Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park is
situated in rugged mountains rising from the west bank of the Hudson River. The historic
Bear Mountain Inn overlooks Hessian Lake and provides
fine food and overnight accommodations. The park features
a large play field, shaded picnic groves, a dock on the
Hudson for mooring small craft, lake and river fishing
access, a swimming pool, a zoo and nature, hiking, biking
and cross-country ski trails, and ski-jumps. An outdoor
rink is open to ice skaters from late October through
mid-March. The Perkins Memorial Tower atop Bear Mountain
affords spectacular views of the park, the Hudson Highlands
and Harriman State Park.
Merry-Go-Round at Bear Mountain State Park features
hand painted scenes of the park an 42 hand carved seats
of native animals including black bear, wild turkey,
deer, raccoon, skunk, Canada goose, fox, swan, bobcat,
rabbit and more. For information about the Merry-Go-Round
or to book a party please call (845) 786-2701 x242.
Bear Mountain State Park is a favorite
park for thousands of visitors each year. The many sights,
accommodations and recreation opportunities attract
folks of all ages and abilities. A beautiful old inn
over looks Hessian Lake while offering first-class accommodations.
Both winter and summer sports are enjoyed at this park;
features include swimming, fishing, hiking, boating,
ice skating, ski jumps and even a zoo.
Paddle boats as well as rowboats are
available to rent at Hessian Lake. Hours are 11 a.m.
to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays. Picnic areas and playgrounds
are scattered throughout the park. The zoo lets visitors
get a glimpse of many of the animals from the area like
bald eagles, bears, owls, hawks, deer & turkey.
The Trailside Museum highlights the rich and long history
of the area, especially its pivotal role during the
During the American Revolutionary
War when control of the Hudson River was viewed by the
British as essential to dominating the American territories,
the Hudson Highlands saw significant military engagements.
In 1777 British troops routed Patriots at Fort Montgomery;
two years later the Americans under Anthony Wayne would
try to take it back. Just a couple of miles north of
what is now Bear Mountain State Park is West Point,
the most heavily fortified location during the Revolutionary
As the new nation settled into prosperity
and the Industrial Revolution swept across the countryside
it was supplied from local forests and iron mines found
throughout the Hudson Highlands. Resource utilization
took a heavy toll on the region, especially lumbering
and agriculture, since the poor, thin soils on hillsides
were easily depleted. Although the New Jersey Palisades
and the Hudson Highlands were admired for their beauty
and featured in paintings of the Hudson River School,
they were also viewed as a rich source of traprock (basalt)
by quarrymen seeking to provide building material for
the growth of nearby Manhattan Island. By the early
1900s development along the lower Hudson River had begun
to destroy much of the area's natural beauty. Beginning
in the 1890s, several unsuccessful efforts were made
to turn much of the Highlands into a forest preserve.
Mary Averell Harriman, whose husband
was Union Pacific Railroad president E. H. Harriman
offered the state 0,000 acres and one million dollars
toward the creation of a state park. George W. Perkins
raised another $1.5 million from a dozen wealthy contributors
including John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan.
New York state appropriated a matching $2.5 million
and the state of New Jersey appropriated $500,000 to
build the Henry Hudson Drive, (which would be succeeded
by the Palisades Interstate Parkway in 1947).
Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park
became a reality with the construction of a dock for
steamboat excursions and a new railroad station. The
park opened on July 5, 1913. Steamboats alone brought
more than 22,000 passengers to the park that year. Camping
at Hessian Lake (and later at Lake Stahahe) was immensely
popular; the average stay was eight days and was a favorite
for Boy Scouts. By 1914 it was estimated that than a
million people a year were coming to the park. The Bear
Mountain Inn was completed the following year; rooms
were $4.50 and included three meals.
Winter sports were added in 1922 and
ski jumping was added in 1928. The latter drew big crowds
as recently as the 1960s; on January 16, 1960, over
10,000 spectators turned out to watch the competition
for the Doerr Memorial Cup. More jump competitions were
held at Bear Mountain than at any other ski jump in
the United States; however the ski jumps have not been
used since 1990.
The first section of the Appalachian
Trail, taking hikers from Bear south to the Delaware
Water Gap, opened on October 7, 1923 and served as a
pattern for the other sections of the trail developed
independently by local and regional organizations. The
Bear Mountain Zoo, through which the Appalachian Trail
passes, is the lowest elevation on the 2,100 mile (3400
Bear Mountain remains popular today,
and welcomes more visitors annually than Yellowstone
Seasons/Hours: Open year round.
Pets: Dogs only. Must be muzzled and on a leash, not more
than 6 feet long. Not allowed in buildings, picnic or
bathing areas or on walkways.
Admission is free, parking $6 per car.