The 3 Best AT Day Hikes in The Hudson Valley
Hiking is a conversation starter, and people are always asking me to recommend mountains and trails in the area for them to explore. Whether they are looking for something they can tackle with their family, or seeking a long trip to get lost on, I try my best to make recommendations that will give them the best of the area and match their comfort level.
The nice thing about the Appalachian Trail is that it is very easy to customize a section hike for what you are looking to achieve. I’ve gathered what I think are some of the best sections for those looking for something quick an easy, something with great views, and something that will present a challenge.
Flat Rock – A Quick Hike For Everyone
As the Appalachian trail winds up the Hudson River and pulls away from the water front, it passes by the Hudson Highlands – a small ridge of mountains that offer amazing views of the river and the valley below. It continues behind a small residential neighborhood in Hopewell, creating an easy access point for those looking to enjoy a bit of the trail.
A trail head sits at the end of East Hook Road, right past the last row of houses. A pull off offers room for three or four cars, and the welcome white blaze is visible on the nearest tree. The benefits of this section of the trail is that it is easy to get to – located right outside of town and off of the interstate, and that there is great payout for minimal effort.
Crossing the road from the parking spot, the trail begins to wind up into the woods at a gradual incline. The sounds of the neighborhood fade away as the trail takes you higher and higher into the forest. This hike is perfect for those with kids, or those with a limited amount of time to get outside – it was often a lunch stop for me on long days.
About 3/4 of a mile up the hill, the ground starts to flatten out to the smooth stone lined with tall grasses. Another minute or two and the trail opens up to a wide stone clearing with views of the hillside and the ridge in the distance. The open surface and great views make for a good spot to sit down and enjoy a lunch, or watch the clouds float by.
Anthony’s Nose – Amazing Views
If you’re looking for a great spot to take in a view, Anthony’s Nose is the spot for you. While the outlook is technically a spur off of the Appalachian trail, I am including it because it delivers one of the more awesome views in the whole valley.
The parking for this hike is in Cortlandt Manor, NY, right off of route 9D. There is a kiosk and the familiar white blazes indicating that you are in the right place. Where the hike to Flat Rock is quick and easy, this one demands a little more of those who want to get to the view point.
The cool thing about the trail here is that it is essentially a stone staircase winding up the side of the mountain. A steep and strenuous climb, it’s a beautiful example of trail building. If you’re anything like me, I’ll take an awesome stone stair case over switchbacks any day. Or, most days anyway.
After ascending for a while, the trail meets up with the blue trail. Here’s where you’re going to step off the AT for a moment – but trust me, it’s well worth the departure. The blue trail continues to ascend a little further, until you reach the top. At that point, a well beaten path leads to the outlook. The view you get for your effort is astounding – a view of the Bear Mountain Bridge, the Hudson River in all its glory, and everything around. For those of you looking to enjoy the AT and a view, this is the place to be.
At just about two and a half miles, Anthony’s Nose offers people a steep hike that will get their blood pumping, along with views that give them something to remember forever. Within an hour of the New York City, this is a hike that is hard to top.
Nuclear Lake & Cat’s Rock – A Bigger Adventure
If you’re a hiker looking to make a longer day of it, don’t worry, this one’s for you. Not only will it give you a great day of getting lost in the woods, but it will let you enjoy some hidden gems, such as Nuclear Lake.
The trail head for Nuclear lake is on route 55 in Pawling, New York, and located directly across the street from a small shop, so it’s easy to find. The trail starts out flat, leaving the road and heading into the woods. Like Anthony’s Nose, part of this treck is a spur off of the AT, but it’s well worth it.
After hiking along the white blazed trail for a mile or so, it meets up with the Nuclear Lake Loop – marked in yellow. This is where you’ll step off the AT for a bit. The trail brings you right out to Nuclear Lake, a sprawling, crystal-blue lake that commands attention from anyone wandering along its shore. The yellow trail winds around the whole lake, giving you access to grassy meadows, and rocky outlooks onto the water. It is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen, and it reminds me that you can get amazing things to look at without having to reach a summit.
The trail meets back up with the Appalachian Trail, and hikers looking for the full day and a visit to Cat’s Rock hang a right here. From that point, it’s another 2 miles to the overlook at Cat’s Rock, which offers a beautiful eastern view of the farm land below. It’s a great spot to sit and take in the view before turning back and heading toward the parking area.
This hike is perfect for those looking for a longer day, and are capable of tackling the six or so miles the hike includes. It’s also the perfect hike for someone looking to enjoy both traditional overlooks and stunning lakes. It’s a hike that showcases both what the Hudson Valley and the Appalachian Trail have to offer.
Whether you’re visiting the area and looking for a great way to enjoy nature, or live in the area and are looking to appreciate it more, there is a hike for you. The AT has so much to offer both new and experienced hikers alike, and offers some of the most beautiful landscape in New York. Pick a hike, pack your bag, and get ready to get outside and have some fun.
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