Natural Wonders

10 Scenic Natural Wonders In New York State That You Can Visit For Free

Summary

  • Niagara Falls: Witness a series of ancient waterfalls and enjoy a free view at Niagara Falls State Park.
  • Dover Stone Church: Explore a natural cave resembling a church and enjoy the waterfalls and scenic beauty.
  • Adirondack Park: Experience the vast wilderness and outdoor activities in a park larger than Yellowstone National Park.

Visiting New York City for the first time is exciting – travelers get to witness the sight of the city’s glittering skyline, visit world-famous skyscrapers, stay in historic hotels, and dine in uber-fancy restaurants to lock in memorable vacation memories.

While many aspire to soak in this big city appeal, some nature lovers aim to discover the different side of New York State – the one that is home to untamed wilderness and natural allure. From exploring the charming Finger Lakes region to visiting the Thousand Islands, there are many options for outdoor enthusiasts to take a break from city life and find solace in the lap of nature.

This article highlights natural treasures in New York State that are scenic and free to visit! A few of these spots are lesser-known and uncrowded, presenting an opportunity to relax and reflect on those chaotic emotions – let’s dive in!

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10
Niagara Falls

Witness a series of over 12,000-year-old waterfalls


Daytime waterfall view at Niagara Falls, NY, New York State, USA
Shutterstock: Seumas Christie-Johnston

Daytime waterfall view at Niagara Falls, NY, New York State, USA

How would it feel to kickstart the vacation with the beautiful sight of plunging waterfalls and a scenic rainbow at the forefront? If it sounds interesting, don’t miss visiting Niagara Falls. It is one of a kind of natural wonder that stretches from Canada to the United States, forming a scenic international border.

It is worth noting that Niagara Falls has paid attractions and free viewing points. For those on a budget, walk around Niagara Falls State Park for free; it’s open all year round to let travelers enjoy a fantastic view of American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.

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9
Dover Stone Church

A one-of-a-kind metamorphic rock cavern, closely resembling a church made of marble and limestone

An underground cave, named Stone Church, in Dover Plains, New York State

Dover Stone Church is a stunning nature preserve located in Dover Plains – it’s a beautiful landmark for hiking lovers and is entirely free to visit.

This 174-acre public preserve is open to the public for hiking and exploring and is made of a unique natural cave, with water flowing out and sunshine glimmering. When here, visitors can enjoy the scenic beauty, caves, and beautiful waterfalls within the unique geological formation.

8
Kaaterskill Falls

Breathtaking surroundings adorning a two-tiered waterfall in the Catskill Mountains


Kaaterskill Falls, Catskills, New York
Shutterstock

Kaaterskill Falls Swimming Hole, Catskills, New York

Kaaterskill Falls is yet another free-to-visit natural wonder perfect for all sorts of tourists and local hikers. It’s actually a two-stage waterfall, making it one of the most popular and iconic natural attractions in New York State.

This stunning natural wonder is located in the Catskill Park Forest Preserve; thus, travelers need to be prepared for a long hike. While it’s not easy, it’s worth it if breathtaking views spark that mind.

Stick to the trails, as walking off the trails or closed areas may result in unwanted injuries. Also, consider wearing athletic shoes or hiking boots to enjoy a safe trip!

  • Best time to visit: Late spring to early summer
  • What natural beauty to see while here: This tallest waterfall in New York State is hidden amidst lush surroundings, featuring adventurous trails, water holes, and campgrounds
  • Location: Hunter, NY 12436, United States
  • Cost: Free

7
The High Line

A man-made attraction for nature lovers to witness the breathtaking views of the Big Apple from different angles


The High Line Park in New York City, USA
Allard One / Shutterstock

The High Line Park in New York City, USA

Yes, The High Line in New York City is free to visit! This iconic elevated attraction is a unique public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side.

There are three phases that visitors can walk through to get amazing views of different parts of the city. The 3rd phase, opened in 2014, makes visitors fall in love with the city all over again.

It leads through the Hudson River into drop-dead sunset views while being surrounded by lush greenery. It’s a modern open garden space in the center of the city, providing an escape from the mind-boggling hustle and bustle of everyday life.

  • Best time to visit: All year round (either in the morning or late evening)
  • What natural beauty to see while you’re here: A historic freight trail dating back to the 1800s amidst a picturesque environment
  • Location: New York, NY 10011, United States
  • Cost: Free

6
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Colorful birds and unique wildlife in the wetlands of Western New York


Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, New York
By U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, New York

Located in Western New York is the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, another free-to-visit natural wonder that lies between Buffalo and Rochester.

For travelers who enjoy bird watching, this refuge is a must-visit. It has over 266 bird species, mammals, reptiles, and fish types. Aside from bird watching, there are also lots of budget-friendly activities that one can indulge in – from snowshoeing to hiking & boating, there are a lot of options to explore around!

  • Best time to visit: March to September
  • What natural beauty to see while you’re here: Discover over 10,828 acres of wetlands, 266 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and fishes
  • Location: Casey Rd, Basom, NY 14013, United States
  • Cost: Free

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5
Eternal Flame Falls

Witness a spellbinding flame behind a waterfall that never goes off


Flame Of Eternal Flame Falls
Shutterstock

Flame Of Eternal Flame Falls

Eternal Flame Falls is one unique natural wonder that will make you question science and the existence of a superior being.

Located in Orchard Park, this free-to-visit natural wonder has a flame that burns behind a waterfall, creating a mesmerizing magical scene. Legend has it that a Native American lit the flame eons ago, while scientists say the flame is fueled by natural gas escaping from a shale layer.

To get a better view of the fall, travelers can take a hiking trail and witness the flames behind the cascade.

4
Adirondack Park

Vast wilderness awaits nature lovers to enjoy the great outdoors


Adirondack Park
Photo by:IdawriterCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Adirondack Park

Created in 1892 and encompassing over 6 million acres, Adirondack Park is a vast wilderness that is also free for visitors.

The magnificent park offers a lot of outdoor activities for all sorts of travelers and is nearly three times the size of Yellowstone National Park! When here, travelers can enjoy challenging or easy hiking trails as well as plan a camping trip to stargaze and spend quality time with loved ones. Other notable attractions in this incredible natural wonder are High Peaks Wilderness and Lake Placid.

  • Best time to visit: May to August
  • What natural beauty to see while you’re here: Discover 46 High Peaks and untamed wilderness with unique wildlife, ideal for hiking, camping, and fishing opportunities
  • Location: New York, NY, United States
  • Cost: Free

3
Ontario Beach Park

Picturesque beach with massive sandy shores to enjoy fun family activities


Mouth of the Genesee River at Ontario Beach Park
Andre Carrotflower , Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
 

Mouth of the Genesee River at Ontario Beach Park, one of the best places in Rochester to visit with kids

We couldn’t complete our list without hooking the beach lovers. The Ontario Beach Park is yet another free-to-visit natural wonder that gives travelers an unforgettable experience of the beach. It features massive sand dunes over 2000 feet, dramatic white cliffs, and Caribbean-like azure waters.

The lakeside park on the shores of Lake Ontario further enhances the traveler’s experience. It’s one of the best kid-friendly attractions in Rochester, making it an ideal spot to plan a nature-inspired picnic or outdoor get-together.

2
Socrates Sculpture Park

Amazing contemporary art installations and exhibitions in an outdoor museum

Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, NYC, USA

We all know a New York trip isn’t complete without seeing art installations and exhibitions. Lucky for travelers, the Socrates Sculpture Park unlocks lots of opportunities to enjoy such remarkable inspirations in a charming natural setting, that too at no cost.

This unique waterfront park and outdoor museum is located in Long Island City, Queens, New York City. Once visitors get here, they get a chance to enjoy live exhibitions and fun events. The best part? The events are alone on the East River Front, meaning that travelers get to enjoy a breathtaking view of the sunset and the river.

1
Central Park

A hidden natural wonder in the middle of the city offering a green escape


A bridge over the stream flowing through Central Park in New York City
Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

A bridge over the stream flowing through Central Park in New York City

Let’s conclude our list by circling back to where we started – the heart of Manhattan.

Central Park is a natural wonder amid urban development. It’s a vast green oasis offering many scenic landscapes, ponds, and gardens that make travelers want to extend their stay. The budget-friendly recreational activities and the grand architectural landmarks further enhance the experience.

  • Best time to visit: All year round
  • What natural beauty to see while you’re here: Green lush surroundings and scenic landscapes with blossoming flowers, beautiful lakes, pleasant meadows, and singing birds
  • Location: New York, NY, United States
  • Cost: Take A Free or Pay-What-You-Want Walking Tour

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