Bear Mountain State Park
When New Yorkers think about getting out of the city for a day-hike, they think about Bear Mountain State Park (Palisades Pkwy., Exit 19, and Rte. 9W, 845/786-2701, 8:30 a.m.–dusk daily, parking $6–8 June–Sept. and weekends year-round), one of the most popular recreational areas in the region. Abutting Harriman State Park to the north, the park offers dramatic views of the Hudson River and—on the clearest of days—the New York City skyscrapers. Because Bear Mountain can get very crowded on weekends, it’s best to come during the week. This is also no place for the outdoors purist; almost every inch of the 5,000-acre park has been trodden over many times.
To hike to the top of Bear Mountain and back takes 3–4 hours. For those who prefer to drive to the summit, Perkins Memorial Drive (open March–Oct.) offers stunning overlooks and historic markers that tell of the Revolutionary War battles that took place here. Legend has it that Hessian Lake was named for the many dead Hessian soldiers whose bodies were weighted and dumped into the lake after the battle of Fort Clinton. The fort’s ruins are nearby.
Though overrun with crowds on summer weekends, the rustic Bear Mountain and Overlook Inn (Rte. 9W, 845/786-2731, www.visitbearmountain.com, $95–145) is a charming spot, now over 80 years old. The inn’s 61 rooms are divided among the Main Inn, four small stone lodges, and the Overlook, a hotel near Hessian Lake. Bear Mountain Inn features 15 newly renovated suites and will soon offer a spa. Come on a weekday in fall and you’ll have the place to yourself!
Also in the inn are a cafeteria and a restaurant serving standard American fare (average entrée $14). Other attractions at the inn include the Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center (9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), ball fields, a swimming pool, and an ice-skating rink.
To reach Bear Mountain from the south, take Palisades Parkway or Route 9W. From Harriman State Park, head northeast on Seven Lakes Drive.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition