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Hiking West Mountain & Nuclear Lake (Pawling, NY) - 3 versions

Distance: approximately 7, 12, 12.5 miles roundtrip
Time: 4, 6+, 7 - group
Difficulty: moderate (900', 1250', 1250' rise)

Version #1: This hike starts at the Appalachian Trail railroad station (more of a small platform than a real station) just south of the parking areas. The hike heads westward (south on the Appalachian Trail). This hike is entirely on the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) and is out-and-back on the same trail.

Head westward on the Appalachian Trail (white blazes). At about 2.4 miles cross County Road 20 to stay on the A.T. At about 3.1 miles a side trail on the left heads towards a shelter, continue straight on the A.T.

At 3.7 miles a 100 foot side trail to the right leads to a rocky ledge ("Cat Rocks") with a great view. Eat lunch here. Return the same way you came to your car.

Version #2: From the West Mountain viewpoint continue south along the AT until you reach Nuclear Lake. When you reach the intersection of the AT and the yellow blazed loop trail continue for about 0.5 miles on the AT until a grassy area abutting the lake (near the end of a road). Eat lunch here and then retrace your steps north on the AT.

Version #3: When, upon reaching Nuclear Lake and you reach the intersection of the AT and the yellow blazed loop trail, take the loop trail to the left around to the its end where it meets the AT. Make a right onto the AT (northbound / eastward) until the lunch spot described in Version #2 above (the lunch spot is not the fenced-in area, it is northeast of the fenced area). After lunch complete the loop, going northward on the AT.

References: Appalachian Trail Guide - New York-New Jersey, map set #1&2

Driving Directions from NYC

West Side Highway/Henry Hudson Parkway North into the Saw Mill River Parkway North to its end where it joins up with Route 684 North. Take Route 684 north to its end where it joins up with Route 22 North. Take Route 22 north towards Pawling.

About 2.4 miles north of Pawling, park in one of the two well marked parking areas (GPS: N 41.59465, W 073.58699) just north of the Appalachian Trail railroad station (there are two parking areas, one on each side of the road). If you pass the Harlem Valley - Wingdale railroad station then you have gone about 3 miles too far north. The entire drive is about 67 miles and takes about 80 minutes.

On weekends access to the trailhead (Appalachian Trail railroad station, the stop between Pawling and Wingdale, GPS: N 41. 59290, W 073.58804) is also available from Grand Central Terminal via Metro-North Commuter Railroad (212/532-4900 or 800/638-7646).

Public Transportation

Metro-North (www.mta.info) Railroad's Harlem Valley line, originating at Grand Central Station in NYC,  stops at the "Appalachian Trail" station (which is really just a small wooden platform, see photo below) which is right at the trailhead (212/532-4900 or 800/638-7646). The "Appalachian Trail" stop is just after (north of) the Pawling, NY station and just before (south of) the "Harlem Valley - Wingdale" station.

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Questions: Michael Brochstein

The view northward on Route 22 showing the two parking areas, left and right. (May 2011)


Sign in southbound parking lot. (May 2011)

Sign in northbound parking lot. (May 2011)

    Sign near southbound parking lot. (August 2001)
The Appalachian Trail train station. (May 2011)
The AT train station and trail guide. (May 2011)   The hike starts here (to the immediate left of the gate). (May 2011)
The initial section of this hike used to flood terribly and the recent (as of 2011) installation of a boardwalk over this area had now made it predictably passable. (July 2011)   The Dover Oak, 300+ years old and about 20 feet in circumference, is the largest oak tree on the Appalachian Trail. (July 2011)
The rocky outcropping in the upper left of the photo is the viewpoint atop West Mountain. (July 2003)   The West Mountain rock outcropping (recommended lunch spot). (July 2003)
The lunch spot by Nuclear Lake. (July 2003)    

A part of the of the panoramic view from the
rocky outcropping atop West Mountain.
(July 2003)

Nuclear Lake as seen from the Nuclear Lake lunch stop. (July 2003)


Nuclear Lake as seen from another view. (July 2003)

Elevation profile for version #1 of this hike (April 2010).
Elevation profile for version #2 of this hike (April 2010).

 Last updated: 8/2012

Copyright © 2012 Michael Brochstein. All rights reserved.