Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail/Pingyp
Directions to trailhead
Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to Exit 17 (Anthony Wayne Recreation Area) and park the first car in the large parking area just beyond the entrance kiosk. With the second car, get back onto the Palisades Interstate Parkway, heading south, and take Exit 15 (Gate Hill Road). Turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto County 106 and bear right at a fork with County 83. At the next fork, bear right to continue on County 106, and proceed for a short distance until you see a small parking area on the left side of the road, just before a bridge over a stream. Park the second car here. GPS: 41.229741, -74.060438.
This hike traverses an interesting area of Harriman State Park which is little used because of the difficulty of access. There is no good way to incorporate the section of the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail used by this hike into a loop, so this hike will require two cars, with one car left at each end of the hike. The first part of the hike involves climbing over five hills, with a total elevation gain of over 1,400 feet (although the end of the hike is an easy walk on a nearly-level woods road). Some of the climbs involve rock scrambles, and this is one of the most challenging hikes in Harriman State Park. Do not attempt this hike if the ground is wet or covered with snow or ice.
From the parking area, head west on Route 106 for a short distance, then cross the road just before the bridge over the stream. At a break in the guardrail, you’ll see the yellow blazes of the Suffern-Bear Mountain (S-BM) Trail heading north from the road. Follow the S-BM Trail as it enters the woods and continues along a woods road. After the road curves to the left, you’ll reach a fork where the S-BM Trail bears right onto another woods road. A short distance ahead, the trail bears left and begins a rather steep climb.
At the top of the climb, the trail reaches a huge glacial erratic boulder known as the Irish Potato. You’ll want to take a break here and explore this interesting feature. The trail turns right and soon begins to descend.
After descending for about a third of a mile, you’ll reach a rock outcrop to the right of the trail, with Upper Pound Swamp (which is actually a pond) visible beyond. Here, the trail turns left and continues to descend through dense thickets of mountain laurel. It turns right onto a woods road, then turns left, leaving the road, and begins to climb Pound Swamp Mountain.
Before reaching the summit of the mountain, the S-BM Trail turns left and begins to descend. For part of the way down, it follows an old woods road. Near the base of the descent, the trail follows a route along the side of a hill parallel to Tiorati Brook below, which features attractive cascades when the water is high. It reaches the paved Lake Welch Drive just east of the road bridge over the brook.
The trail turns right and follows the road (which is closed to traffic in the winter), then bears left at a fork and crosses an overpass that spans the southbound lanes of the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Upon reaching the northbound lanes of the Parkway, the trail turns sharply left, runs along the Parkway for about 100 feet, then crosses the highway (use extreme caution) and begins the steep, rocky climb up Pingyp Mountain.
This climb is one of the steepest in the entire park, and in some places, you will need to use your hands as well as your feet. After climbing a vertical distance of about 250 feet in only about 0.15 mile, you’ll reach a rock ledge, with pitch pines, that offers an excellent east-facing view over the Hudson River. This is a good spot to stop and rest from the arduous climb.
A short distance beyond, you’ll notice a small plaque attached to a rock to the right of the trail. The plaque was erected in 1930 in memory of Harold B. Scutt, who scouted this section of the S-BM Trail in 1925 (Scutt was killed in a plane crash in Attica, New York in 1930). After climbing another steep ledge and reaching a viewpoint to the north and west, the trail bends sharply to the right, and the grade moderates.
You’ll soon encounter another challenging spot, where the trail climbs steeply through a crevice in the rock. After climbing some more, you’ll reach another viewpoint to the south and east over the Hudson River, with Hook Mountain jutting into the river in the distance. The trail now bears left and continues to climb.
Just below the summit of Pingyp Mountain (1,023 feet), you’ll come to another south-facing viewpoint. On a clear day, the New York City skyline is visible on the horizon. The summit itself, however, does not afford any views.
The first part of the descent from the Pingyp is moderate, but the descent steepens about halfway down, where the trail turns left onto a woods road. At the base of the descent, the trail briefly turns right onto another woods road (known as the Pines Trail). In 300 feet, it turns left, leaving the woods road. It crosses a stream, passes a stone fireplace, and begins a steady climb to the summit of The Pines (a misnomer – there is not a single pine tree on this hill!). Just beyond the summit, there are good views to the north from a rock ledge.
After descending from The Pines through thickets of mountain laurel, the S-BM Trail turns left onto a woods road – the route of the 1779 and Red Cross Trails – and immediately crosses a stream. In 400 feet, it turns right, descends a little, then steeply climbs an unnamed hill. The trail descends gradually and, after crossing a stream, reaches Beechy Bottom East Road (marked as a bike trail).
The S-BM Trail now steeply climbs to the top of Horn Hill. This is your last climb of the day; from here on, the route will be either downhill or level. When you reach the base of the gradual descent, turn left onto the bike trail (leaving the S-BM Trail) and turn left again at the next intersection, continuing to follow the bike trail. Then, at the following intersection, turn right. You are now heading north along the historic Beechy Bottom East Road, improved by workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934.
Proceed ahead on this level road, with bike trail markers, for 1.6 miles. In a quarter mile, the red-on-white-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail crosses (note the stone steps on either side of the road), and the white-blazed Appalachian Trail crosses a short distance beyond. When you reach a T-intersection of woods roads in 1.2 miles, turn right, then bear left just ahead, continuing to follow the bike trail markers. At the next intersection of woods roads, bear left and follow the bike trail and the white-blazed Anthony Wayne Trail downhill, proceeding ahead at a four-way intersection and bearing left at a T-intersection. Soon, you’ll reach the entrance road to the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area, where you parked your first car.