New Yorkers looking for a weekend in the woods will really enjoy this backpacking adventure. This post includes some details on Cat Rocks, Nuclear Lake and the Telephone Pioneer Shelter. Here’s how to enjoy a weekend on the Appalachian Trail by way of the Metro-North.
Grand Central Station –> Appalachian Trail Stop
Start at Grand Central Station and jump on the Metro-North Harlem Line. Don’t forget to check the train schedules because the train only stops here on weekends.
In about an hour and a half, you transfer at Southeast, going in the same direction. When you get on this train, you have to walk to the last car. It’s the only place they let you off. Then continue onto the Appalachian Trail stop in Pawling, NY.
On the Trail
Once you get off, you cross the tracks and head southbound toward a boardwalk that takes you through marshes. Then you keep walking and see things like this.
There’s a great step-by-step guide of the hike on the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. I thought it was pointless of me to repeat such a thorough description of the trail.
If you head back to the white path, you’ll rejoin the Appalachian Trail. Take this hike for about half a mile and you’ll arrive at Cat Rocks. BTW – If you type in Cat Rocks into Google Maps, it will take you somewhere in Monroe, NY. This is not that place.
Here’s what it looks like from the open field below.
Continue on the trail for about two miles and you’ll arrive at Nuclear Lake. We didn’t stay long, so only got a few pictures from lunch.
Telephone Pioneers Shelter
Some of you may think that you can take the 5 mile hike to Nuclear Lake and make camp there, but you can’t. And there are people policing the area and kicking out campers. Even in the middle of the night.
Your best bet is to spend the night at the Telephone Pioneer Shelter. To get there, follow the white path until you see the blue path — which will lead you to a sign that says “shelter.”
Three things to know about this camp: There is a privy (outhouse) that is pretty gross. Your water source is a creek that I’ve seen people bathe in. So, make sure you bring a shovel and water filtration system. And there are not many flat areas, so you may be sleeping on a slope.
A notice on the shelter said to boil and treat the water because no one is monitoring the quality of the water at the creek. We boiled our first batch of water. The alternative was to drink out of a LifeStraw, which I bought from REI for about $20. The water tasted much better going through the straw. Now, I only drank boiled water through the straw. My friend drank creek water through the LifeStraw and seemed to be fine. A northbound thru hiker I met was content using water filtration tablets. He seemed to have no issues.
This is a great weekend backpacking trip for city dwellers — even for beginners. There are some strenuous parts of the trek, but it’s completely doable. Just make sure you pack enough food, water and camping supplies. But if you are a slacker, there’s a nursery behind the train stop that sells water and ice cream to AT hikers. You can also shower and camp there. They’re super friendly.
This trip was taken over July 4 weekend in 2015, so do your research to make sure the info is up-to-date.