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How To Enjoy New York's Bear Mountain In Any Season

Nestled in the Hudson Valley on the west bank of the Hudson River, Bear Mountain State Park boasts 5,205 acres of glorious outdoor recreation and incredible scenery. Located in Bear Mountain, New York, this state park presents a mecca for hikers, bikers, boaters, swimmers, skiers, runners, and other nature enthusiasts.

Bear Mountain State Park is a frequent vacation spot for those looking to escape the noise of The Big Apple. Located on Native Munsee Lenape territory, this Palisades park provides a year-round getaway. With that in mind, we figured out the one thing you should do every season at Bear Mountain State Park.

A Spring Hike To Perkins Memorial Tower

peeking through branches at perkins memorial tower at bear mountain state park

Perkins Memorial Tower. Thomas Kloc via Getty Images

Ranging from easy to challenging, Bear Mountain provides trails for all types of hikers. Try the 1.5-mile paved Hessian Lake Loop or the Bear Mountain Dock trail if you are with kids. It's spring, so respect the abundant wildlife! White-tailed deer give birth in the spring, so it's not uncommon to run into a mother and her fawns while on the trails. Smaller critters, like chipmunks, foxes, and snakes, roam the forests of Bear Mountain. And, yes, they named it Bear Mountain for a reason. Black bears emerge from hibernation in the springtime, so ensure you take extra care this time of year.

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We don't recommend leaving Bear Mountain State Park in the spring without hiking the Perkins Memorial Tower trail. It's not an easy trek-the 3.9-mile loop takes you up to the 1,305-foot summit of Bear Mountain. But boy, is it worth it when you get there.

The tower was built by the descendants of George Walbridge Perkins, the first president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The tower served as a weather station and fire lookout until the 1950s. Now it offers a 360-degree view of the Hudson River Valley and everything within: Bear Mountain State Park, West Point, four different states, and the skyline of New York City.

A Summer Visit To Trailside Zoo

We love unique wildlife experiences, and Bear Mountain State Park hosts one of the cooler zoos in the United States with Trailside Museums and Zoo. Trailside is precisely what the name suggests: a self-guided nature trail through Bear Mountain. The path is a paved section of the Appalachian Trail, letting visitors experience New York's native wildlife up close.

Many wildlife can only live at the zoo due to injuries or being abandoned by their parents too early. These include mammals (like black bears, beavers, and coyotes), birds (owls, hawks, bald eagles), and local amphibians and reptiles. Trailside is also an excellent place for lovers of geology and botanicals. Since it's all outdoors, you'll be able to take in the vistas and plant life of Bear Mountain while you're walking the zoo's nature trail. It's just a serene way to spend a summer day.

Merry-Go-Round In The Fall

Of course, what's an adventure without a little thrill? When the kids get bored of looking at all that nature stuff, take them to the famous Bear Mountain Merry-Go-Round. Built in 2001, this unique pavilion isn't just a machine with horses going around in circles. It's also a dance floor. No wonder people like to get married here!

The merry-go-round is located on the grounds of the Bear Mountain Inn, which means it's also near the Bear Mountain pool and the boat rental area. On a clear fall day, after you've had a few spins on the merry-go-round, there's nothing like taking a paddle boat out onto the Hudson River and taking in the breathtaking views.

Ski & Ice Skate In Winter

It's New York, after all. When winter hits, the snow falls. That doesn't mean Bear Mountain shuts down, though. The paths through the state park are usually clear enough that people throw on some snowshoes or take up cross-country skiing around the area. Cross-country skiing is different than downhill skiing, though. The Bear Mountain Nordic Ski Association is here to help with programs and lessons for youths and adults. Everyone in the area comes together in the winter to ensure visitors have a good time and stay safe in the snowfall.

For the less adventurous, there's always the excellent outdoor ice skating rink near the merry-go-round!

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 18, 2021.

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