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Posted January 5th, 2010 by Phil McLewin
Doodletown, once a small hamlet tucked in a valley between the Hudson River and the summits of five mountains of the Hudson Highlands [Bald, Bear, Dunderberg, The Timp, and West mountains], less than fifty miles from New York City, today has the atmosphere of a ghost town. But scattered remains of two main - now crumbling - roads, walkways leading to front yards returning to their natural state, stone foundations without buildings and interpretive signage about the people and landscape make it a popular destination for hikers. .
Doodletown survived as a small, isolated community for about 200 years and would have been part of the Town of Stony Point in Rockland County today. The area was settled in the 1760s by loggers and miners, and at one time included a church, a school, several small businesses and two cemeteries in addition to 70 houses and 300 residents [at its peak in 1945]. The seven square mile hamlet was ultimately abandoned in the mid-1960s after a long period of land acquisition by the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission. The Commission had planned to create a cross-country ski network in Doodletown but was never able to start the project. However, at least one community practice dating back to the colonial period survives; burial plots in the cemeteries are still available for former residents and their relatives. It is an "active" ghost town.
Worth finding and reading: "Doodletown: Hiking Through History in a Vanished Hamlet on the Hudson," by Elizabeth "Perk" Stalter, a former resident of the village. The book is still available inexpensively at the bookstore along the Parkway going to Bear Mountain. Expensive used copies appear sporadically for sale by popular on-line booksellers.
Doodletown--the name is said to derive from the Dutch Dood Tal, for "dead valley," with the "town" suffix added later by English-speaking settlers-is part of Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park. For further information about other hiking and recreational activities in this extensive and varied park click here
Detailed descriptions of several hikes through Doodletown are available at these links:
- Doodletown Loop at Bear Mountain [Starts on Rt 9W; find directions on the hike page.]
- Bald Mountain/Doodletown Loop from 9W [Doodletown is at the end of this strenuous loop hike, so reverse direction if you want to go directly to Doodletown. See map tab at this hike page for parking location on 9W]
- Circular Hike Around Bear Mountain [Originates in the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area; directions on this hike page]
Click for a list of detailed hike descriptions in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks. It is also possible to search for "Doodletown" while visiting any of these Trail Conference pages.
- Other access points also possible - see Harriman-Bear Mountain set of trail maps.
Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its terminus at the Bear Mountain Circle. Continue south on Route 9W for 1.3 miles to a small hikers' trailhead parking area on the left side of the road, just past a concrete bridge over a stream. From the parking area, walk back across the bridge. On the left (west) side of the road, just before a sign for "Ice Skating," turn left at a sign for "Doodletown" and proceed uphill on an old road with crumbling pavement.