Public transport is the primary mode of travel around the world – trains run to the most notable places in Europe and China, while Uzbekistan has more high-speed trains than the United States. When planning a round trip through the USA, cars are almost exclusively the means of choice. But there are some exceptions, and it is possible to access the Appalachian Trail by rail from New York on the Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line.
Trains can be a relaxing and fun way to get around – even if there aren’t that many options in the US. One of the world’s most scenic train journeys takes the Canadian Rocky Mountaineer through some of North America’s most spectacular scenery. Alternatively, leaf train touring season is upon us throughout New England and beyond.
The Harlem Line – Older than the trains themselves
The Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line is an 82-mile commuter rail service that runs from NYC to Wassaic in Dutchess County. It departs from Grand Central Terminal and heads into the breathtaking world of the Appalachian Mountains – a stark contrast to the concrete jungle of Manhattan where it begins. Most of it is electric, although the last 30 miles are diesel trains.
The line is also historic; It was the world’s first tram and was opened in stages between 1832 and 1852. Railways have been around longer than trains – the first railway cars were pulled by horses.
- Length: 82 miles or 132 kilometers
- Route: New York City to Wassaic
- Stations: 38 stations
Taking the Harlem line can be fun. In the past, people from New York City went to Upstate New York for vacations. The line was traditionally used to bring commuters from Westchester County to the Big Apple. Trains were once the mode of choice for getting around and going on vacation. During the golden age of railroading, the Catskills were booming. But the Catskills as a travel destination and trains soon declined in the face of cars and planes.
The rail line is a great way to enjoy both the city and the mountains surrounding the Appalachian Trail in the same day without having to worry about driving or parking.
Perhaps the most famous of America’s vast scenic hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail stretches 2,100 miles from Maine to Georgia along the Appalachian mountain ranges.
Plan a ride on the Metro-North Harlem Line
The Metro-North Harlem line doesn’t run every day, so passengers will plan their excursions based on the train schedule next. Normally he only drives on weekends and public holidays. Also, round-trip tickets are fairly limited, so plan ahead and book in advance.
- Duration: Less than two hours
The Metro-North Harlem line departs from Grand Central Terminal – like other commuter trains in NYC.
Note that as of this writing (September 2022), train service between Southeast and Wassaic will be suspended and replaced with buses from September 12 to November 20, 2022 for track maintenance.
The Metro North lines serve both New York and Connecticut. They consist of the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven lines, and the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines. Plan your trip and book tickets on NYC’s MTA website.
The train stops and walking opportunities on the Metro-North Harlem Line
Just outside of Pawling, New York, hop off the train and find yourself just steps from the Appalachian Trail. The train stop is at a tiny stop at the courtyard. From there, hikers can take an accessible boardwalk to the Great Swamp and onto the trail.
One option is to hike the two-mile trail to Cat Rocks Overlook. Rating of difficulty is moderate and the trail meanders through meadows, mature foliage and landscapes with breathtaking mountain views. Overall, expect to gain about 500 feet of elevation with a limited amount of steep climbing.
Admire scenic, panoramic views of the region just a short distance outside of New York City at Cat Rocks. The Cat Rocks Trail is part of the larger Appalachian Trail, so you can either stop at Cat Rocks Overlook or continue into Georgia.