The hikers’ Appalachian Trail, and our driving equivalent along old US-6, both cross the Hudson River near West Point, the U.S. Army’s famous military academy, located at a point on the west bank of the Hudson, naturally. Even if you’re not a military buff, there’s a lot of fascinating history here: This is the fortress the traitorous U.S. general Benedict Arnold offered to hand over to the British (for cash and a promotion) during the Revolutionary War. There’s a small museum (daily, free) and guided bus tours of the grounds; walk up to Trophy Point for a great view of the river and a display of cannons captured during various U.S. wars.
On the north side of West Point, south of Newburgh off Hwy-32, stretch your legs and enjoy a different outlook on life at the pastoral Storm King Art Center (845/534-3115, Wed.-Sun. Apr.-Nov., Wed.-Mon. Sept.-Oct., $18 adults), a fabulous 500-acre sculpture park that celebrates the dynamic relationship between nature and culture. The artworks include more than a dozen large metal sculptures by the pioneering David Smith (1906-1965), who learned to weld while working in the Studebaker factory in South Bend, Indiana, and became one of the most influential Abstract Expressionists before his death in a car wreck. The Storm King collection also includes pieces by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and Louise Nevelson.
Along the east bank of the Hudson River in the town of Beacon, another unexpected art find is the intriguing Dia:Beacon (845/440-0100, Thurs.-Mon. Apr.-Dec., Fri.-Mon. Jan.-Mar., $15), a minimally remodeled 1930s factory full of thought-provoking works by Robert Irwin, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, and many other influential artists. Metro-North commuter trains (about 80 minutes each way, $39.50 round-trip, including museum admission) run right past the windows, heading down the river between Beacon and NYC’s Grand Central Station.
West and south of West Point, the hikers’ Appalachian Trail closely follows historic US-6 for a scenic foray through Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks before heading south and west toward New Jersey and Pennsylvania.