April 29, 2017 – Tomkins Cove, NY
Length: approximately 6.7 miles
Max elevation: 1,247 ft.– total elevation gain: 1,076 ft.
Route type: circuit
Trailhead parking: Anthony Wayne Recreation Area
From time to time I have parked at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area and while gazing up at the rock outcrops atop West Mountain, I have seen people standing there and seemingly admiring the view. I decided that I wanted to hike the ridge and see what the view was like. I didn’t know that it was called West Mountain until I did a little research. I also discovered that the Appalachian Trail runs along the western ridge and a stone shelter is located on the southern ridge. I then planned out a hike that covered both. This turned out to be an excellent hike with views galore in all directions. Looking at the Google Earth image below, we did this hike in a counter clockwise direction.
It was a wonderful day for a hike with the temperature in the mid 60’s when we began and then hovering around 80 degrees and partly cloudy throughout the rest of the day. We arrived at the parking area at around 8:45 am and once geared up, we headed southeast across a grass field towards the park road.
We proceeded to cross the park road and walking along the side of the road, we began to follow the blue-on-white diamond blazes of the Horn Hill Loop Mountain Bike Trail.
We continued past the entrance ramp to the Palisades Interstate Parkway and into the next parking area that had some trucks parked there.
Continuing on the gravel path to the southernmost end of the parking area towards the edge of the woods, we came to a kiosk.
We now headed into the woods still following the blue-on-white diamond blazes.
The trail passes through a pine forest and crosses several bridges.
We then crossed a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, and soon afterwards, reached a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg (R-D) Trail and turned left.
The R-D Trail begins to climb West Mountain, gradually at first, then after reaching some stone steps, the grade steepens. The R-D on the south crown of West Mountain was marked in 1920 by A.B. Malcolmson.
Myles, William J.. Harriman Trails: A Guide and History (Kindle Location 1977). New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Kindle Edition.
The trail then crosses Beechy Bottom East Road which is marked with the blue-on-white blazes of the Horn Hill Bike Path.
The R-D Trail continues its steady ascent through mountain laurel.
After passing a gully, the trail again becomes steep as it climbs the mountain over boulders.
This was turning out to be quite a vigorous hike. Although beautiful, the trails were at times unrelenting. There were many instances where we were required to use our hands as well as our feet.
After climbing the boulders, the trail turns left and narrows, as it passes by a huge rock formation.
Then we came to our first views of the day and a well deserved break to enjoy them. While resting at this spot a scattered group of hikers passed by. They were the only people we saw up to this point.
After resting up, we continued up the rocky trail which led us towards a rock outcrop.
After a short but steep climb, we came to the junction of the Ramapo-Dunderberg (R-D) Trail and Suffern-Bear Mountain (S-BM) Trail. Looking southeast, the Hudson River and surrounding hills are visible.
The two trails now run together briefly for about 300 feet on a fairly level tract as we proceeded up the mountain. This section of the S-BM Trail, from Cats Elbow to Bear Mountain Inn was first scouted by Raymond Torrey in 1926.
After climbing a ledge, the two trails split. Turning left, we were now following the yellow blazes of the S-BM Trail.
The trail passes through a section of the forest that is newly rejuvenated after having been damaged by fire some years ago.
The S-BM Trail then descends into a valley, crosses a small stream and then begins to climb again, passing by some interesting looking rock formations.
After climbing some more, the trail briefly levels off…..
then reaches a t-intersection with the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail. We planted ourselves on a rock and rested from all the climbing. The Timp-Torne Trail was the second trail built by the new Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference, in the winter of 1921. It was considered to be a branch of the R-D Trail, which had been built in 1920.
Now on the ridge of West Mountain, we turned right and began following the joint blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail and the yellow-blazed Suffern-Bear Mountain (S-BM) Trail. There are several views to the south along the trail from rock outcrops.
I thought that once we were on the ridge, the trail would level off and it would be an easy hike the rest of the way. I was mistaken, there are quite a few ups and downs over rocky terrain all along the ridge.
In about 1/3 of a mile from the t-intersection, the trails split. As the yellow-blazed trail goes off to the left, we veered right and stayed on the blue-blazed trail. In about 500 feet, we arrived at the West Mountain Shelter. This shelter was built in 1928, with burros being used to carry up the lumber and cement. We were now about halfway through our hike.
The stone structure with a wood floor and shingled roof was refurbished in the fall of 2014. This shelter sits at an elevation of 1240 feet with views of the Hudson Valley to the southeast.
Needless to say, the view from here is magnificent. From what I read, it offers the best views of any of the shelters in Harriman State Park. With views of the Hudson River and the surrounding hills, who can argue with that?
We stopped here and had some lunch, as did numerous other people. To be honest, I was a little worn down already and could have stayed here for a lot longer than we did, but we had a hike to do. Retracing our steps back along the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail, passing the t-intersection where we turned earlier, we continued straight and arrived at a western facing viewpoint. This is also where the white-blazed Appalachian Trail joins the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail from the left.
When researching this hike, I noticed that on the trail map there were ten stars (the stars denote the viewpoints) on the map along the north-south section of the ridge. This was the first of many viewpoints we would encounter on this stretch of trail.
Now heading north and following both the white and blue blazes, the trail travels along the ridge over rocky terrain.
At this point, we had hiked almost 4 miles and were starting to tire. Not only are there numerous ups and downs, but at times you have to scramble over the numerous boulders that line the trail. The views are definitely worth it though. We came to a another viewpoint with Bear Mountain visible to the north.
Continuing on, the trail turns right at a western facing viewpoint.
Looking northwest, the Palisades Interstate Parkway and the Anthony Wayne parking area is visible below.
As we proceeded on the trail, we arrived at a rock outcrop that had a strange looking boulder sitting on the edge of the cliff.
Although rugged, the trail along the ridge is quite scenic. The views are outstanding and the terrain is so varied that it kept the hike interesting.
We came to another rock outcrop that offers a view southwest of the Harriman hills and beyond.
Passing another cool rock formation, the trail climbs yet again.
The Timp-Torne Trail climbs around the side of a glacial erratic then turns left.
We stopped alongside the glacial erratic and took a quick break in the shade.
This trail never lets up as it climbs open rock slabs rather steeply. We were worn down, but kept it moving. The end was now in sight, we had now hiked about 5 miles.
The trail changes from open rock to a rocky footpath over undulating terrain as it passes several more viewpoints.
When we reached a y-intersection where the white-blazed Appalachian Trail veers right, we stayed left to remain on the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail.
The trail then begins a rather steep descent over open rock slabs. Relying on the grip of our boots, this section would be difficult if not hazardous, in wet conditions.
After climbing a little, the trail leads to a north facing viewpoint with Bear Mountain and Perkins Memorial Tower directly in front of us.
Also visible just to the left of Bear Mountain is Popolopen Torne and its bald peak.
The trail resumes its descent and reaches an intersection with the red-“F”-on-white blazed Fawn Trail. We turned left and continued down West Mountain.
The Fawn Trail ends at a junction with the white-blazed Anthony Wayne Trail at Beechy Bottom East Road.
Turning left onto Beechy Bottom East Road, marked with blue-on-white diamond blazes, we now began heading south. We were finally on level ground and it felt great. The road was muddy and swampy in places, but a joy to walk as we neared the end.
When we reached a y-intersection, the blue-on-white diamond blazes of the bike trail bears left, but we took the right fork…….
and continued walking on the unpaved road…….
which led us to an area with picnic tables where we sat for a few minutes before proceeding ahead back to the parking area where our hike began.
I have to say that this was a tough hike, but very rewarding. The trails were challenging at times and made us stay alert throughout most of the hike. The views were never ending and the weather cooperated as well. A great way to spend a Saturday in the Hudson Valley. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and please don’t forget to follow my blog. Now get out there and take a hike!
Pros: Challenging trails, many spectacular views, stone shelter, ample parking, well blazed trails, rock formations and glacial erratics, varied terrain.
Cons: I can’t think of any.