16 Best Things to Do in Pawling, NY

Pawling, NY
Nancy Kennedy / shutterstock.com

Pawling is a hidden gem in the Hudson Valley, New York.

The town, which encompasses a village with the same name, lies in the southeasterly portion of Dutchess County.

This community has a lot to offer weekenders and day-trippers, including a stunning section of the Appalachian Trail and quaint equestrian farms.

Pawling also drew the attention of actor/director John Krasinski, who filmed the critically acclaimed film A Quiet Place there.

In the summer, guests may cool down in the pool; they can stroll through the trail system's vibrant foliage in the fall.

Pawling's abundance of attractions and scenic splendor ensures that visitors will be eager to return.

Here are the best things to do in Pawling, New York.

Hike the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail

Daytime view of Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail
​English Wikipedia user Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail consists of the rural towns and villages of eastern Dutchess County, located only 65 miles north of New York City, below the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains.

You can go hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or relaxing at one of the five designated overnight-use areas.

Along the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail, you'll also find local farms and artisanal food shops also sell items from the Harlem and Hudson Valleys.

You can choose from an inn, a couple of shelters on the Appalachian Trail, or the wilderness if you decide to stay the night.

Learn about the Preservation Efforts of Pawling Nature Reserve

Pawling Nature Reserve is one of the town's natural treasures.

Duell Hollow Brook tumbles over the rocks in the reserve's gorge, and the Appalachian Trail winds through forests of eastern hemlocks, mixed hardwoods, and red pines.

Meanwhile, hillside beech trees higher up the crest give way to a yellow birch woodland.

On the ridge, chestnut oaks, lichens, and mosses decorate the stony ground and frame the beautiful panoramas of Harlem Valley and the Great Swamp.

Long-term preservation and monitoring efforts at the site focus on safeguarding the devil's bit, an extremely rare plant in New York State.

Pawling Nature Reserve also has active research and protection efforts toward the state-endangered salamanders that live in the reserve's ridge-top wetland areas.

Explore West Mountain State Forest

In 1999, New York received the 830-acre West Mountain State Forest as a donation.

This area straddles the border between Beekman and Dover and features undulating terrain, wetlands, and streams.

While you won't find any delineated paths, an extensive system of unofficial trails allows for a wide range of non-motorized activities throughout the year.

You can navigate many "informal" ones with a good topo map or GPS device.

Since the road leading to the pond in the middle of the state forest is private, the public has no other way of getting there besides walking.

Near the end of Gardner Hollow Rd. is a large parking area open to the public in West Mountain State Forest.

Work Out at Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park provides a beautiful setting for various outdoor pursuits.

The park has a fitness track, tennis courts, basketball courts, a swimming pool, a fishing pond, a kayak launch, and a cross-country skiing and bike route.

In March 2003, Lakeside Park officially became the property of Pawling.

Although the city has developed the park since it opened, some unoccupied structures and areas are still under construction.

In 2012, Troop 1 Carmel Boy Scout Justin Scavone constructed and installed three more training stations on the fitness trail, extending it by 450 feet with an elliptical machine, a ski machine, and an air walker.

Relax with the Panoramic Views in Cat Rocks

Cat Rocks, located on West Mountain in Pawling, stands roughly 1,100 feet above sea level.

Cat Rocks, found a short distance from the Appalachian Trail in Pawling, offers a breathtaking panorama of the valley and surrounding countryside.

It is a scenic place to rest, nap, or meditate rather than awe-inspiring scenery.

In case you're looking for a moderate hike with a worthwhile destination, Cats Rock is the place to go.

Novice hikers would appreciate the short trail.

Meanwhile, seasoned trail runners would recognize the value of the miles of trail laid out by a team of volunteers.

If you want to see a beautiful sunrise and get a bird's eye view of the Harlem Valley, head to Cat Rocks.

Picnic along Nuclear Lake

Would you want to visit a place named Nuclear Lake?

The lake got its name because a chemical explosion in 1972 blew out two windows of the nuclear research lab that used to be on the lakeshore.

The blast scattered weapons-grade plutonium across the lake and the surrounding woods.

Years ago, the pathways surrounding the lake underwent inspection and cleaning, and experts declared it safe for public use.

When you approach Nuclear Lake, you will see a grassy spot where the lab's former facilities previously stood.

You'll need extra effort to complete the trek, but the charming lakeside picnic areas and kid-friendly forest views along the way more than make up for it.

Book a Tee Time at Dutcher Golf Course

Dutcher Golf Course, established in 1890, is the oldest nine-hole municipal course in the United States.

Low stone walls surround the 42-acre property, formerly Pawling Golf Link, and divide the fairways.

It features back nine tees in slightly different locations than the front nine, making the greens smaller and more complex.

Dutcher Golf Course is open to the public seven days a week, April-November.

This course has several leagues, a monthly tournament, and opportunities for private events.

Memberships and greens fees are both reasonably priced at the Dutcher.

Ride Horses at Kirby Hill Farm

With the best training and boarding facilities in the industry, Kirby Hill Farm caters to equestrians and their horses.

The quaint yet spectacular Kirby Hill Farm lies only a short drive northeast of Pawling, New York.

Kirby Hill Farm combines rustic natural surroundings with the refined and high-quality amenities you've come to expect from the finer things in life.

Kirby Hill is great for horseback riders and nature lovers.

Discover and enjoy an attraction shaped by its location and many options.

Revisit History at Oblong Friends Meeting House

Exterior of Oblong Friends Meeting House
Rolf Müller (User:Rolfmueller), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Oblong Friends Meeting House was built in 1764 and used as a hospital by George Washington's troops in 1778.

The first settler on Quaker Hill was Nathan Birdsall, a surveyor and a Quaker.

Shortly after, more Quakers joined him, creating a thriving agricultural community.

Its rows of oak seats, wall dividers on pulley systems, and mezzanine viewing level remain unchanged from its heyday.

The Oblong Friends Meeting House has a mezzanine level with seating for spectators and a wooden balcony overlooking the action below.

Stroll through the Brine Garden

Privately owned yet built to public garden standards, the Brine Garden is a beautiful example of naturalistic gardening.

Duncan and Julia Brine, principal landscape designers at GardenLarge, have been working on this six-acre garden since 1990 with the help of their team.

Trees, shrubs, and grasses predominate and add their share of color and texture.

They may be hardy species like Joe Pye weed, ironweed, ligularia, nepeta, and golden-aster planted in naturalistic sweeps, along a walkway, or in big clumps.

Under the canopy of trees, you'll find a plethora of hellebores and ginger.

Although the Brine Garden is home to many plant species, hardy exotics are also welcome.

Spend the day with the plants at the Brine Garden.

See Natural Wonders at Olive Gunnison Natural History Museum

The Akin Free Library houses the Olive Gunnison Natural History Museum.

Gunnison's collection, which she donated to the library in 1960, occupies four rooms with two sections: natural history and cabinet of curiosities.

The natural history section features hundreds of entomological specimens, such as the "death's head" hawkmoths.

There are also various taxidermied mammals and birds and a geological collection.

Olive Gunnison Natural History Museum's cabinet of curiosities contains more natural history artifacts.

It also predates conventional natural history exhibits, emphasizing unique and astonishing items.

Expand Your Library with Pawling Book Cove

Pawling Book Cove is a classy and pleasant store in the center of Pawling Village.

You may browse new and rare books, and you'll also experience a fine independent bookshop.

Its skilled team is happy to share their knowledge by suggesting a good read or helping you track down a hard-to-find book.

It also buys gently used books, especially on art, history, architecture, cookbooks, and great works of literature.

Finding an old favorite that's long been out of print is like reconnecting with a long-lost friend or traveling to a familiar but faraway place.

Visit Pawling Book Cove and browse its selection of rare books to discover a piece of history that speaks to you.

While Pawling is a quaint town, it has a thriving arts scene.

Located only a few doors down from the famous McKinney and Doyle bakery and restaurant on Pawling's main street is the little Live 4 Art Gallery.

In a bright room on Pawling's busiest street, it showcases the work of regional artists from the Hudson Valley.

Exhibits change monthly and feature oil painters, watercolorists, sculptors, photographers, and mixed-media artists.

The Live 4 Art Gallery is open every weekend and during the week for specific exhibits.

LAND Gallery houses inspiring photography by some of the region's finest landscape photographers.

You may find it in the historic Dutcher House in the center of Pawling.

Jane Haslam Photography operates out of this building.

It also hosts photography-related events such as classes, walks, and exhibitions.

LAND Gallery features a selected artisanal gift shop where you can purchase various art and products manufactured in the area.

Spice up Your OOTD at NicolJoe

If you're looking for style ideas, look no further than NicolJoe.

The boutique won the Hudson Valley's Best of 2021 award for Best New Boutique.

Not only does it stock trendy items for men and women, but it also sponsors local events hosted by the Pawling Chamber of Commerce.

The owner has curated an affordable, versatile collection.

It features the latest fashion and beauty trends alongside local, handmade accessories at NicolJoe, which carries high-end, fashion-forward brands.

It's the best place to go for a shopping date to find the perfect present or to upgrade your wardrobe.

Learn Local History at John Kane House

Exterior of John Kane House
Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

General Washington used Pawling as a home base for his military operations from September to November 1778.

Washington spent the first night of this period at the Quaker Reed Ferris's house before moving to the home of John and Sybil Kane.

The Historical Society's primary museum is in the John Kane House.

Learn about the area's indigenous and European inhabitants, the Anti-Rent Revolt, Pawling's role in Washington's strategy, and the Revolutionary War's impact on Pawling.

A friendly and knowledgeable docent will give you a comprehensive tour of the John Kane House downstairs and up.

Final Thoughts

Visit Pawling to get a taste of good old country living.

Even though this town is small, its mountains, hiking trails, parks, and cute little shops offer a variety of value and entertainment.

When you visit, use this guide to the best things to do in Pawling, New York!

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