In October of last year, I made a huge mistake. I tried to go to the last Oktoberfest weekend at Bear Mountain in New York. Word of advice: DO NOT try this. As my husband drove the car and we approached the exit to Perkins Memorial Drive, the road that would lead us to the top of the mountain, we noticed a police car blocking the entrance. Perkins Memorial Drive was closed, and the only way you could go to Oktoberfest was through the highway, where it seemed that a thousand cars were trying to cram into. This caused such a traffic jam that it took us almost an hour to travel one mile to the traffic circle that would lead us to Bear Mountain Inn. By this point, neither my husband nor I really thought we’d enjoy ourselves. So I used what never fails, Google, and we ended up at Storm King Art Center. It turned out to be a great day, but we promised to give Bear Mountain another go in 2017.
I thought that we’d back in early spring, but on an uncannily warm February day, we headed out on the one-hour drive to the mountain. Before heading out, we decided it would be best to park at Bear Mountain Inn. Instead of driving up Perkins Memorial Drive, we wanted to hike in the 60-degree weather Mother Nature decided to grant us in the middle of winter. The cost to park at Bear Mountain Inn is $10 bucks. There are some areas close by that aren’t as expensive. A co-worker mentioned a parking location near Doodletown that is free but, according to her, is quite small. I didn’t want to risk going and having to drive back for a parking space. And this time, although it seemed like many people came out to enjoy the day, it wasn’t similar to the chaos from last October.
There are different trails that you can take to get to the top of Bear Mountain. (Note, Perkins Memorial Drive is partly closed to car/motorcycle access in the winter.) After checking out the map of the trails, we decided to walk up the Appalachian Trail. It is moderately easy, and we saw children, senior citizens, hipsters, teeny dogs and huge dogs as we walked up. The trail is marked by a white blaze. The first half of the trail is mostly made up of stair cases. We stopped a couple of times to drink some water and take in the view. It’s not a huge challenge and I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who is an avid hiker. If this describes you, it might be a little too easy. The only thing that you had to be careful with, thanks to a snowstorm in early February, was the melting ice. I slipped (but didn’t fall) a couple of times, so spikes weren’t needed. Of course, if it would have been 20 or 30 degrees colder, I wouldn’t have arrived without ice grips.
Along the trail, you get to see glimpses of the Bear Mountain Bridge and Iona Island.
Don’t be fooled when you see the sign with an arrow that says “Perkins Memorial Observatory Tower.” You still have about 15 or 20 more minutes to go. Also, this is when it might get a little confusing. As soon as we got to this area, a group of people came up to us and told us they were lost. This is most likely because The Appalachian Trail connects with Perkins Memorial Drive, and all of a sudden it goes from a dirt trail to a normal road for cars/bikes. You have to continue walking on the road for some minutes and then you’ll see the white blazes again. By then there are no more stairs and this, at least for me, was a relief.
From then on it’s pretty easy. All you do is follow the white blazes and you’ll eventually see the tower. Soon after that, you’ll be 1,200 feet above sea level.
We stayed up there for a couple of hours and enjoyed the view. The tower is also closed during the winter, but that doesn’t mean you’re missing out. We decided to go back to our car by following Perkins Memorial Drive. Cyclists zipped right by us at times, and there were some minutes when I couldn’t see or hear anyone coming up or down along the trail. I wanted to go down this way because the bridge was partly obscured by trees on the Appalachian Trail. I knew that I would be able to get a better view going down the drive. And so I did:
After twenty minutes, we reached a gate that closes off access to cars and bikes. After a few minutes of walking down right next to cars, you’ll be able to see a trail with a red blaze right next to it. This is the Major Welch Trail. I was a little unsure of whether we should keep on going down the road we were on or take the trail. But I double-checked the trail map (and Google Maps) and we would get down a lot faster using the Major Welch trail. It was a lot muddier than the Appalachian Trail, and my husband had to grab my hand a couple of times to make sure I didn’t slip. Once you’re near the parking lot, you’ll hear the kids on the ice rink and the carousel. If you’re up to it, you can also walk around Hessian Lake.
The subsequent three days of sore legs was worth the adventure, and this was the last photo I took before reaching the parking lot.
Afterwards, I actually convinced my husband to take me to see the bridge up close.
We’ll be back to explore Bear Mountain and its surroundings in the spring. As I mentioned already, in the winter both the tower and part of Perkins Memorial drive are closed. My husband wants to come back on his motorcycle and ride to the top of the mountain. I want to explore the other trails and kayak on the Hudson. This gem is just an hour away from my home, and I’m glad I finally explored some of it. I guess the second time is the charm!
If you have any tips or recommendations for spring/summer visits and activities, please let me know. Likewise, if you have any questions, feel free to ask below!