ENDERS FALLS STATE PARK
Nothing quite says summer like hiking up to a waterfall — and this park packs five of them. Not only that, but several of the pools around the falls are also deep enough to swim in, making this a popular spot for adventure seekers. After taking a dip (carefully and at your own risk, of course — the state recommends you swim in nearby Stratton Brook State Park instead… but they’re not saying you’re in trouble if you stick with Enders Falls) you can seek out the letterboxes that can be found throughout the state park, on various trails and sites of interest like scenic overlooks. Just be wary about climbing the rocks near the waterfalls — they can get extremely slippery, and you wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the summer in an ankle brace.
The Drive: Two hours and 10 minutes via I-684 and I-84.
If you want to live out your wildest Dirty Dancing/Catskill fantasies and recreate this scene, Esposus Creek is the closest you’ll get. This creek runs through the Catskill Mountain towns of Phoenicia and Saugerties along Route 28, aka “New York’s Adventure Route” and offers several entrance options along the roadway. And while you could spend the afternoon just lazily floating around, Esposus Creek is actually best known for its tubing and trout fishing. So before you towel off, gear up at Town Tinker Tube Rentals and get your adrenaline rush on the rapids.
The Drive: Two hours via I-87, then follow NY-28 through prime Catskills scenery.