Background you can feel free to skip: Out for a neighborhood stroll with the pooch and my son recently, I bumped into Rich and Irene, our very cool neighbors whose sons sometimes look after our house while we’re away.
Irene started talking about her ladies’ hiking group, and how they tackled a section of nearby Appalachian Trail that she knew about from her sons’ days in the Boy Scouts.
“Does it have views?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, it has some nice ones,” she replied, and I wanted to find out more.
About a week later, amidst the usual junk mail, I found a nice trail description from Irene in our mailbox, detailing the section of Appalachian Trail that runs through Depot Hill Multiple Use Area. I’d heard of Depot Hill before; my trusty old trail guide talked about it, but the hike there involved a bushwack and had no views, so I’d never felt the urge to check it out.
The hike in Irene’s trail description sounded much more promising: a climb along the top of a ridge to the summit of Mt. Egbert, with views across Dutchess County to the Catskills and Hudson Highlands.
A couple of weeks later, the dog, the baby and I took a walk at Depot Hill (while the wife relaxed with an empty house – we call it her Moment of Zen), and it certainly won’t be our last trip there. It’s not a flat walk by any stretch, but you park at the top of the hill and follow the ups and downs of the ridge as it leads to the top of Mt. Egbert, which you’ll summit without even realizing, just after passing an Appalachian Trail shelter. The rocky overlook just past the summit is a great place to relax and soak in some views. It’s everything you could want in an afternoon hike. And, as I’d find out later, a pretty excellent sunset spot, too.
So head on out to Depot Hill Multiple Use Area and check it out. And if you visited based on this recommendation, when you get to the view on Mt. Egbert, say, “Thanks, Irene!”
1. Facing the giant communication tower that overlooks the parking lot, turn left and walk south down Depot Hill Road. You’ll see the blue trail markers on the phone pole marking the beginning of the hike.
2. Head downhill for a minute or two before arriving at the intersection with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. Turn right here and head south on the AT, towards Georgia (but we’re not going quite that far today). Three blue blazes here mark the end of the Blue Trail. Goodbye, Blue Trail. We hardly knew ye. But we’ll see you on the way back.
3. Just keep following those white Appalachian Trail markers. The summit of Mt. Egbert is just less than 1.5 miles away.
4. About fifteen minutes in, you’ll pass a small pond on your left (it might be dry if you’re here in the summer).
5. The trail is quite rocky in parts, sometimes requiring careful stepping. And in other parts, the trail cuts over huge, flat, moss-covered rocks, making it look like nature has rolled out the gray carpet for you.
6. Depending on your pace (it was about 25 minutes for me), keep an eye out on your left for a very short spur to a nice flat rock with a decent overlook. You probably won’t want to stop here for too long, but in a pinch, this could make a very nice lunch or sun-catching spot, with plenty of room to spread out.
7. The trail keeps meandering through the woods with some decent climbs, generally heading uphill, but you never really have the feeling that you’re scaling a mountain. You know you’re getting close when you pass the Morgan Stewart Memorial Appalachian Trail Shelter. There was somebody in there when I walked by, so I didn’t bother them. But it looked like a nice place to hang out. You can also look at the sign on the side of the shelter to check your distance to Maine (734 miles) or Georgia (1,376 miles), in case you decide to make a much, much longer day out of it.
8. Just past the shelter, you’ll summit Mt. Egbert on the White Trail (it took me about two minutes). You might not notice, unless you see the small cairn and USGS marker just off the trail. Whether you see the marker or not, hey, you just climbed a mountain!
9. About ten minutes after the shelter, you’ll arrive at the overlook, which opens out in front of you with some inviting rocks to chill out upon. You can see clear across to the Hudson Highlands on your left, and the Catskills rise up on the horizon to your right. There’s a very photogenic little pine tree right there that likes to photobomb your landscape shots, too.
If you’re carrying a toddler on your back, he might want to do some carefully supervised rock scrambling of his own right here.
10. Once you’ve sufficiently soaked it all in, head back the way you came. Follow the White Trail 1.5 miles back to the gravel road, where you’ll turn left on the Blue Trail and head up the hill to the communication tower and your car.
11. Thanks, Irene!
Directions to the trailhead: From the Taconic Parkway, take the Beekman Road exit and head east. Take an immediate right onto Phillips Road and follow it until it dead ends into Route 216. Turn left onto Route 216 (you won’t know it’s 216 until after you make the turn, since the Route 216 sign isn’t visible from the end of Phillips Road, of course). Stay on 216 for 3.6 miles, then turn right onto Depot Hill Road. The parking area is 1.9 miles ahead on your left, at the top of Depot Hill, just under the big ol’ communications tower.
You can also get directions by checking out the Depot Hill entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The intersection of Depot Hill Road and Carol Lane in Beekman, NY is just over a mile north of the trailhead. (My old-ish Garmin Nuvi lets me put in an intersection as a destination, so hopefully yours does, too.) Just keep heading up Depot Hill Road past that intersection to find the large dirt parking area on your left, just below the massive communication tower (You can apparently come up Depot Hill Road from the south as well, but it is unmaintained south of the trailhead parking, and that stretch of road looked more like a jeep trail to me – it’s very rough. UPDATE 4/19/2015: Thanks to Indra’s comment below, we now have better GPS directions to the trailhead if you’re coming from the south. Thanks, Indra!)
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.57261, -73.68086 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Depot Hill Multiple Use Area page. You’ll also find a link to a Depot Hill map there, but that map won’t do you any good on the hike I’ve described above, since the Appalachian Trail doesn’t appear to be marked on it. Feel free to look at the map for the pretty artwork, though.
More Depot Hill pictures from the hike’s Picasa album: