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The Appalachian Trail Railroad Stop

Appalachian Trail Rail Stop, New York
Appalachian Trail Rail Stop, New York

When Benton Mackaye first proposed the Appalachian Trail (see An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning), he envisioned a place where urban workers could spend their free time outdoors in order to recuperate from the drudgery of factory life.

However, if you read his seminal paper, he doesn’t explain how these workers and their families are supposed to get from their urban tenements to the countryside where the Appalachian Trail would be built. How to get to the AT from urban centers without a car remains a vexing problem, even today.

Even bus service between urban areas and towns near the Appalachian Trail is difficult, and hikers often have to rely on private shuttles to ferry them that last stretch from bus depot to trailhead. It’s such a hassle for section hikers, that you want to keep going and not stop once you get on the trail.

Leave it to New Yorkers then, to build the Appalachian Trail Rail Platform right on the Appalachian Trail, just 66 miles north of New York City and Grand Central Station. Located in Pawling, New York. I can still remember hiking past it on the 11th day of an Appalachian Trail  section hike I did from southern New Jersey to northern Connecticut a few years ago, after spending the previous night at the famous RPH Shelter.

The Appalachian Trail stop is served by the Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line (schedule), with Saturday and weekday service, costing $21-$26 from Grand Central off-peak and on. That’s astonishingly inexpensive when compared to how much a shuttle driver would charge to drive you that distance.

The only other rail line to service the Appalachian Trail from an urban area is Maryland Rail Commuter’s Brunswick Line (schedule) between Washington DC and Harper’s Ferry.

On hindsight, the relative remoteness of the Appalachian Trail and its inaccessibility from urban areas is probably the chief reason why it’s retained some of its wilderness feel. I can’t imagine what the trail would be like today, if it was easy to get to.


  1. I have a photo of the train speeding by when I hiked that section, a short walk later I stopped at the shelter for water and met someone who rode the train out from NYC the day before. A New Yorker with a weekend pass, five headlamps all turned on (red setting) in the middle of the afternoon inside the shelter while sitting inside a bag liner pulled up over their head, several times I was asked if I knew about the constellations, apparently they follow you around and watch you, was told alcohol is illegal in WV, a pile of rocks was on the table for throwing at birds when one started singing. This is only a few of the ramblings I heard and observed during the 2-3 minutes I inhaled my lunch, pretty sure I left with half a snack bar hanging out of my mouth.

    The train may provide transportation from urban to trail, but it’s also a transporter for nut jobs, possibly aliens and trail stories not to be forgotten. :-)

  2. Even more important, a half mile to east is a deli!

  3. Ah, sleeping next to that rail line at the plant nursery…what an experience and a bad night’s sleep! But, at least I got a shower and yes, a trip to that deli.

  4. Growing up in NYC I gained my early experience backpacking within 50 miles of the city. Most of us NY kids reach adult hood without owning cars. I usually took a bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan to towns like Tuxedo and Sloatsburg which are just on the edge of Harriman State Park, through which the AT passes. I never took the train to that AT stop. I didn’t know about it at the time. Regarding strange folks: one night my buddy and I planned to camp at some interesting caves in Harriman State Park. We arrived after dark and scared the living crap out of a guy sound asleep in the cave which in turn scared the crap out of us as he screamed in fear. He was harmless but rather unusual. He had no gear to speak of, just a plastic bag full of junk food. Being so close to the city some interesting characters show up along the NY / NJ AT corridor.

  5. Oh what a sacred place to me! This is the exact spot I left the AT after 1444.5 miles on the 30th Oct 2013, and is the exact spot I’ll arrive 17th Aug 2014 to do the remaining 740! :)

  6. So, how were you able to hike on the AT from “…southern New Jersey to northern Connecticut”? The AT enters New Jersey from the south at the Delaware Water Gap. No matter how you want to look at it, the DWG is I in NORTHERN NJ.

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