Your Guide to Hiking and Exploring Bear Mountain State Park
Scale a mountain, play some ball, and see NYC in a new light.
Location: Bear Mountain, NY
Getting there: 134 miles from Center City — just under two and a half hours by car
Personal space: More than 5,000 acres of trees, hikes, water activities, and plenty of open spaces to chill
Entrance fee: $10 per car; some other activities are additional
A river, a mountain, history and playing fields: Bear Mountain has legions of fans because there are so many different experiences to enjoy here. (It’s sometimes too popular; the state occasionally shuts the park down to control crowds — thanks, COVID — so it’s best to call and check before you go.)
Because you’re on a mountain, the majority of trails are challenging, but they’re worth the effort for views of the Hudson Highlands mountains, the Hudson River and all those turning leaves. One particularly special vista: On the seven-mile Timp Torne Loop Trail, you can see the NYC skyline. More of a nature dabbler? You’ll appreciate the fact that you can drive straight to the mountain’s summit, where sunrise and sunset are spectacular. There’s also a two-mile hike to the top, made up of 800 stone steps, that happens to be a part of the Appalachian Trail. (But seriously, it’s fine to drive.)
Bear Mountain is particularly great for families, thanks to the historic merry-go-round, an outdoor ice-skating rink that opens when the temps drop, and the Trailside Museums & Zoo. There’s a well-kept 10-acre playfield where the Dodgers and Giants once held baseball games, so pack a frisbee or bocce set. And nestled between the mountain and the river is the 32-acre Hessian Lake, where you can fish for bass or rent rowboats — or simply enjoy the water by walking the easy trail that loops around it.
One factor that really sets this New York state park apart: the accommodations. There are nice campgrounds in the surrounding area, but it’s worth checking out the on-site Bear Mountain Inn, which has hotel rooms, cottages and a lodge. It’s no Four Seasons, but it’s clean and up-to-date and a solid option for those who aren’t into sleeping in a tent at a place where bears are known to wander. (It’s called Bear Mountain for a reason!)
While You’re There …
Bear Mountain is really close to the cute towns of the Lower Hudson Valley, an increasingly popular weekend destination for cool New Yorkers. (Take that, Hamptons.) What that means for you: culture, art, food, and upscale accommodations. The town of Beacon is 30 minutes from Bear Mountain; there, you can stay at the hip Roundhouse hotel, grab a table in the outdoor pavilion at Melzingah Tap House, tour the Bannerman Castle ruins on Pollepel Island, go vintage shopping, and visit Dia Beacon, an old Nabisco factory turned art museum. And there are two more totally-worth-it side trips within a half hour of the park and Beacon: the stunning outdoor Storm King Art Center and an alfresco meal at the legendary Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
Published as “Bear Mountain State Park” in the “Call of the Wild” guide in the October 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.