Mountain Memories: Readers Share Their Bear Mountain Stories

A word from Hudson Valley Magazine’s Executive Editor, Olivia J. Abel

The Bear Mountain Inn, and surrounding state park, has long been a favorite destination for my family. In fact, two years ago, I wrote in this very column about the many ways the Inn played a pivotal role in my upbringing. My parents spent their honeymoon there, and, throughout my childhood, we’d use any excuse — be it Mother’s Day or just a glorious sunny day — to hop in the car and take the one-hour drive north to the Inn. We’d hike, visit the zoo, indulge in the buffet brunch, and plop ourselves down by the oversized fireplace for some prime people-watching.

My sister and I visited the Inn two years ago when it re-opened after a six-year renovation. This year, the iconic stone building turned 100. (I’m happy to tell you that it’s looking great for its age!) To mark this special occasion, we asked our readers to share some of their favorite memories of visiting the Inn and the state park. The response was overwhelming. We received hundreds of heartfelt stories. We heard from people who grew up in New York City and had never been in the great outdoors before visiting Bear Mountain, there were lots of love stories — many of you were courted here — and, of course, plenty of people told us how visiting the inn for annual events has become a family tradition that is passed down through the generations.

Here are some of their stories:

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I went there for elementary-school class trips. I remember buying a stuffed bear that I loved. Then I went there for cross country meets in high school. I met a boy who ran cross country, started dating, and went to the inn when it was a disco/club with my boyfriend. I married that boyfriend and attended weddings at the Bear Mountain Inn. There were Mother’s Day picnics there, we took our children ice skating and to the zoo there, and now will take our new grandchild there.
Mavis Ronayne, Pearl River

I can remember coming up to Bear Mountain in the early 1950s. The family would board the Circle Line boat and we would have a day trip for a vacation. The boat ride up was great, but arriving at Bear Mountain was the icing on the top. [I remember] racing from the docks and enjoying trees and grass, and once in a while a meal at the inn.
Kevin Dargan, Maryknoll

My grandparents introduced me to this magical place at a very young age. We would watch the ski jumps and view the ice sculptures in the winter, walk through the zoo during the warmer months, and go leaf-peeping around the grounds in the fall. As I got older, I would take the bus with my friends from the Stony Point Town Hall to go ice skating on Friday nights; the bus ride was 50 cents. When I got to high school, I had my junior prom there.
Kathleen Mackey, New Windsor

And the winner of two passes to Sunday Brunch at the Bear Mountain Inn goes to Lee Kulsha of Peekskill. To read about more memories, click here.

My first visit to beautiful Bear Mountain State Park was when my husband and I we were first dating. We used to drive up every chance we had on the weekends. We’d pack a picnic, sit by the lake, and just enjoy lazy afternoons in the sunshine – reading, playing cards, enjoying a challenging Scrabble game, and just soaking in the views. For years, he tried to convince me to tour the lake in one of the row boats. Not being able to swim, I was always a little hesitant. One afternoon, I decided to be brave and went for it. Looking back, I am so glad that I did! I got a different perspective on the park; it was so peaceful and serene. In the late fall and winter, we’d take our Scrabble game indoors to the Inn and enjoy a drink by the roaring fire. We live much closer now and when we feel like we need a little rejuvenation, we hop in the car and are enjoying everything the inn has to offer.
Lee Kulsha, Peekskill

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Olivia J. Abel
Executive Editor

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