From the parking area, proceed across the lawn to the southwest corner of the Bear Mountain Inn and continue west (toward the mountain) on a paved path. About 400 feet beyond the Inn, you'll reach a junction of paved paths, marked by a trail sign. Bear right, following the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as it leaves the paved path toward a stone building known as the Spider Hill...
From the parking area, proceed across the lawn to the southwest corner of the Bear Mountain Inn and continue west (toward the mountain) on a paved path. About 400 feet beyond the Inn, you'll reach a junction of paved paths, marked by a trail sign. Bear right, following the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as it leaves the paved path toward a stone building known as the Spider Hill House. The trail passes through the "Trails for People" exhibit, which contains displays on the history of the A.T. and various methods of trail building.
The A.T. climbs through an interesting section of large boulders before reaching a junction with a blue-blazed trail, which begins on the left. This blue-blazed trail heads back towards the Bear Mountain Inn, but you should bear right to continue along A.T. This portion of the A.T., opened on National Trails Day in 2010, was built over a five-year period by Trail Conference volunteers along with skilled and experienced professional trail builders. It was constructed to sustain the impact of the many thousands of feet that annually make their way up this popular route. More than 1,000 individuals volunteered over 33,000 hours of their time to construct this spectacular trail section.
The trail climbs on a series of over 1,200 hand-hewn granite steps, supported in places by stone crib walls. After a steep, steady climb, the A.T. crosses a 28-foot-long wooden bridge and climbs to reach a beautiful viewpoint over Iona Island and the Hudson River. The A.T. passes a seasonal waterfall (above to the right) and continues to climb more gradually to an area known as the "pine flats." Here, the trail turns right and climbs to reach an abandoned section of the Perkins Memorial Drive.
The A.T. crosses the road and continues up the mountain. This section of the trail, known as the Upper East Face, was completed in fall of 2018, after eight years of work by AmeriCorps trail crews, assisted by Trail Confernce volunteers. After climbing several flights of stone steps, the trail crosses a stream channeled between two rock slabs. It continues to climb gradually, passing a viewpoint to the southeast over Dunderberg Mountain. In another half mile, the ascent steepens, and the trail ascends a series of stone steps to reach the 1,305-foot summit of Bear Mountain.
At the summit, bear left to reach a panoramic viewpoint to the south and west over Dunderberg and West Mountains. After taking in the view, head to the stone tower – a memorial to George W. Perkins, Sr., first president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. If it is open, you can climb the tower, which offers historic exhibits and more views from the top.
Upon leaving the tower, head north on the joint A.T. and Major Welch Trail, marked with both the 2"x6" white blazes of the A.T. and the red-circle-on-white blazes of the Major Welch Trail. The next trail section, constructed by professional trail builders, has been designed to be handicapped-accessible, thus permitting all users to enjoy a beautiful section of the A.T. Even this trail section has been skillfully designed to blend in with the surroundings.
In 500 feet, you’ll cross a gravel service road. To the right, atop a massive boulder, are the concrete foundations of a former fire tower (replaced in 1934 by the Perkins Memorial Tower). Then, after crossing another service road, you’ll come to another huge boulder on the left side of the trail.
At the end of this boulder, the Major Welch Trail departs to the right at a fork. You will be following the Major Welch Trail down the mountain, but first you should bear left and continue to follow the white-blazed A.T.
After passing the end of a blue-blazed trail on the right, you’ll reach a spectacular north-facing viewpoint over the Hudson River and the hills of the West Point Military Reservation, with Brooks Lake visible directly below. This is a good place to take a break and enjoy the panoramic view. Just below, you’ll notice a five-foot-high stone monument, with an iron stake protruding from the top. This is a surveyor's marker which once marked the boundary between Bear Mountain State Park and the United States Military Academy at West Point.
When you're ready to continue, retrace your steps to the junction with the blue-blazed trail. Turn left and follow the blue blazes for a short distance to the red-circle-on-white-blazed Major Welch Trail, then turn left again and follow the Major Welch Trail, which soon begins a steep descent. The trail crosses the paved Perkins Drive diagonally to the left and goes down to reach another panoramic north-facing viewpoint from a rock ledge. The view from here is even broader than the one from the summit, with the Bear Mountain Bridge on the right and Anthony’s Nose behind it.
The trail continues to descend rather steeply over a series of rock outcrops, then turns right onto a well-graded footpath, with stone steps. This beautiful new trail section was constructed in the spring of 2013 by the Jolly Rovers volunteer trail crew of the Trail Conference, together with an AmeriCorps trail crew. In about 600 feet, the trail turns left at a large boulder and descends a long flight of narrow stone steps wedged between large rocks, then bears left and switches back towards the east.
At the end of the switchback trail section, the trail turns right and descends more steeply. At the base of the descent, it bears left and follows a relatively level but very rocky footpath. Soon, it turns right onto a dirt road, then (with a water tank visible ahead) immediately turns left into the woods and descends to a paved path along the shore of Hessian Lake. Turn right onto this path and follow it back to the A.T. at the southwest corner of the lake, then proceed across the lawn to the parking area where the hike began.
To view a photo collection for this hike, click here.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 06/02/2010 updated/verified on 04/24/2019
This loop hike climbs Bear Mountain on a newly-built section of the Appalachian Trail and descends on the Major Welch Trail, passing a number of panoramic viewpoints.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.