Weekend Backpacker: New York
Fahnestock, a 6200-acre parcel donated to New York State early in the twentieth century, offers a little bit of everything: canoes for hire, a campground just a couple of hundred yards from The Taconic State Parkway (TSP), and a small beach. It also offers a hiking trip that features upland flora and fauna, a beautiful lake, and a place to camp for the night.
For the backpacker pining to get away from the crowd, take the TSP northbound from New York to the Route 301 exit and follow the signs for Cold Spring. Almost immediately, you'll pass the aforementioned campground, the park superintendent's home, and the racks of canoes along Canopus Lake. Just beyond the far end of Canopus, you'll see a small parking area on the right. This is the intersection of the AT and Rte. 301. The trail is easy to find (there is a sign-in book posted on a tree immediately after the trail begins).
Your destination on this overnight trip is the Shenandoah Campsite, located about five miles northeast along the AT. The walking is relatively easy, primarily because at this point the AT is trending away from the Highlands. Cool fern-bedecked fens (some home to voracious mosquitoes), a modest creek to pick your way across, and occasional sharp, brief climbs up rock outcroppings are the primary features of this hike.
For the first two miles or so the trail skirts Canopus Lake, a narrow sheet of water flecked with small, fir-bedecked islands. Just after leaving the lake behind, the trail hooks back on itself and traverses a short, steep slope that will bring you up to 1100 feet, 200 feet above the lake, and then drop you just as sharply. After another mile or so of working your way between the taller hills, the trail ascends Shenandoah Mountain, peaking at 1282 feet. Again you'll descend rather rapidly, and then cross Long Hill Rd. From the road it's approximately 0.7 miles to the Shenandoah Mountain campsite.
With the knowledge you've gained on the way in, you can decide what time you want to begin retracing your steps in the morning, and whether any bushwhacking is in order (the clear waters of Canopus offer a fine prospect for lunch, and plenty of gray-green boulders to serve as table and chairs.)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication