Seems like a lot of our friends went to Europe this summer, we stayed a lot closer to home. It’s easy when there are so many great things to do right in our own backyard. One of our favorite day or even half day trips is to Bear Mt. State Park.
From Manhattan it’s about an hour drive up the Palisades Parkway and from Westchester it’s only 20 minutes, the last of which perch you on the edge of the Hudson Highlands on Rt 6 overlooking the river, the Bear Mt. Bridge and the park itself. The driver may want to keep their eyes on the road instead of the scenery though because the road is very narrow and twisty.
When the bridge was built in 1924 it was the longest suspension bridge in the World. Even if you come in from the West side of the river it’s worth the trip to cross the bridge just for the view. You may even want to follow Rt. 6/202 to the right for a few miles and stop at some of the scenic overlooks to see where you’ve been all day.
The park itself is located just South of the traffic circle on the West side of the bridge. Just North of the circle is West Point which is also worth visiting. Parking is $8 and if you packed a lunch that may be your entire expense for the day. We’ve been on busy summer days and while the main lot fills up the secondary lot down the road a few hundred yard has never been full.
Once inside you’ll cross the wide open fields bookended by the Merry Go Round and the majestic Bear Mt. Inn, currently closed for renovation. Being so close to the city it’s a popular destination for large groups and sometimes even larger families to picnic for the day. A walk along Hessian Lake is like a trip around the World. You’re likely to hear a dozen different languages being spoken as well as music from all over the globe. You can rent rowboats and paddle boats in the lake or just sit and take in the view of bear Mt. rising behind it. If you didn’t pack a lunch there’s a snack bar and often local farmers selling produce or backed goods.
Follow the signs to the Zoo and/or Pool and you’ll go down some stairs and through a tunnel under 9W/202. The pool is $1 for kids and $2 for adults and it can get pretty crowded in the summer. Just past the pool to your left is the Zoo. They used to charge a minimal admission, but now it’s just a suggested donation. Please put a few bucks in the box so they can keep everything running smoothly. In the last year or so they cleaned and repainted all the signs and exhibits and it looks great. make sure you read all the trailside signs for a good laugh.
The Zoo includes only local animals found in the park, so no elephants or tigers. It’s also made up of animals that have been injured and rescued in the area. Each one has a sign that explains their particular injury. There are several small indoor exhibits for reptiles and amphibians, geology and history. be sure to go behind the history building for amazing views of the bridge and to follow the trail under it to see Fort Montgomery.
Before you head home make sure you ride the Merry Go Round or at least go in and have a look at the amazing paintings. You should also take a right out of the parking lot onto 7 Lakes Dr. and turn right at Perkins Memorial Dr. to go to the top of Bear Mt. and if the Perkins memorial Tower is open you need to make the short climb to the top. On a clear day you can just see the Manhattan skyline at the mouth of the Hudson. The Appalachian Trail goes through this part of the park as well.
For more information about Bear Mt. State park please click on the link below. I hope you have as much fun as we did.