You never know what you’ll find as you’re riding through New York, and I realized just how true that was when I was looking for any excuse to not ride up the mountain that would take me to the epic switchback-filled downhill to the bridge to Bear Mountain. 202 is a painful stretch with very little shoulder, and by bike, it’s both terrifying and exhilarating. But at this point, my lungs and legs were in full-on rebellion, like they knew what I was about to ask of them. So when I saw the sign for a trailhead sticking out on my right, it was imperative that I go check it out.
What Makes It Great
The New York/New Jersey Trail Conference refers to this trail by saying, “Without a doubt, the most rugged trail in Westchester County is the Camp Smith Trail.”
They aren’t exaggerating. It’s brutal. But it’s awesome. At 4.3 miles long, out and back takes about two hours for even a more experienced trail runner, since the trails are no joke. 15 feet down the trail, you’re already doing a stream crossing.
It’s one of the most fun trails I’ve ever been on, windy and full of surprises. Don’t stray from the trail though, since it’s right near the active base of Camp Smith.
I had to keep riding, but I knew I’d be back, and the next day, I headed out with running shoes instead of my road shoes and started along the trail. Trail running is my main sport, but after a half mile, I was huffing and puffing and wondering if the hills were ever going to end. It’s easy to forget when you’re in New York City that surrounding the city is some seriously wild, mountainous terrain, but it’s there, and it’s absolutely gut-wrenching in its brutality.
Sure, it’s 4.3 miles, but that’s 8.6 round-trip, and it’s a long 8.6.
Bring plenty of water, because there aren’t any spots to fill up along the way. For hikers, this trip can take upwards of five hours, and the tricky terrain begs you to take your time and be careful when traversing the rocks, especially on the downhills.
It’s part of the Hudson Highlands State Park, which has plenty more that you can explore, but this is the crown jewel when it comes to trail running in the area.
The trail is marked by blue blazes, and starts behind the Bear Mountain Toll House. It ends—if you want to call it ending—at the Appalachian Trail. Get ready for a lot of climbing, especially at the outset of the run. Half a mile in, you’re climbing a mountain. The only thing harder than the ascents are the descents, which are technical, ultra-switchback heavy, and somewhat terrifying. That said, the climbing is worth it for the views of Bear Mountain, Harriman State Park and the Hudson River.
Who is Going to Love It
Any trail runner looking for a serious challenge will love this trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is at the Toll House, or if you want to cheat and start two miles in, stop along 202 and there’s a small lot, often empty, but if you can’t find a spot there, further up the mountain on 202 is a scenic overlook with parking (though be careful on the run down to the trailhead from there).