There are some incredible routes and locations tucked away in the New York area – winding roads criss-crossing the Hudson river and beautiful state parks. Local rider Shane Herrick picks three motorcycle runs just outside NYC.
Climbing up over the George Washington Bridge leading out of Manhattan and New York City, the hustling masses, the towering steel and glass edifices, the constant thunder of subway cars and the wailing siren songs fade almost immediately, giving way instead to the tree-lined commuter racetrack that is the Palisades Interstate Parkway of New Jersey.
Running north and south along the Hudson River, which separates the island of Manhattan from the mainland, the Palisades Parkway connects New York City to the suburbs, sprawling woodlands and bedrock hills of northeastern New Jersey and southeastern New York State. It is here, about 40 miles outside the city, that some of the best roads for motorcycles bob and weave their way through lush forests, along drastic mountain ridges and around the countless lakes and waterfalls of the southern Hudson Valley.
Bear Mountain – Bear Mountain State Park – Storm King
At roughly 1,200 ft, and only about a 40-minute ride from the George Washington Bridge and Manhattan, Bear Mountain is among the closest mountain peaks to the city and one of the most popular in the Hudson Highlands region as well. The mountain itself is known for its drastic geography and unique panoramic views. Its eastern side climbs 1,000 feet in under a mile from the bouldered banks of Lake Hessian. It reaches straight up then, another 50 feet or so of sheer cliff face looking clear out over the lake and the Hudson River just beyond to the east.
For those not looking to scramble to the summit on foot, simply pull off the Palisades Parkway and on to Seven Lakes Drive going north. From there continue on to Perkins Memorial Drive. As you weave your way up the wooded southwestern expanse of Bear Mountain, you will cross two of the oldest portions of the infamous Appalachian Trail, which runs roughly 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine.
Run the mountain road back down and rejoin the Palisades Parkway
Take a moment at the summit and climb the Perkins Memorial Tower, where you’ll be able to spot the iconic New York City skyline in the distance to the south. For an excellent view of Bear Mountain and the Hudson River, run the mountain road back down and rejoin the Palisades Parkway. As the Parkway terminates, it lets you out over Bear Mountain Bridge, also known as Purple Heart Memorial Bridge, a historic 1920’s steel suspension bridge – mind the crosswinds here.
The surrounding Bear Mountain State Park also boasts Dunderberg Mountain, West Mountain, the Iona Island bird sanctuary, the historic Bear Mountain Inn and Fort Montgomery, first built in 1776 during the American Revolution.
Further north along the Hudson River on Route 9W, just past Westpoint Military Academy, sits Storm King Mountain, State Park and Art Center in Mountainville, New York. Storm King Mountain itself looms large, leaning over and pushing into the Hudson River.
And along its eastern expanse runs Storm King Highway, or New York State Route 218, which is a road not to be missed on two wheels. For roughly three miles, it winds along the steep slopes, dipping in and out of the mountainside and sometimes climbing to 420 feet above the waters of the Hudson below. Mind your speed and the curves here. There are several lookouts and pull-offs where vehicles often stop to take in the view. Also worth noting, the shoulder on one side of the road is a mountain and the other side has only a 2-foot cobblestone wall as a guard rail.
It is a truly beautiful, serene and absolutely surreal place
The panoramic views across the river are incredible. On the opposite bank, Breakneck Ridge juts out as if to meet Storm King and together these two mountains make Wey-Gat, or Wind Gate (again, worth minding cross winds on bridges and exposed roads).
Just a few miles to the west, Storm King Art Center stretches some 500 acres out into the valley. First opened by Ralph E. Ogden in 1960, this open-air museum and sculpture field has hosted some of the 20th century’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. It is a truly beautiful, serene and absolutely surreal place to walk around, stretch your legs and admire some immense works of art.
Harriman State Park – Seven Lakes Drive
Harriman State Park, in Rockland County, is the second largest park in New York State and borders Bear Mountain State Park’s southern expanse. It stretches over 45,000 acres and is home to 31 lakes, and numerous camping, fishing and boating areas, as well as miles of winding country roads.
Among them is the iconic Seven Lakes Drive; a stunning 15-mile run that dances and weaves through the sprawling woodlands and rolling hills of the southern Hudson Valley. As the name suggests, it connects the seven largest lakes within the state park and boasts incredible views of nearly untouched and undeveloped nature – truly a rarity, especially so close to New York City.
Where Seven Lakes Drive runs the extent of Harriman State Park north and south, there are several roads that cut across it. These roads switchback and weave their way through the trees in ragged loops around the other lakes, hills and valleys in the eastern and western parts of the park. They conveniently also always seem to somehow again cut back and rejoin Seven Lakes Drive.
Lean into some wide-open, sweeping curves.
Mind the cyclists a bit here as they sometimes force vehicles to overtake or cut corners when not riding in single file. Though the area is quite popular, especially in the summer, you can find yourself some empty roads in the shade of the trees and hills to lean into some wide-open, sweeping curves.
Shawangunk Ridge – Minnewaska – Mohonk
The Shawangunk Ridge – Shawangunk Mountains or just the ‘Gunks’ as they are more often referred to – is a jagged, sprawling ridge running roughly 50 miles north to south, from northern New Jersey to New York’s Catskill Mountains. It makes up the easternmost part of the Appalachian mountain range and, due to its abundance of ragged, towering cliff faces, has become extremely popular with rock climbers and hikers. If you do decide to have a climb, take it easy before getting back on your motorcycle as you may find pulling the clutch in or using the front brake is near impossible after clinging to a cliff face for a few hours. The rugged geography and drastic changes in elevation also make for roaring waterfalls, expansive views and excellent mountainside roads.
A good place to start is at the Shawangunk Ridge Forest to the south. Ride up through Cragmoor and Sam’s Point (Verkeerder Kill Falls here is worth a look) and dive into the snake-run roads and sprawling wilds of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Continue north past Awosting Falls and through the Trapps to the famous Mohonk Mountain House – an enormous and fantastical mountain lodge on Mohonk Lake, reminiscent of the infamous hotel in The Shining. Also worth riding to is the nearby Skytop Tower and, just a stretch further north, Bonticou Crag and the Table Rocks.
Waterfalls and backwoods dirt roads
On this stretch, you’ll find no shortage of mountainous ridge roads, switchbacks and wooded valley runs among the cliffs and pines. Your cornering will no doubt be on point by the end of this run, but definitely keep your eyes peeled for deer and other wildlife crossing the road. Keep your ear to the ground for local swimming holes, waterfalls and backwoods dirt roads as well, though mind the protected forests when hunting dirt trails.
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