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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Five Short Day Hikes: on the Appalachian Trail

Jul 29, 2016 05:45PM ● By Jill Eisenstein

Hiking is a perfect way to experience nature and summer trekkers can beat the heat in the shade of the forest. During this warm season, the birds are singing, woodland flowers are blooming and the ground is soft and cool.

In addition to the feast for the eyes that any hike into the woods can be, visiting a forest has quantifiable health benefits. The Japanese refer to it as shinrin-yoku, taking in the forest or forest bathing. An article posted on the New York State Department of Conservation website, Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health, highlights studies that reveal the proven benefits of a walk in the woods, including an immune system boost, lower blood pressure, stress reduction, mood improvement, increased ability to focus, accelerated surgery or illness recovery, increased energy and improved sleep. The chemicals released by trees in the forest have been shown to decrease anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue, according to the studies cited in the article. Even a short hike can make our bodies and minds feel and function better.

The Appalachian Trail (AT) boasts some of the most versatile and beautiful hiking in the country, including several in the Hudson Valley area. Here are five local half-day hikes to get even the most novice hiker started on enjoying the benefits of a walk in the woods.

Appalachian Way Trail, Clarence Fahnestock State Park

Hikers will enjoy beautiful lake views on this trail to Canopus Lake. Its sandy shore and nearby picnic area are popular with local swimmers and sunbathers. Row boats are available to rent and recent work by the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference offers erosion prevention and nearly 100 handmade and placed stone steps. The trial is moderate with a few short, steep

View on Cat Rocks hike, Pawling
View on Cat Rocks hike, Pawling

Getting there: GPS coordinates: 41.471695, -73.823464. 1498 Rte. 301, Putnam Valley. Stop at the park office for directions to the trailhead.

Depot Hill to Mt. Egbert, Beekman

Described by hikers as offering mountain views without the climb, this trail provides views of the Fishkill ridge of the Hudson Highlands and the Catskills from the top of Mount Egbert. The hike is moderate, covering rolling hills to the summit. The overlook, featuring Hudson Highlands to the left and the Catskills to the right, is roughly 10 minutes past the Morgan Stewart Memorial Appalachian Trail Shelter.

Getting there: GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.57261, -73.68086. Route 216 to Depot Hill Rd., follow Depot Hill for 2 miles and park on the left side of the road in the small lot near the base of the communication tower. Start with the blue trail marker on a telephone pole and follow this trail briefly before taking a right onto the white-marked Appalachian Trial.

Nuclear Lake, Pawling

Referred to by some as the most beautiful lake on the Appalachian Trail, this route takes hikers on a loop trail around Nuclear Lake. The lake was named by United Nuclear Corp., a private research facility licensed by the government to experiment with bomb-grade uranium and plutonium. One of the buildings near the

Cat Rocks hike footbridge
Cat Rocks hike footbridge
55-acre body of water was the site of a small chemical explosion in 1972, resulting in an unknown amount of radioactive plutonium dust being released. The area was declared fit for unrestricted use by the government in 1975 and the site was given a clean bill of health by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1994. It is currently owned by the National Park Service, who bought it specifically to reroute the Appalachian Trail through the site.

Getting There: GPS coordinates of the parking area: 41.58979, -73.65908. The gravel parking area is located directly across the street from 3144 Rte. 55, Pawling.

Cat Rocks, Pawling

A short, moderate uphill hike across a footbridge, this trail takes hikers across a foot bridge, past an Appalachian Trail shelter and to an incredible view. There is one steep, rocky section.

Getting there: GPS coordinates of the parking area: 41.60316, -73.61145. From Poughkeepsie, take 55 East past the Rte. 82 intersection, to a left onto Bruzgul Rd., County Rte. 21. At the bottom of a large hill, turn right on County Rte. 20 (West Dover Rd.). Pass a large red barn with a painted American flag, a yellow pedestrian sign will mark the parking area. Park on the left shoulder of the road under the Dover Oak, the largest on the AT. Be sure to cross the road to begin the hike and follow the white blazes.

Cat Rocks hike, Pawling
Cat Rocks hike, Pawling
Pawling Nature Reserve, Pawling

Owned by The Nature Conservancy, Pawling Nature Reserve offers many different hikes and over 10 miles of trails but the AT is the best one to start with. Challenging but not too strenuous, this forest hike brings walkers close to a waterfall, through a small gorge, over a wooden footbridge spanning a small river and out into one of the nicest open field views in the area. A large sign and map at the main parking lot allows visitors to plan out appropriate hikes. Trail maps are available at the Reserve’s website.

Getting there: GPS coordinates: 41.6071704, -73.6281495. Main entrance is off Quaker Lake Rd. at the Northeastern end of the Reserve. From the New York City, Westchester, Brewster region, follow Rte. 22 to Pawling to North Quaker Lake Rd. (Duchess Rte. 68) and turn right. Take a left onto Quaker Lake Rd. after about a half mile. A short distance after Quaker Lake is a dirt/grassy parking area on the left for the Reserve.

Hikers should always follow basic safety guidelines. Make sure to hike with a buddy, wear suitable clothes and footwear, and bring a first aid kit, plenty of water, a charged cell phone and bug spray in a small bag or backpack.

For more information about local hikes, visit or