SYNOPSIS: Over 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail winds through Putnam County. If you do not have the time or energy to trek the entire length, try the beautiful, short section just south of where the AT crosses into Dutchess County. On the west side of the Taconic Parkway, a portion of the famous trail climbs the top of Shenandoah Mountain. At 1066 feet, Shenandoah Mountain sits in the northernmost section of Clarence Fahnestock State Park, and the rocky bald spot at the peak offers an amazing view. The steady climb is clearly marked by white rectangles painted on the trees and is well maintained.
APPROXIMATE TIME: One hour and fifteen minutes.
DIRECTIONS: From the Brewster area, the quickest route is to take Route 84 west to the Taconic. Head south on the Taconic for 1.9 miles and take the Miller Hill Road exit. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto Miller Hill Rd and go .3 miles, then make a left onto Hortontown Road and go 1 mile. Make a right onto Long Hill Road (portions of this road are unpaved). About 1 mile up the hill there is a pull-off area on the right hand side. There is enough space for 4 or 5 cars. The Appalachian Trail crosses the road here.
THE HIKE: There are trail markers on both sides of the road. Take the trail that heads up the hill, across the road from the parking area. It’s a moderately strenuous climb, but it is worth it. There were a few areas that were a little slippery, but the trail was in much better shape than I expected for our mid-February hike. My five year old made it just fine, with a few breaks to rest along the way.
Little black specks danced around the snow as we climbed the mountain – there were snow fleas everywhere. One of our rest stops included investigating an old footprint in the snow alongside the trail. At first glance it looked like it was full of bubbling mud, but upon closer inspection it became clear that it was actually a massive collection of the little black bugs.
As you ascend the mountain, the tall trees give way to tall, thick brush. At times, trail was often like climbing stairs. At the top, the brush opens up to an area with exposed rock and a wide-angle view of the surrounding landscape. My son and I both stopped in our tracks as we reached the point where the panorama of Putnam’s hills came into view.
We move slowly so it took us 1 hour and 15 minutes round trip. We got down the mountain in exactly half the time it took us to get up, so figure 30 minutes up, 30 minutes to take in the views and have lunch or a snack, and 15 minutes back down to the parking area.
Of all the places I have visited in Putnam County, this hike is in my top ten. It is one of my wife’s favorites because it is a short, moderately challenging hike with a “feature” – in this case, an amazing view.
HISTORY: For info on the history of Clarence Fahnestock State Park, see the earlier chapter on Pelton Pond.
MAP & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: We visited Shenandoah Mountain in June and November of 2010. I found out about Shenandoah Mountain through www.planputnam.org, a Putnam news and politics website that has info on the Shenandoah hike, as well as many other local areas to visit. Look under the Recreation section.
Clarence Fahnestock State Park is a 14,000 acres park that is an outdoor recreation paradise. Info on Clarence Fahnestock State Park can be found at www.nysparks.com, or by calling the park office at 845/225-7207. Pets are allowed in Fahnestock if on a leash no longer than 10 feet.
Note: In my research, it seems that the peak just south of the Putnam/Dutchess line (the topic of this chapter) as well as the peak just to the north, are both referred to as Shenandoah Mountain. Regardless of the name, this is a rewarding family hike.