One of the things I love to do on a morning when nothing specific is scheduled is to fill the backpack with some sort of food and beverage, put on the hiking boots and find a trail.
In my opinion, the best trails are the ones that either go up to a gorgeous view or the ones that go to a lake for some quiet reflection. But regardless of what MY favorite trails are, no matter what you may enjoy, the Monroe NY vicinity will meet your needs.
The major trail systems in the area include Bear Mountain State Park, Harriman State Park and Schunnemunk State Park.
At the Bear Mountain State Park, you can hike to the Perkins Memorial Tower which sits atop the mountain and is 1300 feet above the Hudson River. Talk about amazing views. If that is not to your liking, there are about 12 different trails of varying lengths and difficulty to choose from (see trail map below).
If you don’t like hiking, the park also includes ice skating, a museum, picnic areas, playgrounds, fishing, boat rentals and biking. See http://www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/13/details.aspx for more information.
Harriman State Park, has 200 miles of hiking trails, 31 reservoirs and lakes, multiple streams, scenic roads, beaches, camping areas, group camps, and beautiful vistas. There are about 40 or 50 different trails to choose from in terms of hiking – the following link provides a list and describes the difficulty, GPS coordinates, etc of each. http://www.nynjtc.org/view/hike. To search, scroll down the left hand side until you get to Harriman, then start looking for the type of trail you are interested in.
Schunnemunk State Park has spectular mountain-top views. Trails go up to 1664 feet with 360 degree views of the Hudson River, the surrounding valleys, forest and farms. There are about 20 miles of hiking over eight marked trails. Take it from me, the view from the top of Schunnemunk is worth every bit of huffing and puffing to get there. And if you choose to go to the top, you will huff and puff!!! Best to try this when it is not too humid out.
Caution: The only caveat I would currently have is to check with the park before going to make sure the trail(s) you are interested in are open. We had some difficulty a few weeks ago finding open trails due to the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee rainfall. So just confirm with the park before you leave.
Some trail maps can be located online as follows:
Sterling Forest (Harriman Park) http://www.nysparks.com/parks/attachments/SterlingForestTrailMap.pdf