Harriman State Park is an amazing gem and resource so close to New York City. Many people opt to visit the more crowded and expensive Bear Mountain that borders Harriman Park, but don’t even know that Harriman State Park exists. Harriman State Park is less crowded, is much larger, and completely free to visit.
We love Harriman and have been here more times in the past year than we can even count. Most of our weekends are spent hiking new trails in Harriman State Park and exploring it all has to offer. It has been such a blessing us. I try to tell anyone that will listen how great Harriman State Park is, especially for being so close to New York City.
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About Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park is the second largest state park in New York and has over 200 miles of hiking trails. Almost 19 miles of the Appalachian Trail goes through Harriman State Park.
Where is Harriman State Park?
Harriman State Park is located in Southern New York and is in the area that many would refer to as upstate. Harriman State Park lies just below Bear Mountain State Park.
Getting to Harriman State Park
The best way to get to Harriman State Park is by car. From New York City to Harriman State park, it takes a little less than an hour with around 35 miles of driving. Since there are many different trailheads throughout the park, driving gives you the most hiking options.
Train is another popular route, especially for those that do not have a car. A Metro North Train runs from Penn Station in NYC to Harriman Train Station on the west side of the park. See myharriman.com for more information about taking the train to Harriman State Park.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Harriman State Park?
Harriman State Park is completely free to visit. In the summer months in between Memorial Day and Labor Day there are a few parking lots that charge a few dollars to park. The lots that charge for parking include Silvermine Parking Area, Lake Welch, Lake Tiorati, and Lake Kanawauke.
Where to stay near Harriman State Park?
Harriman State Park is surrounded by small towns and there are many different lodging options if you are wanting to spend the weekend.
If you like camping, backcountry camping in certain locations throughout Harriman State Park is free. Backcountry camping is allowed at any of the 9 shelters and in their vicinity. Around the shelters, there are many areas in the surrounding area that are perfect for camping and may already have stone fire rings from previous campers. On the weekends, especially in the summer, the shelters can fill up pretty early in the day.
We camped near the Stockbridge Mountain Shelter on a Friday evening in October, but there were already several other groups near us. Stockbridge Mountain Shelter is a great lean-to shelter to stay near, especially if you are new to backcountry camping because it is only an easy 1.5 mile hike to the lean-to and there are many spots in the surrounding area to set up camp.
Tentrr Camping also has recently been made available in Harriman State Park. Tentrr are canvas tents set up and available for overnight rental. The Tentrr Locations in Harriman State Park are around the Lake Sebago and Silver Mine Lake. We have never personally stayed in one of the Tentrr locations in Harriman, but they look super cute and one of the only ways to stay in the park without backcountry camping.
There are several really cute AirBnbs near Harriman State park. Staying at a home rental through AirBnb is the way to stay close to the park without camping.
The best hotel nearby Harriman State Park is Bear Mountain Inn at the nearby Bear Mountain State Park. They have a lovely spa and restaurant at the hotel. The town of Woodbury nearby also has several different hotels, which are also near an outlet mall.
Tips for Hiking in Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park can get very crowded, especially in the summer and fall. Some of the parking lots for popular trails are really small or have limited parking along the side of the road. The busiest parts of the park in the summer are definitely the areas of the park with lakes that allow swimming.
The earlier you arrive, the more likely you will be to get parking. Usually we try to arrive before 9 am, but preferable closer to 8 am. Be sure to follow the local signage as some parts of the park allow parking along the roadside, while other parts of the park do not and you can be towed.
it is very rocky
When we first started hiking at Harriman State Park almost 2 years ago, we were surprised at how rocky the area is. Many New York and New Jersey hikes are quite rocky, but Harriman has unique rocks and every trail includes climbing over rocks at some point. In Harriman State Park there are many ridges that at the top are just ginormous flat rock beds. It is interesting and unlike any other hiking areas we have visited on the East Coast of the United States.
Since its very rocky, its very important to wear the correct footwear when hiking, preferably hiking boots with ankle support as it is easier to twist an ankle when hiking on uneven rocks. The boots that I have (and have been hiked thousands of miles in over the past 4 years) are Keen Mid-Height Waterproof Boot. My husband and I both have the same ones (but in different sizes) and we recommend them to anyone looking for a new hiking boot. We absolutely love our Keen Hiking Boots.
bring extra water
We have not found any areas with water fill up areas in the park, so be sure to bring extra water from home. We love using plastic Nalgene water bottles as they are super lightweight and hold a large amount of water. They are easy to clean and are super durable. Nalgene water bottles come in all different colors and sizes, but we prefer the 32 ounce size. The Nalgene water bottles can be found at some of the cheapest price on Amazon. The version linked here is the exact one that we have 3 of, so you may catch a peek at them on pictures throughout the blog.
if hiking in winter, bring microspikes
Before hiking in the Northeast, we had rarely used microspikes. However, microspikes are an essential piece of equipment to have if you plan on hiking in the Northeast in any season that is not summer. They are important to have if hiking in Harriman State Park in the winter. Since Harriman is such a rocky place, when its snowy or even just cold, the rocky areas get covered in ice and are almost impossible to hike on without microspikes.
Microspikes are super easy to use and stretch onto your shoes so that there are little pointing pieces of metal helping give traction to the bottom of your shoes. There are several different types, but we prefer the types with the mini spikes (rather than springs that can help give traction). Microspikes similar to the type that we have can be found on Amazon.
bring bug repellent (and be prepared to get bit by mosquitoes or ticks)
There are a lot of mosquitoes and ticks in Harriman State Parks (and most places outdoors). Lyme disease is really prevalent in the northeast, so I really recommend wearing bug spray to prevent getting exposed to Lyme Disease through ticks.
I like using the bug spray Natrapel as it is less toxic than some bug sprays and is really effective.
if you want isolation, you can find it in Harriman
Even being so close to NYC, Harriman State Park allows the opportunity to find solitude and isolation if you so choose. Of course, there will always be parts of the park that will be crowded with people, but there are always parts that are less popular as well. The less crowded trails in the park will be the ones that are not near lakes, are longer, are not along the Appalachian Trail, or are more difficult.
Also going in the off season or on a day with non-sunny weather can give you a lot more solitude as well. One area that we have always found more solitude in is the Elk Pen area of the park. There is a parking lot here, The Elk Pen Lot, and many trails leaving from here. Some of the trails with the most solitude that we have encountered are the Africa Loop and the Bald Rocks Shelter Trail.
Hikes to Do in Harriman State Park
Pine Meadow Lake Loop
Pine Meadow Lake Loop is a beautiful hike that is very representative of what Harriman State Park has to offer. There are several variations of this hike, but the version that we did was around 8 miles. One downside to this trail however is that it is one of the most crowded hikes that we have been on at Harriman State Park. It is a family friendly trail and is not too challenging or steep.
The trail begins at a small Harriman State Park Visitor Center. There are also bathrooms located here at the trailhead. The trail slowly ascends through a pine grove, following a peaceful stream along the way. There are often many families sitting on the mossy rocks with picnic lunches and small children playing in the shallow water.
The trail ascends for a while until you arrive to a large lake. There are signs that say NO SWIMMING, but many people still swim and jump off rocks here anyways. We like sitting on the rocks along the side of the lake and sticking our feet in the shallow water. There are large schools of cute fish that will come up to you in the water and try to nibble on your toes.
If you want, you can walk a trail that loops around the lake or you can turn around and return to the parking lot from here.
Elk Pen Loop (with Lemon Squeeze)
Elk Pen Loop is a hike that has a wide variety of varying scenery throughout. I think that Elk Pen Loop is a great trail to show you all that Harriman State Park has to offer. The full loop in total is around 7.5 miles. Part of this trail is part of the Appalachian Trail. We took the Elk Pen Loop trail in a clockwise fashion.
The trail starts from the Elk Pen Parking area, where it weaves through the forest for a while. About halfway through the trail, you will come to the Lemon Squeeze which is a popular attraction where the trail goes through two rocks that are very close together so that you must squeeeezzee (like a lemon) in between the rocks to continue on the trail.
After the Lemon Squeezer you will go down the hill to a muddy part of the trail beside a swampy lake. Eventually the trail will take you uphill again and you will come out on top of a ridge with pretty views of the lake that you previously passed. On the way down, the trail sharply cuts back and forth on a rocky cliff-like area and the trail can be easily lost, so make sure you pay close attention to the trail at this part.
This is a great trail to do in the fall when the leaves are all different colors.
Africa Loop is a lonnngggg trail that is made up of several different smaller trails combined. On AllTrails, the Africa Loop Trail is around 11.5 miles, but when we hiked the trail (following it the whole way) it ended up being closer to 13 miles. It is called the Africa Loop because it looks like shape of Africa when you look at it on a map.
We decided to hike this trail when we wanted just wanted a really long hike in nature one weekend. There is not a ton of viewpoints or anything on this trail, but it is a long peaceful trail in the wilderness. This trail definitely wasn’t crowded. To access this trail, park at the Elk Pen Parking Lot.
Stockbridge Mountain and Lake Nawahunta
As stated in the Places to Stay section above, Stockbridge Mountain has a shelter lean-to that is available for backcountry camping and is one of the best for beginner backpackers. The trail here is pretty and isn’t crazy long. If you take the full loop, the trail is 6.6 miles. The shelter is located around 1.5 miles into the trail if going clockwise on the loop. There is the shelter, but also many nice camping spots nearby the shelter along the trail.
The trail is pretty flat until you cross the two-lane road and come to the calm, reflective Lake Nawahunta. The trail then ascends until you reach Stockbridge Mountain. If you are staying the night in the woods, set up your camp when you reach the top, or if you’re doing a day hike you can continue on the trail where it will take you down the mountain and you will loop back to Lake Nawahunta.
This trail begins from the Silver Mine Lake Parking Lot which is a large parking lot where many trails begin. If parking here during weekends in the summer, you will need to pay a small fee to park.
Bald Rocks Shelter via White Bar, Dunning, Ramapo Dunderberg and Nurian Loop
We recently hiked the Bald Rocks Shelter Trail on a rainy day at the end of October. This trail totally surprised us and was very beautiful, especially with the fall colors. Round-trip this loop trail was around 3.5 miles. Along part of the trail up on the ridge, knee-high bushes line the trail.
In the fall these bushes turn a bright vibrant red that was beautiful to hike along. This trail also has a few viewpoints and goes through pretty rocky areas. At the high point of the ridge, there is a geological marker in the rock (we always love trying to find these whenever we can). Bald Rocks Shelter is located along this trail, which as stated above, is an opportunity for free backcountry camping. The parking lot for this trail is very small, so arrive early if you plan on hiking or camping here.
Panther Mountain Diamond Mountain Loop via Pine Meadow Lake
The Panther Mountain Trail is another trail that is a combination of a few different trails along the way. In total it was around 10 miles for us and traverses throughout different parts of the park. There are a few different viewpoints on the trail. We took the trail going counterclockwise and had a little trouble finding the connector trail at the very end of the trail, so I would definitely recommend using AllTrails or some sort of other map to help you find your way.
One thing that I loved about this trail was that the trailhead begins and ends at a lake, so after we hiked on a hot summer day, we relaxed by laying on the dock with our feet in the cool lake water. One of my favorite feelings after a hike is taking off my hiking boots and stripping off the sweaty socks, but its an even better feeling when you have lake water to cool your feet off in.
Towns Nearby Harriman State Park
There are several towns nearby Harriman State Park that are worth checking out.
Harriman is one of the larger towns close to Harriman State Park. In Harriman you can find many stores and restaurants. There are the Woodbury Commons Outlet Stores. A great local restaurant I recommend is Cosimo’s.
Chester is about 10 minutes from Harriman. It is a super small town, but has one of my favorite coffee shops in the world. Valkyrie Coffee is located on the Main Street in Chester and they have some of the most unique and delicious coffee drinks. I love getting their seasonal drinks or s’mores latte (with real toasted marshmallows).
Tuxedo Park is on the western side of Harriman State Park. If you visit Harriman from the Elk Pen area (that some of the trails above start from), then you will likely drive through Tuxedo. One of the best places near Tuxedo Park is Dottie Audrey’s Bakery Kitchen. They have delicious coffees, baked goods, and breakfast foods. Their pancakes are some of the best I have ever tasted in my life.
The town of Beacon is at least 20 minutes from Harriman State Park (depending on what part of the park you are coming from), but definitely warrants a stop if you have the time. We love Beacon and all there is to do here. There are many cute shops and restaurants. A fun place to stop is Glazed Over Donuts where you can create your own donut with all of their many topping choices. My personal favorite in Beacon is Big Mouth Coffee Roasters, which is only a few blocks away from Glazed Over Donuts. Big Mouth Coffee Roasters has really good coffee and a great vibe for chilling. Check out my blog post on Beacon for more information on this cute little town.
I hope you can see from this post, we love Harriman State Park and the surrounding area. It is an area that has so many things to do, both for those that try to spend as much time outside as possible or those that may be new to exploring outside. Either way, Harriman is a gift and I hope you are able to enjoy what it has to offer.
Do you have any questions about Harriman State Park. I would love to hear your thoughts or any questions you may have!
Thanks for reading!!!