As the leaves turn to bright colors this fall, why not experience the foliage from more than 1280 feet above the Hudson River on top of Bear Mountain?
Located 45 miles north of New York City in Orange and Rockland County, NY, Bear Mountain State Park, part of the Palisades Interstate Park system, sits on the west of the Hudson River. It features hiking, biking, picnic areas, a Trailside Museum and Zoo, ice skating from late October, and a hand-carved merry-go-round.
At the base of the mountain is the Bear Mountain Inn (www.visitbearmountain.com), a lodge built in 1915 that still hosts guests. Nearby to it is Hessian Lake. In addition to lodging guests, the hotel also hosts events, like the upcoming Oktoberfest, to be held every weekend from September through October. The popular festival includes German food, steins of beer, and traditional German music. Prost!
The stunning views that this park provide might not be if conservationists hadn’t championed that the land be used for open space when the New York State Prison Commission had already begun building a prison at the location of the hotel in 1908.
Prior to that the land was considered strategically important to the British during the Revolutionary War, and several battles occurred nearby.
To take in all of this history, and the expansive views, climb to the top of the mountain by the strenuous, but very rewarding Major Welch Trail.
From here you can climb the Perkins Memorial Tower, named after former Palisade Interstate Park Commission President George Perkins, which offers a panoramic view of the Hudson River and its valley, four states, and on clear days the New York City skyline.
For your return route take the Appalachian Trail, which was actually rebuilt by experienced trail builders along with hundreds of volunteers for five years and finished in 2010. The trail’s granite steps will take you to the base of the mountain. Round trip should be about three hours and cover four miles. You may also drive to the top of the mountain along Perkins Memorial Drive.
Looking for something more off the beaten path? Doodletown, formerly a French hamlet and important settlement during the Revolutionary War became a part of the park in the 1960s, with most of its remnants removed or buried. Nearby Harriman State Park combined with Bear Mountain allows for 235 miles of trails to explore.
Possibly the most challenging, yet rewarding hike is that of Breakneck Ridge, about 11 miles North on the other side of the Bear Mountain Bridge. The first mile is a rock scramble, gaining more than 1100 feet of elevation, but the views from the top are outstanding.
If you want to try your hand at hiking visit the New York New Jersey Trail Conference online (www.nynjtc.org), where hiking routes are listed, but be aware some trails have changed since Hurricane Irene struck in 2011.
You can get to all of these outdoor destinations by rail or bus. Visit www.nynjtc.org/content/you-dont-need-car to find your way.
Photos by Tricia Tirella and courtesy of Carlton Lovell family archive.