This is a “lollipop”-loop hike; however, the “stick” (the portion of the hike which must be retraced) is 5.3 miles long, and the loop around Nuclear Lake is only 1.9 miles. It involves over 1,500 feet of cli...
This is a “lollipop”-loop hike; however, the “stick” (the portion of the hike which must be retraced) is 5.3 miles long, and the loop around Nuclear Lake is only 1.9 miles. It involves over 1,500 feet of climbing overall, but most of the ascents are not exceptionally steep. The hike traverses an attractive, wooded area and features a number of panoramic views.
From the parking area, proceed south along Route 22. In a short distance, the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (A.T.) joins from the left, near a kiosk. Continue south along Route 22 for another 500 feet, then turn right and cross the highway just south of a garden and landscaping center. You’ll immediately come to the Appalachian Trail station of the Metro-North Railroad (limited service, only on weekends). Cross the tracks and continue across a wetland on a1,600-foot-long boardwalk, constructed between 2009 and 2012 by volunteers, with the assistance of the Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
At the end of the boardwalk, you’ll cross a bridge over the Swamp River. The trail now turns right and climbs a little, heading north along the base of Corbin Hill. In two-thirds of a mile, after passing through a gap in a stone wall, the climb steepens, with the last part of the climb utilizing switchbacks.
About a mile and a half from the start, you’ll reach the top of Corbin Hill. The trail heads through the woods for about 500 feet and emerges onto an overgrown field. It follows along the edge of the field, with woods on the left, and begins to descend. In another 750 feet, you’ll come to the end of the field, briefly traverse a wooded area, and emerge onto another field. Ahead, to the west (beyond the fields), you can see a hill, known as West Mountain, in the distance. You will soon be climbing to the top of this hill!
Follow the white A.T. blazes, which turn left and follow the edge of the field (which is surrounded by a barbed wire fence that may be electrified). The trail continues to descend, with woods on the left. At the base of the descent, it crosses a wet area on puncheons and a bridge, then crosses a stone wall. It descends a little more and cuts across a corner of the field, following a switchback down to West Dover Road (County Route 20). Just before reaching the road, you’ll pass the Dover Oak. This white oak, estimated to be about 300 years old, has a circumference of over 20 feet, and is believed to be the largest blazed tree along the entire A.T. from Maine to Georgia.
On the other side of the road, the trail descends to cross a wet area on rocks and puncheons. A short distance beyond, the trail climbs a jagged rock outcrop and begins its steady ascent of West Mountain, crossing a stream on a wooden bridge along the way.
After climbing for about half a mile, you come to an intersection, where a side trail leads to the Telephone Pioneers Shelter. Turn left and follow the blue-blazed trail, which crosses a stream and leads in 500 feet to the shelter, constructed by the White Plains Council of the Telephone Pioneers of America in 1988. The picnic table in front of the shelter is a great spot to eat lunch or just take a break.
When you’re ready to continue, retrace your steps to the A.T. and bear left at the intersection. The trail climbs some more, soon approaching the grass-covered summit ridge of West Mountain. Just below the summit, a side trail on the right leads a short distance to Cat Rocks – a panoramic east-facing viewpoint from an open rock outcrop. Down below, you can see West Dover Road, with fields beyond. The trail that you took earlier in the hike follows the edge of these fields (you can see the path that cuts across the corner of the field just east of the road!).
For a round trip of 6.6 miles you can retrace your steps after taking in the view, but if you wish to continue, return to the A.T. and turn right. The trail climbs very gently to the height of land on West Mountain (1,205 feet), marked by a rock outcrop. You’ve climbed nearly 700 feet from West Dover Road to reach this point.
The trail now begins to descend. In about half a mile, it crosses a stream, the outlet of a wetland to the right of the trail, and a short distance beyond, it goes across Penny Road – an old woods road, bordered on each side by stone walls. It continues to descend until it reaches a large wetland, crossed on a wooden bridge. The trail crosses another wet area on puncheons and begins a gentle climb.
After reaching the crest of the rise, the trail descends, first rather steeply, then more gradually. In half a mile, it reaches a fork. Here, the blue-blazed Beekman Uplands Loop Trail begins on the right, but you should bear left to continue on the A.T., which runs above an interesting ravine on the left. The trail continues to descend towards Nuclear Lake – named for the nuclear fuel research facility that operated here until 1972. After the property was acquired by the National Park Service as part of the A.T. corridor, the buildings were razed and the area was extensively tested and found suitable for recreational use by the public.
Near the shore of the lake, you’ll reach a junction with the yellow-blazed Nuclear Lake Loop Trail. This trail will be your return route, but for now, you should bear right to continue on the A.T. You’ve now hiked 5.3 miles and completed the “stick” of the “lollipop.”
The A.T. follows the northwest shore of the lake, running close to the lakeshore for part of the way, with views across the lake. After a while, it reaches a small grassy clearing and continues along an old gravel road, passing some more clearings along the way. It follows the road for about 0.2 mile, then bears right, leaving the road, and continues on a footpath through the woods.
After passing an interesting split rock covered with ferns, the A.T. reaches a T-intersection at the outlet stream of Nuclear Lake. Here, the A.T. turns right, but you should turn left and follow the yellow-blazed Nuclear Lake Loop Trail, which begins here. The trail passes a scenic waterfall and soon reaches the gravel road leading into Nuclear Lake. It turns right and follows the road for 100 feet, crossing the outlet stream, then turns left, re-enters the woods, and follows a rocky footpath parallel to the southwest shore of the lake.
As it approaches the southeastern corner of the lake, the trail briefly joins a woods road, then turns left, descends through mountain laurel, and crosses the inlet stream of the lake on rocks. The Nuclear Lake Loop Trail ends, near the northeastern corner of the lake, at a junction with the A.T. Turn right onto the A.T. and follow it for 5.3 miles, retracing your steps back to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 05/23/2012 updated/verified on 05/16/2012
This hike traverses a secluded section of the Appalachian Trail, with several viewpoints, and circles an attractive lake.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.