Distance: 3.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,154 Feet
Location: Bear Mountain, NY
Bear Mountain rises 1,283 feet out of the west side of the Hudson River and is one of the most prominent peaks in the Hudson Highlands, a series of hills and mountains on both sides of the Hudson River.
The most common loop starts on the eastern side of the mountain and is comprised of two trails: the Appalachian Trail as it passes through the southern side of Bear Mountain and the Major Welch Trail that runs along the north. I went up the Appalachian Trail (AT) and down Major Welch, which is to say that I followed the trail clockwise. The AT part is a peripatetic set of switchbacks and stairs that is gradual and pleasant. This stretch of the AT would be great for trail running, too, with amazing views early on over Iona Island and Jones Point out to Peekskill.
As the trail winds through the southern side of Bear Mountain, you see rolling hills of Bear Mountain State Park. The bare deciduous trees make the hillsides look completely void of life, evacuated save lone pines scattered here and there.
The summit features the immense Perkins Memorial Tower with panoramic views of Harriman State Park’s layered ridges.
There is a warning at both the top and bottom of the Major Welch Trail that it is steep and laced footwear is recommended. It is steep. I did the hike March 9th, 2021. While the stairs of the AT were fairly clear of snow and ice, Major Welch was not.
If I were to do this again, I’d go up Major Welch and down the AT. The warm weather and the high altitude meant the snow was deep in places but quite soft. Had it been colder, I think the snow would have provided more stable footing. Definitely would have been faster in spikes.
On the whole, it was a great hike. Being able to do Bear Mountain over and over again must be incredibly rewarding. The deciduous trees provide a seasonal narrative in a way conifers cannot. To hike it regularly must put you deeply in touch with place and time, and I admit leaving with a deep desire to watch these hills grow lush – no doubt in not too long – then turn orange and red in the fall and observe them return to how I first saw them.