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Before You Hike the Wallkill Valley Loop
Long distance hiking takes preparation. The most important thing you can do before leaving on any hike is to leave an approximate trip itinerary with a friend or family and when you expect to return. This way, they may know where to find you in case of an emergency. If you can avoid it, don't hike alone. A friend can provide help in the event of a serious emergency and an extra pair of eyes will help keep you from getting lost. Also be sure to get a weather forecast and check on the trail conditions before heading for any closures or reroutes before heading out. Finally, make sure you are in good enough shape to spend multiple days hiking in the woods. If you haven't been physically active before the hike, you may find the trip to be quite difficult and painful.
How Much in a Day?
Depending on your conditioning, level of backpacking experience, and the pace you'd like to hike the route, you should allow for between 8 to 12 days to hike the 117 miles of the Wallkill Valley Loop. Should you decide to bike the Long Path section (see below), you can reduce this total by two days. Plan your trip out accordingly, using the Wallkill Valley Loop Guide to consider camping locations and re-supply point(s). Also consider what time of year you will be hiking. This will affect what level of gear you will need to stay warm and also any things you need to be cautious of, for example if hiking during hunting season.
A Mix of Roads and Trails
The region through which the four component trails of the Wallkill Valley Loop pass is highly developed and becoming more so daily. As a result, there are often spots where the trail must follow along a road. Though this is seldom the case on the Appalachian Trail, the other three trails have some degree of road walking involved. In particular, the Long Path section through Orange County is a long road walk. Once the Long Path descends from the Shawangunk Ridge onto Shawanga Lodge Road, there is approximately 29 miles of road walk before reaching Woodcock Mountain, near Schunemunk Mountain.
Furthermore, the land throughout this section is privately owned, save for Highland Lakes State Park. While it is possible to hike this length, it is extremely difficult because of the lack of places find shade, to rest, use the bathroom, or to camp for the night. If one chooses to hike this section, it is recommended that they do so with the aid of a support vehicle that can provide a hiker with transport to a bathroom or lodging when necessary. A person wishing to complete the route could also bike this section or even run this section. This again may require the assistance of an outside party, so be sure to plan ahead.