Appalachian Trail State Profile: New York

After 70 miles of gentle ridge walking in New Jersey, the AT gets tougher in New York. It enters the state near the town of Lakeside, New Jersey (mile 1,368), and exits into Connecticut 87 boulder-strewn miles later (mile 1,465). Challenges aside, there’s still plenty to look forward to in this section. Harriman, Bear Mountain, and Fahnestock State Parks provide ample views and scenery along the way. Meanwhile, iconic trail milestones like the Lemon Squeezer and the Bear Mountain Bridge will boost your trail cred. To top it all off, trailside delis abound throughout New York—meaning comfort food is never too far away in this difficult but rewarding state.

Terrain

Less than half a mile north of the border with New Jersey lies Prospect Rock, the highest point on the AT in New York at 1,433 feet. The trail mostly oscillates between 600 and 1,000 feet in elevation throughout the state, but don’t let these unassuming numbers fool you. New York is characterized by short, severe climbs and descents, as well as rock scrambles that many northbound thru-hikers view as preparation for New Hampshire’s formidable Whites. For instance, one memorable stretch in the southernmost part of the state packs a big punch with tough scrambles and endless boulders that, in true New England fashion, require an unreasonable amount of effort to overcome.

Highlights

Mile 1,373.8: Bellvale Farms Creamery

Take in charming views of rural New York while you enjoy delicious frozen treats at this picturesque creamery on top of Mount Peter near Warwick.

Mile 1,388: Lemon Squeezer

You’ll need to take off your pack and fast for at least three days in order to shimmy your way through this famously narrow stone fissure. Just kidding about that last part—it’s really not that bad. However, if the thought of the Lemon Squeezer makes you nervous, never fear: there’s an alternate route that bypasses the tight squeeze.

Mile 1,402.8: Bear Mountain Summit

Lotus stands proud on the summit of Bear Mountain.

It’s not the highest peak in the state, but Bear Mountain affords some of the best views around—including a glimpse of the New York City skyline on clear days. Climb to the top of Perkins Memorial Tower to get the best vantage point. Large swaths of smooth, exposed bedrock give the summit of Bear Mountain an especially cool vibe—just be ready for the climb/descent on the northern side of the mountain, which is steep and involves lots of stone steps.

Mile 1,405.1: Inexplicable Zoo

Yes, somehow there is a zoo on the northern side of Bear Mountain, and the AT goes right through it. The zoo features bears, reptiles, and other local wildlife, with interpretive signage to match. The bear enclosure also marks the lowest elevation on the entire Appalachian Trail at just 177 feet above sea level.

Mile 1,405.6: Bear Mountain Bridge

Walking over the Hudson River on this hulking suspension bridge also entails crossing from the mid-Atlantic to the New England section of the trail. The section from Delaware Water Gap to this bridge also holds historic significance as the first section of the AT to be completed in 1923.

Mile 1,411.4: Appalachian Market

The Appalachian Market is one of the many trailside delis that will fill up both your belly and your heart as you traverse New York. This one’s located right on the trail where it crosses US 9 and NY 403, and it offers limited resupply options in addition to fabulous hot food. The giant breakfast subs here may be part of the reason the Appalachian Market ranks among thru-hikers’ favorite eateries on the trail (or maybe it’s the random TV in the bathroom).

Mile 1,412: Graymoor Spiritual Life Center

The Graymoor Spiritual Life Center is a monastery that generously allows hikers to camp for free in the picnic shelter on their ball field. Come on, when else are you going to get to camp at a monastery? Do it for the experience. The monastery is about 0.4 miles off trail on Franciscan Way.

Mile 1,430.8: RPH Shelter

It’s hard to describe Ralph’s Peak Hiker Cabin as a shelter, really. It’s uniquely comfortable, complete with four real walls, windows, a door, and furniture. Plus, you can get pizza delivered there. What’s not to like?

Mile 1,443.1: Dover Oak

On the north side of West Dover Road lies the Dover Oak, the largest oak tree on the entire Appalachian Trail. With a girth of over 20 feet, this old-growth giant is likely over 300 years old. As a side note, West Dover Road is also an access point for the towns of Pawling and Wingdale, both of which offer train service to New York City.

Mile 1,450.7: Appalachian Trail Railroad Station

Speaking of train service to New York City, did you know that there’s literally a Harlem Line train station located right on the trail? The train runs on a very limited schedule, but if you can get the timing just right, you’ll be able to step straight from the trail onto a train to the big city.

New York Dispatches

More From This Series

All mileages taken from The 2019 AT Northbound Guide, by David “AWOL” Miller

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Comments 3

  • Clay Bonnyman Evans : Oct 4th

    Re the zoo: According to the interpretive information, all animals at the zoo are creatures from local ecosystems that could not, for one reason or another, be returned to the wild. I agree that they can look a tad desultory on a hot July day, but I trust that they are living easy lives that would not be possible for them if returned to the wild.

    One cool thing about NY, IMO, is the excellent swimming opportunities.

    Canopus Lake in Fahnestock park is great (plus there’s a snack bar for hungry hikers). Nuclear Lake made for great swimming on a searing July afternoon. I think people skip it because of the name, but seriously, testing since 1984 — the equivalent of a billion years ago — shows there is *no residual radioactivity* and the fish aren’t deformed. Also, the kick-ass pool next to the zoo: It’s *free* admission for thru hikers; cold, clear and fantastic if you are stinky and sweating.

    NY is tougher than most people realize, but all those wet-gettin’ opportunities made me very happy indeed.

    ~Pony AT’16

    Reply
    • Kelly Floro : Oct 7th

      I didn’t know about the pool next to the zoo! I guess I was too distracted by the wildlife. NY is indeed one of the AT greats when it comes to swimming opportunities.

      Reply
  • Ben : Oct 11th

    To get to NYC, as an alternative to the irregularly-serviced Appalachian Trail train station, the Manitou station on the Hudson line offers regular service; the downside is that it is 1.3 miles off-trail.

    The easiest way to access the Manitou station is via S Mountain Pass Rd where it intersects the trail just north of the Hemlock Springs tentsite.

    Reply

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