An Intro to Long Trails

April 7, 2015
An-Intro-to-Long-Trails
Jennifer AdachA hiker takes in a view of Harpers Ferry from the Appalachian Trail.

Long trails ranging from hundreds to thousands of miles connect some of the Northeast’s and Mid-Atlantic’s most treasured public lands. While some hikers cover a long trail’s full distance in one extended effort, others carve out day hikes or multiday backpacking trips. The segments below provide excellent introductions to eight long trails.

1. Cohos Trail  |  Stark, N.H.
The Cohos Trail begins in the heart of the White Mountains but quickly stretches into the quiet reaches of northern New Hampshire, all the way to the U.S.-Canada border. Nash Stream Forest provides access to a pair of this trail’s gems: the remote Percy Peaks. From the trailhead on North Road, follow the Cohos Trail north, around Bald Mountain and Victor Head, then up to the saddle between the Percy Peaks. Side trails lead to the 3,234-foot and 3,430-foot peaks. Return via the same route or continue north along the Percy Loop Trail to the Percy Loop Tentsite.
Distance: 13.7 miles round trip
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books); The Cohos Trail

2. Long Trail  |  Mount Tabor, Vt.
At 105 years old, the 270-mile Long Trail is the nation’s oldest long trail and still offers some of the best hiking in the Green Mountains. The gentle hike into and around Little Rock Pond is a good place to introduce children to the Long Trail (and the Appalachian Trail, which shares the same route in southern Vermont). Start from the parking area on Forest Road 10 and follow the white blazes. Natural highlights include a swamp, waterfalls, and swimming spots. Veer off the Long Trail to circle the pond then hike out the way you came.
Distance: 4.8 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books); Green Mountain Club

3. Bay Circuit Trail  |  Ipswich, Mass.
The 200-mile Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) arcs through rural and suburban towns outside of Boston, from the North Shore to the South Shore. To explore one highlight of the trail’s northern section, begin at the parking area on Linebrook Road and hike south into Willowdale State Forest. Forty miles of mixed-use trails (hiking, biking, and horseback riding) wind through these forests and wetlands, but stay on the BCT, which bisects this property. The trail crosses busy Route 1 (you can leave a second car here if you want to shorten your hike) and continues through the western portion of Willowdale. On a hot summer day, you might want to pause for a quick swim in Hood Pond before reversing course and heading back the way you came.
Distance: 7 miles round trip
Info: Bay Circuit Trail

4. New England Trail  |  Haddam, Conn.
The 215-mile New England Trail (NET) connects portions of the popular Metacomet Monadnock Mattabesett (MMM) trail system, bisecting Massachusetts and Connecticut all the way to Long Island Sound. With rushing waterfalls and cool swimming holes, Seven Falls State Park is a great starting point for a spring or summer hike. Hike north from the parking area on Route 154, following the NET’s blue blazes. The trail follows Bible Rock Brook and passes a series of cascades, traverses a ridge known as the Chinese Wall, and eventually meanders from Haddam into neighboring Middletown. (A large rock marks the towns’ border.) Parking spots on Bear Hill Road and Brooks Road offer places to leave a second car prehike.
Distance: 5.3 miles one way
Info: New England Trail

5. Finger Lakes Trail  |  Arkville, N.Y.
The Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) network spans most of the Empire State, stretching from the Catskills in the east to Allegany State Park in the west. To explore the eastern end, begin at the Balsam Lake parking area on Turnwood Road and hike north. The trail climbs gradually for the first mile then more steeply in the final stretch. A short side trail leads to a lean-to before the trail reaches the highest point on the entire FLT (3,660 feet). The FLT continues to the left along Mill Brook Ridge, but stay straight to reach the summit of Balsam Lake Mountain, where a fire tower provides a panoramic view of the Catskills.
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley, 2nd ed. (AMC Books); Finger Lakes Trail

6. Long Path  |  Harriman State Park, N.Y.
The 356-mile Long Path connects Thacher State Park, near Albany, N.Y., with New Jersey’s Fort Lee Historical Park. Along the way it passes through many of New York’s parks and public lands, including iconic Harriman State Park. From the parking area on Route 6, follow the Long Path’s aqua blazes north into one of the park’s more remote corners. After dipping into a valley, the trail climbs steeply before emerging atop Long Mountain. Though just 1,157 feet high, the mountain provides views over Harriman and across Turkey Hill Lake to the Palisades and nearby Bear Mountain.
Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near New York City (AMC Books); New York–North Jersey Trail Conference

7. Highlands Trail  |  High Bridge, N.J.
The Highlands Trail begins at New York’s Storm King Mountain and runs for 150 miles to the New Jersey–Pennsylvania border. There it connects to the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail, an extension that AMC is working on that will eventually reach Maryland. Just 55 miles west of New York City is a stretch of trail linking some of New Jersey’s premier public lands. Begin your hike at the Voorhees State Park entrance on Route 513. Hiking east, you’ll pass through a park created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s before crossing into the Spruce Run Recreation Area, home to the state’s third-largest reservoir. The trail crisscrosses Syckels Road and eventually reaches a parking area and boat ramp. Take a rest here then head back the way you came. The Highland Trail is actually a network of trails, so be careful to follow the teal diamond blazes to stay on course.
Distance: 10.2 miles round trip
Info: New York–North Jersey Trail Conference; New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

8. Appalachian Trail  |  Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
The most famous long trail of all, the AT connects Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Maine’s Katahdin, traversing the eastern United States for more than 2,100 miles. Harpers Ferry is well known as the trail’s approximate halfway point and the home of the Appalachian Trail Visitor Center. Begin this hike in town, climb the stone steps past St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, then pick up the AT’s iconic white blazes. The view from Jefferson Rock highlights this hike. A side trail leads to the AT Visitor Center, but continue straight, crossing the Shenandoah River and ascending to Loudon Heights on the opposite side, where another great view awaits.
Distance: 7.8 miles round trip
Info: Potomac Appalachian Trail Club; Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, writes the trail-running blog Running Wild.