A beautiful day at Bear Mountain State Park

Bear Mountain Activities: 10+ Activities for a Perfect Day

My kids and I decided to do some exploring and while we have our favorites spots that we visit often, I suggested that we check out the local state park because I remember it from my childhood. I remember Bear Mountain State Park fondly and knew that Bear Mountain activities were abundant and fun.

Needless to say that agreeing on something is never easy with two teenagers. More so when one is a boy and one is a girl. They enjoy being outside but are not keen on strenuous activities.

Because Bear Mountain State Park is situated along the Hudson River and in rugged mountains and rocky uplands, this hidden gem is the perfect place to visit for your next trip within the Hudson Valley.

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Open year-round
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
PARKING FEE: (as of the date of this published post)
$10 parking only fee

– Year-round: weekends & holidays (8 am – 5 pm)
– Summer Months: weekends & holidays (8 am – 5 pm); Weekdays (8 am – 4 pm)

Pool and other activities have an additional fee (see below)

How To Find Great Deals in and near Bear Mountain State Park:

I am all about saving money while out and that’s why this list is essential.

But, to be honest, it’s very difficult to have a completely FREE day, unless you pack for the day, as if you’re packing for a Road Trip.

For times when you don’t have the time to pack the car up, here are some great resources where you WILL find deals on everything from other activities to dining.

  • I love using LocalFlavor.com to find deals on restaurants and fun things to do.
    • When researching for this article, I found discounts on other local attractions to fill the day out in the Hudson Valley
  • Groupon is also my go-to resource for deals. To be honest, I usually go to Groupon FIRST and then I hit other websites.

Visiting Bear Mountain State Park:

Things to Know Before Visiting the Park and Participating in Bear Mountain Activities:

  • Open year-round, the most popular time for visitors is during warmer months, especially on the weekends.
  • Access to the state park can be found off of Route 9W and the Palisades Parkway.
  • Although the state park is free to explore, there is a parking fee charged (see above for timetable)
  • For your convenience, the website offers several PDF maps for you to download prior to your visit.
A view from the parking lot at the bear mountain state park and for bear mountain activities

Where is Bear Mountain State Park?

Located on over 5,000 acres between Rockland and Orange counties, Bear Mountain State Park is probably the best known state park in New York.

With so much history and natural beauty in this one area of the Hudson Valley, it’s no wonder that this state park is a favorite for thousands of visitors each year, especially New Yorkers.

Rising from the west side of the Hudson River, this location is a favorite for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who marvel at the breathtaking views of the nearby Bear Mountain Bridge and the Hudson River Valley.

3006 Seven Lakes Drive
Bear Mountain, NY

Bear Mountain Directions

Here are some simple Bear Mountain directions to follow. Located off of Route 9W and the Palisades Parkway, Bear Mountain State Park and the following Bear Mountain activities are easily accessible by car.

The main entrance to Bear Mountain State Park is located at Seven Lakes Drive, off of Route 9W. It is also a short distance from the Bear Mountain Bridge Circle.

Lake Hessian at Bear Mountain. Things to do in Rockland County and the best Bear Mountain activities.

How far is Bear Mountain State Park from NYC?

The driving distance from New York City to Bear Mountain State Park is approximately 40-50 miles and can take approximately 1 hour; depending on the day and traffic. This year-round destination is most popular during the summer months, so travel time often increases during this time of the year.

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What are some Bear Mountain Activities?

Bear Mountain State Park offers an incredible variety of activities that it may be difficult to choose the best activities for YOU. You may need to plan accordingly if you’d like to do and see more than one or two things, because this a great destination to spend the entire day taking in the spectacular scenery and all the activities to enjoy the great outdoors. And all that makes this a desirable location to visit any time of the year.

A few visits to this state park are needed in order to experience many of the Bear Mountain activities that are offered.

Bear Mountain Activities you Can Do During ANY Season:

#1: Trailside Museums & Zoo

The Trailside Zoo is open year-round. For a suggested donation of $1, you can stroll this small, yet very educational zoo.

Entrance of Trailside Museums and zoo. One of the best Bear Mountain Activities and best things to do in Rockland County

This zoo specializes in and houses animals that have been injured and are being rehabilitated. Located on the west bank of the Hudson River and with views of the Bear Mountain Bridge, this is one of the better and most educational Bear Mountain activities.

During your visit, make sure to see the nice variety of animals being helped here. The trail takes the visitor by exhibits of non-releasable native animals and also small museums housed there. Some animals included: bears, coyotes, owls, a bald eagle, beavers, etc.

The most popular attraction and one of the most sought-after Bear Mountain activities has to be a visit to the big bear den at the zoo. Crowds stand in front of the exhibit and admire these impressive creatures who are often sunbathing, eating or playing with some enrichment toys.

Interesting fact: The Appalachian hiking trail runs through the Trailside Zoo. At any given point, you can see hikers making their way along the Appalachian Trail and this is the reason that “Trailside” got its name.

My son happily pointed out a few young hikers during our visit. He was impressed by their packs but also noted that it looked like they hadn’t bathed in some time. That gave us a good laugh…

Visiting the Bear Mountain Zoo is one of the best Bear Mountain activities.

There are also four museums at Trailside Museums and Zoo.

  • Herpetology Museum – Home to turtles, fish, frogs, snakes and more.
  • Nature Study Museum – Home to specimens originally from the Museum of Natural History
  • Geology Museum – Offers information on local geology and the Hudson Highlands.
  • History Museum – Information about colonial and Native American history.

There is also a statue of Walt Whitman at the Trailside Museums & Zoo. Whitman’s poem “Song of the Open Road” is carved into the nearby stone. The statue was a gift to the park by the Harriman family to commemorate the land and financing afforded to the park by Mary W. Harriman.

In addition to seeing the exhibits, the Trailside Zoo offers special events throughout the year.
Check their website for wonderful events perfect for the whole family, such as:

  • The Biodiversity Celebration
  • Boo at the Zoo
  • Beary Merry Holiday

Daily from 10 am – 4:30 pm (Bears and Coyotes go off exhibit at 3:45pm)
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
A map can be downloaded here
Suggested donation $1 p/p

#2: Various Hiking & Walking Trails

Besides hiking at the Trailside Zoo, the Bear Mountain hiking region is extensive and impressive. With over 50 trails covering more than 200 acres, you are sure to have plenty of options. This makes the perfect outing for everyone, even children, and one of the most interesting Bear Mountain activities.

Hiking at the Bear Mountain State Park is one of the best Bear Mountain activities to do.

For your convenience, you can download the Bear Mountain trail map and plan your hike before your visit.

There is another download that offers information on Bear Mountain suggested hikes in the state park with descriptions and highlights. This PDF document that you can download and take with you is filled with photos and a small map showing exactly where each of these suggested hikes are located.

Tip: The best way to experience hiking at Bear Mountain State Park with your family is to take note of the skill levels of each family member and start off slowly. Take the hiking trails at your own speed in order to have the best experience and minimize injuries.

#3: Watch & Discover Wildlife

Whether it’s a hobby or just an interest of yours, watching the wildlife at the state park is another favorite of the Bear Mountain activities.

Whether its bird watching, squirrel watching or chipmunk watching, Bear Mountain offers vast open space for animals native to the area to roam and frolic without stress.

Enjoy a spin on the famous Merry-Go-Round. It is a beautiful display of 42 hand-carved seats, each depicting an animal native to the area, including a wild turkey, black bear, deer, fox and swan. The scenes are hand-painted and are a true work of art.

Bear Mountain Carousel with guests riding it. This is the best Bear Mountain activity.

The Bear Mountain Carousel is a favorite for many visitors to the state park and is one of the best Bear Mountain activities, especially during the winter season because it’s covered and within a structure.

Wednesday through Sunday (during summer months)
Weekends & Holidays (remainder of year)
There is an fee charged.
* Please contact Guest Services at the Bear Mountain Inn to confirm fees and hours of operation. 845-786-2731

#5: Have a Picnic during any season

I’m not gonna lie… I visited Bear Mountain during the winter and saw a group of people with a portable fire pit having a picnic. They were bundled up but seemed to be enjoying themselves. At the moment, I didn’t understand why they would do that, but now looking back, it seems like one of the most unique Bear Mountain activities to do.

It proved to me that a you CAN have a picnic outside during any season, but it’s your personal preference if you do so during the winter.

During the warmer months, Bear Mountain State Park is a popular place for family picnics and outdoor gatherings, because of its large play field, abundance space to walk and play and outstanding views.

#6: Visit the Bear Mountain Inn

Whether it’s for an overnight stay, a quick bite at the hiker’s cafe, dinner at Restaurant 1915 or Sunday brunch, a visit to the Bear Mountain Inn is in order.

Restaurant 1915 & the Blue Roof Bar are open to the public every day of the week. With spectacular views of the park and lake, this dining experience is unique in every way.

Hiker’s Cafe is located on the first floor of the Bear Mountain Inn and is a great place for a quick snack, soda, water, hot cocoa or ice cream.

Entrance to Bear Mountain Inn.

If you’re interested in staying at Bear Mountain overnight, your choices include:

  • The Inn – 15 guestrooms ready to accommodate guests
  • Overlook Lodge – 24 guestrooms with some available guests with pets
  • Stone Cottages – a series of 4 cottages, each with 6 individual rooms and a common area.

Recently, the Bear Mountain Inn was used to film a Stephen King series. How cool is that?!?

Seasonal Bear Mountain Activities:

Enjoy Warm Weather Activities

With the abundance of outdoor space, there is no shortage of warm weather activities to enjoy. In addition to the great activities mentioned above, during the warmer months there are many more Bear Mountain activities that you can participate in.

#1: Enjoy Some Time on or near the Water

With Lake Hessian as the centerpiece to a visit to Bear Mountain State Park, it is hard not to include some water fun as the one of the top Bear Mountain activities to do during warmer months.

Below is just a sampling of the activities offered:

  • Row Boat rentals – 11 am – 5 pm (weekdays) 11 am – 6 pm (weekends). Inquire at the Bear Mountain Inn
  • Paddleboat rentals – $10 per person/hour on Hessian Lake.
  • Fishing (river & lake)
  • Sitting and enjoying the lake views

Although paddle boarding and kayaking are not allowed on Lake Hessian, there is still plenty to do here.

Paddleboats on Hessian Lake is one of the great Bear Mountain Activities to do during the summer

#2: Drive up Perkins Memorial Drive & Tower

Perkins Memorial Drive & Tower are open from April through late November (weather permitting).

This has to be one of the highlights of a visit to Bear Mountain State Park and one of the exciting Bear Mountain activities. You can either hike to the top (which I only recommend to the experienced hiker) or drive up. Whichever way you choose to get to the Perkins Memorial Tower, make sure to have your camera ready and/or your phone charged because the views are amazing and the scenes of the park below are outstanding.

As one of the favorite Bear Mountain activities, the parking lot will get full on the weekends.

So, if you can, take a drive up during the week and enjoy views of the Hudson Valley, Hudson River, & Bear Mountain Bridge, as well as, the NYC Skyline and four states in total. This hidden gem should be on your list of things to do in the area.

#3: Participate in Outdoor Sports and Explore the Outdoor Space

The grand, safe outdoor space is the main reason why so many people flock to this popular state park during the warmer months.

Some popular outdoor sports and warmer weather Bear Mountain activities include:

  • Biking
  • Walking and Hiking
  • Running and Jogging
  • Use of the playing fields, including volleyball and basketball
  • Use of the playground

#4: Visit the Iona Island/Doodletown Bird Conservation Area

Can you believe that over 165 bird species have been observed within the Iona Island/Doodletown BCA?

Located within the Bear Mountain State Parks and Harriman State Park, this area is important because it is home to several endangered species and serves as a protected area where they can thrive. See a bald eagle and so much more at the Iona Island National Estuary. The area includes one of the largest tidal wetlands in the Hudson River.

Make sure to visit and see how many bird species you can view in this wonderful area. Download a copy of a map of the Bird Conservation Area here. This is probably one of the most memorable Bear Mountain activities to do during a visit.

Visiting the Bird Sanctuary is a favorite bear mountain activities.

#5: Bear Mountain Swimming Pool

The Bear Mountain swimming pool season from late June through the beginning of September.

Hundreds enjoy swimming and splashing at the Bear Mountain Swimming Pool. Open during the summer season, this is a popular destination for many looking to cool off.

Hudson Valley Parks

Weekdays: 10 am – 5:30 pm
Weekends: 11 am – 6:30 pm
Holidays: 10am – 6:30pm
$5 per person (cash only)

#6: Attend a Festival at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area

Popular events that have taken place at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area include:

  • Bear Mountain Car Cruise
  • Native American Celebration (August)
  • Oktoberfest

Enjoy Cold Weather/Winter Activities:

#1: Bear Mountain Ice Rink

The Bear Mountain outdoor ice skating rink is generally open seasonally from November through March (weather permitting).

Ice Skating in the Hudson Valley is one of the best Bear Mountain Activities

This outdoor rink holds public skating sessions several times a week. At the time of this post, skating days were: Mon & Tues (morning and afternoon), Fri (evening), Sat & Sun (most of the day). Check their website or exact information.

You can bring your own skates or rent some.

An admission fee is charged whether you skate or not. The rink is outdoors and is not covered, so please dress accordingly.

Adult Skaters (12 yrs and up): $5 Skating fee, $10 skate rental
Child Skaters: (4 yrs – 11 yrs): $5 Skating fee, $10 skate rental
Non-skaters: $5
Children ages 4 yrs and under: Free

#2: Participate in Other Outdoor Sports

In addition to ice skating, cold weather Bear Mountain activities are plentiful.

Some popular cold weather activities include:

  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing in Ski Trails
  • Snowshoeing

Can you drive to the top of Bear Mountain?

A visit to the Perkins Tower by taking the Perkins Memorial Drive is the only way to drive to the summit. It’s approximately 1,300 feet above sea level and is also approximately two miles up from the beginning of the drive.

The views from the top are outstanding.

Swans at the bear mountain state park


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Tips for an Amazing Visit to the Bear Mountain State Park and Enjoy Bear Mountain Activities:

  • There is plenty of space to explore at the Bear Mountain State Park, so plan to spend several hours there during your visit.
  • Bear Mountain State Park sees more visitors on the weekends than during the week and during the warmer weather months than the colder months.
  • Although open during the week, many activities are not open or offered. Check their website for updated information.
  • There is a parking fee, on some weekends/days, regardless of the activity(ies)you plan to do that day. (See above for specific days when the parking fees are in effect.)
  • Come prepared for any type of weather. The weather may change quickly and you may be parked far from your location.


Are dogs allowed at Bear Mountain State Park?

Yes, dogs are allowed. They must be on a leash not more than 6 feet. Not allowed in buildings, picnic areas, bathing areas, on walkways or in the Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center.

Is the Trailside Zoo open year-round?

Yes, it is. Check their website for specific hours.

Is a parking fee charged all the time?

The $10 parking fee is Collected:
Summer Months (Weekends & Holidays 8:00-5:00 PM / Weekdays 8:00-4:00 PM)
Year-Round (Weekends & Holidays 8:00-5:00 PM)

Until the Next Adventure…

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Looking to find something to do in the Hudson Valley New York? Bear Mountain State Park is a great outing! Rockland County New York! Orange County New York. Hudson River Valley. Hudson Valley NY, Hudson Valley Day Trips, Things to do in New York

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