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Hike Harriman Into the Heart of Leaf Peeping Season

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Photo by Michael Malandra Photography

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Settled at the southern tip of Harriman State Park lies the trail town corridor, a stretch of land in Rockland County that includes the quaint villages of Sloatsburg and Suffern. The two villages have embraced their 18th and 19th century roots as natural havens for those yearning for a convenient escape. Even for non-Rockland County residents, it’s a day trip that doesn’t require leaving the Hudson Valley. From its expansive outdoor activities to its diverse dining options, Sloatsburg and Suffern offer adventures on and off the trail.

Suffern autumn. Photo by Michael Malandra Photography.

Suffern autumn. Photo by Michael Malandra Photography.

THE OUTDOORS

Accessible by car or rail, the trail town corridor serves as a gateway to one of New York State’s most beautiful parks. For the hiking enthusiast, Reeves Meadow is a popular spot with the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center — located only a mile and a half from the Sloatsburg train station — serving as an easy launch point. After purchasing a New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Map, you can escape into the woods, traveling toward Pine Meadow Lake or the scenic Torne View. Both spots are popular, while the Tom Jones Shelter is slightly more hidden. Located just off Route 106, the Tom Jones Shelter is about a six-mile trek from the visitor center. It’s important to carry out what you carry in and practice “leave no trace” in order to preserve the beautiful land.

Photo courtesy of Explore Harriman

Photo courtesy of Explore Harriman

“Leaf peeping season provides a scenic and kind of magical way to experience the woods,” David Pereyra of Explore Harriman and Deputy Chair of the Sloatsburg Revitalization Committee says. “Harriman State Park trails give hikers easy access to an amazing seasonal show.”

Originally referred to by the native Ramapo-Lenape people as the “point of the mountains,” Suffern marks one end of the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail — a roughly 25-mile trek between Suffern and Bear Mountain. It’s the longest trail in Harriman State Park.

Explore Harriman by @natureaddictlady

Photo by @natureaddictlady

If biking is more your speed, Sterling Forest features the multi-use Munsee-Eagle and Hutchinson/Red Black Trails, which combine to form a 7-mile loop through many terrains. Between Sloatsburg and Suffern lies the The Powerlinez, a climbing destination within the corridor just off I-87. The Powerlinez, managed and preserved by the Torne Valley Climbers’ Coalition, offers sport climbs, top roping climbs, traditional climbing, and bouldering. While the weather is nice, upstate adventurers can take to the lakes, kayaking in one of the 32 lakes located in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks.

The Powerlinez. Photo by myharriman.com

The Powerlinez. Photo by myharriman.com

THE HISTORY

Much of the trail town corridor’s history is rooted in its culture, the villages of Sloatsburg and Suffern work hard to maintain that charm. For centuries the area has been a destination for artists. Sloatsburg’s Plein Air Art Event continues that cultural history, inviting artists to display their work in the village. Many of those paintings depict local historical sites including the white pillars of Harmony Hall, the Ramapo River flowing over Sloat’s Dam, and the stone architecture of Brown’s Gate. Harmony Hall, a 19th century Greek Revival mansion, once served as the home of village founder, Jacob Sloat. It is one of six marked historical sites in Sloatsburg that history buffs can visit; a map located in a kiosk just outside the train station can help visitors navigate the easy to reach locations.

“Sloatsburg was called the most picturesque village in this part of the Erie railroad line,” Harmony Hall curator, Geoff Welch, states.

Harmony Hall. Photo by Geoff Welch.

Harmony Hall. Photo by Geoff Welch.

Suffern is no different, it’s a hotbed for Revolutionary War history along with other significant periods. Rockland County historian, Craig H. Long enthuses that “visitors need to know, when they come to Suffern, history happened here.” Whether it’s the former site of John Suffern’s homestead-turned-tavern or the historic Lafayette Theater, visitors are surrounded by history by walking in the footsteps of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette. An appropriate place to start a tour of the sites is the Suffern Village Museum.

THE DINING

Suffern’s combination of multi-generational dwellers and new arrivals, along with a strong sense of community, has led to a surge of diverse local eateries. Whether it be the elegance of Marcello’s Ristorante, the coziness of Java Love Coffee Roasting Co., or the soul food of Diddy’s, Suffern’s restaurants offer a little bit for everyone by reflecting a little bit of everyone.

Java Love Roasting Co. Photo courtesy of Explore Harriman.

Java Love Roasting Co., Suffern. Photo courtesy of Explore Harriman.

“It’s really a community gathering together,” Martina Cinarli, President of the Suffern Chamber of Commerce says. “In the summer evening, sitting outside on a restaurant patio…watching the sunset, we have that.”

Village Blend Coffeehouse and Cafe, Sloatsburg. Photo courtesy of Explore Harriman.

Village Blend Coffeehouse and Cafe, Sloatsburg. Photo courtesy of Explore Harriman.

Sloatsburg has its own unique dining experience. Before a hiker heads for the trail, a stop at the Valley Rock Mountain Market or the neighboring Village Blend is a must. And once the trail has been conquered, a celebratory beer can be had at Seven Lakes Station, a craft beer taproom with live music. But for more special evenings, reservations should be placed at the Valley Rock Inn, a popular spot with an Instagrammable outdoor area.

Restaurant directories and more local information can be found on ExploreHarriman.org and on Rockland County Tourism’s website.

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