Harriman, Sterling Forest Trail Towns Work to Embrace Hiking Community

By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator

Hikers shuttle banner

The Harriman and Sterling Forest trail towns are welcoming hikers from around the region—and beyond. (Photo credit: Suzy Allman)

The towns of Suffern, Hillburn, Sloatsburg, and Tuxedo, surrounded by the great green havens of Harriman and Sterling Forest state parks, are recognizing an economic opportunity at their doorstep. Mass transit is bringing in visitors from New York City and beyond, and the towns need only to help connect them with the restaurants, shops, and other conveniently placed amenities these burgs have to offer. Day trippers are already seeking places to pick up sandwiches and sunscreen before their hikes, and a friendly pub or restaurant post-adventure before the next train home. Now, it’s becoming easier than ever to linger in these trail towns before heading into the woods.

Events like the first annual Explore Harriman: Adventure in the Trail Town Corridor, promoting cultural and outdoor activities along the west side of the park, are making that clear. Sponsored by the Suffern Chamber of Commerce, Explore Harriman took place on September 19 and encouraged visitors and residents alike to tour these communities and partake in all of the great food, music, art, and happenings they offer. Buses conveniently shuttled visitors from town to town for a full day of celebration.

“The Greater Suffern Chamber of Commerce is excited to be uniting with Hillburn, Sloatsburg, and Tuxedo on this project,” said Suffern Chamber of Commerce President Aurelius Licata of Licata Insurance Management Corp. “We thank Alden Wolfe, Chairman of the Rockland County Legislature, for pulling together an enthusiastic group of movers and shakers, especially all the fantastic people at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, who have a love for our area’s greatest asset, Harriman State Park.”

Speaking of buses, the Harriman Shuttle, sponsored by MyHarriman.com, the Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce, and A Better Tuxedo, is affordably increasing access to the parks, especially for those traveling to this area of the Lower Hudson Valley via train from Manhattan. The big yellow bus is bringing visitors to camps, trailheads, and beaches that used to require a car to reach for just $5 per trip, which helps offset the cost of the bus. Town-to-town hikes and stayovers can now be more easily planned, allowing visitors to take in new views and experiences en route.

Shuttle bus riders with dog

The Harriman Shuttle provides improved access to the park. (Photo credit: Suzy Allman)

“The shuttle has been a blast, and enthusiasm from hikers for the new service is over the top,” said Suzy Allman, founder of MyHarriman.com. “While our ridership is almost exclusively young ‘urbaneers’ from Manhattan and Brooklyn, we’re also picking up groups who are looking for a four-to-seven-hour hike for the day. We’ve had groups using the park as a shakedown location, training for longer thru-hikes in the Sierras, Glacier Park, and the northern part of the Appalachian Trail.  We’ve had tourists from Russia, Australia, China, and the U.K.; we’ve had families going to the group camps and individuals staying at Nawakwa.”

Local citizens, too, have risen to the challenge of creating a “trail town” feel for visitors, volunteering their time to promote trails and outdoor recreation. A group of Trail Conference volunteers are helping people obtain maps at the Suffern and Tuxedo Farmers’ Markets every Saturday, while others are assisting hikers in choosing appropriate trails for their day. The Harriman Shuttle route begins at the Tuxedo Train Station, where volunteers hop onboard and lend their experience and knowledge of the park to riders.

Visitors at the Tuxedo Train Station

Visitors hop off the train at Tuxedo en route to an adventure in Harriman. (Photo credit: Suzy Allman)

Others have led town tours and meetings to brainstorm with local residents and businesses on how best to attract visitors to the towns’ historic and scenic attractions. Kiosks are being planned at strategic locations to provide information on the recreational opportunities in the area, while there are plans to install maps and traffic signage to direct hikers on safe route through the towns. Suffern is already making its mark in that regard, literally—blazes have been painted from the Suffern Train Station to the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail, and a kiosk is being placed at the SBM trail head.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the trail town movement happening in these communities, contact Trail Conference West Hudson Program Coordinator Sona Mason: smason@nynjtc.org or 201.512.9348 x16. The Harriman Shuttle is looking for volunteers to ride along and share park information with hikers. The Shuttle is also in need of sponsors so the program can continue next year. Find more info at myharriman.com/ride-harriman-shuttle.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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2 Responses to Harriman, Sterling Forest Trail Towns Work to Embrace Hiking Community

  1. don uebel says:

    please understand the reason i and many of the other “locals” love living here is the quiet and natural beauty and that we do not welcome hikers from the “city” or wherever walking all over our space. what follows will be debris and a need for increased public service that we must answer. many hikers i have met are folks that look at you like your nuts for trying to engage them in casual conversation. hikers are pleasant enough but the increasing numbers will bring to my community exactly why i left theirs 29 years ago… a handful will make little money from these people the rest of us will feel intruded upon…sorry but that’s how i see it.

  2. Dave Granhard says:

    Luckily Mary Harriman didn’t feel the same way as you when she gifted the park to the people of New York and New Jersey, as “a great playground, a public breathing place”. All of the people, and not just those who live in the towns surrounding the park.

    You only have to look at the trails through the park to see that Harriman was built to serve the people of the city. Ramapo-Dunderberg. Tuxedo-Mount Ivy. Hillburn-Torn-Sebago. Suffern-Bear Mountain. These trails were built to connect the passenger train stations north to south and east to west (though the West Shore Railroad is not a passenger rail anymore) so city hikers could spend a day or a weekend. The Parkway was built as a Way to the Park, from the city. The stone shelters were built for city hikers to spend the night, and as early as 1920, millions of visitors were coming to the Hudson Highlands from the city each year, not to mention the city kids staying in the wilderness summer camps, as they do today.

    Sorry you feel intruded upon, but this magnificent park was here long before you.

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