In New York City, the grid and the gridlock seem endless. And sure, you can escape to Central Park, or some hidden spots in Brooklyn, for quickie rides and runs in the afternoon, or after work. But when you really need to stretch your legs and your mind, you might want to consider heading north out of the city.
What Makes It Great
The misconception is that huge spreads of nature are hours and hours away from the civilized grid that makes up NYC. But about an hour’s drive out, and you’ll forget you ever heard of Manhattan. Bear Mountain and Harriman State Park make it easy to get lost, with 52,000 acres of mostly forested landscape and 235 miles of trails between them. In Bear Mountain, the trails range from smooth, paved roads, to more rural fire road, to finally extremely technical terrain, tons of rocks, and a whole lot of steep pitches.
Short loops, long loops, and even the freaking Appalachian Trail are all on the menu. In fact, the area is so perfect for trail running that North Face actually hosts one of their epic off-road races there, with marathon to 50-mile options. Want to feel like you’re not the only one having trouble on the hills? There are some fantastically fast road races that weave through the park in the spring and summer, and nothing makes a runner feel better than outsprinting a cyclist to the top of a climb. If you’re looking for the ultimate classic hiking or trail running experience, and hoping to see a few interesting characters on the way, park at the Bear Mountain Inn and head up the Appalachian Trail to see what all the fuss is about. Just don’t fall under the spell of the trail and end up in Maine by the end of your run.
For an epic day that won’t end you out of state, start at the Appalachian Trail for 6 miles, then pop onto Timp Torne for another 6.5, hang a left onto Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, then a right onto the Cornell Mine Trail, which will bring you back up to the Appalachian Trail and the park’s main attractions. It’s about 16 miles, but not a fast 16. Sound like a long day? Take any of the other shorter routes that are well-marked throughout the park.
Bring the whole family, or all of your friends, almost any time of year and there’s plenty to do other than run. The park has fishing access, a swimming pool, and cross-country ski trails, plus an outdoor rink open to ice skaters from late October through mid-March.
Who is Going to Love It
Because Bear Mountain is such a well-run state park, even beginners will feel comfortable out on trails, and with the city so close, will likely run into plenty of people during their runs. Since loops can be short, it’s not as terrifying as some more rural runs.
For the hardcore runner, again—between the hills and the rocks, this isn’t a running route for the faint of heart, this is a true runner mecca. And if you go to some of the far-flung trails like Timp Torne, you’re less likely to run into many people, if solitary running is your thing.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to Bear Mountain from the city, just shoot up the Palisades Parkway for 45 miles—about an hour’s drive from Manhattan, but well worth the trek. No car? No problem. Just take the train from Grand Central up to Garrison, and grab a taxi or hop on your bike for the last six miles to the park entrance.
There are a few parking areas along the park’s borders, but the best spot is by all the action—restrooms and pool, namely—by the Bear Mountain Inn, just inside the park off of 9W.
Be warned: make sure that you carry enough water with you, because other than the main area by the Inn, it’s a largely rural park with no water fill-ups along most routes.