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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.

The 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 Revolutionary War.

Its History

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 War.

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 km) trail.

Bear Mountain remains popular today, and welcomes more visitors annually than Yellowstone National Park.

Visiting Bear Mountain State Park

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.

Specifics on visiting Bear Mountain State Park were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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