Down the Trail: NV/OT's Quinn retraces his steps

Tom Quinn is in his 27th year as a geometry and calculus teacher at Northern Valley/Old Tappan High School. He was the Golden Knights’ girls soccer coach for 23 years and is in his ninth season as the boys golf coach. Looking to fill some time after leaving the soccer sidelines where he compiled a 271-162-24 career record, he took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail on January 1, 2019.

Quinn has now completed 173 miles from Fox Gap, PA to Gaylordsville, CT. He has walked the entire New Jersey and New York sections of the AT and will share some of his experiences, tips and tricks in our semi-regular Down The Trail feature.

A view of Silver Lake after a brisk hike on the Appalachian Trail this past Saturday morning..

I started my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike at Bear Mountain, NY.  It was an easy place to begin because I spent a few afternoons there when my children were small.  Park your car at the State Park entrance near the Bear Mountain Bridge, and you can have a fun afternoon.  There is a small zoo (that is an official part of the AT), a lake (Hessian Lake) where you can rent paddleboats, a pool and plenty of space where you can walk, picnic and relax.

The AT runs right through Bear Mountain State Park, and no doubt it’s one of the most popular places anywhere on the AT, the 2,200-plus mile track that stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Khatadin in Maine.  The most popular hike is to start at the Bear Mountain Inn and hike South up Bear Mountain to the Perkins Tower located at the summit. The hike will take about an hour, and the route has rock stairs and easy walkways that make the hike a little easier, and more enjoyable for children. 

You can also start at the Bear Mountain Bridge and hike north on the AT, meander through the park and take an easy stroll through the Bear Mountain Zoo.  The main attraction at the zoo are two black bears; these are the only two bears I have seen so far while hiking on the AT (eastern PA, NJ, NY, southern CT).

At the top of Bear Mountain (Perkins Tower), the views are outstanding.  You can see the Hudson River, and mountains to the east.  Looking south and west from Perkins Tower, several mountain ranges and Harriman State Park are in total view.  This is definitely one of the best viewpoints I have seen in my walks.  Yes, you can drive up to Perkins Tower (only from April to November), but the hike is much more rewarding.

If you are looking for some alone time in the woods with far less people on the trail, I suggest hiking up Bear Mountain from the opposite direction.  You can park at a small parking lot on Perkins Memorial Drive (Exit 19 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway), and hike north following the iconic white blazes of the AT up Bear Mountain.  Viewpoints are equally outstanding. In addition, there are also some nice rock staircases to assist people of all ages with their climb.  If you wish, hike south on the AT from Perkins Memorial drive, and make a nice gradual climb up West Mountain.  At the summit are terrific views of Perkins Tower, the Hudson River (and mountains east), and plenty of viewpoints to the West.  This area is a terrific place to hike.

I would also suggest hiking up Bear Mountain using the Major Welch Trail.  Technically, it’s a tougher climb than the AT.  If you choose to hike past the zoo, and cross the Bear Mountain Bridge (which is also part of the AT), I would suggest hiking up to Anthony’s Nose.  Continue north on the AT past the Bear Mountain Bridge, and follow the blue trail off the AT to Anthony’s Nose.  This viewpoint is also incredible, and gives you a view of Bear Mountain from the opposite direction.

And always remember, when in doubt, Follow the Whites!