Bear mountain lake 400x300After consulting the New York state foliage report my family headed to Bear Mountain State Park to enjoy a day of beautiful scenery and autumn foliage—yes, that’s right, I am now a bona fide leafer.

The park is located along the Hudson Valley River and is an easy one hour drive from NYC.  As state parks go, this one has a lot to offer.  There are ample activities for the family year round from swimming and paddle boats in the summer to outdoor skating and cross country ski trails during winter.

OktoberfestDuring autumn, families can enjoy the many picnic areas, a zoo that features indigenous animals, a carousel and all levels of hiking trails.  The park borders Harriman State Park providing a combined 52, 000 acres of endless combinations of trails.  The Appalachian Trail (stretching from Maine to Georgia) passes through the northern section of the park for about 18 miles.

Amenities include a snack bar, gift shop and a casual restaurant called the 1915 Café.  The café is located in the Bear Mountain Inn, which provides overnight accommodations and dining year round but is currently closed for renovations until spring 2012. 

We started off our foliage adventure with a hike around the lake.  This walk took us about 2 hours (about 30 minutes without kids) and was an easy level hike with one hill.  

After working up an appetite we headed over to the Oktoberfest pavilion (Sept 17 – Oct 30)  and listened to a traditional German band while enjoying some Spaten Oktoberfest, potato pancakes, knockwurst and sauerkraut.  

After lunch we headed out toward one of the peaks and the Memorial Tower (mainly we needed to walk off the beer) to climb the rocks and enjoy the spectacular view.  On our way back down we spotted several white-tailed deer, which is always a thrill for kids and was a nice conclusion to the day.

Bear view 400x300Side Trip:  On our way out of the park we headed toward the town of Peekskill.  If  you recall, this was the setting for the fictional Eastland School for Girls featured in the 80’s television series, The Facts of Life.  I so wanted it to be the quaint little town featured on the show but alas, there was very little in the way of shops, cafes or attractions.

Recommended reading: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson