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From NYC To Harriman State Park: Public Transportation

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Bear Mt. Bridge from The Timp
The trouble for me with living in New York City is that I don't have a car, so getting out of the city for a weekend trip into the wilderness can necessitate rather out of the way transportation routes. There are websites that mention that access to state parks is possible, but none that I have seen explains in any detail how to do so. In this post, I will outline getting to and from Harriman State Park in New York.

The park is vast and takes at least two days to hike through. There are routes that traverse the mountains from east to west, and these are the most accessible by public transportation. The park does expand quite far south, but the lack of trains and buses in that part make exploring those regions untenable unless one wishes to backtrack.

The easiest way to access the park is via the Short Line bus that departs from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on the west side of Midtown Manhattan. If you wish to start on the west side of the park, take the Middletown, NY bound bus to the Arden stop on route 17. This stop is, seemingly, in the middle of nowhere, but it provides direct access to the Appalachian Trail via the Elk Pen area just up the road to the east. For access to the east side, take the West Point bound bus to the Bear Mountain stop. This will drop you off just outside the Bear Mountain Inn with direct access to several trails, including the Appalachian Trail.

The most difficult part of hiking Harriman State Park is the return trip to NYC. On a multi-day backpacking hike, it's difficult to know what time you will exit the park. The way I suggest planning the hike is to start at Bear Mountain, hike through the park, and instead of hiking to the Appalachian Trail intersection at Elk Pen, take the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail south (just past the Fingerboard shelter), then take the yellow and white trails toward Southfields. Southfields is a better choice to catch the bus back to the city because it is better lit, has amenities like a gas station (junk food is a nice reward after a long, two day hike) and a motel.

Map of the west side of Harriman (purchase at

The white trail that leads down a hill to interstate 87 where the trail makes a left turn south and parallels the highway. After a short walk, you come to a pedestrian bridge over the highway. Take this bridge, and when you reach the other side, take a left turn, walk a short distance, then follow the white blazes right (west) toward a creek. There is a metal bridge that takes you over the creek, but it has been severely damaged by hurricane Irene. It is still passable with extreme caution as many of the boards are missing and there are no stairs the other side of the bridge.

Use extreme caution traversing the bridge to Southfields

The trail then leads toward the town. It intersects with an active railroad line. I suggest taking a left (south) turn here and walking along the tracks (carefully, trains running northbound) until you arrive at Railroad Ave. Cut through to the road, then climb the hill to route 17. Take a left (south) on route 17 toward the Valero gas station. Treat yourself to a snack and a drink, then check the return bus schedule to NYC.

The hardest part of the entire trip is not climbing the mountains, it's flagging down the speeding bus. There are no signs indicating where you should stand. My suggestion is standing by the north side of the yellow concrete box with shrubs in it just outside the Tuxedo Motel, and when you see the bus coming, wave your hands like mad. You will have to pay the bus driver in cash.

This last weekend, the bus sped right by me at 60 mph (in a 30 mph zone) and I was left outside in the freezing cold with 2 hours until the next bus, which may or may not see me. This is why Arden is a poor choice to catch the bus back and Southfields is superior because Southfields has the Tuxedo Motel. For $50 a night, including tax, you get a decent room, plenty good enough for the weary hiker. The man I met at the front desk was incredibly friendly, and I highly recommend this motel.

After spending the night at the hotel, flagging the bus in the light the next morning was easier. Just make sure you have enough money to spend the night in case you reach Southfields at night when it's cold. Either that, or plan to camp out at the gas station!


  1. 2 Dogs's Avatar
    Nothing for nothing ............. do some research on the Port Jervis & Mid-Hudson train lines / they'll put right on the outer edges of the park
  2. GoldenBear's Avatar
    Rode the bus from Southfields Township (the north part of Tuxedo) back to the New York City Port Authority Terminal just yesterday. The cost was $14.25 and, as the company makes clear, MUST be paid in cash ONLY. The driver will make change, but will not accept any bill larger than $20. These are inter-city buses, so they are restroom equipped.

    Bizarrely, while I waited for the Shortline Bus here, I saw three of these company's buses, all labelled "New York," going NORTH along this stretch of highway -- the last one going by at the exact time (6:16 pm) that their schedule said a bus would be coming through the town. This gave me the idea that I should have been waiting on the northbound side of the highway. About ten minutes later the bus I actually wanted came (no surprise) on the southbound side of Highway 17.

    After reading the original post, I got worried about WHERE to stand to get picked up. The Shortline URL
    lists the pickup point as "Rt 17 & Old Orange Tpk." This statement was problematic because (1) "OLD Orange Turnpike" does not exist in any map software and (2) this description pretty much fits the entire township. Thus, I e-mailed the company to get an exact idea of where the bus stops. I'll give credit to Shortline Bus Company: they answered promptly and intelligently, stating the pickup point was at the "building which is boarded up." When I responded with a question on whether THIS was the building they were referring to
    To their credit (again), Shortline promptly and accurately stated that the building in that photo was NOT the building where the bus stops, but was instead the one across from the beauty salon. A quick check (I mean, HOW MANY beauty salons can exist in a place the size of Southfields?) gave me this place
    which is right at the intersection of Route 17 and Orange Turnpike (aka County Highway 19). When I used the Street View feature of Google Earth{R}, both Bella Testa Salon and a grey store called "Corner Deli" were clearly visible. The latter is on the southbound side of the highway and has a large parking lot, so I presumed this is what they were referring to.

    When I got to Southfields yesterday, that grey building was clearly abandoned, with a locked door and "For rent by owner" sign on the front -- but not what I would call "boarded up." Also, there was not the slightest indication that this is where the Shortline Bus would stop. Nevertheless, I waited here and, despite the impatience I noted above, the bus did indeed stop when I waved it down. The Valero station and Tuxedo Motel noted in the original article are still there, but standing at the former Corner Deli would probably make you more visible to an approaching bus. Despite the place clearly being abandoned, there are still picnic tables along the highway (if it's pleasant) and an awning over the front (if it's raining, like it was yesterday), so you could stay there for a while in some degree of pleasantness. If you check the schedule, you can get your junk food at the Valero -- a three minute walk away -- and not get ready for the bus till it's about time for it to arrive.

    One SMALL bit of advice: when you start to flag down the bus, try to be certain it is, indeed, the Shortline Bus coming south towards you. They have their logo on the front of the bus, so it should be easy to identify. The driver of a white, charter bus gave me a funny look as he zipped by while I was waving furiously for him.

    The A.T. crosses Highway 17 at Arden House Road, over which it is easy to cross Interstate 87, the Rampo River, and the railroad tracks. When you get to Highway 17, you can go 1.6 miles north to the Harriman Depot and ride the train into Penn Station, or 1.9 miles south and ride the bus as I noted above. I've done both, and each is adequate for getting back -- your choice basically comes down to which schedule is more convenient for you. The train does accept credit cards for ticket purchase, and you DEFINITELY don't have to flag down the driver to get the train to stop.

    If you have trouble telling north from south, just remember: if the interstate and the train tracks are on your right as you walk along Highway 17, you're going north; on your left, you're going south. This highway is four-lane and undivided, so traffic moves pretty quickly. Fortunately, visibility for drivers is excellent and the shoulder is wide.