Updated: Feb 28
By Ian & Morgan
Explore Harriman: Before setting out on any trail, always be sure to have not only the Avenza App on your smart phone but a waterproof trail map by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference as well. We also strongly suggest you heed these important winter do's & don'ts by our friends at Urban and Outdoor Survival.
Whether you're an advanced or beginner hiker, it can be hard to find approachable trails during the winter when the weather varies between snow and ice. If you're coming up from NYC, you might not want to risk driving up to the Catskills just to find a crowded or snowed-in parking lot. Morgan and I don't blame you and we feel tremendously lucky to have nearby Harriman State Park!
This park is an amazing place that offers so much for every type of hiker out there and has become the perfect place for Me and Morgan to escape to on the weekends. This past weekend we decided to do the Blue Disc Loop Trail with our friend and my cousin. Harriman is perfect for every type of hiker - Our friend who tagged along is a newbie to the hiking game and has been coming on hikes with us over the last year when she can. Whereas my cousin is an experienced hiker who has completed many hiking clubs like ADK46er, Catskill35er, and New Hampshire 48, 4,000 footers and he still loves making trips to Harriman due to its vast beauty and how close it is to home.
We started the morning at the small roundabout parking lot on the end of Stony Brook Drive (south entrance of the park) on Seven Lakes Drive. It was a brisk 17 degrees in the parking lot, but the sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful blue with very few clouds. We got all our gear together, layered up, and made our way to the trailhead. We saw that the path was covered in ice because of this past Friday night's ice storm. So the four of us pulled on our microspikes to help us gain traction on the trail.
This trail starts nice and wide cutting through wooded areas, passing over and walking along streams at times. For the first 1.7 miles, there is a nice consistent incline which gets very flat to slightly uphill at times - a perfect warm-up for the rest of the hike that does a blend of uphill and downhill sections. At the 1.8 mile point is when you begin to head uphill to walk past Blauvelt Mountain which sits 1,165ft above sea level. The trail will begin to feel a bit wavy since you'll find yourself going uphill for a few feet then make your way downhill a few feet. And, as you do so you’ll spy views of the surrounding mountains through various breaks in the trees which is more visible now as the forest isn’t thick with foliage.
At mile 2.5 is when you reach the first picture-perfect view from Claudius Smith Den, which is an exposed rock ledge overlooking Tuxedo Park, NY. Morgan and I love this location because it's a perfect place to enjoy a snack while taking in the great view. When we reached this spot today the wind was blowing pretty good making it feel more like 10 degrees compared to the actual temperature of 20. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed our honey stingers and hot chocolate (real quick mind you) before heading down the backside and the trail. The next part of the trail is very peaceful with a mix of up and downhill portions. At a certain point, you are walking along rock walls with the option of going in and out of one or two rock squeezers. I would just be careful at mile 3.3 in these wintry conditions because there is a decent rock scramble down from Pound Mountain before heading towards Dater Mountain and the Almost Perpendicular Cliffside.
The View at Almost Perpendicular Cliffside is an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking spot of Harriman State Park. One of the best parts about today was the scenery of all the ice covering the trees on the mountainsides. It almost gave Harriman this magical sparkling glow and the sound of the icy branches in the wind provided an amazing symphony of mother nature's natural-made windchimes. After snapping a few photos and taking in the view one last time, we began our descent down the backside of Almost Perpendicular Cliffside for our last 0.7 miles to the parking lot.
As we reached the descent down our last rock scramble our microspikes became our best friends, because this path was completely covered in ice. Me being the brave soul descended first as our group's test dummy, I started with a butt slide to limit my chances of falling. Though, once I started sliding I didn't stop till I reached the bottom. It was a fun slide but a bit scary as the group watched me slide down in an uncontrolled frenzy for a second. They all took much safer and more controlled paths down the rock scramble. Once we all reached the bottom safely we took a nice peaceful walk back to our cars and were ready to head somewhere to eat.
We heard about a quaint little eatery in next door Suffern, NY called Jay's Thai Kitchen. Most of us never tried Thai food and thought it would be a good chance to be adventurous with our food today after such an adventurous hike. So, we loaded up the cars and headed off 10 minutes down the road into Suffern.
As we reached the main drag in downtown Suffern we were lucky to have the last two spots on the street a few doors down from Jay's. We were greeted by our server and being that it was our first time ordering, he/she was very helpful in pointing out the best foods to try for a few first-timers. The inside is decorated with cultural images and artifacts. It was a small cozy place but still felt roomy at our four-top table.
We started with spring rolls for an appetizer, which was extremely good and perfectly sized. They didn't fill you up, but they hit the spot as you wait for your main dish.
Now, before I tell you what we all got for our main courses I just want to say, "WOW!!!". When I took my first bite of Pad Kee Mao I was in awe of how good Thai food is - I have heard it's amazing and I'm now a believer. The fried noodles were to die for and everything was perfectly seasoned. My taste buds were dancing around my mouth with each bite I took and I almost wanted to order a second plate - it was that good! As for Morgan, she got the Pad Priew Wan which looked amazing, so naturally, I just had to steal a bite off her plate. The fried rice mixed with the vegetables was the perfect pairing. Both of these dishes had me falling in love with Thai food right there on the spot and even had me questioning my life choices about not eating this sooner. Our friend also got a Kao Pad with chicken that hit the spot after a cold winter hike in Harriman State Park.
As we were finishing up our dishes the owner/cook Jay herself came out to greet us. She was such a sweet lady who was happy to hear that her recipes helped us find a newfound love for Thai food. We will be returning to Jay's Thai Kitchen in the future to continue our Thai food adventure.
So we highly recommend checking out Jay's Thai Kitchen after a hike in Harriman. It’s located right off the Thruway making it an easy spot for us to head back home for the rest of the evening.
As always, please remember to carry out what you carry in - leave no trace.
Remember to #exploreharriman if you take pics or vids and perhaps your adventure will be shared on Explore Harriman’s socials.
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This story blog is in partnership with ExploreHarriman.org and Rockland County Tourism though it is exclusively the blog author’s own experience. Authenticity and transparency is paramount to all parties.