SUFFERN, N.Y. - A real life yellow brick road hides just beneath the surface and begins in downtown Suffern, though it doesn’t lead to the Emerald City.
The Suffern to Bear Mountain Trail, known for its bright yellow trail markers, blazes through innumerable mountains and nadirs during the length of its 23 mile journey.
The trail’s convenient location on both ends of Harriman and Bear Mountain state parks makes it a popular excursion for local adventurers and New York City residents alike. (It begins in Suffern and ends at the visitor center on Hessian Lake in Bear Mountain.)
The trail has a long history and has been around for nearly a hundred years, and is now maintained by the NY-NJ Trail Conference. It passes through over a dozen breathtaking views, a handful of historical landmarks, and two lean-to’s--Stone Memorial and Big Hill-- that are maintained by the trail conference for the overnight accommodation of hikers.
It takes the average traveler two days to traverse the trail and it is no easy feat.
The first day begins in downtown Suffern along Route 59 toward Hillburn, just past the I-287 overpass, with an ascent through the agglomeration of inclines and declines that are the Ramapo Mountains.
One is expected to hike 10 miles the first day. This takes roughly eight hours during which phenomenal views of Harriman State Park and the Hudson River are encountered.
Although initially the trail is a great challenge for the novice hiker, it gradually becomes easier as experience is accumulated. The number of hills dwindles during the first day.
Filling up on water at the Third Reservoir, which the trail briefly runs alongside, is a must. The reservoir comes just a mile before the trail's second lean-to. (Based on the length of the journey, it is advised to stay there at the lean-to on Big Hill.)
The Big Hill lean-to is made up of three stone walls and a wooden roof. There are three fire pits in and around the lean-to's flat and spacious site. This, coupled with a fantastic view of the city (and the sunrise, for more ambitious sight seers) makes Big Hill a comfortable place to stay for the night.
In total, the first and second day of the hike are comparable both in length and time.
The second day begins easily enough with only one big incline for the first few miles. The trail passes an old fire tower built in 1928 on Jackie Jones Mountain, followed by the Orak Ruins, the remnants of a mansion built in 1923 by George Briggs Buchanan, a vice president of the Corn Products Refining Company.
The ease of the second day is quickly interrupted by Pyngyp Mountain, the steepest part of the hike at 1,023 feet up. Steep climbs continue for a couple miles but this does not come without reward. The views are absolutely breathtaking atop Pyngyp.
Soon enough the trail eases up and crosses through the historic Doodletown Ruins before it ends just north of Tomkins Cove.
In attempting the trek make sure to have plenty of water, food, and camping supplies like a water filtration system, fire starter, and a sleeping bag.
The Suffern to Bear Mountain Trail is a challenge both mentally and physically. It often leaves hikers with a newfound sense of empowerment and wonder, after having pushed themselves to their limits and absorbed the outermost limits of the horizon atop mountains like Pyngyp.
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