Bear Mountain State Park is like an amusement park, blending outdoor activities with some fair ground fun. You can rent a boat to paddle around Hessian Lake or visit the trailside zoo. Take a spin on the merry-go-round. There’s swimming and ice skating and even an Oktoberfest beer festival popular with both day trippers and road trippers.
Amid all this carnival atmosphere, it’s almost easy forget that there’s a scenic hike to the top of Bear Mountain, but despite the occasional crowds, the 4 mile loop is worth it. The hike is actually part of the Appalachian Trail, but isn’t so strenuous that you can’t do it in a few hours. Take the trail marked with the white blazes to a stairway carved into the white stone (stairway? don’t worry, you’ll still sweat on the climb to the overlook.) Scramble up the trail for the last few feet to reach the summit at Perkins Memorial Tower and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Hudson. Yes, you might run into some fellow Brooklynites there (we overheard one group deciding between nightcaps at local Fort Greene bars Hanson Dry or Hollow Nickel), but don’t let that, or the fact that you could have driven to the top of the mountain, deter you from doing the trip on foot.
For more of a challenge, take the Major Welch Trail to Perkins Tower instead (follow the red blazes underfoot). Be sure to wear grippy footwear since part of the trail is steep slabs of stone that get slippery when wet. Most importantly: don’t forget to turn around a few times to catch a glimpse of the the Bear Mountain Bridge in all its scenic glory.
For more adventure ideas (including some excellent leaf peeping tips from photographer Danny Wild), check out the rest of this week’s newsletter.