Shoes On: Hiking in Harriman State Park via the Port Jervis Line Train

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With any trip I take, I aim to be as climate-friendly as possible. While I can’t avoid travel (my loved ones are spread far and wide), I can do my absolute best to avoid planes, cars, and other forms of high-emissions travel. In cities I like to try local foods, walk, and bike as much as possible. Not only is walking and biking better for the climate, but I find that I end up seeing a lot more of the city that way.

Timeline

Saturday

  • 11:14 am, I got on a NJ Transit train heading towards Secaucus Junction, getting off at Secaucus Junction
  • 11:30 am, I transferred to the Main/Bergen County Line heading toward Port Jevis.
  • 12:30 am, I got off at Tuxedo Station and began walking toward Harriman State Park.
  • 12:45 am, I arrived at the Ramapo Dunderberg trailhead.
  • 4:20 pm, I caught the Main/Bergen County Line train heading towards Hoboken, getting off at Secaucus.
  • 5:32 pm, I transferred to a train to New York Penn Station.
  • 5:36 pm, I arrived at Pann Station. 

I can’t deny that fall is in the air, but I needed to hear leaves crunch beneath my feet and feel the autumn breeze before I could get a Pumpkin Spice Latte. While I was originally planning to take the Metro-North Hudson Line up to Breakneck Ridge, I was nervous that the hike would be too long and too hard (for those interested there is a substantial rock scramble at the beginning of Breakneck Ridge). Thus, I tried to find a more accessible hike. Harriman State Park, just on the other side of the Hudson River, had more trail options and some easier terrain.

To get to Harriman State Park is nearly as easy as getting to Breakneck Ridge. The NJ Transit Main/Bergen Line (which technically becomes the Metro-North Port Jervis Line once you cross the New York State border) passes through Tuxedo Station in Tuxedo Park, NY on the weekends, a mere 15-minute walk from the nearest trailhead. You need to cross under Route 87 but the walk to the trailhead is pedestrian-friendly with a wide shoulder.

Before embarking on my journey, I downloaded the AllTrails app to have an offline map of the forest. While this feature is only available to AllTrails+ members, I went ahead and got the free trial. Just in case, I also downloaded the area offline on Google Maps. Google Maps, I found, was somewhat helpful in knowing if I was going in approximately the right direction, but the AllTrails offline map had more information such as the trail paths, colors of the blazes, and trail names. 

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The route I took, the Claudius Smith Den and Lake Skenonto Loop, is an approximately 6-mile hike. AllTrails users gave this loop a pretty high rating and marked it as a “moderate” hike. Apparently, the average time to complete the loop is 2 hours and 52 minutes, but I stopped quite frequently so it took me about 3.5 hours. 

The trail is rocky, but still perfectly walkable. It was a bit steep in the beginning and you can still hear the highway behind you for the first hour of the hike. A bit muddy from recent deluges of rain, I was glad I was wearing hiking boots. 

I started on the red bar trail, moved over to the blue trail to get to Lake Skenoto, then took the yellow trail to find my way to the other red trail to head back to the train station. Overall, I had a fairly easy time following the route using AllTrails. Some intersections with other trails were confusing and I was glad I had a map. To make your own loop, or discover others without the AllTrails app, see the New York State Department of Parks trail map.

Lake Skenoto was gorgeous. It was just a few steps off the trail and onto the edge of the water. Calm, peaceful, and serene, I stayed there for a few minutes to take it all in. Unfortunately, my phone battery started to get pretty low about halfway through, so my photos are limited. However, an AllTrails reviewer left this photo which I think captures the beauty of Lake Skenoto far better than I would have. 

Lake Skenoto in October 2015 Photo: Brian Epstein/AllTrails

There were some panoramic views, but not many. One of the highlights of this trail is the Claudius Smith Den, a rock outcropping that serves as a roof for weary travelers. I learned on the train ride up (which is probably why I started the hike with a low phone battery) that Claudius Smith was a reputed guerilla leader during the American Revolution. His “den” served as a location to stable horses and shelter marauders who camped out under the rocky outcropping. Smith was partial to the British and a known terrorizer to anyone who lived in the area, frequently stealing livestock to sell to the Brits. Eventually, he was caught by the Americans in 1779.

A garter snake along the trail. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

On the way back to the train station I spotted this cute little garter snake. I think the picture was worth losing 1 percent of my remaining phone battery. 

One of the perks of getting off at Tuxedo Station is that there is a small downtown with a few restaurants, a cafe, and a bar. Should you miss your first train, it won’t be hard to kill some time before the next one. Gratefully, I didn’t have to do so.

I did, however, stop by the cafe and get a (decaf) pumpkin latte for my train ride back.   

The calculations (cost and carbon) 

  • Cost: $14 each way
  • Carbon: These calculations are approximations using several different calculators. The figure is meant to represent how travel can be clean compared to air travel. While it’s important to consider our personal carbon footprint, it’s more important to show governments and businesses what we care about — if more people choose to walk, bike, take public transportation, and use the train, then more infrastructure will be put into place to make those options easier. Plus, it ends up being pretty cost-effective to eschew planes and cars.
    • For about 80 miles of travel with NJ Transit, I used 6kg of CO2, the same as driving about 14 miles.

This article is part of our new series, “Shoes On,” all about travel from NYC using trains and other forms of clean transportation. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest destinations, right to your inbox. 


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Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil is the Editor of Bluedot Living Brooklyn, and the Managing Editor, Special Projects, for the Brooklyn Eagle. When she's not writing, you can either find her outside — in the rain, shine, snow, or cold — or inside baking bread. Find her on twitter @mkeil16.
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