Published on September 1st, 2011 | by Peter Bronski
Going the (Long) Distance: Seven Long-Distance Hikes in the East
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time,” comedian Steven Wright famously once quipped. Nowhere might that be truer than on the trail.
The Northeast is interwoven with thousands of miles of hiking trails, and—some basic physical fitness notwithstanding—all it takes to explore them is time. They’re all, by the very definition of hiking, walking distance.
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But some require a bit more walking than others. A select few were designed, not just for walking distance, but for long distance. From the legendary Appalachian Trail to the fabled and familiar Long Trail to the new Cross Vermont Trail, these trails—portions of which are designated National Recreation Trails—will get you going … and keep you going … and going.
By the measures of sheer distance and the diversity and magnitude of terrain covered, few would dispute the Appalachian Trail as the granddaddy of this list. At 2,175 miles long, it stretches from Georgia to Maine. (And that doesn’t even count the international extension into Canada!) It was conceived in 1921 and completed in 1937. As it enters the Northeast at the Delaware Water Gap, it crosses southern New York, heads north up the western edge of Connecticut and Massachusetts, continues into southern Vermont, then angles across New Hampshire and into Maine. Along the way, the trail reaches its lowest point (along the Hudson River) and some of its highest points (among the Presidentials). For more information: www.appalachiantrail.org.
Built by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail is the self-titled “oldest long-distance hiking trail in America.” Also known as Vermont’s “footpath in the wilderness,” it runs for 273 miles north to south, from Vermont’s border with Canada to its border with Massachusetts. The white-blazed route generally follows the spine of the Green Mountains, overlapping with the AT in the southern part of the state. For more information: www.greenmountainclub.org.
Cross Vermont Trail
Unique for its west-to-east orientation, the Cross Vermont Trail is a new addition to the long-distance trail network. Envisioned as a four-season, multi-use path, it runs from Burlington to Newbury, from Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River. According to the Cross Vermont Trail Association, the trail—when complete—will span some 90 miles. For more information: www.crossvermont.org.
Begun in 1922 and completed in 1924, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Northville-Placid Trail weaves a south-to-north route through the west-central Adirondack Mountains. The 133-mile route from Northville to Lake Placid was donated to the state in 1927, and traverses numerous wilderness areas (including the West Canada Lakes and High Peaks) and wild forests (such as Blue Mountain) in the Adirondack Park. For more information: www.nptrail.org.
Think of the Long Path as New York’s answer to Vermont’s Long Trail. The 347-mile route extends from the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge near New York City to outside of Albany. (There are plans to eventually extend it north to the Canadian border.) Originally conceived in the 1930s, it’s been a work-in-progress, decade by decade, especially as sections get rerouted to use more trails and eliminate stretches of road walking. This “baby” of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference visits the Hudson Valley, Palisades, Highlands, Shawangunks, and Catskills. For more information: www.nynjtc.org.
Taconic Crest Trail
When linked with the South Taconic Trail, the Taconic Crest Trail makes for some 50 miles of hiking through the Taconic and Berkshire mountains along the New York-Massachusetts border, paralleling the AT, which runs farther to the east. The TCT winds from Petersburgh, N.Y., to Pittsfield, Mass., and the STT heads from the Catamount Ski Area to Whitehouse Crossing south of Mount Brace. For more information: www.berkshirehiking.com.
Started in the 1950s, and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Berkshire Chapter, the 114-mile, blue-blazed Metacomet-Monadnock Trail runs from the Connecticut-Massachusetts border to Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. Along the way, it traverses Mount Tom State Reservation, the Mount Holyoke range, and other gems of west-central Massachusetts. For more information: www.amcberkshire.org/mm-trail.