpacking through passes and peaks (seen above), strenuous mountain hikes like Whiteface Mountain (seen below), Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak of New York State at 5,343 feet, and so much more. The Lake Placid website offers various hike suggestions depending on your interests.
On top of hiking, obviously LAKE placid has, you guessed it, kayaking! You can bring your own or rent from a nearby outfitter for as long or short as you please. Find out more information about rentals and boating in general on the Lake Placid website here.
But let's not forget about the other regions of the ADKs! There are SO, so many areas to explore that are equally as intriguing as the High Peaks (like Pharaoh Mountain seen below), not to mention less-trafficked. I'd HIGHLY recommend exploring beyond the High Peaks region, both for your benefit AND the benefit of the mountains ;) .
6. Go Biking in Sandy Hook, NJ
Looking to get your bike on while taking in historical sites AND natural splendor? Then give Sandy Hook a try! As part of Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook is carry in-carry out, and is not built up like other Jersey Shore locales, so your beach going experience is more relaxed and scenic.
With plenty of historical monuments to take in like Fort Hancock, you history buffs will have your fancies tickled while simultaneously taking in the surrounding seascapes.
A bike path goes all along this 6 mile barrier spit, giving you access to all of the beaches and sights both bayside and oceanside. You can even tour Sandy Hook Light, the OLDEST working lighthouse in the United States! Who knew?
7. Camp at High Point State Park, NJ
Aside from the fact that this, too, is a spot to bird along the Atlantic Flyway this time of year (yes, please!), High Point State Park in NJ has fantastic camping as well as hiking opportunities.
If you camp at the Sawmill Lake Campground, the trail leading to the High Point Monument is right at your “doorstep” (more like tent-step…you get me). Go ahead and take the virtual hike below!
FYI: Be wary of ticks in this region, always check those spindly legs o’ yours after hiking!
8. Canoe/Kayak the Pine Barrens of Southern NJ
Talk about a distinctive landscape! The Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey are one of the Garden State’s finer natural gems. This coastal plain preserve is home to Wharton, Brynden T. Byrne, Penn, and Bass River state forests - all magnificent places to explore.
I have personally enjoyed camping and kayaking in Bass River state forest, home to the ever-present Whippoorwill this time of year (quite the lullaby!). We’ve kayaked a 15.7 mile trip along Bass River with boats from Mick’s Canoe Rental…I would highly recommend it!
9. Kayak the Delaware River
Speaking of kayaking, don’t forget the glorious Delaware River dissecting New Jersey and Pennsylvania! There are SO many options to choose from when boating this lazy river. You can be adventurous and do an overnight camping trip along the river, or you can completely veg out and float your way down for a day on an inner-tube…cooler by your side ;) (Just make sure to carry out what you carry in!). Check out the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area’s full list of rental joints on their website.
10. Staying Local? Tackle a New Hike!
You don’t need to travel far to have a NEW and EXCITING adventure. There are so, so, SO many places right under your nose just waiting for you to discover, and this weekend is the perfect time to check ‘em off your list!
Why not take on Schunemunk Mountain, the highest mountain in Orange County (Hiking guide HERE).
Or tackle the wilds of Northern NJ at Bearfort Ridge!
OR or take on the Giant Stairs rock scramble along the Hudson River in Palisades Interstate Park, NJ!
Really, the possibilities are ENDLESS. Just point to a section on your trusty New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Map and become a pioneer of your own backyard!
PHEWF! I hope that exhaustive list gives you just a few if not MANY ideas for this weekend and beyond! Summer is such a marvelous time of year for outdoor fun, but it goes by so diggity-darn fast. It’s time to make the most of the season and fill it with as much adventure as possible…LET THE GAMES BEGIN!