Map The Trail For A Newish Hiker
January 8, 2013 6:44 AM   Subscribe

So a week on the trails in Moab has renewed my interest in hiking. Help me keep it up here in New York instead - I need to know where to go and what to bring.

This is actually a two-part question here...

1. I need ideas for day hikes in the area. I've tried hiking in the past, but what's always stopped me is that New York doesn't have quite as much of a striking-scenery factor as does Utah and the national parks; so I'd like hikes with really killerawesome views. My skill set is probably easy-to-moderate; I also prefer solo hikes (yes, I would let people know where I'm going). Finally: I need places that I can reach via public transportation. I've checked this previous question out, and it's a good start; would love to hear more.

2. I know I need way better shoes (I got by with sturdy sneakers in Moab, but realize I probably should upgrade) and I really dug the trekking poles my friends in Moab loaned me; I already have a basic first aid kit, water bottle, day pack, flashlight and basic compass. The jacket I was wearing in Moab was ideal for 20 degree weather, and I can zip out the lining to make two whole separate jackets, so I'm set for outerwear. Aside from that - what else do I need? (I'm a bit afraid of showing up at EMS and asking them this and getting wildly upsold; I'm also afraid of my own tendency to get all caught up in how cool a given gadget looks, and I won't know that I don't actually need it.)

2-1/2. Is there anything else I need to know that I'm overlooking in my starry-eyed enthusiasm?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
1. Harriman/Bear Mountain. You can access trails from Tuxedo and Suffern and I'm sure a few other train stations, but you definitely need a good map.

2. You can walk across the GW bridge and immediately access the Long Path, which goes north along the Palisades. And it keeps going and going and going; it's called the Long Path for a reason!
posted by kestrel251 at 6:58 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

This doesn't directly answer your question, but I thought it might be worth putting out there: you might want to consider some of New Hampshire's White Mountains at some point, as there are some stunning views (especially in the autumn with the leaves), and while they're probably too far for a day hike, I'm sure they'd make a great overnight from New York with a stay at a B&B. Franconia Ridge Trail has 360 degree views for over an hour, if I'm remembering correctly, and there are various other hikes up there that aren't as bad as Washington, Adams, etc., that are really satisfying to do and have incredible views!
posted by UniversityNomad at 7:02 AM on January 8, 2013

Poncho that'll cover your pack as well
Utility knife (not a leatherman multitool)
Make sure your first aid kit has moleskin
They may look cool but hiking poles are not much better than a good stick
A small-capacity camelbak might be good (there are cheap alternatives online)
Anything else is probably overkill on a day hike. Make sure someone knows where you've gone and for how long

If you invest in anything, make it your boots and socks... get boots, not shoes, that support your ankles, and thick wool socks as well as very thin inner socks (goal is to prevent slipping around in shoe that causes blisters)
posted by MangyCarface at 7:04 AM on January 8, 2013

Response by poster: They may look cool but hiking poles are not much better than a good stick

I actually appreciated the poles coming in a set of two (made it really easy to cross a couple of streams in Moab), and my friends said they'd got them for about $20 bucks at Target. I have a stick, but liked having two supports.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on January 8, 2013

You need hiking boots and socks. That's basically it. A topo map of the area would be handy. (can also get the map at EMS, but you can look at for individual trail reviews which can be very handy to get a feel for the area you are climbing)

Feel free to walk into EMS (my preference) or REI and ask the assistant to help you. Feel free to give them a budget (ie no more than $120) and see what that can do for you wrt to sales. I've usually done much better at EMS than REI, so I may be a bit biased towards them.

For Hike's around NYC, there are a ton along the Hudson that are amazingly picturesque. (Storm King, Beacon, Cold Springs). If you have a car, you can access significantly more terrain and even do day hikes into the Catskills- I like North/South Lake. Harriman St. Park (about an hr out of the city- and accessible by train from tuxedo park) has a bunch of neat waterfalls hidden in the woods and the paths are well laid out there to take advantage of interesting scenery. Breakneck ridge is called that for a reason (super steep trail, but lovely views), and is accessible by train.

We did a Mefi NYC hike in September(?), and it was a ton of fun- 4 of us showed up, and having a car did make things significantly easier.

some of my friends hike with the trekking poles. I've used them only when hiking more extreme hikes. for the NYC area you're not doing the long downhills that kill your knees and make trekking poles a must.
posted by larthegreat at 7:11 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Restating that I do not have a car, and am expressly looking for places I can get to without a car. Thanks. (Last threadsit, sorry.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:17 AM on January 8, 2013

Then your best bets are in the summer- going to Cold Spring(only stops at the trail head during the summer) and Tuxedo Park (access to Harriman).

Hiking around here is rather difficult without a car, or spending stupid amounts of time on public transit- it makes things rather frustrating, particularly if you want good views.
posted by larthegreat at 7:31 AM on January 8, 2013

The AMC has this list of Carless Hikes, 3-4 of which are in the NYC metro area. Solo hiking without a car is tough - car-free hiking spots tend to be crowded, and you end up going to the same couple of places a lot. (It's relatively easy to hook up with people who want to carpool to hikes, though - the AMC is great for this, at least in the Boston area, not sure it's equally active in NYC. But then you usually have to hike with them.)

I love my hiking poles and find them well worth carrying. I only wear boots in the winter - the rest of the year I wear very lightweight trail-running shoes, which I wear barefoot or with thin synthetic socks (I'm one of those ridiculous barefoot/minimal shoe people, though, and I built up my foot strength over the course of a year or so). For spring/summer/fall day hikes I carry a very lightweight 18-liter pack, with the 10 Essentials. (That last link is to the REI website - they have a lot of good educational materials about hiking/outdoorsiness, as does the AMC linked above.) I always carry (or wear) rain pants except on hot days when I wouldn't mind being wet.

Some of those tempting, semi-necessary gadgets are really cheap, which is nice - I always carry a space blanket when I hike solo, and it's arguably overkill but it's small and light and, apparently, 10 for $5 on Amazon! In general I have found people at EMS and REI to be really respectful of my needs*, and if you go in and say, "Hey, I'm just starting out, I don't want to buy a lot of useless crap," hopefully they will respect that. I'm not sure about EMS's return policy but REI's is incredibly generous, so if you feel like you got railroaded into buying something, you can always (like, really always) return it.

Oh, and you might want to think about getting snowshoes, depending on how snowy a winter it is - something about traipsing out over even a park or golf course on snowshoes makes it all feel very adventurous. And snow is pretty.

*Thanks, guy at the Comm Ave. EMS who let me try on literally every pair of women's boots you had for sale, most of them in multiple sizes! Sorry I left without buying anything!
posted by mskyle at 7:57 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about the High Line?
posted by bq at 8:17 AM on January 8, 2013

Response by poster: Arg, forgot to clarify that I'm looking for more wilderness rather than urban stuff, so the High Line is out (unless it's the kind of thing that keeps going and going and going and I can follow it all the way up to West Point or something).

Although I just asked this of larthegreat in email - beachsides in Long Island would also work, if they're fairly remote (which may be more the case in winter and spring). So any ideas for that as well would work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on January 8, 2013

In that case I recommend the Aquaduct and I recommend hopping on it at Irvington or Tarrytown. It's not remote, but it is wooded and well-shielded from road noise, and almost entirely gently sloping or level.
posted by bq at 8:30 AM on January 8, 2013

That 10 essentials list from REI should do fine.

It might be good to carefully read a book on hiking, I think. Your library should have the Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher, which is pretty readable. There's some common-sense stuff, like "Don't defecate or urinate near water", which isn't really obvious until a book or mentor points it out to you. So, book.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:52 AM on January 8, 2013

This page includes day hiking options with transit options.

I have a single trekking pole that I bought at REI for a pretty reasonable price. I am not exactly a youngster, and my knees and legs are happier having it for climbing, descending, and uneven terrain (of which there is a lot in the Northeast).

I carry a medium-size backpack with hip and chest support and my main jacket is a lightweight Marmot fleece jacket, and I will toss in a poncho into the bag if the weather looks iffy. Also sunscreen, matches, water, snacks, and a knife. Detailed maps of where you are hiking is also recommended. My Salomon boots do not cover the ankles, so not as good for ankle support, but they are very sturdy. A good pair of boots will last you a long time.

(I hope you can come to the next hike meetup. There were great views and donuts!)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2013

« Older What is this key change?   |   Better to quit my job or get fired? Restaurant... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.