Bear Mountain is within a mountain range close to the Hudson River in Bear Mountain State Park. Its name comes from its shape, which some people believe resembles a sleeping bear. There are lots of attractions for all ages in and around Bear Mountain. It is a great day out for all the family as well as somewhere to get back into shape. Hiking Bear Mountain is a great opportunity whether you are with friends, family, or even looking for some alone time.
There is something always happening here all year round and it is within easy reach of New York City; being just a 50-mile drive. A Bear Mountain hiking trip is popular with locals and visitors alike and changes through the seasons. From winter snow to fall colors and spring flowers, nature is at its finest here. Read on for just a few ideas on what to do at Bear Mountain.
Hike Bear Mountain
One of the most popular reasons to visit Bear Mountain is to get to the summit. The hike itself is renowned as being among the best hiking trails in New York. This is a 2-hour hike (4 hours, round trip) to the top where the Perkins Memorial Tower has the most spectacular 360 view. Parts of the climb is steep and it does require strong walking boots. Spend time on the summit viewing the New York City skyline, the Hudson River, the Palisades, and Harriman State Park. The views will literally take your breath away.
Perkins Memorial Tower
The Perkins Memorial Tower is named after George W Perkins, who was the president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. He died in 1920 but not before saving the Palisades from being destroyed by quarry operators. The tower has 5 levels, each with exhibitions. These include pictures of boats on the Hudson River as well as the building of the tower in 1934. Don’t miss the top level of the Perkins Tower for it has a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and park landscape. Hiking is an excellent way of getting some fresh air after being in the city. On the ascent and descent, you’ll pass through a section of the Appalachian Way and over 700 steps carved into the mountain. These were all placed here without the use of heavy machinery.
Major Welch Route
An alternative route to the summit of Bear Mountain is the Major Welch route, which is more challenging and aimed at experienced hikers. However, if you take this route, there is a fantastic view of the Bear Mountain Bridge across the Hudson River about three-quarters of the way up the trail. Many people go to the top of Bear Mountain for the sunset views. It is also possible to drive to the top of Bear Mountain, which could be practical if you are planning to only see the sunset. However, it is best not to miss this classic hike in the Hudson Valley area.
Ride On A Merry-Go-Round
Bear Mountain is famous for its beautiful merry-go-round pavilion, which is popular with families. Each of the 42 rides is a beautifully-carved native animal that young kids will adore. Look out for raccoons, squirrels, and more on this classic attraction. It’s also the ideal place to chill out after walking some of the many trails in the Bear Mountain area.
With the Hudson River close by mixed with all the amazing scenery, fishing at Bear Mountain is also a popular attraction. Hessian Lake is one of the best places to go and is known for its freshwater bass and trout. It also has historical connections to the American Revolutionary War and goes by the name of Bloody Lake as a result. However, you do need a New York Fishing License to fish here but look out for the free days when you can get some tuition and don’t need the permit.
Try Cross-Country Skiing
In the winter, Bear Mountain State Park and the trails in the area are snow-covered and perfect for cross country skiing. There are carriageways, tracks, and other trails in the park. Together, they make up 6 miles of cross-country skiing routes or those who love the outdoors in winter. You can also go snowshoeing here and in such a beautiful setting, what could be better? For your convenience, cross-country skiing lessons can be booked from guides. You can also get a trail map and explore the winter paths. Also, in winter, Bear Mountain State Park has an ice rink so you can enjoy skating in a beautiful setting.
If you have already seen the views from the top of Bear Mountain, then it could be time to check out the other hiking trails in the area. Most trails are moderate and range from 1-8 miles in length. However, one of the best is the Doodletown Bridle Path Trail. It stretches 7.8 miles in length and includes a lake on the hike. Another is the Black Mountain and Owl Lake circular route. If you are looking for a challenging hike, then hike up Bald Mountain Circular Trail; one of many places with spectacular views. The Hessian lake circular route is graded as easy. Hikers will find lots of activities in the Bear Mountain area to enjoy. In the autumn months, the colors of the leaves are spectacular and worth the journey just to admire the foliage.
The world-famous Appalachian Trail runs from Georgia to Maine stretching 2000 miles. Part of it runs through Bear Mountain State Park, so use your hiking visit to walk part of this famous trail. The lowest point of the Appalachian Trail is actually in front of the bear den in Trailside Zoo. Another choice for a hike is the neighboring Harriman State Park, which also has beautiful scenic trails.
Many of the hiking trails are suited to mountain biking too, especially those routes on level ground. Cyclists can use the park roads. However, they are not permitted to cycle at Trailside Zoo. One of the most popular routes is the 7 Lakes Drive. This trail stretches for about 20 miles and runs between Sloatsburg, New York, and Bear Mountain. For a really tough ride, there’s the road to the Perkins Memorial Tower and the top of Bear Mountain. This is a narrow winding road so it can be challenging. The West Mountain Loop is another popular cycling trail with beautiful scenery. It runs from the Anthony Way Recreation center. Most trails in Bear Mountain State Park are clearly marked.
Visit The Museums & Zoo
Within the Trailside area in Bear Mountain State Park are four museums and a zoo. All are built from granite and feature aspects of the state park. The Herpetology Museum is the place to find lizards, snakes, fish species, toads, and frogs. When visitors spend time in the Geology Museum, they can learn about the way in which the Hudson Highlands was formed. There is also information on the industries in the area that made the most of these resources.
Another popular museum here is dedicated to Nature Study. Interactive displays teach visitors about the natural history of Bear Mountain State Park. Also, the History Museum is a fascinating insight into the events that shaped the area and community. This dates from Native American settlers to the Europeans, and the connections to the American Revolutionary War. There is also a display dedicated to the illustrator Daniel Carter Beard.
Trailside Zoo is another major attraction in Bear Mountain State Park. You can see a range of native animals as well as fish and other species in the zoo area. This is also the place to see bears in Bear Mountain. Trailside Zoo also takes in and cares for injured wild animals from the park. Although the zoo is the lowest point on the Appalachian Trail, there are some amazing views from here in addition to Bear Mountain.
Hessian Lake is perfect for a boat ride. These can be hired from the shore and are a fun way to relax in Bear Mountain State Park. Choose from paddle boats or a rowing boat and spend time on the water. You’ll also find picnic spots in this area so why not combine your Bear Mountain hiking with a picnic and boat ride. Bear Mountain State Park also has a swimming area so if you enjoy water sports, take your swimsuit on your visit and check out the pool. This is perfect on a hot day and after a long walk.
Visit A Historic Inn
Bear Mountain State Park doesn’t allow camping. However, just outside the state park is a campsite at Beaver Pond. Bear Mountain Inn has accommodations for people who want to spend more time hiking and enjoying the outdoor space here. It has a long history, dating back to 1915. Also, it was at one time the training ground for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bear Mountain Hotel overlooks Hessian Lake.
There’s so much to see and do in Bear Mountain, but you can also find quieter spaces to sit and contemplate the view or relax with a book. Choose how much or how little you do here, but make the most of such a spectacularly beautiful state park!