Bear Mountain State Park

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History of Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain State Park in New York is adjacent to Harriman State Park. The two parks sprang out of land grants from Mary Harriman, widow of the Union Pacific Railroad president.

John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan donated million to the conservation project. This saved the area from becoming the new home of Sing Sing prison.

Bear Mountain State Park is over 5000 acres on the west bank of the Hudson River. Numerous hiking trails run through it and a scenic drive climbs to the 1283-foot summit. When the park opened in 1913, people traveled by steamboat and railroad from New York City to camp by Hessian Lake.

By 1914, more than a million visitors a year traveled to Bear Mountain State Park. The State built the Bear Mountain Inn in 1915. The Bear Mountain Inn is a classic Adirondack rustic lodge, like many of the historic lodges in the NPS.

The park, which had become popular with Boy Scouts, added a Nature Center, Zoo and Trailside Museums in the late 1920s. The Zoo and museums are on the Fort Clinton side of the Popolopen Creek.

Autumn visit to Bear Mountain

I met up with a photography group one chilly autumn morning on the other side of the Popolopen, at Fort Montgomery State Historic Site. We stood on the Route 9W Viaduct, overlooking the Bear Mountain Bridge and watched the sun rise and light up the colorful fall foliage.

Next, we walked down the trail to the suspension pedestrian bridge over the Popolopen Creek and into the northernmost section of Bear Mountain State Park. This trail winds down close to the Hudson River before ascending to Fort Clinton.

Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery served as Patriot forts during the Revolutionary War. The Patriots built them to defend the Hudson from the British. The British destroyed both forts in 1977.

Bear Mountain Area posts

  • Bear Mountain State Park
  • Fort Montgomery State Historic Site
  • Croton Gorge County Park
  • Bear Mountain Bridge

Location: Route 9W North, Bear Mountain, NY 10911
Designation: State Park
Date designated/established: 1913
Date of my visit: October 18, 2020