A Night on the Appalachian Trail


Jul 5, 2014
A Night on the Appalachian Trail

I debated whether to post this since most TR’s on here are epic and this one certainly is not. I live about 20 minutes from Harriman State Park in NY and consider it my “backyard” for hiking. Roughly 19 miles of the Appalachian Trail traverses through the Park. This past Saturday (10/18/14) my wife had her girlfriends over so that was my cue to pack up the overnight bag and slip out the back door. I decided to do 16 of the 19 miles of the AT that runs through the Park with an overnight at the West Mountain Shelter.

Harriman in a nutshell:
Where is it? 30 miles north of New York City
How big is it? Approx. 47 thousand acres
What’s there? An intricate trail system consisting of over 200 miles of trails. There are also 31 lakes, a public camping area, and a dozen rustic first-come first-serve shelters.

A small section of the trail map showing just how jam packed this place is with trails. I suppose this is because we just don’t have as much wilderness in the NYC area.

I started at the Elk Pen parking lot where the AT enters Harriman and works its way north. AT thru-hikers hiking SOBO usually arrive in June, NOBO hikers arrive in July, and flip floppers (those who switch from NOBO to SOBO by flying from Damascus VA to Maine) arrive throughout August, so there are only day hikers and weekenders on the trails in October unless you get on the Long Path (the LP is a 356 mile trail that goes from the NJ side of the George Washington Bridge to Thatcher State Park near Albany).

There are 12 shelters in Harriman State Park. They are rustic stone and wood lean-to’s that were built in the 1920’s, right around the time the AT was constructed. My plan was to hike 13 miles from my car to the West Mountain Shelter on Saturday. Sunday morning I would have a short 3.5 mile hike to another parking lot where my wife would pick me up and shuttle me back to my car. The West Mountain Shelter is my favorite shelter in Harrimian because it overlooks the Hudson River and the NYC skyline can be seen right from the shelter platform. It’s also only 0.6 miles off of the AT.

When I got to the West Mountain Shelter, I met a young couple around the same age as myself who had set their tent up on one side of the shelter platform. I thought about setting my tent up somewhere else in the vicinity, but they were really friendly and down to earth and insisted they preferred company to privacy, so I ended up setting my tent up on the other side of the shelter platform. We were joined by another hiker who was a 2011 AT thru-hiker and 2012 PCT thru-hiker. He set his tent up behind the shelter but the four of us hung out for a few hours while we cooked dinner and watched the NYC skyline light up as the sun went down. They were awesome company and we had some great conversation until we all decided to hit the hay and call it a night.

It was a short 3.5 mile hike the next morning to the parking lot where we were all ending our trips so we all hiked together. We arrived at the parking lot around 10 a.m. and said our goodbyes. A few minutes later, my wife arrived to pick me up and shuttle me back to my car at Elk Pen. I was home on the couch ready to watch football before the games even started.

The intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Long Path. According to the signs I was standing on the AT 793 miles from the northern terminus (Mount Katahdin, ME) and 1,365 miles from the southern terminus (Springer Mountain, GA)

As everyone probably knows, to hike the AT, you simply follow the white blazes. Some shots with the standard white AT blaze.


Some of the lakes of Harriman State Park






From Black Mountain you get a view of the NYC skyline

The West Mountain Shelter is 0.6 miles off of the AT on the Timp Torne Trail which goes along the ridge of West Mountain.


Finally arriving at the West Mountain Shelter

From the shelter you can see the Hudson River and the NYC skyline off to the right

The NYC skyline on the right of the horizon


I tried to get up early to catch the sun rise but I sort of missed it. But this is what I got.

In the morning I hiked with the 3 others I had met at the Shelter.

We were looking at Bear Mountain... You can see Perkins Tower atop Bear Mountain on the left of the picture.

When my wife picked me up, we took a nice scenic ride down Seven Lakes Drive back to my car

Sometimes it's just nice to get out for a quick overnighter even if you don't bother going too far.

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Aug 9, 2007
Man am I glad you decided to post this. Epic shmepic, this is awesome! You seem to be doing pretty well with that new camera. Some really nice looking photos in there. Looks like an awesome hike. I dig the photo where you can see that NYC skyline. Thanks for posting.


Jul 5, 2014
Enjoyed your report. Have contemplated doing the AT when I retire.

I may steal your idea scatman. I always wanted to do an AT thru-hike but resigned to the fact that I'd never be able to manage 6 months off. I never thought of waiting for retirement but it makes perfect sense.

Man am I glad you decided to post this. Epic shmepic, this is awesome! You seem to be doing pretty well with that new camera. Some really nice looking photos in there. Looks like an awesome hike. I dig the photo where you can see that NYC skyline. Thanks for posting.

Thanks Nick! I never bothered carrying a camera while hiking (other than a phone) until I found BCP. All the super talented members here are what inspired me to pick up a camera and give it a try. I still have no clue what I'm doing and even less of clue with processing but it's still been a ton of fun and I hope I'm taking some baby steps in the right direction. I'm also hoping that if I keep looking at @IntrepidXJ 's pictures I'll somehow absorb some of his talent lol. If it were only that easy.


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
Wow that's pretty cool to be able to see the NYC skyline like that. Thanks for the trip report. Fantastic photos! And great fall colors!

I like staying in those shelters. I've used the ones down in the smoky mountains quite a bit.

Every night in the backcountry is epic! Keep posting more! Where do you live in New York? I have lots of family on Long Island.


Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
May 5, 2012
My sister lived in NYC for years and I always ribbed her about her "hiking" opportunities out there compared to at home in the West. But this is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


Jul 5, 2014
Where do you live in New York? I have lots of family on Long Island.

I actually live in New Jersey in a town called Mahwah. My town borders on NY State to the north and is 20 miles northwest of NYC.

My sister lived in NYC for years and I always ribbed her about her "hiking" opportunities out there compared to at home in the West.

Your ribbing was totally justified. The hiking over here is amateur hour compared to Utah. Even though I usually avoid NYC like the plague, it does have some upside when it comes to the arts and culture. I mean, where else can you climb down a manhole cover to watch an independent film in an old abandoned subway tunnel lol. I'd take the Rockies over the city any day though.

Great photos and oh sooo different than around here.

Definitely different. When I flew out west to hike in Utah, it literally felt like I was hiking on another planet. The most beautiful planet in the world mind you.


Oct 1, 2012
Great report and beautiful pictures! Like everyone else said, it's mostly Southwestern landscapes posted here so it's nice to see the East Coast. What beautiful colors, keep the pics coming!

Oh yeah, if only epic hikes were posted here you'd never hear from me.

Tye Dye Twins

Sep 30, 2014
No worries on the epic-ness factor, by picture #5 it surpassed epic! I had no idea there were even places like that ANYWHERE near NYC. Seriously thank you for posting it up for us.


Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
May 15, 2013
It's different epic. And always fun. Those photos are great.


New Member
Nov 6, 2014
Gorgeous photos. I just discovered a great backpacking place less than an hour away from my home. It's not the Alps, but I'm lucky it's there.


Dec 29, 2014
Nice! I done some hiking in New Jersey but I can't remember where. It was supposed to be 3 miles but I ended up getting lost after 7 miles and walked out to highway to head back to my car for which I walked additional 7 miles back that the trooper stop and asked me if I was ok. After speaking to him, he said he sees this happen pretty often. I was so relieved that I wasn't the only fool on the highway road.


Hiker Trash
Jan 4, 2015
It’s also only 0.6 miles off of the AT.

No thru-hiker in the history of thru-hikers has ever walked 0.6 off-trail, in New York, to stay at a shelter. :)

Fantastic photos, and looks like you had picture-perfect weather for it! Your TR has made me think twice about how much I hated NY. Consider this a glowing endorsement! ;)
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