Living in New York City as an outdoor enthusiast is a sacrifice–or so I thought it was. When I moved to the city 4 years ago from Rochester, New York, I was certain that I was giving up the woods entirely, and that the possibilities of accessing the outdoors without a car were slim to none. I ventured out to a few group outings through various resources, and after some time, slowly began to test the boundaries on my own.
The journey began with taking Metro North to the most popular destination for New Yorkers, Breakneck Ridge, and I was buzzing off the possibilities of a mountain in a day by train. Through research, word of mouth, trial and error, I discovered an entire network of trails fully accessible by bus or train. So yes, it may seem as though you’re giving up the outdoors when you’re a resident of New York City, but I have to disagree. We have quite incredible access, and you don’t even have to own a car.
So you’re ready to get a taste for yourself? Let’s start with Harriman State Park. At 26,613 acres which are home to 200 miles of hiking trails, 31 lakes, a public camping area, and multiple shelters, Harriman is the second largest state park in New York. What makes Harriman such a wonderful hiking destination is the seclusiveness. Through the large system of trails–40 marked trails to be exact–you won’t come across any major crowding. There are so many ways to go about your route, giving you a freedom that you don’t find too often in the Hudson Valley.
There are multiple entrances to the park by public transit, the two that I frequent are the Sloatsburg and Tuxedo entrances. First and foremost, I highly recommend purchasing a copy of the Harriman State Park map, to get a feel for what your options are for either area. Don’t worry, you’ll get great views from either entrance!
If you’re feeling like you need a bit of guidance before your hike, Sloatsburg is a great choice as you’ll enter the park at the Reeves Meadow Information Center, where you can talk to a park guide firsthand. (It also also has park maps, snacks, and other reading materials for purchase, along with public restrooms.) To get here, take the NJ Transit Port Jervis line to Sloatsburg, where you will transfer at the Seacaucus station to the Port Jervis line. Once you arrive at the Sloatsburg train station, the walk to the park entrance is a little under two miles. Don’t be discouraged–it’s worth it–and the shoulders are fairly generous. Walk north on Orange Turnpike/ Route 17 to Seven Lakes Drive, turn right onto Seven Lakes Drive, and walk about a mile to the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center… you can’t miss it. For a scenic route, work your way onto the Hillburn-Torne Sebago (HTS) trail for an overlook with an incredible view at Ramapo Torne. If you’re really feeling adventurous, hop onto Seven Hills trail after Ramapo Torne on the HTS for a lovely hike to Chipmunk Mountain, full of more great viewpoints along the way. (The hike to Chipmunk Mountain also offers some technical challenging climbing sections, if that’s your preference.)
After your hike, head to Sterlington Station Tavern and Restaurant before catching the train back. It’s casual atmosphere with $3 drafts and friendly local vibe make it hard to beat. (Plus, it’s on the way back to the train!) If you prefer to grab a quick sandwich, there’s a deli in the same building.
Harriman State Park from the Tuxedo entrance is for you if you’re looking to end your hike right in the center of town, with multiple options for a meal within short walking distance. To get here, take the Main/Bergen County NJ Transit line to Tuxedo Station. Head north through the parking lot and parallel to the train tracks, to East Village Road, then turn right. After you emerge from the tunnel under the bridge, turn left at the junction with Grove Drive. Watch for the blazes marked along this route. Shortly after you’ll see the Ramapo-Dunderberg trailhead on the right: enter here. Depending on your experience level, you can choose to make your hike an out and back to catch a view and return to the trailhead in under 5 miles, or you could create a loop for various views, a lakeside visit, in about 6-8 miles. I recommend taking the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail to the stunning lookout at Parker Cabin Mountain, over to Lake Skenonto and Lake Sebago via Triangle Trail, and returning to the entrance by way of Tuxedo-Mt Ivy Trail for another worthwhile view at Claudius Smith Den. (Note that both lakes do not allow swimming, and if you choose to jump in, you are responsible for your own safety.) Either way, both lakes are perfect serene backdrops for a lunch break.
After your hike, for a quick beer or a bite to eat, directly across from the train station is a little plaza with Tuxedo Sushi and Bentley’s Deli. Alternately, just a bit further down NY-17 is Tuxedo Junction Inn, a casual bar and restaurant with a friendly local vibe, serving up your standard tavern fare.