Bear Hill Nature Preserve – Autumn Edition

October 16, 2016 – Pine Bush, NY

Difficulty: easy

Length: approximately 2 miles

Route type: out and back

Map: none available

Bear Hill Nature Preserve is in the same Shawangunk Ridge as Sam’s Point. At an elevation of 1,950 feet, it provides spectacular views. It is a 50 acre privately owned park. They charge a $5.00 per person trail use fee, but have no maps available nor are the trails blazed. This is a short easy hike with some of the best views anywhere. I did this hike back in June 2016, read about it here. I liked this place so much that I knew I had to come back during the fall foliage season. As spectacular as this place was in June, I knew that it would be even better when the leaves changed. If you plan on visiting do not use the location used by Google Maps, it is incorrect. Instead, use the GPS location I provided by clicking on the name at the start of this paragraph.

Since this is a short hike, I decided to incorporate other places nearby into the day’s itinerary. First off we drove to Ellenville to visit Nevele Falls, which is viewable from the side of the road on  Route 52. We parked on Chapel Street by the stop sign and crossed Route 52 and got a nice look at the falls from the road.

Nevele Falls

Nevele Falls

Although there wasn’t much water flowing, it was still quite picturesque to look at. We stepped over the guard rail to the left of the falls and walked along a short trail to get a closer look.

Nevele Falls

Nevele Falls

Once we were done checking out Nevele Falls, we continued on to Hanging Rock Falls, which is also located in Ellenville. We parked at the pull off on Cape Rd, and walked over to where the guard rail is. There is a worn trail which we followed down the hill. I knew that the Beer Kill, which is where the falls are, ran parallel to Cape Road (courtesy of Google Maps), so we continued following the trail away from the road. At the bottom of the hill there is a junction, the trail goes left, right and straight, we continued straight until we came to the Beer Kill. There are many cascades that make up Hanging Rock Falls. On this day the cascades were weak, but nice to look at.

Hanging Rock Falls

Hanging Rock Falls

The cascades went both upstream and downstream. We decided to go downstream, walking along the rocks that normally would be underwater.

Hanging Rock Falls

Hanging Rock Falls

I can imagine how scenic this waterfall would be with a heavier flow.

Hanging Rock Falls

Hanging Rock Falls

There are also some cool rock formations throughout this area. Some looked like rock shelters…..

rock shelter

rock shelter

and others were more like caves that went deeper than I would stick my head in.

caves

caves

Once we had our fill of rock hopping along the waterfall, we had one more stop before we went to Bear Hill. Right down the road from Bear Hill is Cragsmoor Stone Church, which was built in 1895 with stone from the mountain. It sits on the edge of the Shawangunk Ridge and provides spectacular views of the countryside and beyond.

Cragsmoor Stone Church

Cragsmoor Stone Church

The church itself is an impressive piece of architecture.

Cragsmoor Stone Church

Cragsmoor Stone Church

What really impressed me about this place is the awe-inspiring view. At the back of the property is a stone arch which is right on the edge of the ridge.

stone arch

stone arch

The view from here was nothing less than spectacular and luckily there wasn’t anyone else around but us.

spectacular

spectacular

Cragsmoor Stone Church

Cragsmoor Stone Church

After spending some time there, it was time to make our way to Bear Hill. We were lucky to get the last available parking spot in their small lot. It was about 11:30 am on a Sunday morning, but this was our last stop and we planned on spending some time here.

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

The basic layout of this place is simple. You walk straight until you can’t go any further then turn left and you are greeted with some of the best views that you can possibly see for a minimum amount of effort. I wanted to change things up a bit. There are a few side trails that go off the main trail that I wanted to check out, so as we walked along the main trail, I spotted a side trail that led up a hill and we began to follow it.

main trail - Bear Hill Nature Preserve

main trail – Bear Hill Nature Preserve

side trail

side trail

This trail was beaming with color and also less traveled. We didn’t pass another hiker along the way. I was glad that we decided to go this way.

side trail

side trail

It turns out that this trail ended at a junction with the main trail. Apparently we took the scenic route, and then there we were. It’s really hard to capture a bad image of this place. The difficult part is choosing which images to post.

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

As we sat on a rock admiring the view, I saw some young guys (younger than me that is) scaling a tower-like rock outcrop. I thought that it was pretty cool and daring. That was something I would have done with my friends about 20 years ago. My adventurous spirit was jealous as they hung out on that rock without a care in the world.

living on the edge

living on the edge

I wandered around the giant slabs of rock capturing images from every angle.

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

This place is awesome with it’s glacial erratics of Shawangunk Conglomerate dotting the sheer white cliff tops.

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

The view from 1950 feet was outstanding and seemed endless.

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

Bear Hill Nature Preserve

And the crevasses, let’s not forget those. There are numerous nooks and crannies where you can venture into at your own risk. Some went hundreds of feet into the mountain.

crevasse

crevasse

Others went horizontally towards the edge of the cliffs.

crevasse

crevasse

crevasse leading to a rock outcrop

crevasse leading to a rock outcrop

Yes, this is quite an impressive place with breathtaking views that if you haven’t been to, you should. Since it is an extremely easy hike, it does tend to get crowded, at least for my taste. If you are seeking solitude, then visiting on a weekday would probably be a smart move. Even so, the zen like atmosphere that this setting exudes, makes it a must for those seeking the allure of a spectacular natural landscape. I truly hope that you enjoyed my journey on a gorgeous Sunday in October. See you next time, and don’t forget, take a hike!

Take a hike!

Take a hike!

 

 

 

 

 

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