If things had gone a little differently in the early part of the 20th century, Harriman State Park might be a prison yard, undeveloped wilderness, or perhaps a little of both.
For decades, the Harrimans owned some 30,000 acres in the area. Around 1905, the state of New York made plans to build a prison on nearby Bear Mountain. As she did not want such a facility in her backyard, Mary Harriman made a deal with then-Governor Charles Evans Hughes. She agreed to donate $1 million and 10,000 acres for a state park, if Albany did away with the proposed prison and earmarked $2.5 million for land acquisition and park development.
The Park remained largely undeveloped until the 1930s. During the Great Depression, the government put people to work in organizations like the Civilian Conservation Corps. CCC workers went to state or national parks and built lakes, bridges, roads, trails, and other improvements. Some CCC landmarks in Harriman State Park include Welch, Silvermine, Pine Meadow, Wanoksink, Turkey Hill, and Massawippa Lakes.
Today, over a million people a year visit Harriman State Park. Most of them make the 30-mile drive from New York City to the second-biggest Park in the New York system. As it has over 200 miles of trails, hiking is the most popular outdoor activity at the Park. The rolling hills and lush foliage in this part of upstate New York makes even a short hike well worth the trip.
RV Rentals in Harriman State Park
Transportation in Harriman State Park
From the Big Apple to the eastern side of the Park, take the PIP (Palisades International Parkway) north past Mount Ivy. Then, take Willow Grove Road west. Willow Grove turns into Kanawauke Road when you enter the Park. Or, you can go a little farther north on the PIP until you reach Tiorati Brook Road.
From New Jersey to the western side of the Park, take Interstate 87 to Sloatsburg. Then, take Seven Lakes Drive into the Park. Interstate 87 also provides Park access from upstate New York. Take Interstate 87 south past Arden and Southfields until you reach the aforementioned Kanawauke Road.
The Park’s GPS coordinates are 41°14′35″N 74°06′02″W.
There is ample parking around Anthony Wayne Hill, Lake Tiorati, Lake Welch, and the foot of North Hill. Sporadic large vehicle parking is available elsewhere, mostly near the lakes and trailheads.
Campgrounds and parking in Harriman State Park
Campsites in Harriman State Park
Beaver Pond Campground
Although mostly a tent-camping site, Beaver Pond can also accommodate RVs up to 30 feet long. Both RV and tent sites have fire rings, picnic tables, and grills. There are no hookups, but several full-service bathrooms are handy, generator use is permitted during specified hours, and there is a dump station available. Beaver Pond is adjacent to Lake Welch.
Beaver Pond Campground
Camping at Beaver Pond campground is available without a reservation, provided space is available. Sites here have fire rings, picnic tables, and grills, but no hookups. Bathrooms are handy, and there is a dump station available.
Backcountry camping is not allowed at Harriman State Park. However, there are a number of cabins, lean-tos, or other shelters located throughout the park. Some of the more popular ones include:
- Bald Rocks (Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail),
- Dutch Doctor (White Bar Trail),
- Fingerboard (Hurst Trail), and
- Cave Shelter (Long Path).
All the camp shelters are first-come, first-served.
Camp Addisone Boyce
Camp Addisone Boyce is a Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson (GSHH) property which is available for rent. It’s ideal for medium-sized groups. CAB has four units which consist of a cabin (sleeps 18) and a tent (sleeps between 30 and 42). Each unit has a sheltered dining area which also has running water. Other facilities include a large lake, ropes course, and a central bathroom/shower facility.
Visitors may stay in either rustic or full-service cabins on the shores of Lake Sebago. Amenities include a swimming beach, boat rentals, tennis courts, and hiking trails.
Seasonal activities in Harriman State Park
These family-friendly trails are usually rather wide and relatively flat. Think of them as unpaved walking trails. There is the occasional incline or rough spot, but hikers need no special equipment to negotiate these trails. Twin Forks Trail, which runs from Fort Montgomery to Fort Clinton, is a nice easy hike that includes a pedestrian bridge. The trail leading to the Tom Jones shelter is very nice as well. There is plenty of parking on the Route 106 pullout.
One of the largest lakes in a park full of lakes resembles two fingers connected by a strip of water. Lake Sebago is also one of the only bodies of water in the Park with a boat launch. Bass and perch are in the deep water; catfish usually like shallower waters. Swimming and boating are very popular here as well.
Many of these places are at the end of hiking trails. So, hikers get nice rewards if they are able to go the distance. There are a number of these places in the Park. Some of the better ones are:
- Turkey Hill Pond (good view of Bear Mountain and West Point)
- Stock Bridge (lakes and Hippo Rock; also a nice lean-to shelter here)
- Pine Swamp Mountain (one of the highest points in the Park)
- Panther Mountain (wilderness to the west and developed cityscape to the east).
Harriman State Park also has a number of watchtowers. These scenic overlooks are a little easier to reach. Our favorite ones are the twin towers on Jackie Jones Mountain and the Stahahe High Peak tower.
This category is quite broad, as there are a number of reasons a hike can be “challenging.” Some trails, like the Long Path, are not much more difficult than moderate trails. But they are long and tiring with little or no shelter along the way. Others, like the Dunning Trail, are very steep as they are former mining trails. Still others, like the Cranberry Minn Trail, are rough and not very well marked.
When most people think of “hiking trails,” they probably get a mental picture of a moderate trail. These trails are not for young children or people with mobility impairments. Hikers will need special hiking shoes and perhaps some other equipment as well, such as a backpack and walking stick. The New York/New Jersey Trail Conference has a number of good maps. We especially recommend the Timp-Torne/Ramapo-Dunderberg trail loop, Bald Rocks, and Island Pond.
After traipsing through the snow all day, building a fire in a rustic cabin is one of the most homey and comfortable feelings that a person can have. Even experienced hikers should probably stick with the easy or moderate trails. The weather is quite unpredictable at times, and the nearest help may be rather far away. The 90 percent cleanup rule is usually a good one to follow here. Clear out most of your stuff, but leave a few supplies behind for the next camper. Always remember to pay it forward when visiting Harriman State Park in New York.
Extreme Mountain Biking
Bring lots of gear, all your mountain biking skill, and a first aid kit when you tackle some of the Park’s more challenging mountain bike trails. Late fall or early spring is a good time to go, because the air is very--ahem--bracing, and there’s very little snow on the ground. The Blue Mountain Reserve and Rogue trails are some of the most challenging ones.
Anthony Wayne Hill
This “hill” is more like a rather steep mound. It’s also close to a major road. As a result, this area is usually open all year long. There is lots of RV parking, there are a number of scenic overlooks in the area, and there’s a park office if you need to get warm. Intrepid snowshoers, hikers, or cross-country skiers may go north to Queensboro Lake or south to the Cat’s Elbow.
This activity is not just for people in the Yukon. Askoti is one of the best ice-fishing lakes in Harriman State Park. It’s also one of the smallest lakes, so be ready for a crowd. Lake Kanawauke is very nice as well. It’s right off Route 106, so it’s highly accessible even in winter.
What else would you do on the ski trail except ski? Many cross-country skiers start from one of the Park’s boat launches. The Ski Trail is a nice four-mile workout. It’s not too short and not too long. More adventurous skiers may eschew the trail and hit the hills.