Know the New Hiking How-tos
This hike follows a newly-built section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), formally opened in a ceremony on Saturday, June 4,2011. As part of a multi-year project to reconstruct this heavily-used section of the A.T., a team of professional trail builders, together with Trail Conference volunteers, created a magnificent footpath that takes full advantage of the natural features of interest found along the trail.
The hike begins at a sign for the A.T. on the northwest side of the summit. Directly ahead is a fork. The blue-blazed fork to the left will be your return route, but for now, take the right fork, blazed with the 2"x6" white blazes of the A.T. and the red-ring-on-white blazes of the Major Welch Trail. The first third of a mile 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, a quarter mile from the start (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, but 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 marks the end of the accessible trail section. After taking in the view, bear left and descend stone steps. Ahead, you will see a stone pillar that once marked the boundary between the park and West Point.
The trail again curves sharply to the left and begins to head south through dense mountain laurel thickets, with an understory of blueberry. This section of the A.T. features many stone steps, most of which were shaped on-site from native rock. In a quarter mile, you’ll pass two huge boulders to the left, with stone steps curving up from the end of the second boulder.
In another 500 feet, you’ll reach a junction atop a flat rock with a blue-blazed trail that begins on the left. This will be your return route, but continue ahead on the white-blazed A.T. About 500 feet beyond this junction, the A.T. emerges on a flat pockmarked rock surface and soon reaches the start of another blue-blazed trail at a south-facing viewpoint over West Mountain.
Turn right and follow the blue-blazed side trail, which soon emerges on another rock outcrop, with excellent views to the west (Queensboro Lake may be seen below). This side trail follows a former route of the Major Welch Trail and was blazed by volunteers as a side trail to the A.T. to preserve the magnificent views.
In 500 feet, the side trail ends at a triple blaze. Turn around, retrace your steps to the A.T., then turn left and proceed along the A.T. to the junction with the blue-blazed trail that you passed earlier. Now turn right and follow this connector trail, which soon reaches a long boulder, with stone steps ingeniously placed as the trail climbs along the boulder. The blue-blazed trail continues to climb until it reaches Perkins Memorial Drive at the base of the Perkins Memorial Tower, where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 06/02/2011 updated/verified on 04/28/2013
This hike loops around the summit of Bear Mountain, passing several spectacular 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.