Hi friends, welcome back! As you could probably tell from my recent posts, I’ve been itching to get outside and enjoy the spring weather. I’ve been waiting for the ice to melt so that Jon and I could go hiking in the Hudson Valley and the opportunity finally arose last weekend. We rolled out of bed bright and early, grabbed our Starbucks right when they opened at 8, and were in our car and on our way a few minutes later. The hike was about fifty miles and an hour drive north of the city. Luckily when we arrived at 9:15 we found a spot in the small parking lot. This parking lot holds about fifteen cars, so I’d highly recommend coming early or arriving once the morning rush leaves.
I chose the West Mountain Loop Trail in Bear Mountain State Park for our morning adventure. This hike is rated as moderate and covers 6.1 miles and 1,122 feet of elevation. The hikers in the AllTrails app suggested hiking the route counter clockwise, and so far we haven’t been led astray, so Jon and I set off counter clockwise.
About twenty-five minutes into the hike, we came to a fork in the path and realized we were not on the right trail. We were both surprised by this discovery because it didn’t look like we missed a sign or other route, but fortunately we could get back on the correct trail without having to retrace our steps.
Jon and I were back on track by the Northwest Lookout and saw sweeping views of Harriman State Park. I can imagine how beautiful this will look in the fall when all the leaves are changing colors! As you can see from all the bare trees, the spring blooms hadn’t started yet in New York, but the blue skies made up for it.
Every so often there would be a steep part of the trail that would last about two to five minutes, but then it would flatten out so we could catch our breath. The “mountains” in the Hudson Valley aren’t very tall, so the elevation gains are either very gradual or short but steep. There were also a few spots we had to rock climb a bit, and I was very glad it wasn’t icy or wet.
Visibility was excellent on this hike so we could see the city way off in the distance. It’s pretty crazy that’s about fifty miles away!
Jon and I passed by a stone shelter on the trail, but it was occupied with people and professional camping gear so I didn’t look inside. West Mountain Loop Trail shares paths with part of the Appalachian Trail, so I’m guessing they were hiking the much longer and harder A.T.
The way down West Mountain was a bit challenging with the loose rocks and steep decline, but we managed without any slips. Once we got to the bottom, the trail split and luckily our GPS worked because the way back didn’t have any trail markers. There was a clearly defined rock trail that we followed down, but no trail markers of any kind. A few parts of this rock trail were turned into a small stream so we took it slow.
We then got to a relatively flat, paved trail and we started seeing signs about houses that used to be here and realized we had entered “Doodletown”. I’m with you if you’re thinking it sounds like some made up town, but it was a real town created in the 1700s. This was a key area in the Revolutionary War, and the British Army marched down this road on their way to attack Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton. The Palisades Interstate Park Commission purchased the land in the 1960s and it became part of the Bear Mountain State Park that people can now explore. We walked about half a mile through the town before connecting back with our loop.
Jon and I were about six miles into our hike when it started going back uphill after Doodletown. I wasn’t very excited to be going uphill, but I persevered and dreamed about the sushi we would be ordering for dinner. This part of the hike was interesting because the landscape featured evergreen trees and looked quite different from the first part of the hike and Doodletown.
We eventually made it back to the car after clocking in 7.15 miles in three and a half hours. I felt physically exhausted but mentally refreshed by the peace and quiet. I enjoyed this hike, although I think I’d like it better in the fall with all the colors. There weren’t many wow-inducing view points, but I loved being outside and getting some fresh air and steps in. Hiking in the Hudson Valley (nicknamed Hudson Highlands) is more about getting a break from the city than seeing impressive viewpoints. I would say moderate is an accurate rating for this hike because of some rock scrambling and the distance. I’d also agree with going counter clockwise so you don’t start the hike walking through Doodletown before a steep ascent, it’s better to walk through the town when you’ve already expended some energy. I had such a great time hiking this trail, and would definitely come back in the fall to hike it again one day.