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Weekend Getaway: The Greatest Scenic Drives In N.Y. State

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Scenic road in Upstate New York (credit: Thinkstock)

Scenic road in Upstate New York (credit: Thinkstock)

Top up or down, there’s nothing like hitting the open road and taking in the sights. Whether you have an iron-clad itinerary or prefer to let the wind take you where it wants to go, New York State’s highways and byways are chock full of scenic vistas, natural wonders and a freewheeling, spirit of adventure. Plug in your GPS and pack a picnic lunch. You’re off to explore a world away, close to your own hometown.

Route 97 to Hawk’s Nest

Head over the George Washington Bridge and make your way back into New York State to visit this scenic slice of heaven. Once a one-lane, dirt road, New York State Route 97 takes you to Hawk’s Nest Scenic Overlook, located right outside of nearby Port Jervis. Named for the wild birds who make this peak their home, Hawk’s Nest comes to vibrant life during the fall season. While you’re in the area, take in other sites of interest, such as Stephen Crane’s Pond and Magagkamack Churchyard.

Taconic State Parkway to Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park

New York’s longest State parkway, the Taconic, is the perfect escape route for summer getaways. Designed to seamlessly blend into its natural surroundings, the Taconic is aesthetically pleasing for the views along its winding road and the sensibility which guided its early design. The hilly, northward route skirts the majestic Taconic Mountains, leading to a number of state parks, including the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. Roosevelt’s vision for a scenic road people could travel along the Hudson Valley was pivotal to the Taconic’s creation. The highway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places not only because of its beauty, but also because it was considered to be a role model for 20th century parkway development. The Taconic begins in Mount Pleasant at the north end of the Bronx River Parkway.

Whiteface Veteran’s Memorial Highway to Whiteface Mountain

If you just can’t take your foot off the gas pedal, you may find yourself driving a little farther north than you had anticipated and arriving at one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. New York State Route 431, also called the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, begins in Wilmington, New York at an intersection with NY 86, where you can begin your trip along this majestic, scenic road into the Adirondacks. After heading through a mountain pass between Morgan and Esther Mountains, the Highway becomes a toll road which will take you to Union Falls Overlook, a majestic site with an elevation of 2,700 feet. The Highway continues up to an elevation of 4,867 feet, providing an unparalleled view of Lake Placid and access to pristine ponds and off-road activities like fishing, bobsledding and bike riding. At the very top of the mountain you can enjoy astonishing views and scenery, as well as a delicious meal at the Castle Café, housed in an impressive structure built from native stone. A wonderful summer trip, the road may prove challenging during winter’s icy conditions.

Highway 27 to the Montauk Lighthouse

You’ll have to deal with the Long Island Expressway to pick up Highway 27 in Hampton Bays, but Long Island’s sweeping, majestic coast line makes it well worth the trip. Continue to drive east through the beauty of Hither Hills State Park where you can stop for a beach picnic and enjoy an eclectic scene encompassing nature’s beauty and beautiful people watching too. At Long Island’s easternmost tip is New York State’s oldest lighthouse, the Montauk. Built under the auspices of President George Washington, the Lighthouse is still utilized for navigation today. Consider making this trip when summer’s highway congestion is lessened by fall’s dropping temperatures and enjoy the Lighthouse’s majestic beauty and autumn’s colorful show.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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