Appalachian Trail hikers in the Smoky Mountains; the trail stretches...

Appalachian Trail hikers in the Smoky Mountains; the trail stretches from Georgia to Maine. Credit: A Walk in the Woods

Stretching 2,197 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is the most widely known hiking trail in the country. Most Long Islanders with a penchant for the outdoors have heard of it, but some may not realize that nearly 90 miles of its path are just a short drive away in the nearby Palisades and Hudson Valley.

“The ‘A.T.’ is not only a day trip prospect for Long Island hikers, it’s also extremely accessible,” said Matthew Shook, director of development and special projects for the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

The trail cuts through several of New York’s state parks, including Bear Mountain, Harriman and Clarence Fahnestock, Shook said. The access points in New York are well-marked and the trail is maintained by volunteer organizations such as the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, he said.

“There are trail segments to match any skill level, from beginning hikers and family groups to expert trailblazers,” Shook said, adding that you might even run into some “through-hikers” who are walking the whole trail. “In some segments you’ll find huts available on a first-come, first-served basis. They are generally found about 20 miles apart on more isolated stretches.”

Accessibility is one great aspect of the Appalachian Trail, agreed Vesna Plakanis, co-owner of A Walk in the Woods, a guide service based in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. “Another is that every segment is different. In Tennessee you hike through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park with its old-growth trees. . . . The Virginia passage is called the ‘Green Tunnel’ due to its lush forest. The granite rocks and outcrops of New York are impressive, as are the tall peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. In the 100-Mile Wilderness [in Maine], you might not pass another person for several days — amazing considering over 300,000 people hike part of the A.T. each year.”

Mattituck resident Greg Doroski, 69, said he does most of his hiking in New Hampshire, where he owns a condo. Of the 38 summits he’s hiked, Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet, is the one that stands out.

“Surprisingly, it’s not a particularly difficult hike,” he said. But don’t expect to be alone when you reach the top, Doroski noted. “There’s a big parking lot, restaurant, gift shop and plenty of tourists. Still, on a clear day you can see the ocean 80 to 100 miles away. It’s an amazing view.”

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Summer and early fall are the best times to hike the Appalachian Trail. Fall offers the best foliage, while there is less ice and snow at higher elevations in the summer. Spring can be surprisingly cool and muddy, and you could encounter black flies in some areas.
  • Trail hiking is free. You may need to pay a permit fee to pass through national parks.

GEAR UP

Recommended hiking gear includes properly fitted hiking boots; a backpack with rain cover; weather-appropriate clothing (think moisture-wicking, layers and rain-proof); a first-aid kit, knife or multitool; and maps, compass and a cellphone. For extended hikes add a season-appropriate tent and a sleeping pad.

STARTING POINTS

Ready to get onto the trail? Here are two upstate hikes to try:

Bear Mountain, Tomkins Cove. Start at the top of Perkins Memorial Drive. Approximately 3 miles round trip with 1,000 stairs.

Harriman State Park, Southfields. Start at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area. A 4.5-mile loop with a number of scenic overlooks.

RESOURCES

Appalachian Trail Conservancy, appalachiantrail.org.

New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, nynjtc.org.

Appalachian Mountain Club, outdoors.org.

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