Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bear Mnt New AT Trail Southern Approach

Bear Mountain State Park
Rockland and Orange Counties,
New York

Hiking Trails:
Appalachian Trail: White blaze
AT Spur Trails: Blue blaze

Total Time: 2:30 hours
Estimated Distance: 4.5 miles
Level of Difficulty: Slightly Difficult
Level of Recommendation: Recommended
Points Of Interest: Newly constructed Appalachian Trail, Bear Mountain Views 
Pros: Good climb, dramatic views, quieter part of Bear Mountain
Cons: Trail rerouting route of the AT is somewhat disappointing

Google Map of Parking:

View 2013 Hiking Locations in a larger map

The week before I had been to Bear Mountain and done some of the new trails up the mountain on the east and north side. I therefore wanted to check out the trail rerouting on the southern part of the mountain - particularly the Appalachian Trail up the mountain. Since my map is an older edition that doesn't have all the new trails, I found a map online showing the new trails and used this as my guide.

The weather was awful, with a flash flood watch in the area due to terrible isolated downpours. I was tracking the radar throughout the hike and although I came very close do a downpour, it remained just south of Bear Mountain, so I stayed dry throughout the hike. However, it was still very hazy, cloudy, and terribly humid. All my photos got some extra fog on them since my camera lens kept on fogging up in the humidity. The Southern approach to Bear Mountain was a good choice for this weather, and I also intentionally picked it for this hike because there are no streams that could flood here, there are plenty of people around, and it the hike affords some good rock shelters in case of a downpour.

I parked at the Hiker's Trailhead on Seven Lakes Drive before Perkin's Memorial Drive, and took the 1779 W Trail for a very short distance to the Appalachian Trail. This part of the Appalachian Trail had also been rerouted recently. I took the Appalachian Trail down to the road, crossed over it, and started the ascent at Bear Mountain. The trail climbs and then reaches Perkins Drive. The trail used to cross over Perkins Drive, but now instead crosses Perkins Drive and instead takes an old woods road that was once paved, and goes perpendicular to Perkins Drive. It then juts out at an angle going back the original and climbing up through some new steps. It climbs to a nice viewpoint where the old Major Welch Trail used to be, and instead of the Major Welch Trail there is now a short, dead-end blue-blazed spur trail going over the rock face and viewpoint. I took the spur and went back, and then instead of the Appalachian Trail climbing directly to the summit and tower, it now loops around the top, plateau-like portion of the mountain, with a new north-facing view before it turns back towards the tower. The very top is graded with small pebbles and was made to be wheelchair-accessible. At the top I took a different blue-blazed connecting trail back to the Appalachian Trail before it loops. I then took the Appalachian Trail back down the same way.

Now, for my criticism: While there are some enhancements to the rerouting of the trails, there are definitely ways this could have been done better and smarter. First of all - why eliminate one of the best parts of the Major Welch Trail, where it went along the southern ridge on a rock face with beautiful views? Why is this part only a short, dead-end spur of the Appalachian? The Major Welch now ends at the tower (and, by the way, without any visible end-marker), and it just fizzles out instead of going down and along towards to the southern ridge like it used to. What really should have been done is keep the same old end of the Major Welch along its original route down to Perkins Road on the western part of the mountain. No need to have eliminated it and instead place a stupid short spur!

Second: The Appalachian Trail is rerouted along an old abandoned road for quite a bit before it starts climbing. Why does it have to use this old road for such a long time? Aside from being undramatic, it takes the hiker way out of the way since it goes right back in the opposite direction as it climbs. Further, it gets very close to the descending part of the Appalachian Trail much further down, almost making the climb up to the top a total, out-of-the-way climb up Bear Mountain. What should have been done is have the trail climb the steep part using steps and rocks the same way the eastern approach goes. This was once the original part of the trail anyways! This would have made the climb up much more dramatic as well as closer to a route that is much more sensible.

And last, the Appalachian should not be looping all around the top of Bear Mountain. The trail should have gone straight to the top using the Blue Connector Trail, and the loop around the top should have been a separate short trail. There is no reason to take a long-distance hiker all roundabout here on the top of the mountain.

Map of the Route
Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails Northern Map

First Small View on the AT at the Initial Ascent.
Facing South Towards West Mountain

AT Trail Climbing the New Steps at the Old Road
Right Before it Starts Looping Back

View Along a New Part of the AT Trail.
Facing Southwest.

View From the AT Where the Old Major Welch Used to Be.
Facing South Towards West Mountain.

View From the Spur Trail Where the Old Major Welch Used to Be.
Facing Southweat Towards Queensboro Pond.

View from the Summit. Facing South.

Hordes of People on the Summit

New Spur Trail Connecting  the Summit to the AT.
This is a Very Large Rock Face

At Road Trailcrossing Sign at Seven Lakes Drive
at the End of My Hike.

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