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West Mountain Loop - 9/11 Memorial Hike with UOS

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Photos by Explore Harriman and Annette of Urban & Outdoor Survival

On September 11th, we joined Urban and Outdoor Survival, this time for a memorial hike on the West Mountain Shelter Loop. This 5.0 mile trail is considered "moderately challenging", three hours average to complete, and has great views.

Besides digitals, always have a waterproof and tear-resistant Tyvek map from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

It was an overcast morning. We gathered in the tucked-in parking area off Seven Lakes Drive, many wearing our nation's colors. In the distance, gunshots could be heard from West Point holding their own 9/11 memorial. Before making our way, UOS founder & leader Marlon Smith stuck Old Glory to his well-packed bug out bag.

Yes, this was a day hike but Marlon and his crew are always prepared for surprise situations with bug outs.

Trying out a new pack - a rugged Eddie Bauer Cargo Backpack 29L, with 600-denier ripstop polyester that has a water repellent finish. The zippers are covered and there are lots of organizational pockets ...oh, plus the sternum strap has a built in whistle, bonus.

And, you cannot beat the price!

We took to the loop counter-clockwise, uphill rocky climb onto the Appalachian Trail (AT-white). Usually, soon into this section there's a nice stream but unfortunately the park is still pretty dry. At approximately 1.4 miles, we arrived at the first outlook where you can see the Perkins Memorial Tower siting on Bear Mountain and to the right Iona Island and the Hudson River - pretty spectacular.

Lots of photos taken, especially by Annette from the UOS team - it's a running joke about her obsession for pics and vids though she does have a crazy killer camera - the Android Samsung 22 Ultra.

Continuing on the AT, there's a short descent to a valley then a steep climb up to the ridge of West Mountain. We came to the Timp-Torne Trail (TT-blue) junction and followed the joint blue and white blazes (rocky section here) to the second great vantage point of Bear Mountain, Iona Island and the Hudson.

Joint AT + Timp-Torne Blazes by Annette of UOS

We begin to get the first drops of rain and for the rest of the trail it was light on and off, which felt pretty good but was making things slippery especially with all the premature fallen leaves caused by the drought. The foliage is a big difference from two weeks prior - appears like mid to late fall - and the higher we climbed the barer the trees. Interestingly, right now it's an intense contrast against the super green mossy areas.

Vibrant fall foliage photo by Christina

Soon the trail winds to the west side where there's a view facing Black Mountain. From here you can also see the Palisades Parkway and the Anthony Wayne Rec area where there's lots more parking and another way to access this loop. It's around 1.3 miles to the lean-to from here with a steep descent and more viewpoints along the way.

We arrived at West Mountain Shelter with a great view of the Hudson and were juuust able to make out the NYC skyline where on a clear day it's picture perfect and at night it's like a twinkling treasure in the distance. We picked up very little trash inside and around the shelter. Surprisingly (but thankfully) there wasn't more as it's a very popular lean-to times it's an overpacked campout. On this day, as lean-to's go, it was probably one of the cleanest we've come across in a while in Harriman (and nothing odoriferous about it besides the smoky essence of campfire). Kudos to those who are carrying out what they carry in and to those who, no doubt, are bringing extra trash bags - respect!

We took a break here for sandwiches and snacks plus stories of 9/11 were exchanged. A couple hikers in the group shared photos of their beloved fallen. As this was #9 of nine shelter hikes organized by UOS for 2022, Marlon presented those who completed all nine with a Bushcraft Trading Post patch and a UOS fire kit. Congrats again to those finishers!

Top photo of Marlon by Jen / Shelter framing viewpoint by Matthew A. / Full viewpoint photo by Matty N.

Side note: The next day we came to learn there was a rowdy group camping out here the day before. Other hikers who were also camped out in the area complained about their bear cans being cleaned out overnight. UOS campouts tend to include night watch from the crew partly for this reason. From the shelter, we retraced our steps on the T.T. and turned right onto the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail (SBM-yellow). By this time, things were wet enough to challenge our footing and this section of the hike has a couple of steep descents and climbs.

Yellow blaze on tree photo by Christina

After about 1.4 miles, the SBM here is a steady downhill then there's one treacherous very steep descent which deserves extra extra care - not out of character for the SBM. We climbed down in small groups, zigzagging left and right among the precarious boulders.

From there, it's moderately flat, one more smaller rocky climb, then levels thereafter for the most part to the end.

This loop is also popular for trail runners. We came across a trail runner guesstimating between 65 and 70... he had already gone by us twice (always in awe of trail runners)! Btw, my Eddie Bauer Cargo pack worked out great for this outing. The ripstop passed the light rain test, the drops beaded right off. It's comfortable, easy to access pockets (see the whistle?) ...we'll see how it holds up on a campout.

Hunger set in and some of us headed into Stony Point to check out a hidden gem —Playa Cancun, a Mexican restaurant situated by the Hudson River. This place has a fun low-key vibe, very colorful walls and decor, and has outdoor seating. The food is fresh and fantastic with vegetarian options available on the menu. And, the staff is super friendly. Can't go wrong here, just delish!

Let's keep it clean... carry out what you carry in... please follow Leave No Trace - you'd be surprised what you don't know. Learn more about Urban and Outdoor Survival and upcoming hikes on the group's MeetUp page and visit

Blog in partnership with Rockland County Tourism

West Mountain Loop - 9/11 Memorial Hike with UOS

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