Some weekends, you just want out of the concrete jungle. Here’s one way to get from New York (Penn Station) to Harriman (Tuxedo Station) and onto the trails. Pick up the new trail maps from the Trail Conference; the 2015 edition shows mileage between trail junctions.
Taking the train from New York’s Penn Station to the western edge of Harriman State Park sets you up for a sweet day of hiking, with lots of views, options for lengthening or shortening your hike, and a historic lean-to (in case you want to overnight).
Just remember you’ll have about .6 of a mile of on-road walking (or, take our shortcut*) to do before you reach the trail head. And then it’s an upward climb to get to the ridge above!
You’ll want to pick up the trail maps, either (or both) in their hard-copy form, or as digital downloads onto your smartphone. Worth every penny, and I think of these maps as a one-time fee for entry into the great world of Harriman hiking.
The map set (there are two waterproof, tear-proof maps in the set) is available from the Palisades Parkway Visitor Center (on the Parkway between exits 16 and 17), and from almost every nearby outdoor shop. You can order it from Amazon; you can also download it for your Iphone, which is a completely awesome alternative/enhancement, because the app will show you exactly where you are on the trail at all times (unless your phone dies!). Go to the App store and get the free App called Avenza; then go to the Avenza “store” within that app, and buy the maps. They’re also cheaper than the paper versions.
A piece of advice: any trail that’s littered with little black stars is a trail worth taking, ‘cuz those stars are carefully awarded to the best views only. So make sure you check out the Blue Disc trail on your hike from Tuxedo Station.
Take NJ Transit (train) from Penn Station to Tuxedo Station (it travels on Metro North’s Port Jervis line). As of Sept 11, 2013, there is a 9:14 AM train that leaves Penn Station on Saturday morning and gets to Tuxedo in one hour. A train departs Tuxedo at 6:40 pm for Penn Station and arrives in just over an hour. Ten minutes after you leave Penn, you’ll arrive in Secaucus Junction, where you’ll transfer to the Port Jervis line. Get off at Tuxedo Station.
For supplies, go across the street to the deli to get some food for the trail. You should also be able to find the Harriman-Bear Mountain mapset there, in case you don’t have it in your hands or on your Iphone!
Then go back to the station, head north through the parking lot and parallel to the train tracks, to East Village Road, and turn right. Follow East Village over the tracks, over a stream, and under the NY State Thruway (it will wind around to the right, and you’ll go into a tunnel under the thruway).
Right after you emerge from the tunnel under the bridge, turn left at the “T” junction with Grove Drive and into a little residential neighborhood. Watch for the blazes. You’ll see tall spruce trees near the road on the left, and that’s where you should look for the start of the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail on the right. If you go to the white picket fence on the right, you’ve gone too far.
By the time you get to the trailhead, you’ve walked .6 miles from the station. And you’ll go, seemingly, straight up the side of the mountain.
Tip: Bring some extra water with you, and tuck it away in the woods at this point, for your return trip. It means less to carry, and you’ll appreciate it on the way back to the train.
I suggest staying on the red-blazed trail until it meets up with the Blue Disc trail, which leaves from the left. Then, use the map above to plot your course (download the PDF), depending on how much time you have, how tired you are, and what you want to see.
If you have time, try to make either the old stone lean-to (“Dutch Doctor”) or the edge of Lake Sebago your destination for lunch, or even for the night.
Lean-tos at Harriman State Park don’t need to be reserved. They are used on a first-come, first-served basis, and are meant to be shared. They can accommodate up to eight people; you can also camp adjacent to the structures.
*The shortcut takes you over the train tracks, across the Lucky Bridge (a footbridge), over the Ramapo River, through a skate park, and under the thruway, where you’ll join a now-shortened road walk to the park. To take the shortcut, turn towards the town (rather than away from it) when you get off the train, and walk through town past the post office. Cross the tracks just past the post office, and soon you’ll see a little wooden footbridge over the river. Cross the footbridge to the skate park, and then use the driveway to meet up with the road through the neighborhood. You’ll go under the Thruway via a tunnel (you’ll see the blazes on the side of the tunnel), and take the first left up onto Grove Drive. Watch for the trail, going into the woods, on the right shortly thereafter.