Rising out of the Hudson Valley, Harriman State Park is a mountainous oasis with 32 lakes and some 200 miles of hiking trails. The first section of the Appalachian Trail was opened here in 1923. In utter contrast to the get-out-of-my-way style of later highway construction, the roads across the park, designed in the 1920s for Sunday afternoon family outings in the newfangled motor car, maximize exposure to the surrounding forests, and even the rustic Romanesque stone arch bridges manage to harmonize with local rock outcroppings.
Closer to the Hudson River, an adjacent state park, Bear Mountain, is even more full of old-fashioned pleasures and draws more annual visitors than Yellowstone National Park (no doubt thanks to its location at the north end of the Palisades Parkway). There’s a delightful little zoo along a stretch of the hikers’ Appalachian Trail, and a scenic drive leads near the top of Bear Mountain itself, where a New Deal-era lookout tower gives views over the entire region. In season, there are paddle boats for rent, plus a large swimming pool (or an ice-skating rink). Meals and accommodations are available in the circa-1915 Bear Mountain Inn (845/786-2731).
Local literary trivia: At the beginning of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the main character, Sal Paradise, sets off from New York City on an ill-fated attempt to follow US-6 all the way to the West Coast. Hoping to hitch a ride along the “one red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles,” Sal got caught in a rainstorm here at Bear Mountain and had to head home, giving up on the “stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.”
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