Trekking down Third Avenue to class is a hike in its own right, but it doesn’t compare to the rolling mountains, pastel skies and crystal lakes that form the picturesque trails of Bear Mountain.
A state park located in Rockland County, New York, on the west side of the Hudson River, Bear Mountain isn’t just visually appealing, it’s a state park with options for biking, boating, swimming, cross-country skiing, cross-country running, ice skating and sledding — making for the perfect getaway.
Choking on the fumes and chaos of city life, I hopped on the train at Grand Central Station; paying $25.50 for a round-trip ticket to Peekskill. An hour later, my fellow travelers and I emerged on a sun-soaked platform, basking in the glory of an open-air train station; failing to believe that the backdrop was a cascading terrain instead of mold-infested subway walls.
After perusing the small town of Peekskill — sipping coffee from the local coffee house, flipping through the small bookstore shelves, indulging in some ice cream from the creamery by the station — we requested a car to drop us off at the foot of the Anthony’s Nose trail of Bear Mountain. Ten short minutes later, we were standing among branches, bramble and delicate brooks, attempting to decipher the map at the foot of the climb.
As if sensing our clueless presence, a man appeared from amid the foliage, interrupting our fruitless attempts to find the trail.
“Are you trying to climb Bear Mountain?” he asked, his voice reverberating expertise on the peaks and troughs ahead.
We nodded, shyly, and he preceded to tell us the hike would be upwards of an hour long to reach the peak of the mountain. He then briefly described how to find the top and sent us on our way.
Although the trail was a little difficult to follow — make sure to look for the blue trail markers — it became easier to keep to the rugged path after about half a mile. Starting at Anthony’s Nose, it’s a 2.6 mile hike up-and-back and the views are spectacular. There are various places to perch on rocks along the way to look out over the glimmering water, and the hike culminates with an overlook of Bear Mountain Bridge.
The climb is steep but relatively short and is peppered with variations in terrain like rocks and streams that keep the hike challenging and interesting.
Although we didn’t encounter any of them on the way, Bear Mountain State Park also includes a number of facilities like the Trailside Museum and Zoo, the Bear Mountain Inn, an ice skating rink and a merry-go-round.
What we did encounter, however, was a lack of cell service, which proved to be a problem when we reached the end of our hike and wanted to catch the train back to Manhattan. Needing to call an Uber from the trail back to Peekskill station, we had to traverse the mountain to find service — holding our phones up to the air like they do in movies, and praying that by some miracle, AT&T would pull through with a couple of bars.
Eventually, we found a sign of life and quickly ordered a car, but the reception immediately went again and we were once again stranded, hoping the car would still come despite our lost connection. And like a hero riding in on a white horse, the gray Lexus SUV pulled up, offering us a path back to civilization.
The end of the trip may have been slightly dramatic, but the hours before were thoroughly peaceful and refreshing. Only 60 minutes can take you to an entirely different landscape; and a few hours stranded on a mountain can give you an entirely new mindset.