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Sloatsburg, New York, is for cyclists.  The little town at the edge of the park is your jumping-off place for this easy and extremely scenic roll through Harriman.  Especially mid-week, and particularly in the quiet hours of early morning and late evening, Harriman’s bike-friendly park roads call cyclists to take their sweet time heading back into town.

From Silvermine to Sloatsburg: An Easy, Friendly Bike Ride Through Harriman

  • Drive to the starting point at Silvermine Lake or use the train to Sloatsburg
  • Ride (mostly downhill) along Seven Lakes Drive, stopping at lakes, beaches, streams, camps and shelters;
  • Stay overnight, if you like, at one of the camps or lean-tos;
  • Finish in Sloatsburg with a hot wedge, sushi, a beer, a donut….

Always on the look-out for an easy roll downhill, I discovered this route with the help of Google Map’s elevation profile, and took it for a test drive in early spring.  I combined it with an overnight stay at the Dutch Doctor shelter, and used the new volunteer network shuttle to get me from the end of the line at Sloatsburg’s Characters restaurant back to where my car was parked at Silver Mine.

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The trip was classic Harriman: lake after serene lake, gentle climbs to oak and ash forest, then long descents past blooming blueberry and wild apple trees.  An old church in the woods, and those details you never notice from driving past: a cemetery here, an old thruway sign here.  Fiddleheads.  Caves. And downhill, almost the entire way.

A view of Silvermine Lake in spring.

Silvermine Lake.

At 15.5 miles, it takes less than two hours to ride the whole thing, but you can easily make a day of it if you take your time and enjoy the shores of the 10 lakes and ponds, and many streams that you pass along the way.  You can even stop for a swim and an ice cream at Tiorati Beach.

The trip requires just a little bit of arranging and planning if you’ve only got one car, or if you’re coming by train, but there’s not a deal-breaker in sight.

You can even bring your bike on the NJ Transit line to Sloatsburg, then catch a ride by taxi or our new “Base Camp 17” Volunteer Shuttle (see link here) up to Silvermine.

Cyclists share Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park with autos. The shoulder is in most parts ample enough to ride comfortably, but take it slow on the curves of Route 106 East, from Kannawauke Circle.

Cyclists share Seven Lakes Drive in Harriman State Park with autos. The shoulder is in most parts ample enough to ride comfortably, but take it slow on the curves of Route 106 East, from Kannawauke Circle.

The route, lake by lake:

Start at Silver Mine Lake (GPS 41.29527 N, 74.05950 W), in the northern part of Harriman.  Bathrooms are open, and you can leave your car overnight.  (Note: Unless you have an Empire Passport, you may be charged for parking if you start this trip on a weekend.)

Leaving the parking area, turn left onto Seven Lakes Drive, passing Lake Nawahunta on the right.  For the first two miles, it’s an oh-so-gentle uphill through feathery pines and past an intersection with the Appalachian Trail.  This is your biggest uphill, and it leads to the traffic circle at Lake Tiorati.  I stopped here, checked out the map in the office, and thought of how nice it would be to have a swim and an ice cream when the beach opens in summer.

Tiorati Beach, where you can lock your bike, pick up a map or an ice cream or a sandwich, and go for a swim.

Tiorati Beach, where you can lock your bike, pick up a map or an ice cream or a sandwich, and go for a swim.

Near the southern end of Tiorati, you’re in for a nice 1.6-mile downhill coast to the twin lakes Askoti (on your left) and Skannatati.  Hiking trails leave from the edge of both lakes, so you can stretch your seat at this point, or keep going.

At Kannawauke Circle, you can continue on Seven Lakes Drive, but I chose to make the left-hand turn onto Route 106 East.  This, to me, is a slightly more interesting route, and avoids a more strenuous uphill climb and takes you past very pretty Spring Pond, immediately after the circle. After a brief winding, rollicking up-and-down, the road flattens out as you reach the auto entrance to Lake Welch.  You’ll make a right-hand turn onto St. John’s Road, but before you do this, you may want to turn off onto the gated pathway that leads to the lake, on the left. In summer, this area is absolutely filled with ripening blueberries, huckleberries and, later, wild grapes and elderberries.

Trees and Blossoms along Seven Lakes Drive

Or, ride a little ways further on 106 to cross a mini-causeway onto an island in the lake, and then return to St. John’s Road.

Follow this well-worn, somewhat rutted road past the St. John’s in the Wilderness Church, and at the T-junction, turn left onto Lake Welch Parkway.

If you’re staying at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s camp at Breakneck Pond, you’re almost there: turn left into the camp’s driveway, at the gate.  (There’s also a terrific outfitter shop — small but well-stocked — at the camp, if you need supplies.)

At the T-Junction with Seven Lakes Drive, turn right, then quickly turn left to complete the U-Turn.  The auto entrance to Sebago Lake Beach will be on your right, but that beach is closed now, and probably forever.  (It’s worth the short pedal up into the beach area, though, to see what a hurricane can do!)

Now it’s just a 4.6-mile downhill cruise on Seven Lakes Drive, into the little town of Sloatsburg.  You’ll pass the entrance to Baker Camp, Sebago Cabin Camp, and the private camps of the American Canoe Association and Nawakwa.  These are great places to spend the night, though Baker Camp and Sebago Cabins both charge a fee, and the other camps require membership.  But another good option, if you’d like to spend the night in the park (as I did), is to lock your bike at the entrance to camp Nawakwa, and hike along the white-blazed trail to Dutch Doctor shelter.

dutch_doctor_harriman_leanto

On my trip, I spent the night at the shelter, putting up the 18-oz tent I’d thrown in my backpack, listening to a persistent whip-poor-will in the trees before falling asleep.  In the morning I hiked out, picked up my bike from where I’d locked it up, and continued.

It wasn’t long before I reached the new Stone Meadow Inn, right on Seven Lakes Drive and before Route 17.  It’s a warm and welcoming deli and restaurant, where I picked up the best chicken parmesan wedge I’ve ever had.

Chicken Parm on a wedge, Stone Meadow Inn Deli, Sloatsburg

Chicken parm on a wedge, Stone Meadow Inn Deli, Sloatsburg

Some Tips:

  • Bring Water or a water filter (there’s plenty of natural water on this ride)
  • There are no bike racks anywhere along this route (yet!).
  • Reeves Meadow Visitor Center store is only open on weekends.
  • Definitely pick up a map at the Tiorati Circle office if you’re planning a hike along the way.  Maps are also available at Reeves Meadow Visitor Center, when it’s open.
  • Your options for eating in Sloatsburg include excellent sushi at Sushiville, good burgers, fries, salads and more at Character’s Restaurant, a pizza shop and a Dunkin Donuts.

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