Diane plans to hike for a couple weeks with her brother when
he does a thru-hike on the AT. She's looking for ideas about which section to hike
To Diane and others who've encouraged us to keep the information
on the website a while: at this
time, yes, we plan to keep it available on the internet indefinitely. Some
people are just now finding it by word of mouth and web searches. Others may
find it useful as they plan their own short or long hikes in a few weeks or a
few years. I'm glad it's been a
source of entertainment and education for folks. Those were two of my original
intentions when I decided to keep a journal.
This is a continuation of a five-part series on weekend,
one-week, and two-week vacation-along-the-AT ideas. My suggestions are by no
means exhaustive. Do your own additional research about the Trail and
nearby for further enjoyment to you and/or your family or friends. Check out
Post #10 for recommendations re: maps and distances for hikes or
Here's what I liked best from New Jersey to Massachusetts . . .
IDEAS FOR RUNS/HIKES IN NEW JERSEY
Although New Jersey was rockier than I expected, I really
enjoyed most of the 72 miles of Trail through this state because it was so
interesting and felt quite remote. Jim and I were both surprised at how
beautiful the woods and swamps and farms are. Hiking and driving in this area of
New Jersey radically changed our perception of the state (for the good!).
You can do the whole state in a few days to two weeks, depending
on your pace and distance. I covered this distance in four days (Days
89 to 92), but could have done it faster if I hadn't had a hip/sciatic
problem at the time, forcing me to walk instead of run. The elevation is still pretty low here (all under 1,700
feet) and there aren't any very serious climbs or descents.
If you have only a weekend to spend here, these are the two
places I'd recommend first to run or hike:
FROM DELAWARE WATER GAP NORTH - I really enjoyed a
26-mile section from the Dunnfield Creek Natural Area / Worthington State Forest on
the NJ side of the Delaware River north to Millbrook Road (Days
90). After a gradual five-mile climb to the
you come to the beautiful Sunfish Pond. You can see two different photos of this
pretty lake on
Day 89 and
The ridge along Kittatinny Mountain is
quiet and there are
nice views from the
open woods and several open rock "summits," many lakes down below, and pretty
scenery in the distance. This is one view from the ridge; I included two
rhododendrons and laurels
had just finished blooming
in this section when I
passed through in late July. Wildlife is abundant. There are some rock ledges
and boulders that are fun if you don't hurry too fast. If you want to add
another 17 miles, I suggest doing the last section in Pennsylvania that I talked
Post #12, from Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap). That would make about 43
There are lots of campgrounds and motels around Delaware Water Gap and the
Poconos in Pennsylvania and within a reasonable distance in New Jersey.
For activities off-Trail, see the PA section in
Post #12 about Delaware Water Gap.
VERNON VALLEY - this is part of the "drowned lands" of New Jersey, full
of interesting swamps. One of my favorite sections of the whole AT was through
the verdant, flowering Pochuck Swamp over the best wooden bridging on the Trail,
bar none. There are photos from this swamp on
Post #4, and
Day 92 I did a 19-mile run/hike that
Waywayanda State Park in New Jersey and marvelous views of
Greenwood Lake from the ridge of Bellevale Mountain in New York. This is where I
first encountered the interesting rocks called "puddingstone," which you
can see in a photo from that day and in the NY section below.
If you want to go farther,
Day 91 south of this section includes more
swamps and High Point State Park with its numerous old stone walls in the forest. Like all of New Jersey, some of the Trail is
rocky and some is quite smooth.
We didn't spend any time in this area except to pass through
quickly, so I don't know about camping, rooms, or other activities nearby.
IDEAS FOR RUNS/HIKES IN NEW YORK
New York has a little bit more of the AT than New Jersey - 88
miles. Most hikers can cover that distance in about a week, runners in less
time, depending on how much time you want off to do other activities or to rest.
So for a two-week hike or run, my standard advice holds:
go on farther north or south and finish New Jersey and/or Connecticut, too! It took
me eleven days on the Trail plus only one rest day to get from Delaware Water
Gap at the PA/NJ border, through New York and Connecticut, and into
Massachusetts (Days 89 to 100).
This is my favorite section in New York for a day or more:
BELLVALE MOUNTAIN TO THE HUDSON RIVER - from the NJ/NY
state line, this is a distance on the AT of 36.5 miles. There is no road
crossing at the state line, but Brady Road is about two miles south
of it in New Jersey. I saw some hikers who came up to the AT via the State Line Trail. I
don't know where it started.
I really loved hiking/running on top of Bellvale Mountain
with its beautiful puddingstone rock surface and great views overlooking long
Greenwood Lake (see photo below and another on
The next 19.7-mile section on
94 from NY 17A to Harriman State Park doesn't get over 1,400 feet in
elevation but goes up and down eight mountains for a total gain and loss of
about 8,100 feet. The surface is alternately smooth and rocky, with lots more
Harriman has mostly beautiful, airy, refined woods and the infamous
Squeezer" rock formation that is fun to crawl through and over.
Day 95 I went through Bear Mountain Park and
Zoo, which was different! Imagine walking right through a zoo. I don't recommend
running through it, even if there aren't a lot of people around the lake and
zoo; there's just too much to read and see. At the far end of the zoo, going north, is
the Bear Mountain Bridge which spans the broad Hudson River. I enjoyed crossing
the bridge, but I really didn't care much for the Trail on the other side.
Information about the Trail going north from there to
Connecticut is found in
Days 96 and
Some was runnable, some was interesting, but I didn't like it as much as the
sections I've discussed.
We had difficulty finding campgrounds in New York (and
Connecticut) that were suitable for our rig and close to the Trail. For most of
New York we camped at Round Pond in West Point Military Academy just north of
Bear Mountain. Kids would like that campground. You can use it if you have any
military connections (active, retired, or family of military personnel). If you're
camping in a tent or smaller rig, you might have an easier time finding a place
to camp. I'm sure there are lots of motels in this heavily-populated area.
For diversion, we recommend you visit West
Days 93 and
with its interesting architecture, history, cemeteries, statues, and views of
the Hudson River. You don't have to have military connections to get in the
post, which is open daily, but some areas may be off-limits.
This is General George Armstrong Custer's monument. I didn't
realize until we visited that he is buried at West Point. After I moved to
Billings, Montana several years ago to marry Jim, he took me to see where the
Battle of the Little Big Horn was fought. Custer and his entire command died
there in 1876. Jim took this photo of the front of his grave marker:
Enjoy your miles on the AT in the mid-Atlantic states! It was
pretty hot in some of the un-shaded areas when I went through in July and August, so keep
that in mind if you have flexibility and can run/hike during the spring or fall
when the temps are more moderate. It was a bit cooler in the southern New
England states because the elevations start to get higher.
IDEAS FOR RUNS/HIKES IN CONNECTICUT
Connecticut is another state that an ultra runner can
cover in only a day or two, with just 51.6 miles of the AT. But it's so
pretty, I recommend slowing down to enjoy it more. A hiker might choose to take a
week, including a day or two to check out some local activities.
I took parts
of three days to get through Connecticut. I want to return to the Kent/ Cornwall
Bridge area again sometime because I didn't get to spend any time there.
I loved this state. The forests are beautiful, with many
pine cathedrals (below) and lovely birch trees. There are numerous creeks and rivers.
The Trail is not as rocky as
the three states south of it. I was happy to be able to run more. The mountains
also start getting higher, affording cooler temps and better views.
KENT OR CORNWALL BRIDGE, CT - one of these little towns
would make a good base for several days if you or your family enjoy
charming New England villages, historic inns, covered
bridges, flowers everywhere, scenic farms, 18th century buildings and
cemeteries, interesting little shops, and lot of arts and crafts. The
area is known for its artists' colonies, winter sports, and hiking. Kent has
lots of hiker services.
I wrote about Kent in
#3 (one of my favorite trail towns) and on
98. I really enjoyed the five-mile section of Trail from the NY/CT
state line to Schagticoke Mountain as it followed the Ten Mile and Housatonic
Rivers. Up and over the mountain is rougher. This section is south of the trail
head at CT 341, which is just outside Kent.
North of Kent, toward Cornwall Bridge, is a tough but beautiful
section that includes Caleb's Peak and one of the steepest climbs or descents on
the AT, St. John's Ledges. You'll catch your breath at the top of that one! I
included it in my list of "toughest climbs" in
It is followed by one of the easiest sections of the whole AT, a
five-mile "river walk" that is mostly flat, scenic, and easy to run or hike
along the Housatonic. There are also pretty colors of quartz rocks on Mt. Easter
and boulders covered in thick, soft moss. I described this varied 26-mile
Day 99, when I
ended up at Falls Village.
Much of Housatonic River that you see from the Trail in CT and MA flows
lazily by, as in the photo farther down this page. At Falls Village, however, you pass by a lively
on the river. There is a photo of it in
Post #4. I saw folks
fishing and floating various places along the river.
The AT is more mountainous the next 15 miles to the Massachusetts line.
Popular Bear Mountain, which is easy to climb from the south, has nice
views from the tall rock cairn on top (photo and description of this
Hikers can also reach this mountain a shorter way than on the AT - on
the Undermountain Trail off Hwy. 41. There are several lakes and state
parks in this far northwestern corner of Connecticut and southwestern
If you really want to cover some ground and have a couple weeks, you
could do all of Connecticut and Massachusetts and up to Sherburne Pass
in Vermont and still have a couple of days off, as I did.
IDEAS FOR RUNS/HIKES IN MASSACHUSETTS
The AT follows a mostly northerly direction for 92 miles through the
scenic Berkshire Mountains of far western Massachusetts. This is a
popular area for all kinds of outdoor recreation (camping, hiking,
fishing, cycling, canoeing, golfing, and skiing)
in several state forests and parks, as well as cultural and historical
The major towns in the Berkshires are strung along Hwy. 7, which the AT
roughly parallels several miles to the east. You could choose one town
near the middle of the section of Trail you want to run/hike, or move
along as you travel north or south on the AT. Here you can find numerous events, theater,
dance, music, museums, historical sites, antique and other shops, and
I spent parts of five days on the Trail in Massachusetts, plus one rest
100 to 105). As soon as you enter the state from the south,
you're getting into more elevation gain and loss than in the previous
six states. There are more and more tall, fragrant pines and white-bark birches,
more and more wet areas with bog boards. I really felt like I was
getting "up North" in Massachusetts.
STOCKBRIDGE, MA - this is one of many small towns in the southern
half of the Berkshires that could be your base if you want to
concentrate your hiking in that area. It is home to the largest
collection of original Norman Rockwell artwork, a
botanical garden, and several historical buildings where notable
people used to live.
One of my very favorite parts of the entire trail is right at the CT/MA state
line, Sages Ravine, with pretty Sawmill Brook running through it. It's a
peaceful green mecca (photo below). See
Day 100 for more photos of the
Sages Ravine is not easy to access. The shortest way is up the Overmountain Trail from Hwy. 41 in Connecticut, mentioned above, over
Bear Mountain, down the steep northern side of Bear, and down into the
ravine. That's a moderately strenuous four- or five-mile hike one way. It's longer and more strenuous
if you hike only on the AT from the north or
south. It's worth the effort!
The Trail north of here roller-coasters over several mountains in the
next ten miles; the best views are from the smooth rocky summit
of Race Mountain. I did this at the end of a rigorous 24.5-mile
section from Falls Village, CT to Jug End (Curtiss) Rd. in MA. There
are other trail heads at roads that allow you to modify the distance.
I also recommend the next 25 miles north of here to Main Rd./ Tyringham.
It is more runnable and has a great variety of interesting terrain from
bogs and ponds and rivers (see the Housatonic, below) to mountains and the beautiful Ice Gulch.
Day 102 for the details.
North of there are several gorgeous glacial ponds, but the Trail is
harder to negotiate over all the roots, rocks, beaver dams, and slick
If you're in the middle section of the Berkshires you might want to
stay near Pittsfield, a small city of about 50,000 people. It has more
services for travelers and hikers, and more cultural and historical
NORTH ADAMS, MA - this is an attractive small city (pop. about
18,000) near the Vermont border in northern Massachusetts. It would be a
good base for running or hiking the AT. The Trail goes through part of
the town. We stayed at a terrific public (city) campground called
Historic Valley Campground. We wished we could stay more than one night
but we needed to keep moving north.
Many of the buildings in this city are made of the beautiful white
marble found in the surrounding hills. I enjoyed the striking white
rocks along the Trail, too. Near town is a white marble natural bridge
that was formed during the last Ice Age. The Mohawk Trail, a scenic
driving route popular during the fall leaf season, goes through here.
The summit of Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in MA and the only one in
the state with a sub-alpine environment, is about seven miles south of
town via the AT. Or you can simply drive to the top and hike from there.
Nine more miles of hiking south will get you to the interesting white
and orange-ish rock formations called The Cobbles. This section is
North of town the AT follows pretty Sherman Brook as it climbs East
Mountain four miles to the Vermont border and the southern terminus of
the Long Trail. See
Next up: the northern New England states. Are you ready for them??