The more I explore Harriman State Park, the more I regret not visiting it earlier because there’s many things you can do there.
This place is so close to NYC and has so many adventures to offer that any nearby resident there would be missing out on not exploring it and in this post, I want to show you 5 awesome things you can do there, whether it’s for the first time or if you’re revisiting it again and want to try some new adventures.
- 1 Here’s 5 things to do at Harriman State Park (NY):
- 2 What is Harriman State Park?
- 3 My short history with Harriman State Park:
- 4 1) For starters, I highly recommend doing the Seven Lakes Drive:
- 5 2) Explore each of the 7 lakes of Harriman State Park:
- 6 3) Do the Kakiat trail (the most popular hiking trail in Harriman State Park):
- 7 4) Explore the Dater Mountain Loop trail:
- 8 5) Try the Reeves Brook Loop Trail:
- 9 4 other spots to explore near Harriman State Park for extra adventures:
Here’s 5 things to do at Harriman State Park (NY):
- Absolutely do the Seven Lakes drive.
- Explore each of the 7 lakes in Harriman State Park.
- Do the Kakiat trail (2+ mile loop).
- Do the Dater Mountain Loop trail (2+ loop trail).
- Do the Reeves Brook Loop Trail (almost 4 mile long loop).
Each of these adventures will give you a great tour of Harriman State Park and help you get the most out of your experience and if you’re really adventurous, you may even be able to do all 5 of these things in one day!
Before I explain all of the details of these 5 things to do at Harriman State Park, I want to explain a bit more info about this park because from what I gathered in my own experiences, most people just don’t know about it.
What is Harriman State Park?
It’s actually one of the largest State Parks in New York State and is one about 30 minutes to 1 hour away from NYC. It offers tons of activities you can do including:
- Kayaking and boating.
- Tons of hiking trails (100’s of miles).
- A very nice scenic drive.
- And much more.
It also borders with Bear Mountain State Park and is a nice add on idea on what to see if you’ve finished exploring Harriman State Park and want to see what else is nearby.
My short history with Harriman State Park:
I love exploring nature spots outside of NYC and having lived there for several decades, I’m ashamed to admit this but over that long period of time, I’ve only recently begun exploring Harriman State Park. Before this happened, I would always disregard this place and not consider it to be a great spot for day hikes, adventures and scenic drives.
And this is actually because I’d already explored so many areas in New York State, like:
- These day hikes near NYC.
- The Catskills.
- I’ve also explored Mohonk Preserve.
- And further north, Ausable Chasm and the Adirondacks.
- I’ve also visited Finger Lakes.
- I’ve been to Widow Jane Mine.
- I’ve also done numerous scenic drives in New York State.
- I’ve explored Lake George a number of times too.
- And more.
But most of these adventures would involve me taking long several hour drives out of the city to see them and the many times that I’d visit them, I’d pass by Harriman State Park or see it on my GPS (later on this strategy was what I used to find great and easy hikes near me), but ignore going there because at least from an outer view, scenery there wasn’t as “grand” as the stuff I saw further away and so I’d keep passing it by.
The moment my opinion of Harriman State Park changed forever (the first visit):
I was taking a simple day trip outside NYC with my family. We were 15 minutes away from Harriman State Park and had only 1 hour to spare and so I decided to finally go into this park and just drive through it (it only took me 20 years to do it!).
From the moment that occurred, I was instantly hooked with this park and needed to go back (and did 3 more times within several months).
And today, this park is a place I plan to revisit again and again because there’s just so much to do and explore, much of which totally fits my style of adventuring. So let’s get to the places I recommend you see at this park:
1) For starters, I highly recommend doing the Seven Lakes Drive:
This was the very first thing I did when I went into this park and I always make sure to do it each time I go here. It’s a beautiful drive that takes you through the heart of Harriman State Park and has you seeing some of the best places it has to offer, including 7 of it’s most beautiful lakes.
If you have very little time to see this park but really want to visit it, then do the scenic drive. It’ll only take about 20-30 minutes (without stops) and you can get a great scenic drive out of it.
This will also have you cross many of the stops and places to visit in the park if you like what you see and want to explore more.
2) Explore each of the 7 lakes of Harriman State Park:
The scenic drive will take you through all of them like I said earlier and you will have the chance to stop at each lake and decide which one/s you wish to explore. Each lake offers it’s own amazing adventures such as:
- Swimming (if you’re into that).
- Island hopping on a kayak in some of the lakes.
- Trail hikes around each lake.
- Skiing and snowboarding.
- And more.
So far I’ve only really explored 2 of the lakes at this park and whether it’s a normal hike around them, a day time picnic in the area or just a nice sight seeing moment, every lake at Harriman State Park has a lot to offer for all types of people and is very enjoyable.
Note: Harriman State Park actually has more lakes and ponds than just these 7 (there’s actually over 30).
3) Do the Kakiat trail (the most popular hiking trail in Harriman State Park):
If there’s any place in Harriman State Park that always has a fully filled parking lot and popularity, it’s the Kakiat trail.
It lies on the southern end of the park and usually has a ton of traffic and filled up parking lots there so if you want to do this trail, come early and/or on a weekday but still expect there to be traffic.
Anyway, it can be done different ways, and the length of it can be several miles to 10+ as it’s connected to several different colored trails.
Here is a map and the way I did the Kakiat loop trail in Harriman State Park:
- Started in the red trail near Reeves Meadow Visitor center.
- Switched to the orange trail about 2 miles up.
- Switched to the blue trail back.
- Switched back to the white trail which took me back to Reeves Meadow Visitor Center.
I have also done this trail in the opposite direction and honestly thought the first option I did was more fun.
Note: Some of the hiking trails at Harriman State Park intersect with the famous Appalachian trail.
4) Explore the Dater Mountain Loop trail:
This is another popular hike at Harriman State Park which you’ll find on the western side of the park and it is also in similar length to the Kakiat trail, but offers different viewing areas at it’s top peaks (which is really Harriman State Park and it’s lakes).
Like with the Kakiat trail, you should do this hike early in the morning and on a weekday, unless you want to run into tons of other hikers in the area.
5) Try the Reeves Brook Loop Trail:
Not only is this hike also a popular one in the park, but it is also longer and a bit more challenging as there are certain spots in which you’ll have to climb up through.
On the other hand, the scenic views you get from this trail are pretty astounding and highly recommended if you’re a big fan of challenging hikes.
While most of the trails and hikes in Harriman State Park are pretty easy and short, this is one of the more challenging ones people like to do who enjoy that sort of stuff.
So whether it be a half or full day of exploring, there’s more than enough to fill that time if you visit Harriman State Park and I highly recommend that you do!
4 other spots to explore near Harriman State Park for extra adventures:
1) Bear Mountain State Park (20 minutes away):
It’s literally the next door park to this one and also offers a bunch of cool hikes and scenery to explore. I’ve visited Bear Mountain State Park twice and it’s also a good place to visit if you enjoy hikes similar to that of Harriman State Park.
In my opinion/memory, the hikes there aren’t as fun, but they are pretty easy and good for family adventures.
2) Mohonk Preserve (1 hour away):
This park offers some really cool hiking experiences like the Labyrinth (challenging). There’s also beautiful gardens, lakes and other activities to explore at Mohonk Preserve.
3) The Catskills (2 hours away):
One of my favorite spots in all of New York State, the Catskills are a spot I visit often and whether you’re into challenging (Devil’s Path) or easy hikes (North South Lake), swimming, sightseeing or snow sports, you will have all of that available here.
Just as well, there are nice swimming holes in the Catskills to explore.
4) Breakneck Ridge (30 minutes away):
If you love hiking and want to experience a very challenging one, then Breakneck Ridge is where I recommend you go. It’s very close to Harriman State Park and the hiking there is strenuous to say the least!