Bear Mountain State Park spans 5,205-acres and offers fantastic opportunities for biking, hiking, boating, picnicking, swimming, cross-country skiing, cross-country running, sledding and ice skating. Conceived by George Perkins as a place of “rest and relaxation” from New York City, this park is located on the west side of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York, and has been enjoyed by millions outdoor enthusiasts since its opening in 1913.
Outside of swimming season, parking is free. These highly popular grounds share a number of points of interest including the Bear Mountain Inn, outdoor ice skating rink, Trailside Museum and Zoo, a pool, and a merry-go-round that features 42 hand-carved seats of native animals. To the east, the mountain known as Anthony’s Nose has a prominent rise over the horizon, and it can be reached by a trailhead that shares this same starting point.
Begin walking north from the administration building toward Hessian Lake to find a large kiosk and signs for the Appalachian Trail. Major Welch was the general manager of this Palisades Interstate Park from 1912 to 1940, and he organized the completion of this first section of the AT. Follow the paved path on the west side of the lake to the trailhead on your left that bears his name.
The beginning of this trail is a slow 0.5-mile ascent that passes by a water tank and close to the Bear Mountain Overlook Lodge. It turns south and quickly transforms into a steep and rocky ascent to the summit through oak and mountain laurel woods blanketed with blueberry bushes. While it is a difficult path for hikers and snowshoe enthusiasts, it is the most scenic of the park’s trails with views of the Hudson River Valley and Popolopen Torne as well as Sugarloaf, Taurus, and Storm King Mountains.
As you near the summit, you will cross over Perkins Memorial Drive, open from April through late November. Perkins Tower greets you at the top and offers 360-degree views of the surrounding Hudson Highlands. On a clear day you can see over 60 miles to the Manhattan skyline, peaking over the mountain tops to the south.
Descend east down the mountain on the Appalachian Trail to complete this 4-mile loop. In the winter, boot spikes may be best for traversing the many steps built along the way. The trail returns to Perkins Memorial Drive for some of the way, and it can be easy to miss this White Trail’s diversion back into the woods. Before you finish, there are a few more lookout points to enjoy. Additionally, you can look for the remains of old ski jumps that were active from 1928 to 1990; more competitions have taken place here than at any other site in the United States.
The entire state park, in addition to Bear Mountain, includes Dunderberg and the West Mountains. Mary Averell Harriman, wife of Edward Harriman, gave 10,000 acres of land to the state under the condition that they discontinue plans for the construction of Sing Sing prison at the base of Bear Mountain (eventually built down river in Ossining). Today it is managed by the Palisades Interstate Park and enjoyed by over half a million people each year.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.