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February 1998

Bear Mountain: NYC’s Urban Antidote

Harriman/Bear Mountain State Park is only an hour from Manhattan, but you'll feel like you're worlds away.

New York City, 3 p.m., Friday. The boss just parked a special project on your desk with instructions to have it completed by close of business. So much for getting to the Adirondacks by nightfall. But wait, all is not lost. Hustle that project through by a decent hour and traffic gods willing, you can be camped before dark in a beautiful setting with a full weekend of challenging hiking ahead.

Just an hour north of New York City lies one of the state’s leading hiking resources: 51,600-acre Harriman/Bear Mountain State Park, which serves up 225 miles of marked and well-maintained trails arrayed in a spider web-like network. You can escape for a weekend or backpack for a week following paths to lakes, swamps, rocky summits, and even abandoned iron mines.

A recent trip found me atop Bald Rocks along the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, from which vistas of the distant Catskills opened to the northwest. Continuing along the Dunning Trail, I passed through laurel thickets onto boulder-strewn expanses of bare rock in an area appropriately called Bowling Rocks.

No matter which trail you choose, the open landscape holds rewards big and small. West Mountain shelter on Timp-Torne Trail looks east toward a wide stretch of the Hudson River. From Big Hill shelter at the intersection of the Long Path and Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail, you can catch panoramic views of Rockland County to the southeast. From Bear Mountain, the park high point, you can see the New York skyline 35 miles to the south on a clear day. But you’ll be seeing plenty of those concrete canyons come Monday morning.

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