Bear Mountain State Park: Appalachian Trail
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Seven Lakes Drive, Bear Mountain, NY
Hours:8 A.M. to sunset daily
Fee: $8 per vehicle (free with an Empire Passport)
Bathrooms: Near entrance to pedestrian underpass; merry-go-round, picnic area, pool; trailside museum
Water/Snacks: Concessions near the picnic area; restaurant at Bear Mountain Inn

There’s something special about saying you’ve hiked on the Appalachian Trail, and this easy link is perfect for beginner hikers.

Bear Mountain State Park
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The Appalachian Trail (AT) stretches from Maine to Georgia, but its “beginning” is in Bear Mountain. On October 7, 1923, the first, 16-mile section of the AT, from Bear Mountain through Harriman State Park, was opened here.

Although much of the AT through here is a traditional mountain hike, a stretch that’s suitable for children and strollers starts along the eastern shore of Hessian Lake. With the historic Bear Mountain Inn behind you, walk counterclockwise around the lake until you see the restroom building in the picnic area to your right. Take the pedestrian underpass past the pool on your right. This will put you on a shady stretch of the AT, marked with the trail’s signature white triangular blazes, that will take you through the Trailside Zoo. The zoo is an animal rehabilitation center for injured mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

You reach the lowest point on the AT—120 feet above seal level—across from the bear den. Go right and follow the short path past the amphitheater to an overlook that brings you to an outstanding view of the Hudson River. Returning to the AT, follow the well-marked trail north, to the campus of small museums that explain the geology and human history—from early American Indians through the American Revolution—of the area.

From the museum area, the AT heads over the Bear Mountain Bridge, with the Hudson River flowing 360 feet below. Walk across the bridge on its southern sidewalk, which is separated from the traffic lanes by a barricade. When you reach the eastern side of the Hudson, you can return the way you came (recommended if you are with young children or if you are pushing a stroller), or watch for traffic and cross NY 9D. Turn left, and after a walk of about 600 uphill yards (the shoulder is narrow), you will see an AT blaze on your right. This rugged climb is not suitable for strollers or young children. Return the way you came. Remember: For a more traditional AT hike, take the stairs to the west of the inn (behind the playground) and look for the signature white blazes.

Plan B:

If it’s summer, head to the pool. The vast shallow area gradually reaches 3 feet, and the large deep area has a series of diving boards. You can also enjoy an easy hike around Hessian Lake (Trip 87) or launch a boat from its southwest shore.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Restaurants, diners, and convenience stores are in nearby Highland Falls.


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