Appalachian Trail – Longhouse Rd, West Milford, NJ to Elk Pen Parking Area, Harriman State Park, Harriman, NY
Type: One way (either direction)
Hours: Open 24 hours
Distance: 21 miles total (2 days)
Difficulty: 10 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10
Terrain – Mountains, forests, swamps, streams
Trailheads – Southern Trailhead – 41°11’44.48″N, 74°22’15.02″W
Northern Trailhead (Elk Pen Parking Area) – 41º 15′ 52.272″ N 74º 9′ 16.272″ W
Parking – There is pretty much no parking at the trailhead. We were luck enough to get dropped off.
Lots of parking at the other end at Elk Pen.
Standouts: Crossing a state line, rock scrambles, amazing views (especially when the trees are bare), and more up and downs than you can shake a stick at.
Markings – The famous white blaze.
Maps – Your best bet is the Appalachian Trail Guide -New York-New Jersey published by the Appalachian Trails Conservancy. The trip follows NJ Section 1 and NY Sections 12 and 13.
Description: It would be impossible for me to give a detailed description of the trail, for that make sure that you purchase a trail guide. What I can tell you is that this was the most challenging backpacking trip I’ve ever done (and I’ve done somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 miles in 8 different states), and it was only two days! This trail offers ridge runs that require climbing up and down ledges, hand-over-hand climbing, a gorgeous waterfall, a state line crossing, and finished off with a 600 foot drop over just 0.4 of a mile called the Agony Grind. Enjoy the pictures!
On our way from Longhouse Road.
Day 1 has a lot of these short climbs.
We don’t get these in South Jersey.
Reaching the state line at mile 2.2.
While I’m sad to leave the greatest state in the Union, adventure awaits in New York.
For the next several miles, it’s various ridges with jagged tops. and expansive views of Greenwood Lake.
I love backpacking! 3.8 miles into the day.
Yes, straight up that.
This is climbing more than hiking.
6.1 miles into the day, a blue blazed trail down to the village of Greenwood Lake. Of course, we won’t be taking that way.
Continental Road, 8.1 miles into the day.
Just another day on the AT.
9 1/2 miles into the day, nice views.
Cat Rocks at mile 9.9.
Mile 10.2 is the only shelter in this stretch, and our stop for the night.
Wildcat Shelter sleeps six. Kept the wind and rain off us, so we were pretty happy.
If Day 1 was crazy, Day 2 was even crazier. Steeper climbs, and more of them. Much longer ups and downs. Topped off by two sheer walls in the last two miles, one up, and one, aptly named Agony Grind, down.
1.8 miles into Day 2 is Fitzgerald Falls. Good way to start your morning.
Straight up that. There was a lot of that today, although I didn’t get many pictures of straight ups due to their straight upness.
Ridges were easier today… when we got them.
I love top-of-mountain ponds.
4.9 miles into the day, pass a pond right before you hit West Mombasha Rd.
The next stretch of trail, the guidebook warned of a “steep trail.” I thought this was it. I was wrong. The real one was almost a wall.
Getting near the end, you can see the New York Thru-Way from here!
Halfway down Agony Grind (mile 9.3 for the day). The picture doesn’t do it justice, a 600 foot drop is only 0.4 of a mile with virtually no switchbacks.
Sheesh, what a day.
On Arden Road, heading for the Thru-Way.
End of the road for me. Was supposed to be a four day trip, but I did something to me knee coming down Agony Grind (which shouldn’t be a surprise), so had to drop out. Don’t worry Harriman State Park, I’ll be back.
Overview: Hiking the AT is always a good idea. Come prepared for this one though, it’s a totally awesome time, but do NOT underestimate how tough it is.