Photo: Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn, at one of the many lakes in Harriman State Park.
Did you know: New York’s second largest park is just 30 miles from NYC? Harriman State Park is a haven for hikers, cyclists, and lovers of the outdoors.
Known for its 31 lakes, it also features 200+ miles of hiking trails, along streams, woods, and beautiful vistas of the Hudson Valley and NYC. Sound overwhelming? Let us help!
Here’s our guide for all the outdoor activities in Harriman State Park, created in collaboration with Explore Harriman and Explore Rockland NY. All views and recommendations are our own.
Rock Climbing at Powerlinez
At the popular climbing spot, Powerlinez, Harriman State Park. Photos: Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn with climber Leah Balagopal.
As an outdoor/climbing model for names like North Face, Adidas, and Gramricci — and a teacher/coach for a climbing gym in the city – Leah Balagopal knows a thing or two about climbing. “Harriman State Park is great for many reasons: not only is it close to the city and super accessible, but the climbs are great as well.”
Eager to explore, Escape Brooklyn set off with Leah for an afternoon at Powerlinez, the only section at Harriman State Park where climbing is permitted. This unique climbing area ~35 miles from NYC offers a variety of climbs, with killer views of the surrounding park – while its namesake power lines peacefully buzz in the background.
Rock climbing was not always permitted at the Powerlinez. Thanks to Torne Valley Climbers Coalition, access was achieved by building a relationship between local climbers and the land managers who maintain Harriman State Park. Before going, climbers need to sign a waiver, and follow some simple rules and guidelines. Check the Climbing at the Powerlinez page for more information.
Our tip: shoot for 4 pm arrival on a weekday, when the Torne Valley Road parking lot opens. Weekdays mean less people, and this parking lot drops you close to the trailhead where all the climbs are. Bonus: it’s a magical time of the day to climb, in the dappled afternoon light. Last but not least, make sure to follow the rules so future climbers can enjoy this magical landscape, too.
Mountain Biking & Road Biking In & Around Harriman State Park
Photos: Clark Adams Photography
If you prefer to explore the terrain by bike, we’ve got you covered – whether you’re into the rugged landscapes of mountain biking, or a faster, smoother ride on a scenic road. Until recently, options were limited; thankfully, some local organizations are making riding more accessible throughout the region.
Mountain biking is making strides in the area recently, much thanks to Palisades MTB, whose volunteer-led organization helps to plan and build mountain bike trails in the Palisades Region. We caught up with co-chair Shepard Grinker, a local bike shop owner, who got involved with the organization early on. Before recently, he explained, to ride, “we were either breaking laws, or having to drive to places where it was legal. As a father of two, it felt strange breaking the law in order to ride my bicycle with my kids.”
In response, the organization has built miles of trails after developing trust with local land management to scout the best spots. Among the many projects are trails in Sterling forest, right outside Harriman State Park; check their trail maps and conditions to plan a ride, and donate if you feel so inclined.
Those who prefer traditional cycling should check out Rockland Bicycle Club, another volunteer-based organization dedicated to promoting cycling in and around Rockland County, New York. The group organizes big group rides, monthly meetings and events throughout the year. A favorite event is the “Ride then Imbibe,” where ~20 mile rides begin and end at a local brewery. Check their event schedule here.
For road cyclists seeking a more solo experience, pack up the bike and head to Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park. This gorgeous stretch of road passes through lakes and beaches, beautiful pine stands, scenic wildflower meadows and lush forest. It’s especially stunning during fall foliage.
Hiking in Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park features over 200 miles of hiking trails. Photos: Erin Lindsey/Escape Brooklyn.
It’s no secret that Escape Brooklyn loves hiking. Founder & Creative Director, Erin Lindsey, is a passionate hiker and lover of all things outdoors. “I try to hike whenever I’m on a shoot Upstate. The beauty of Harriman is that it’s only 30 miles from NYC, so getting there is a breeze.”
Just 1.5 miles from the Sloatsburg train station, Reeves Meadow Trailhead is the most popular in the park, with multiple options for a choose-your-own-adventure day on the trails; pick up a map at the trailhead. As a heads up, the parking lot at this very popular hike often fills up early, and you’ll be sharing the trail with lots of people.
With that in mind, we went in search of a few hikes a little more off the beaten path, consulting local hiking guide Glenn Donovan of A Serene Path for some alternatives.
Among his favorites are the 4.2-mile Menomine Trail, that follows along the shores of the glimmering Silvermine Lake — and Popolopen Torne Loop, where a 1.2 mile climb awards hikers with incredible views of the Bear Mountain Bridge. We recommend adding on the Popolopen Gorge trail to complete the Popolopen Gorge/Popolopen Torne Loop, for a longer day on the trails, that will clock in around 5 miles.
For more information on any of these hikes, check out the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website. As always, pack out what you pack in when exploring the outdoors.
Consider These Unique Experiences: Photo Adventures & Survival Classes in Harriman State Park
Head to Harriman State Park for a PhoTour Adventure with Susan Magnano, where photographers of all levels can share tips and learn new techniques. Photo: Susan Magnano/PhoTour Adventures.
Last but not least, we went above and beyond to dig up some really unique experiences at Harriman. Take, for example, PhoTour Adventures, whose outdoor photography workshops include a few options in Harriman State Park.
Led by Susan Magnano, the workshops often focus on the seasons: the blooms of spring, starry summer nights, colorful autumns and snowy winters. Photographers of all levels, from amateur to experienced, gather in groups of 8 or smaller to capture nature at its finest, while learning new techniques and tricks.
Magnano spoke with us about her adventures, specifically in Harriman State Park. “Harriman is my easy escape into the nature; its beauty and peacefulness grounds and inspires me. Listening to the rivers babble, the birds chirp and watching the sun sparkle through the tree canopy as my feet dance along the trail makes me feel alive. My senses become aware and I can’t stop from seeing and experiencing beauty. Photography allows me to stop, share, and capture this experience.”
A three-hour photo walk is $175; five-hour sessions are $325; weekend and 5 day adventures are available as well. Aspiring Escape photographers, this would be a good place to start!
Looking to up your outdoorsman/outdoorswoman game? Check out Urban and Outdoor Survival, whose programs range from more casual afternoon classes in the park, to immersive overnights in the woods — where students learn to survive in the wild, finding water, building shelter, and making fire in a tight spot.
Surprisingly, founder Marlon Smith works in the fashion industry by day. Smith felt compelled to start Urban and Outdoor Survival more recently during the Covid-19 pandemic: “Visitors were literally arriving at Harriman State Park and asking what the blue markers on trees were,” he tells us. (For the unfamiliar, those are trail markers.) “There were a lot of search and rescues that year. The best way to get into a survival situation is to believe that it can’t happen to you. People didn’t know what they were doing; they were getting lost, and getting hurt.”
Inspired to help, Smith began a meetup.com group where students can join and then be vetted for his many educational programs. So, hopefully you won’t need it, but should you ever find yourself in a tough spot, your chances at making it out of the woods are much better. In Smith’s words, “You can lose your pack, but you can’t lose what you learn.” Well said.