Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain State Park is nestled among the hills on the west side of the Hudson River. A popular destination for New Yorkers, especially those coming from the city, this park has a lot to offer, as well as some things you should definitely miss. For the true urbanite, visiting Bear Mountain State Park offers a sanitized version of nature without getting too close and personal with the wild.

If you are planning a trip to Bear Mountain State trip, there are a few things you should  definitely do.

  • Enjoy walking the trails around the park. There are lots of winding trails and they are accessible and easy for an inexperienced hiker.
  • Take a gander around the Bear Mountain Inn. It's cute and fun--although nothing on the grand scale of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. 
  • Go on the Merry Go Round and taste the nostalgia of such a charming and old-fashioned ride.
  • Walk through the Bear Mountain Zoo. The bears are completely adorable. The paths are shady and there are plenty of plants, animals, and geological features to observe. This is a bite-size zoo, perfect for small children with short attention spans. 

  • Walk along the trail to Fort Montgomery. You'll walk along the Hudson River and enjoy some beautiful views. Fort Montgomery itself is small and intimate. They have some interesting historical displays and a film that explains the significance of the site. 
  • Throw rocks into the Hudson River near Fort Montgomery. Eventually, you cross a small footbridge over the river. Just below the footbridge is a perfect spot for throwing rocks. Trust me, if you have kids, you can stay there for hours throwing rocks. Prepare to get wet though, its hard for kids and adults to resist the water.
  • Walk across the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. The Bear Mountain Bridge is one of my favorite bridges in New York. The views are worth the walk.
  • Enjoy looking at the animals. The Bear Mountain Zoo rescues injured wildlife and rehabilitates them. If an animal cannot survive out in the wild, it will remain in the zoo. I like this approach to zoos because it gives a safe space for animals to live, without taking animals from their natural habitat. Yesterday when we visited we saw bears, swans, geese, foxes, coyotes, several different types of owls, a hawk, an eagle, turtles, lizards, frogs, toads, and several kinds of snakes. 

Not all activities and events at Bear Mountain State Park are worthwhile. Here are a few things I would avoid like the plague. 
  • Do not picnic at the main picnic area. It is generally crowded with lots of people. Yesterday when walking through the area to get to the zoo, it was so filthy from litter. (I don't understand why people litter. It is disgusting.) The grass was sparse and stubby. If you can afford it, try the restaurant at the inn or get something from the grill and find a nicer area to eat.
  • Do not go swimming at the pool. So many people go to the pool that it is practically impossible to enjoy yourself and keep an eye on children. And if you don't have children, it is really hard to enjoy yourself swimming because there simply is no room to swim with all the people. If you want to swim, pick another park to go to. New York has so many awesome beaches and lakes that only cost the price of parking to enjoy. 
  • Don't go when there are big crowds. Its hard to enjoy the space when you can hardly breathe from all the people pressing on you. Try and go during the middle of the week early in the day. 

Things to know before you go: 
  • Admission to the Bear Mountain Zoo is free, although a donation of $1 is suggested and appreciated. 
  • Parking in the park costs $8. If you have an Empire Parks pass, parking is free.
  • You will do a lot of walking in the park, so bring a stroller or backpack for little ones.
  • There are vending machines throughout the zoo if you need a cold drink or a little candy. 
  • You must pay an additional fee to use the pool or ride on the Merry Go Round.
  • You can go ice skating in the winter.
  • The park is open all year long.


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