Car-less backpacking from NYC

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    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    As I might have to relocate to New York from San Francisco, which would entail giving up the car, I'm wondering what backpacking options are available to me.

    I've just started doing a little research, and I've found a couple trails where you can take the train and walk fairly easily to a trailhead, and some buses as well.

    Anybody here have any suggestions? Even if I could ride the train with my bike and then ride 10-15 miles to the trail head from there. (Assuming there's a way to chain it up when I get there)

    There's also carshare or renting, but it's no fun to pay $115/day to have a car that just sits there for the 3 days your backpacking. Maybe taking the train and renting the car wherever I end up, where it might be cheaper?

    Thanks for any advice.

    Brian Markey
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast

    James: If you look at the web site for the New York New Jersey Trail conference at, you will see local hikes with transportation options. Also, the New York/New Jersey chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club lists transportation options from NYC.

    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    Great, thanks for the link. They even have a "You don't need a car" section. I'd found a GORP website with some ideas, but this site is a lot better.

    b s
    BPL Member


    I was up in the Catskills (NY) this past weekend and ran into someone from NYC who took the Trailways Bus up and walked a few road miles to the trailhead. Might be an option for you to look into.

    Nate Meinzer


    Locale: San Francisco

    I did some car-less backpacking in NYC a few years ago.

    You can easily take the train to Harriman State Park (Bear Mountain).

    The Trailways bus goes to the Catskills.

    You can also take the LIRR and then a ferry to Fire Island, where they have a stretch of wilderness where you can camp on the beach.

    Also, you can take the Amtrak up to the Adirondacks with a connecting bus to Lake Placid. Definitely check this one out as that area is amazing.

    Walter Carrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mass.

    Join the NY chapter of AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club, and rideshare on their trips.

    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    Thanks for the continued suggestions. I'm still not happy about possibly leaving the Bay Area, (though maybe getting out of CA before it goes bankrupt isn't the worst idea) but at least there looks to be some good options.

    That ride-sharing program is just the kind of thing I'm looking for. Looks like there's plenty of bus/train options as well. I try to be good about my carbon footprint and all that, but one of the great things about backpacking (to me)is not having a schedule, so I tend to have a negative reaction to having to be on one for public transit. It's something I'll have to get used to.

    Ryan Linn


    Locale: Maine!

    This is probably less likely unless you have lots of time on your hands, but the Long Path ( starts across the George Washington Bridge from NYC and goes up through the Catskills, ending just west of Albany.

    I started it last summer, but had to bail out because of a bum knee, then I was going to do part of it this month, but once again had to cancel due to other circumstances. But the parts I've been on so far are quite nice. A good multi-day trip would be to take the train to Harriman, then hike to the Catskills and take the bus back. It would require some planning, but not a car. Pretty crazy.

    Frank Deland


    Locale: On the AT in VA

    On weekends, the Harlem Commuter line out of Grand Central Sta. Has a stop right on the AT only a mile or two from the CT border, near Pawling, NY and Wingdale. The Pawling station is 3 miles south of the trail, so you coulkd take a biike on the train and get there. The AT leaves NY/NJ at Delaware Gap. Frequent buses from NYC stop at Delaware Gap. The bus stop is less than a mile from the AT. Public transportation might get you to Bear Mt., too. The AT in NY/NJ is only 30-40 miles outside of NYC, yet in miles of wilderness, small farms, and a wildlife refuge. Beautiful. The trail goes along the northern border of NJ, so you are in and out of NJ and NY.
    As an AT section hiker, I have used my bike from New England to the Smokey Mts., and never had a problem. I lie it flat on the ground under a small tarp and chain to a tree. Just be sure you remember where you hid it. In fact I hid it in the bushes right near the AT stop in NY I referred to above. It was there for a week. I also left my bike at the top of Clingman's Dome in the Smokies. It was a great ride back down! That was probably my shortest ride after a hike, the longest was 80 miles in Maine!

    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    I thought I read read about an AT stop accesible via train, but I couldn't remember where. Thanks for letting me know.

    It's good to know about the bike as well. I think I was less worried about people stealing my bike since in order to steal it, they'd have to happen to have a bolt cutter/pry bar on them. Seems doubtful people cruise trailheads hunting for hidden bikes to steal that might happen to be there. Of more concern was police/rangers deciding it was against regulations to leave it there and taking it.

    Sounds like I've got some decent options.

    Michael Guerin


    James – summer's almost over, any great finds?

    Really useful commentary in general here. Has anyone been able to make it to good hiking in Vermont using public transportation?

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