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 bit 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. Mary Harriman did not want such a facility in her backyard, so she 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 mostly undeveloped until the 1930s. During the Great Depression, the government put people to work in organizations like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). CCC workers traveled 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 the visitors make the 30-mile drive from New York City to Harriman State Park, the second-biggest park in the New York state park system. Harriman State Park has over 200 miles of trails, and hiking is considered 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.
For an RV stay, you'll not soon forget, plan your next vacation at Harriman State Park. It's a fantastic place for a holiday.
Traveling to Harriman State Park from cities within New York state progresses along highways that are kept in excellent condition. Roads are free from debris and snow year-round. Each route to the park is well-marked and follows direct paths. On occasion, drivers need to be cautious of road construction, but most typically, traffic moves along fluidly. From time to time, wildlife enters the road, so you will need to remain alert to avoid an accident. If you are traveling from areas within New York City or from other major metropolitan areas, you may encounter toll roads.
Once you get to the park, you will find 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.
Although mostly a tent-camping site, Beaver Pond Campground, a pet-friendly campground, can also accommodate smaller RVs, trailers, and campervans up to 30 feet long. Both RV and tent sites have fire rings, picnic tables, and grills. Beaver Pond Campground is a primitive-style camping facility. There are no hookups, but campers do have access to several full-service bathrooms. Generator use is permitted during specified hours, and there is a dump station available. Beaver Pond is adjacent to Lake Welch.
If you didn't plan ahead, don't worry. You may be able to score a camping spot at the Beaver Pond Campground, provided space is available. After the reservation sites fill, same day, first-come, first-served sites may be available. Sites at the Beaver Pond Campground permit smaller RVs under 30 feet in length, and they 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 so, don't get started on your trek too late in the day.
Staying in a cabin on site is the ideal way to enjoy the winter months at Harriman State Park. After traipsing through the snow all day, the best way to warm up is by building a fire inside one of the rustic cabins. Hiking is such a popular activity at the park, that even the winter doesn't slow down the most adventurous of visitors. When heading out for winter treks, hikers should probably stick with easy or moderate trails to reach the cabins found on the grounds. Since the weather is quite unpredictable at Harriman State Park during the winter, and during the offseason, the nearest help may be rather far away, so it is best to prepare yourself for any situation you may encounter.
Bring lots of gear, all of your mountain biking skills, and a first aid kit when you tackle some of the park’s more challenging mountain bike trails. Late fall or early spring is an excellent time to go riding, because the air is bracing, and there’s very little snow on the ground. The Blue Mountain Reserve and Rogue trails are some of the most challenging trails to tackle if you prefer rougher rides. Since extreme is the word of the day when it comes to these trails, you will want to be sure you wear the correct safety gear, including a proper helmet. You will work up a fearsome hunger cycling up some of these incredible inclines, so having some high energy snacks on hand along with some water is always a good idea.
This hill is more like a rather steep mound that is found close to a major road. As a result of its proximity, this hiking area is usually open all year long. There is RV parking, and there are several scenic overlooks in the area. If you get chilly and need to warm up, there’s a park office nearby. From Anthony Wayne Hill, intrepid snowshoers, hikers, or cross-country skiers may go north to Queensboro Lake or south to the Cat’s Elbow. Dress for cold weather conditions by bundling up in layers and donning a hat, scarf, and warm gloves. A thermos full of hot coffee always goes down smooth on a chilly day, but don't forget to bring along bottled water too to keep your hydration levels primed for performance.
Believe it or not, ice fishing is not just for fishers 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 a popular fishing locale as well. It is easy to locate directly off Route 106, so it’s highly accessible, even in the coldest months of the year. Before heading to the frozen water for a day of ice fishing, ensure you check the ice conditions. Entering a frozen lake before the ice is thick enough is dangerous and life-threatening.
What else would you do on the ski trail except for ski? Many cross-country skiers start from one of the park’s boat launches. The ski trail offers avid outdoorsmen a challenging four-mile workout. It’s not too short and not too long. More adventurous skiers may eschew the trail and hit the hills. New York winters can experience extreme cold, so dress for the weather and ensure you have gloves, hats, and a scarf to protect your extremities. You will also want to ensure you have packed adequate snacks and drinking water to keep your energy levels up. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is always a welcome suggestion.
The easy trails in the park are family-friendly and usually rather broad and 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 popular walking paths. 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 picturesque and very enjoyable as well. You will find ample parking for your RV or campervan on the Route 106 pullout. Dogs are welcomed on any of these hiking trails; however, per New York State law, they must remain leashed at all times.
One of the largest lakes in this 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, making it the perfect place to plunge your watercraft out into the depths of the lake. Fishing opportunities abound here with bass and perch found in the deeper waters, and catfish usually dwell in the shallower areas. Swimming and boating are popular activities in this lake as well.
Many of these popular overlooks are found at the end of hiking trails, so, hikers get sweet rewards if they can go the distance. There are several scenic overlooks in the park. Some of the spots you won't want to miss, include Turkey Hill Pond, Stock Bridge, Pine Swamp Mountain, and Panther Mountain. Aside from the overlooks, Harriman State Park also has several watchtowers. These scenic towers are a little easier to reach. Our favorite towers are the twin towers on Jackie Jones Mountain and the Stahahe High Peak tower.
This category is quite broad, as there are several reasons a hike can be considered challenging. Some trails, like the Long Path, are not much more complicated 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. Paths like the Cranberry Minn Trail, are rough and not very well marked. Before heading out for a hike, dress for different hiking conditions by wearing comfortable clothes and shoes that are suited to travel over any terrain. Since the challenging hikes require much stamina and endurance than the easier hikes, it is not recommended that Fido tag along.
When most people think of hiking trails, they probably get a mental picture of a moderate trail. Although moderate trails might be easier for some hikers, the moderate-level trails in Harriman State Park 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 several good maps. We especially recommend the Timp-Torne/Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail Loop, Bald Rocks, and Island Pond.