When you are visiting one of the most spectacular cities in the world, it’s hard to imagine that you would ever contemplate visiting locations away from the heartbeat of the city. That’s exactly what we thought each time we visited New York City. However, on our recent visit to the Big Apple, we decided to head outside the 24-hour city of the world and consider a day trip from New York.
Bear Mountain State Park is a short drive across the Hudson River and offers a breathtaking opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you fly into La Guardia, JFK or Newark, a short drive from Manhattan will lead you to the gorgeous rural scenery throughout Bear Mountain.
A variety of scenic drives will take you to the summit of Bear Mountain State Park and we want to share our journey and why this part of New York State is worth experiencing the next time you decide to head outside of the city.
Day Trip From New York to Bear Mountain
After researching all of the various road trips that you can take from New York City, if you decide to visit Bear Mountain State Park, you will want to figure out the best route to take. As mentioned, a variety of scenic drives are available but which one is the best for you? That will be determined by which direction you are approaching Bear Mountain and how much time you want to spend exploring other parts of the Hudson Valley.
Route 1 – Palisades Parkway
The most direct route from NYC to Bear Mountain is via the Palisades Parkway. After crossing the Hudson River at either the Tappan Zee Bridge or George Washington Bridge, head north on the Palisades Parkway to experience the gorgeous Hudson Valley before reaching Bear Mountain State Park.
Route 2 – Seven Lakes Drive
If you are willing to take a slight detour but be rewarded with a myriad of spectacular scenery, head along I-287 and then north on I-87 before taking the Seven Lakes Drive to reach Bear Mountain. It may take longer, but as you will experience, it’s worth taking your time to enjoy the breathtaking scenery along this route.
Seven Lakes Drive
After leaving I-87, the journey through Harriman State Park leads visitors along the breathtaking Seven Lakes Drive. For 17 miles, you will be taken through gorgeous scenery passing by seven different lakes at various points along the route.
Starting from the southernmost point of the drive, you will pass by the following lakes, each of which offers something uniquely beautiful and of course, opportunities to be a little more adventurous with boating and fishing available.
- Lake Sebago
- Lake Kanawauke
- Lake Skannatati
- Lake Askoti
- Lake Tiorati
- Silver Mine Lake
- Queensboro Lake
This is certainly a popular route for local cyclists and running clubs because as we drove along the Seven Lakes Drive, we frequently passed aspiring athletes pushing themselves to their limits as they endured tough climbs yet rewarded with spectacular scenery around every corner.
We pulled over a couple of times to capture a few pictures of the lakes but if you drive the full 17 miles, there are very few spots where you can pull over and take pictures.
If you really want to appreciate the scenery, you may be better parking and taking one of the many hiking trails through Harriman State Park (or better still, if you take your bike with you, hop on the biking trail and enjoy the scenic drive on two wheels).
There were various spots along this drive that I would have loved to pull over and take a few pictures but it just wasn’t feasible. The end of the Seven Lakes Drive leads you to the Palisades Parkway before you arrive at a roundabout with various options including the Bear Mountain Suspension Bridge, Fort Montgomery and the scenic drive to the top of Bear Mountain.
Bear Mountain State Park
The ultimate experience during this road trip is to visit the summit of Bear Mountain. After driving along the scenic Seven Lakes Drive, take the short yet extremely steep Perkins Memorial Drive until you reach the summit.
The views across the Hudson Valley are breathtaking and visitors can test their rock-climbing skills as you clamber across the rocks in an attempt to find that perfect view of the scenery.
Overlooking the Hudson River is a rewarding experience and you could easily spend several hours taking in the panoramic scenery.
It is one of the most inspirational places in the entire Hudson Valley. It feels a world apart when you get to the top of the mountain. (Timothy Englert)
Take a journey to the top of Perkins Memorial Observatory which offers equally stunning 360-degree views around the Hudson Valley and Harriman State Park. The tower along with the drive are open between April and November.
If you are an avid historian, take a trip to Fort Montgomery to explore the 14-acre fortification overlooking the gorgeous Hudson River.
This was an iconic location in the Revolutionary War as the British invaded this Fort along with nearby Fort Clinton in 1777.
Fort Montgomery was the scene of a fierce Revolutionary War battle for control of the Hudson River.
The defending American Patriots fought valiantly despite being largely outnumbered until they were forced out of their forts.
Today, visitors can learn all about this historic battle inside the museum while taking a self-guided tour around the fortification and imagining what life was like in the barracks.
The stone remnants leave a lasting memory for visitors, especially after visiting the Grand Battery where you can see canons inscribed with the Royal Seal overlooking the Bear Mountain Suspension Bridge.
While exploring the museum, we were fortunate to see a demonstration of camp life activities dating back to the 18th century.
Beef stew was being prepared in the same manner that locals and military would have done during the Revolutionary War and it is a real eye-opener to see how the camping experience has evolved.
Bear Mountain State Park is definitely worth visiting if you are considering a day trip from New York City. Not only is the scenic drive to the summit of the drive a stunning experience, the breathtaking views across the Hudson Valley are a sight to behold.
Take some time to visit Fort Montgomery to learn about the history here while if you have more time in the area, perhaps a visit to West Point Military Academy will intrigue you. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Bear Mountain State Park and we can’t wait to re-visit as this offers a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life just a few miles away.
Have you explored the Hudson Valley and Bear Mountain State Park?