State parks offer dozens of circuit hikes

Don Weise signs a copy of his book for Susanne Vondrak at the Cornwall Public Library on June 27.

Don Weise signs a copy of his book for Susanne Vondrak at the Cornwall Public Library on June 27.

The good thing about a circuit hike is when you’re finished you’re back where you started. You don’t have to turn around and retrace your steps  or arrange for a ride back to your car.

There are dozens of  good loop (or circuit) hikes in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Park. Don Weise has written a book about them that is now in its second edition. On June 27, Mr. Weise was a guest speaker at the Cornwall Public Library.

“What a great place you live in,” the author said as he greeted the guests. “There’s no place quite like where we are right here.” Mr. Weise wasn’t referring to shopping or transportation. He was talking about access to nature and scenic trails.

He’s a member of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which was formed almost a century ago when a  group of outdoor enthusiasts met on a rooftop in New York City. Their task was to decide what to do with the land Mary Harriman had donated to the state for the creation of a park. They started by creating a trail from Tuxedo to the Hudson River.

With time, the number of trails increased — and so did the number of volunteers. There are now 2,400. “We’re like the elves in the woods,” Mr. Weise told the audience. “We make the trails when no  one else is around.”

An experienced hike leader, he offered several tips. A few of them are:

1. Hydration starts the day before your hike

2. Bring salt with you

3. Let leaves of three be! Poison ivy has three leaves with alternate leaf patterns. It’s often shiny and it’s prevalent at the edge of a forest. People who say they’re not allergic to poison ivy may be mistaken.

4. If you see a bear, don’t turn your back and run. Mr. Weise recalled a hike with a friend when they saw a bear speeding toward them from a distance. The other man threw down a large rock, hoping that the noise would startle the creature and make it change directions. But the bear kept coming. So the two men stepped back (out of its path) and the bear ran right past them.

5. Most trails in the area are marked on trees. But in some places, a curved line on a rock will let you know which way the trail is turning.

The author’s book, “Circuit Hikes in Harriman,” identifies 37 trails. It gives you directions to the trail, tells you how long it is, and reports on the changes in elevation. Equally important, it identifies the attractions — the reasons for wanting to hike the trail. Each chapter includes pictures, maps, and elevation charts. You can purchase the book from the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference by visiting


Ken Cashman