Go Car Free - The Best Biking Day Trips From NYC

The hustle and bustle of New York City can be intoxicating – and sometimes overwhelming. When the “this place is crazy, I gotta get out of here!” mood strikes, my favorite thing to do is load up my Po Campo bags and take a biking day trip from NYC. We’re fortunate to have many excellent trails nearby that take you through woods, along rivers and to the beach.

Like most New Yorkers, I don’t own a car and rely on public transportation to get around. I’ve studied the train and ferry maps and cross-referenced them with rail trail maps to find the best trails accessible by transit. Fortunately, the Rails to Trails Conservancy makes it easy to find and enjoy trails across the country (more on that later).

Here are my top biking day trips from NYC without a car:

South County Trail - Po Campo

South County (14 miles) and North County Trailways - (22 Miles

The South Country Rail Trail begins at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and continues onto Elmsford, NY where it turns into the North County Rail Trail that extends to Brewster, NY. Both paved trails are part of the Empire State Trail and are in good condition.

The South section winds through the Westchester suburbs, never far from civilization with the 9A Saw Mill River Parkway nearby. The proximity to the city is unbeatable. The North section of the bike trail is more remote with long stretches free from the sounds of cars. I love bike riding on this trail in fall when all the leaves change color, snapping pictures at pretty bridges and lakes. Need a rest stop to recharge your batteries? Yorktown Heights is my pick for being near the trail with several restaurants and cafes.

Getting to the South and North County Bike Trail without a car

The South Country Trail begins at Van Cortlandt Park, which is accessible with the 1 train. However, this station does not have an elevator, so I usually just bike to the park.

Many people go out and back but I prefer to ride out to a town and then take the Metro-North back. If you’re interested in this option, these are the train stations near the trail:

  • Mt. Pleasant - 18.2 mile ride
  • Pleasantville - 25.4 mile ride
  • Brewster - 48.3 mile ride
Walkway over the Hudson | Biking Day Trips from NYC

Hudson Valley Rail Trail & Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (30 mi total)

This is one of my favorite biking day trips from New York City! Not only is the scenery terrific but it takes you to some of the cutest towns in the Hudson River Valley almost entirely on paths.

This route starts in Poughkeepsie with the Walkway Over the Hudson, a bike- and pedestrian-only bridge with stunning river views. From there you’ll continue west on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail until you reach New Paltz (stop for a milkshake at the Main Street Bistro!). 

Wallkill Trail | Pizza in the woods

At New Paltz, switch to the recently paved Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and ride north through forest, over bridges and past caves and rocky outcroppings (its topography makes this Midwestern girl swoon!). Don’t miss pizza in the woods at the Rail Trail Cafe and grabbing some Instagram-worthy photos at the Rosendale Trestle.
The Wallkill trail ends at New York’s original capital city, Kingston. This charming town has great restaurants, shops, and historical landmarks. I always stop at Rough Draft for a book and a brew at the end of this scenic bike ride.

Getting to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Wallkill Trail without a car

Poughkeepsie is served by both the Metro-North and Amtrak trains. Metro-North is cheaper, runs more frequently and it is more bike-friendly.

For the return, either head back to Poughkeepsie or cross the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge to Rhinecliff Amtrak station. Reserve your Amtrak bike spot in advance. 

Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail (NJ) (27 Mi Route)

Want to impress people by telling them you biked ALL THE WAY to Pennsylvania? This is the way to do it!

The Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal Trail is a V-shaped trail that branches out from Trenton, NJ. The path has a rich history, connecting historic towns alongside the Millstone river and Delaware river. The entire trail is 73.6 miles long; you can easily do a section if you’re looking for just a biking day trip, or tackle the whole trail over a weekend.

My preferred itinerary is a 27 mile route that begins at Princeton, NJ, where I’ll poke around the lovely town and maybe brunch before heading south on the trail. At Trenton, the bottom of the V, I’ll continue on to Lambertville, NJ which, with its sister city New Hope, PA just over the Delaware River, is the perfect place to stop for an early dinner and maybe even some more shopping. Leave a little extra space in your Po Campo bike bags to home souvenirs! 

Getting to the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail without a car

The D&R is near a few NJ Transit stops:

  • New Brunswick Station
  • Princeton Station
  • Trenton Station

Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway (13.7 mi)

Nothing beats riding along the beach in summertime! The Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway is one of the best biking day trips from NYC for just this reason. This trail meanders along the southern coast of Long Island from Jones Beach to Captree State Park. At the midway point in Oyster Bay,stop to enjoy Tobay Beach with restaurants, a water park and a marina with plenty of bike parking.

Getting to the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway without a car

Take the Long Island Railroad to Wantagh Station, then bike south along the Jones Beach Bikeway, about 5 miles.

Other Nearby Trails with Transit Connections

These trails are on my bucket list for future biking day trips:

If I’m making a trip, I like a trail 20 miles plus in length to make it feel “worth” it. Most of these trails are considered day trips as the trailhead is less than two hours away by train, but I often make a weekend out of them and stay in a cute town along the way.

  • Harlem Valley Rail Trail (23.8 miles) - Known as one of the best rail trails in the area, it hugs the Connecticut and Massachusetts borders in eastern New York. GETTING THERE: Wassaic on Metro-North Train Station

  • Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (47.6 miles) - Nearby in Connecticut. GETTING THERE: New Haven on Metro-North Train Station

  • Henry Hudson Trail (22.6 miles) - This New Jersey trail traces the northern beach before heading inland. GETTING THERE: Take the ferry to Sandy Hook ferry to get to the trail.

  • Bronx River Greenway (24.8 miles). This trail is under development and therefore a bit patchy in places. GETTING THERE: Take the Metro-North train to Bronxville, then ride to Kensico Dam.

  • Jamaica Bay Greenway (20 miles). Does a bike trail in Queens count as a biking day trip from NYC? If you live in Upper Manhattan (like I do) it certainly does! This recently completed trail takes you to the stunning Shirley Chisholm State Park, the Rockaway and Jacob Riis Parks, as well as Floyd Bennet Field. GETTING THERE: Accessible from the ‘A’ train or the Rockaway ferry.

Po Campo Vernon Bike Trunk Bag | Packing for Biking Day Trips

What to Pack for a Biking Day Trip

In the city, bikers can travel light and tap into the abundant shops and amenities as needed. When biking outside the city, you need to be more prepared and self sufficient.

Pack these essentials in your Po Campo Vernon Trunk Bag, which has a ton of pockets for keeping everything organized:

Gear to fix a flat tire

  • Tire levers
  • Spare Tube
  • Patch kit
  • Mini bike pump or CO2 inflator
Nutrition + Hydration
  • 2 water bottles
  • An electrolyte supplement if it’s a very hot day
  • Snacks to fuel your ride
    • I like almonds, hard boiled eggs, carrots, apples and granola bars
Other essentials
  • Phone battery bank
  • Bike battery charger (for longer rides)
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Phone (Store it in the Tussey Phone Bag - a bike mount for your phone)
  • Sunblock
  • Bandanna
  • Sunglasses
For overnight trips, add the Po Campo Bedford Backpack Pannier which has plenty of space for: 
  • Extra clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Book
  • Spare set of shoes
  • Padded pocket for laptop or tablet to watch movies at night
For trips to the beach, I’ll use the Po Campo Orchard Grocery Pannier to pack:
  • Blanket
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Frisbee
  • Travel games
  • Book/magazine
Take Your Bike on the Train NYC

How to take your bike on the train in NYC

You can bring bikes on all commuter trains (Metro-North, LIRR, NJ Transit, and PATH) except during rush hour and some holidays. Be aware of bike limits on trains. On weekends, "bike trains" on Metro-North, LIRR, and NJ Transit accommodate more bikes. Amtrak requires bike reservations and may require removing the front tire.

While these trains accommodate bikes, there isn’t really a designated bike spot. You’ll typically put your bike in an unused wheelchair area or luggage area knowing that you might need to move if people who have priority board the train. I try to ask a conductor if they know which car is best for a bike. Otherwise I just board and hope I don’t have to move.

Amtrak works a little differently. Read more about taking your bike on Amtrak on their website.

How to find bike trails near you

Interested in bike trails near you? I use the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailLink platform for this. Search for trails and read recent reviews to get a sense of the trail. The maps show transit stations and parking lots. The free version has a wealth of information but upgrading to TrailLink Unlimited lets you download the maps and GPX directions which is super helpful for navigation.
Ready to escape the city and explore? Grab your bike and start your adventure!

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