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Around the world, public transport is the main mode of travel - trains run to most notable locations in Europe and China, while Uzbekistan arguably has more high-speed rail than the United States. When planning a trip around the USA, cars are almost exclusively the way to go. But there are some exceptions, and it is possible to reach the Appalachian Trail by rail from New York on the Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line.

Trains can be a relaxing and fun way to get about - even if there aren't so many options in the USA. One of the most picturesque train journeys in the world is taking the Canadian Rocky Mountaineer through some of the most spectacular landscapes in North America. Alternatively, the season is coming up for foliage train tours around New England and beyond.


The Harlem Line - Older Than Trains Themselves

The Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line is an 82-mile-long commuter rail running from NYC to Wassaic in Dutchess County. It departs from Grand Central Terminal and makes its way into the stunning world of the Appalachians - a stark contrast to the concrete jungle of Manhattan that it starts out in. Most of it is electric, although the last 30 miles are diesel trains.

The line is also historic; it was the world's first street railway and opened in stages between 1832 and 1852. Railways have existed for longer than trains - the first railway carriages were pulled by horses.

  • Length: 82 Miles or 132 Kilometer
  • Route: New York City to Wassaic
  • Stations: 38 Stations

Taking the Harlem line can be fun. In the past, folks from New York City would go on their vacations to Upstate New York. The line has been traditionally for bringing commuters from Westchester County into the Big Apple. Trains were once the transportation mode of choice to get about and go on vacation. During the golden age of rail, the Catskills boomed. But the Catskills as a destination and trains soon declined, faced with cars and airplanes.

The rail line is a great chance to be able to enjoy both the city and the mountains around the Appalachian Trail on the same day without having to worry about driving or parking.

The Appalachian Trail is perhaps the most famous of America's massively long scenic hiking trails and extends come 2,100 miles from Maine to Georgia, following the Appalachian mountain ranges.

Related: NYC To NOLA: Why This Amtrak Train Is Worth The Trip

Planning A Trip On The Metro-North Harlem Line

The Metro-North Harlem line doesn't run every day, so passengers will next to plan their outings around the train schedule. Typically, it only runs on weekends and holidays. Also, the return tickets are rather limited, so plan ahead and book in advance.

  • Duration: Less Than Two Hours

The Metro-North Harlem line leaves from the Grand Central Terminal - like other NYC urban commuter trains.

Note that as of the time of writing (September 2022), the train service between Southeast and Wassaic will be suspended and substituted with buses from September 12 to November 20, 2022, for track maintenance.

The Metro-North lines serve both New York and Connecticut. They are made up of the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven lines as well as the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines. Plan one's journey and book the tickets on NYC's MTA website.

Related: If You've Never Heard Of A Fall Foliage Train Tour, Now Is The Time To Take One

The Train Stop & Hiking Options On The Metro-North Harlem Line

Just outside Pawling, New York, disembark from the train and find oneself just a few steps from the main Appalachian Trail. The train stop is at a tiny farm-side stop. From there, hikers can take an accessible boardwalk to the Great Swamp and onto the trail.

One option is to hike the two-mile trail to Cat Rocks Overlook. The difficulty is considered moderate, and the trail meanders its way through meadows, old-growth foliage, and landscapes with stunning mountain views. In all, one can expect to gain around 500 feet in elevation with a limited about of steep scrambles.

At Cat Rocks, gaze out over the picturesque panoramic views of the region only a short distance out of New York City. The Cat Rocks Trail is part of the larger Appalachian Trail, so one can choose to stop at the Cat Rocks Overlook or continue on all the way to Georgia.