Bear Mountain State Park is an amusement park (literally, there’s a merry-go-round) of outdoor activity. You can rent a boat to paddle around Hessian Lake or visit the trailside zoo. There’s swimming and ice skating and even an Oktoberfest that attracts tourists and New Yorkers alike.
Amid all this excitement, it might be easy to overlook the opportunity to hike to the top of Bear Mountain but this popular 4 mile loop is worth the occasional crowds. The hike is actually part of the Appalachian Trail but isn’t too strenuous that you can’t do it in a few hours. Take the trail marked with the white blazes to a stairway carved from stone. (Stairway? Don’t worry, you’ll still sweat on your way up to the overlook.) Scramble the last few feet of the hike to the summit at Perkins Memorial Tower and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Hudson. Yes, you might run into some fellow Brooklyners there (we overheard one group discussing whether to go to Hanson Dry or Hollow Nickel later that night) but don’t let that or the fact that you could have driven to the top of the mountain deter you from doing the trip on foot.
For more of a challenge, take the Major Welch Trail to Perkins Tower instead (look for the red blazes) but be sure to wear grippy footwear as part of the trail is just steep slabs of stone that could get slippery if at all wet. Don’t forget to turn around a few times while you’re hiking up to catch a glimpse of the the Bear Mountain Bridge. It will be in clear view on from the north face of the mountain along with Brooks Lake.