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Bear Mountain State Park
|Park Overview:|| |
Bear Mountain State Park is one of the paramount attractions in the Hudson Highlands region, offering both family-related activities and ample hiking trails, many with scenic views.
|Trail Uses:||Hiking, X-C skiing, Handicapped|
|Dogs:||Dogs on leash|
|Trail Miles:||45 miles|
|Park Acreage:||5067 acres|
|Buy Trail Map:||Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Map|
|Web Map:||NYNJ Trail Conference day-hike trail map|
|Buy Book:||Harriman Trails: A Guide and History |
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
|Park Description:|| |
The park is a destination for many families attracted to Bear Mountain Inn, the Trailside Museums and Zoo, a merry-go-round, boating on Hessian Lake, pedestrian walkways, a skating rink, an outdoor pool, open playing fields, a bike path, accessible nature trails, seasonal festivals, Perkins Tower, and nearby Fort Montgomery State Historic Site. The Inn is an architectural jewel built in 1915 in a distinctive rustic style (closed to the public for several years, it reopened in early 2012 offering food and lodging). There are several large parking areas, but they will quickly fill on days -- especially weekends -- when special events are scheduled.
Its popularity is helped by the fact Bear Mountain SP is only 45 miles from New York City. The U.S. Geological Survey states Bear Mountain is one of the most frequently visited park sites in the United States, with total numbers rivaling those of Yellowstone National Park. Yet hikers will find solitude on trails leading into the woods and up the mountain slopes away from the attractions in the immediate areas near the Inn and Perkins Tower.
At 1,305 feet, Bear Mountain is the highest of several mountains in this park on the western shore of the Hudson River near West Point Military Academy. Other mountains in the park include Dunderberg Mountain and West Mountain; all are part of the Hudson Highlands and constitute one of the most picturesque topographical features of the eastern states. At one point in geological time mountains in this range were 10,000 feet high. Fortunately for hikers, they are still rugged at their reduced height. Striking evidences of glaciations are the abundant bedrock surfaces that were scratched, polished, or grooved by rock debris carried by Ice Age glaciers. Erratic boulders -- some of immense size -- were carried south from the Catskills and elsewhere. Left behind when the glaciers melted, they are widely distributed throughout Bear Mountain State Park and the much larger Harriman State Park just to its south.
Harriman State Park is contiguous to Bear Mountain State Park. The boundary between the two parks is not marked on the ground; the two parks are managed as one unit and are generally thought of by the public as a single park. Together, they constitute 52,000 acres of parkland, with over 235 miles of marked trails. See Harriman—Bear Mountain State Parks webpage.
|Trails Overview:|| |
A trail map set published by the Trail Conference (TC) for the combined parks is available for purchase. Map grid references below are keyed to TC Map 119.
One of the biggest attractions of Bear Mountain State Park is hiking; this is also an especially historic place to enjoy the outdoors.
The very first segment of the Appalachian Trail (white 2" x 3" blaze), from Bear Mountain Bridge to Arden, was completed in 1923. The lowest point along the AT is 124 feet above sea level at the Trailside Historical Museum in the zoo (just to the west of the Bear Mountain Bridge.) This section of the AT, stretching from the main parking area near the Inn through the zoo, is wheelchair accessible. Today an 18 mile segment passes through Bear Mountain-Harriman State Parks from Bear Mountain Inn west to NJ 17 and Arden Valley Road (TC map 119 grid locations A3/G2). At 2,175 miles, the AT is now one of the longest blazed foot trails in the world.
The “Bicentennial Trails” were blazed in 1975 for the bicentennial celebration to commemorate the strategically important military events occurring in the Hudson Highlands during the American Revolution. The 1777 Trail (blazed red “1777” on round white tag, 10.6 miles, map grid F2/F3) and the 1779 Trail (blazed blue “1779” on round white tab, 8.5 miles, map grid E3/F2) follow routes by British and American troops during the Revolutionary War.
The Major Welch Trail (blazed red ring on white, 2.6 miles, map grid E2/F2) ascends Bear Mountain’s north slope; its trailhead is a little south of Hessian Lake and travels to the east of the lake. The trail was named in 1944 in memory of Major William A. Welch, the first general manager of the Palisades Interstate Park. Welch was basically responsible for launching Bear Mountain SP and Harriman SP trail networks. The trail ascends nearly 1,000 feet to terminate at the summit close to Perkins Memorial Tower where it meets the Appalachian Trail.
A web map produced by NYS (click on Contact Information below) identifies 16 trails in Bear Mountain SP, several extend into Harriman SP. They range in length from 0.2 mile to 6.5 miles, totaling just over 45 miles. Be aware when planning a hike with this map that distances are for Bear Mountain SP only.
Driving: From the Palisades Interstate Parkway (north or south), get off at exit 19 (Bear Mtn. Park) and take Seven Lakes Drive for 3½ miles to the Bear Mountain Circle. At the circle, take the second right. Follow the signs to Parking Lots. If you miss exit 19, take the Parkway to the Bear Mountain Bridge Circle. At this circle, make the first right onto 9W south and go to the traffic light. Bear right and go up the hill. Parking fees apply.
Public transportation: Short Line buses run from the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal to Bear Mountain Inn (to find the schedule enter destination city as “Bear Mountain”).
|Contact Information:||OPRHP, Bear Mountain State Park |
|Region:||Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks|
|Fees:||Some times and places; check with park|