New York AT: West Mombasha Road to Bear Mountain

New York AT: West Mombasha Road to Bear Mountain

Northbound: Mile 1380.1 to 1407.3, 27.2 AT miles

We had not hiked the Appalachian Trail in New York for almost a year and I had forgotten how rocky the trail! For the past 4 months, our weekend AT section hikes have been in Virginia, but Hurricane Florence’s havoc in the south pushed us to pick up where we left off in NY. Rather than backpack from Friday to Sunday, we opted to stay in the Bear Mountain Inn and complete day hikes. Our original plan was to hike 10 miles on Friday, 14 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday, completing the drive home (4 hours) in plenty of time to relax before the workweek. Unfortunately, Friday work obligations kept us from getting to the Inn until 5:30 pm, and although we have completed many a hike in the dark, we decided to flip flop our Friday and Sunday sections.

The Bear Mt Inn is a stony lodge with big wooden double doors and a rustic sign
The Bear Mountain Inn.

West Mombasha Road to Seven Lakes Road – 11.3 miles, 2,769’ elevation

We parked along West Mombasha Road in a pull off that can hold 2-3 vehicles. The moment we stepped on the trail, we knew that we were in for a rocky trek.

Rocks of various sizes and shapes cover the Appalachian Trail
Our first northbound steps onto the AT at West Mombasha Road, NY.

The trail was covered with rocks and over the course of the 11 miles, there were many boulders to scale, the first batch leading to Buchanan Mountain overlook, about 1.5 miles from the start.

The white Appalachian Trail markers dot the large rocks and boulders on the trail
En route to Buchanan Mountain Overlook.

After descending from the overlook, we walked a mile on level, but rock covered ground, crossing East Mombasha Road and walking along the water lily covered Little Dam Lake.

Green water lilies cover the majority of the narrow lake
The lily-covered Little Dam Lake was a lovely contrast to all of the boulders on the trail.

The next mile included a 400′ elevation gain while scrambling over more boulders, peaking on Arden Mountain, where we stopped at mile 1384 for a quick lunch and water break. The view was pretty and quiet, unlike the next view a half mile further, overlooking a noisy Interstate 87.

A view of the green Palisades Mountains and Interstate 87 from the top of Arden Mountain
The view of Interstate 87 from atop Arden Mountain

The half mile 500′ descent was a mass of rocks, ending on the edge of NY 17.

The Appalachian Trail travels over a field of large boulders at the bottom of Arden Mountain
Descending Arden Mountain.

We crossed the roadway and walked a mile on Arden Road into Harriman State Park where we returned to uphill hiking on a rock-strewn trail.

A flat dirt trail through a grassy meadow leads to the forest and mountain in the distance
Entering Harriman State Park.

Once at the top of the 600’ incline, we trekked little ups and downs, passing Island Pond, a lovely lake where people were fishing and picnicking.

The blue sky is reflects in the large mountain lake
Island Pond is a lake located 1.5 miles north of the Elk Park parking area.

Continuing on, we walked through the Lemon Squeezer, a tight rock crevice, and then climbed the last big set of boulders.

A hiker steps side-ways to get through the crevice between large walls of rock
Our labs had no problem walking through the Lemon Squeezer, but we needed to side shuffle to get through the big crack in the rock.
The Lemon Squeezer is a snug fit for hikers carrying backpacks.

 

Two labradors stand on the massive boulders of the Appalachian Trail
The rock scramble immediately north of the Lemon Squeezer.

During the final 3 miles, we traversed big flat rock ridges and less rocky trail. We exited the trail at the water tower, mile 1390.4, taking the blue side trail to the Tiorati Circle Park on Seven Lakes Road.

Map – West Mombasha Road to Seven Lakes Road

Seven Lakes Road to the Bear Mountain Inn – 14 miles, 2,674’ elevation

From Tiorati Circle, we retraced our steps on the blue trail, and headed northbound on the AT toward Bear Mountain.  The first 4 miles of the hike were gentle on the feet, with smooth large rocks, and soft dirt pathways framed by ferns.

smooth large rocks

Ferns
Green ferns brighten the trail.

We stopped very briefly at the William Brien Shelter, at mile 1394.7, just to admire the stone work.  It was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is pretty unique in comparison to other shelters we’ve seen on the AT.  The surrounding terrain became more rocky and we scaled boulder steps to continue on the AT.

Stone 3 wall shelter located beside big rock boulders on the trail
The William Brien Memorial Shelter is located along the trail, nestled beside a boulder scramble.

About a mile and a half north of the shelter, the summit ledges of Black Mountain provided views of other peaks, as well as a silhouette of the NYC skyscrapers.

Black Mountain Summit
From the summit of Black Mountain, hikers can see the Manhattan skyline.

From the summit, the .8 mile rocky descent led to the Palisades Interstate Parkway, a 4 lane divided highway, that was a bit scary to cross.  There were not pedestrian alerts for the vehicles, therefore we were concerned about how easily and safely we could cross.  Fortunately the road is divided and we only had to traverse 2 lanes at a time.

2 lanes of car filled traffic on a divided highway
It was a little scary crossing the Palisades Interstate Parkway’s 4 lanes of 55+ mph traffic with 2 dogs.

We continued uphill, enjoying great views from 3 different locations at the top of West Mountain.  Along the ridge, we could easily see the Memorial Tower on the top of Bear Mountain, a 4 mile trek from the view.

West Mountain view of Bear Mountain
Along the ridge of West Mountain, we could see the tower on Bear Mountain, our final summit of the hike.

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Rock ledges of West Mountain Ridge
Rock ledges on the top of West Mountain Ridge.

After a descent of 600′ and a final ascent of 700′, we arrived at the top of Bear Mountain.  There was a large parking area and many visitors enjoying the view.  We stopped for only a short time, as we wanted to get to the Inn well before sunset.

Rock Steps leading to Bear Mountain Summit
Many rock steps lead to the Bear Mountain Summit.
Perkins Memorial Tower on Bear Mountain
The Perkins Memorial Tower sits on the summit of Bear Mountain.

The descent from the summit was a treat!  This new section of the AT has only just opened and it made the 1137′ downhill walk very pleasant.  (Thank you NJ-NY Trail Conference Volunteers!) The trail led to a pathway that borders Hessian Lake, located beside the Bear Mountain Inn.

The terraced path leading northbound from the top of Bear Mountain
The new AT path leading north from the top of Bear Mountain is a nice gentle descent.

Map – Seven Lakes Road to Bear Mountain Inn

Bear Mountain Inn to South Mountain Pass Road – 4.4 miles, 1,060’ elevation

We started our hike at the Bear Mountain State Park, making a directional error almost immediately.  The trail led us to the zoo, which was closed.  We missed reading the big blatant sign that clearly designated the alternative route around the zoo in the after hours, and walked down to the water’s edge.

A water level view of the Hudson River, the bridge and the mountain peak across the shore
Our mistake on the trail led us to the Hudson River and a view of the bridge and Anthony’s Nose, the peak that we would soon climb.

After retracing our steps and using the alternative route, we found ourselves walking along a very busy Bear Mountain Road and bridge.

 

Walking along a car filled bridge, Anthony's Nose mountain peak ahead at the end of the walkway
Crossing the Hudson River via Bear Mountain Bridge
A view of the Hudson River from the middle of the bridge

The road and bridge walk was .8 of a mile.  I do not enjoy walking along roadways when I am hiking.  It is stressful for our dogs and, ever since I was hit by a car, I am very wary of sharing the road with moving vehicles.  We returned to the trail for 1.7 miles, ending the short trek in a small parking area on South Mountain Pass Road.

Map – Bear Mountain to South Mountain Pass 

Overall, we had an enjoyable weekend.  The rock scrambles are fun, but tiring when completing many over 2 days.  Our feet were sore since we were not used to such rocky pathways.  I would definitely repeat the section to Bear Mountain again in the future!

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