About six weeks into New York’s “stay-at-home” orders during this COVID-19 crisis, I began to crawl the walls.I had been in my apartment for 22-23 hours every day, only going out to shop or get in a walk for exercise. That was when I found out that New York’s State Parks were open. So, on April 28th, day 41 of social distancing, I drove the forty miles north along the Hudson River to Bear Mountain State Park.
Bear Mountain State Park is a 5200+ acre (8.1 sq. mile) treasure, just outside the New York Metropolitan area. It sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, stretching from the water up and over Bear Mountain. It includes over 200 miles of hiking trails, camping sites, a museum and zoo, a carousel, and a seasonal swimming pool and ice skating rink. There is also the Bear Mountain Inn, a hotel built in 1915, which also houses a restaurant, cafeteria and a gift shop.
Bear Mountain has always been an escape for New York City residents. I remember that there used to be boats that traveled up the Hudson from the city to the park. Today you can take a bus tour to the park from Port Authority Bus Terminal.
My goal for the day was to take an easy hike, so I set off for the Hessian Lake loop. This 1.5 paved path loops around Hessian lake, which is just north of the Bear Mountain Inn. It is a beautiful walk along the lake shore, with Bear Mountain looming to the west. It is an easy walk, the path stays at water level on the east side of the lake, and climbs to about 10m above the lake on its western side. The entire walk offers great views of the lake and its surroundings. Unfortunately, most of the facilities (but not the restrooms) were closed, due to the COVID-19 crisis, and they remain so as of this publication date, so bring lunch with you.
Nuts and Bolts:
Directions: Take the NYS Thruway north to The Palisades Interstate Parkway (exit 13 N). At the traffic circle, take the first exit onto NY-202 W/NY 9W S. Travel 0.5 miles to the park entrance. For a more scenic drive, take the Saw Mill River Parkway north to NY-9A N. 9A merges with NY-9 at Croton. Stay on NY-9 past Peekskill and at the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto NY-202 W. Go to and cross the Bear Mountain Bridge. At the circle take the 3rd exit onto NY-202 W/NY-9W S and take this road to the park entrance.
There is a $10 parking fee per car.