Hiking Dogs Rule Harriman State Park
If there is anything more joyful than a dog running, ears a-flopping, free with his people along the trails of Harriman State Park, well, I’d like to hear about it.
You can bring your buddy on a hike, for a swim or a boat ride a campout, for a drive along the winding, smooth park roads with the window down, or even for a train ride, to Harriman. In fact, about the only thing you’re not allowed to do with him is enter the beach areas at Welch, Tiorati, or Hessian Lake at Bear Mountain, or enter any of the camp areas (Baker Camp, Sebago Cabin Camp or Beaver Pond Campground) — although you can camp with your dog at the lean-to shelters.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about dogs, Harriman State Park, and responsible ownership (which you probably already know about anyway….)
Q. Can I hike with my dog in Harriman?
A. Absolutely. After the couch, Harriman is a dog’s favorite place. And if your dog has been cooped up in the house, backyard or apartment all week and is looking forward to some puppy-like exuberance on the trail, Harriman is the place!
Q. Does he have to be leashed?
A. Officially, yes. Unofficially, and in practice just about every time you see a dog in the park, “no”.
Officially (because it says so on the NYS park website, and because it’s NY State law), your dog should be leashed on a leash no longer than six feet long. Actually, the state park website says your dog should be muzzled.
….which is a qualification I think the NY state website should remove altogether, because I’ve never, ever seen a muzzled dog in the park, and if the park wants people to take the rest of their dog rules seriously, they should remove the muzzle requirement.
You know better than anyone whether your dog needs to be muzzled.
Q. Why not leash the dog?
A. Your dog needs to run and be free; he needs to make decisions about whether to turn left or turn right or sniff under this tree or not. No dog deserves to live his life at the end of a six-foot-long tether. Harriman is for exploration, freedom, and enjoying the outdoors without being tethered to a much slower-moving person.
Or, he’s 14 years old and walks as slowly as your 93-year-old grandfather, with a walker. He’s a shepherd and wouldn’t dream of wandering away from you, his Lord and Master.
Q. Why leash the dog?
A. He’s a runner, and he doesn’t have good recall. He’s a sniffer liable to follow his nose into the unknown or off a cliff. He’s an animal-lover, and will sprint after anything that bounds away and ultimately disappears into an unfamiliar forest. He likes to greet other dogs with a little constructive criticism. He’s deaf. He’s a pit bull terrier and is likely to bowl over a little child or elderly person with his big blocky head and big sloppy tongue*.
You know your dog, and what dangers are present to him and to others who might encounter him. And as a dog owner, you’re responsible for him and others who might encounter him, so use your judgement.
Q. Where is a good place to hike with my dog in Harriman?
A. Anywhere you can hike (except the public beaches and buildings), your dog can hike, too. Refer to our section on best hikes, or find your own trails by using the trail map.
But there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Busy areas of the park get really busy on summer weekends. The busiest parts of the park, especially on weekends, are Lake Welch area, Bear Mountain area, and the trails leading from the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center. If your dog is not well-socialized, you may want to avoid those areas. Other somewhat crowded areas are around Lakes Askoti and Skannatati, Lake Kanawauke picnic area, and Silvermine Picnic Area.
- Is your dog elderly, or does he have a hard time going up steep hills, or is he tiny? There are some trails that have brief sections that are altogether too steep for a dog to tackle without a hoisting from you and your hiking partner (yes, the two-man hoist).
- In summer, a dog deserves a swimming break along the trail. The best hikes for dogs include some water feature: a pond or lake or stream so he can refresh.
- Know how much trail you’re biting off, before you start chewing. The trails at Harriman can look deceptively shorter than they actually are in the real world. Don’t put your dog through more than he can handle, especially in summer.
Q. Is there water in the park for my dog to drink?
A. Water in Harriman State Park flows freely in the lakes, rivers and ponds; however, you should know your trail before you go. The stream that your dog drank from in early spring may be dried up completely — and I mean, dirt and rock — when you go back in August. Make sure you have water for your dog.
Which brings me to a little tip: A plastic frisbee is a great accessory for hiking and camping with your dog. Even if he’s not into the game, the frisbee is useful as a dog dish for water, as a plastic shield between your butt and the damp log or rock you’re about to sit on. You can even use it as a plate around the campfire.
Q. Is my dog allowed to swim at Harriman?
A. Yes! It would be insulting if he didn’t!
Q. Can I bring my dog on the Metro-North train to Harriman?
A. Yes. You can bring a dog on the Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal (or any station on the Metro-North line) up to Harriman. You’ll get off at the Manitou Station for easiest, closest access to the park. See our post on this topic.
Q. Can I bring my dog on the Metro-North/Post Jervis Line, up to Tuxedo or any other stations on the west side of the park?
A. No. The trains that run along the Metro-North line on the west side of the Hudson River are managed by New Jersey Transit, and they don’t allow dogs on the trains. A bummer. I confirmed this with an operator/assistant at New Jersey Transit, but I will keep an eye on this to see if it changes in the future. I think it would be a huge benefit to New York City visitors to the park with dogs.
Q. What if my dog gets lost in the woods of Harriman State Park?
A. See our post about losing a dog in the woods.
Q. Can I camp overnight with my dog?
A. Yes! You can. However, dogs are not allowed in any of the official campsites (those with rental cabins or tent sites). These are Baker Camp, Sebago Cabin Camp, Beaver Pond Campground, or the two pioneer-style sites at Cedar Pond or Tiorati Plateau.
Instead, take your dog on an overnight adventure at any of the nine lean-tos in the park.
You will need a leash and, of course, plenty of water. Other campers may join you, so be prepared for that. Bring a small spade to bury his waste (and yours!), and plenty of food. And, importantly, be aware that there are bears and other nocturnal rascals in the park, and they do sometimes visit the lean-tos for people food (food left by people, not people-as-food). In fact, a determined raccoon can ransack a lean-to even as its occupants sleep within. Don’t sleep with your food inside the lean-to!
Q. Can I go boating with my dog in the park?
A. Well, unless you bring your own boat, you won’t be able to rent one to bring your dog along. The only places within the park that rent boats are Baker Camp and Bear Mountain’s Hessian Lake, and they don’t allow dogs in the bathing areas (or in the camp, for that matter).
However. If you have your own boat, and get a permit, you are allowed to take your dog on the lakes. See our post about permits for boats, here.
Q. What about Lyme disease and dogs? Will my dog get Lyme, and ticks, from hiking in Harriman?
A. Ticks are a fact of life when you’re hiking in this areas of the Northeast USA. And right here is Ground Zero for Lyme disease, for both dogs and you. Reduce your exposure to ticks and the illnesses they bring by applying insect repellant, wearing light clothing (not black or dark), putting repellant on your dog, and checking him (and yourself) for ticks after your hike.
Q. Any other tips for hiking the Harriman trails with a dog?
A. I strongly recommend the blog, Gone Hikin’, for more information about Harriman trails with a dog. For years, the blog’s author has been tackling miles and miles of local trails — some in Harriman — with her dog, Shawnee, her intrepid rescued shepherd. You’ll find plenty of photos and recommendations, as well as detailed and turn-by-turn directions for the trails, and pertinent information about what trails work for aging dogs.
*rescued pit bull afficianado, here.