BY CAROLYN JOHNSON
Bear Mountain State Park is beautiful in all weather, including this year’s snowy October, sunny mild winter, lush green spring and summer, and breathtaking autumn colors. It’s no wonder visitors come from all over the world to enjoy this park. Bear Mountain State Park is the flagship of the Palisades Interstate Park System.
As you probably already know, the park located in the northern most part of Rockland County only several miles south from West Point, has facilities such as playing fields, picnic groves, rowboat docks on Hessian Lake, swimming pool and bathhouse, nature trails, an ice-skating rink, basketball court, Iona Island Estuarine Reserve and Bird Refuge, Perkins Tower, and the Merry-Go-Round and pavilion. Locally grown foods are available at the a la carte restaurant.
The newly renovated Bear Mountain Inn, rustic style historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, provides overnight accommodations. Rockland had waited a decade to see the Inn finally renovated and reopened. In addition, the four stone lodges, Cliffhouse and Overlook Lodge all offer breathtaking views of Hessian Lake and the Hudson River Valley.
In winter, the ice rink at Bear Mountain State Park is open for public skating sessions, even in this less than frigid weather. Sitting atop a small hill, the outdoor rink offers spectacular views of the park and surrounding areas. Well-worn rental skates are available. Says Chestnut Ridge resident Vivienne von Wiederhold, as she and her husband Craig tie up their daughter Valentina’s skates, “We are so lucky to have a picturesque place to skate. We were here yesterday too. It’s just great!”
On the ice you’ll notice couples holding hands, singles showing off their latest moves, parents teaching their kids to skate. Around the park, you’ll find families picnicking, cooking on grills shaped like animals. In the picnic area, one can hear an array of languages and accents. The smells of Chinese food lingers at one grill, sausage at another, and a family enjoying homemade sushi on a picnic blanket. Yes, the mild winter seems to be attracting more people to the park than usual. Hikers have taken advantage of the lack of snow to enjoy the many trails as well.
Bear Mountain is primarily a day-use park. Accessible by car and bus, the park features an extensive system of pedestrian and hiking trails, including the first segment of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and a key segment of the Long Path. Tell us about your favorite day trips: firstname.lastname@example.org.