Kids love hideouts.
Forts, snow igloos, caves, treehouses — anything that throws a roof up where one doesn’t belong works.
That’s why it brings out the kid in me to come upon any one of Harriman State Park’s lean-tos in the woods, especially when it’s one of the old stone varieties.
Tom Jones Shelter, Harriman
A great way to get your kids into hiking the trails is to aim for one of these shelters via a short hike in, and Tom Jones shelter (on Tom Jones Mountain) makes a perfect cooler-weather destination, with a great firepit, two interior fireplaces, and expansive views of the valley.
If your kids can hike a half-mile (some of it uphill), try this: park at the roadside pullout on Route 106 in Harriman, and take the blue-blazed Victory Trail on the opposite side of the road uphill slightly. Turn left onto the red-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg trail, and in two-tenths of a mile, you’ll see the shelter, the chimneys of its two fireplaces rising from the hilltop.
One of the cool things about these shelters is the fire ring that’s right outside. If you know how to put out a campfire — and I mean, really know how to put it out so that it’s cool to the touch, and you haven’t just buried it in ashes and dirt — make a little campfire, setting aside a lot of water for the dousing when you’re done.
Make some hot chocolate, roast marshmallows or hotdogs. Or just bring sandwiches and a ready-made thermos of hot chocolate with marshmallows to put in. Just beware that a big meal will slow little kids down on the return trip to the car.
This is a great opportunity to teach kids the proper technique for killing a fire, for packing out whatever trash you bring in, and a deeper appreciation for what’s in the Harriman woods.
Download the hiking trail map for the Tom Jones/Bald Rocks shelter area of Harriman State Park by clicking on the link below — even better if you download it on your smart phone and have it with you for this hike. It’s an easy half-mile hike to the shelter, and you can make it a loop hike, or a longer hike, by following some of the other trails on the map.
Or, if you don’t have little legs with you, a very pretty, scenic loop hike can be made to the Bald Rocks shelter along the red-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg trail. Bald Rocks shelter is also equipped with fire rings and internal fireplaces to warm yourself on a cold day.