Harriman State Park in the Spring

Kakiat Park creek and plants

Are you in need of some forest bathing? Looking for some peace and quiet from the non stop bustle of New York City? Then look no further than Harriman State Park!

This New York State park is perfect for hiking and getting out into nature! What’s best is that it is less than an hour’s drive from midtown! Especially if you have kids that need some nature time.

Read on for all the details you need to know before visiting Harriman State Park with kids. Things to do in Harriman State Park and when is the best time to visit this natural area. Plus, a local hotel review and other nearby parks to explore on your nature weekend expedition!

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Harriman State Park in the Spring

Spring time is shoulder season in Harriman State Park. That said, it is an excellent time to visit!

Getting to Harriman State Park from New York City

To get to Harriman State Park from New York City, take the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey. From there drive on the NJ-17 all the way as it turns into the NY-17. Exit to Johnsontown Rd in Sloatsburg, New York.

By Public Transportation: take New Jersey Transit on the Port Jervis Line train to Sloatsburg and then walk about a mile to the edge of the park. 

Things to Do in Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park is officially open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During this time the visitor’s center is manned, and the water filling stations are functioning. Summer activities include:

  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • and of course, Hiking!

The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are an excellent time to visit, as they are substantially less busy! You can easily explore the over 200 miles of hiking trails and a myriad of streams and lakes!

You can also make a visit to Harriman State Park into a full blown weekend getaway from New York City. Here’s how we spent our weekend!

Spending Time Outdoors Outside New York City

A couple of weeks ago we had Spring break here in New York. The weather was a typical spring mix of rain and sun. We knew we would hang out in the area, but still wanted to get in some forest bathing.

So after staying with friends in New Jersey, we spent another night on the New Jersey/New York border so that we could maximize our outdoor time with the kids. Harriman State Park, within a short drive of the city was just the ticket!

After a morning of hanging out with our friends, we hit the road. We thought to drop off our things at the hotel, but decided to go on a hike first.

As we were arriving at the park, all three kids were asleep in the backseat! We gave them some time to sleep, as we checked out the park one at a time, and finally decided to wake them up to go on a short hike.

Kakiat Park forest

Kakiat Park

Kakiat Park in Rockland County was the perfect size park for us. In another situation we might have even attempted a longer trail, but considering our sleepy state, we decided to walk the Old Mill Trail.

The trail took us along the stream to…wait for it…an old mill! The day was extremely wet, with an on and off drizzle, but the kids had a blast! It was the perfect kids nature walk.

The entrance to the park has a nice grassy area and picnic tables. After our hike we sat around for a while just enjoying the running water, having snacks and playing on the grass. Our oldest was especially interested in learning how to use a knife to clean off his stick.

Old Mill at Kakiat Park
Old Mill at Kakiat Park
old mill kakiat park details
pinecone hand off
Kakiat River at entrance
Kakiat River at entrance

Sheraton Mahwah Hotel Review

We finally headed to the Sheraton in Mahwah. The lobby was modern but had a funky set up. The lower floors were actually an office complex and the hotels rooms began on floor 12 or so.

The elevators apparently used to be the fastest in New Jersey….but lots of time has passed and they weren’t in great condition. The room was on the small side, but seemed recently renovated and fine for our purposes of sleeping in the area.

Finding dinner was quite the adventure! We made the mistake of not researching beforehand, and forgetting that the suburbs don’t have the same density of restaurants that we’re used to from the city. All seemed fine, until…

Sheraton Mahawah hotel entrance
Sheraton Mahawah hotel entrance
View from Sheraton Mahwah to surrounding area
View from Sheraton Mahwah to surrounding area

One of the kids threw up. In bed. All over me, and the bed, and the carpeted floor, and the bathroom. In retrospect we know that there was a funky spring stomach virus going around but at the time we were blaming the dinner. It made for an extremely sleepless night!

Thankfully in the morning, everyone seemed fine! We even got a glimmer of sun for a few minutes and the kids ran around the hotel fountains for a bit. After a quick breakfast and dip in the cold hotel pool, we headed out for some more adventuring in nature.

Fountains at Sheraton Mahwah
Fountains at Sheraton Mahwah

Harriman State Park Hiking with Kids

The day was dreary but we were determined to make the best of it. We drove off toward Harriman State Park, without much planning. I thought I had downloaded a trail map, but it hadn’t gone through. We thought we had enough water, but our bottles were half empty. And as we’re driving along following navigation, we lost service.

On the plus side, we kept going on the road and ended up at a hiker’s parking lot, so we took it as a sign to give it a go.

We took some leftover Kedem grape juice, in addition to the water we had, and began to walk. It turns out we were on the White Bar trail, which was good because it was mostly flat.

Hiking in Harriman State Park
Hiking in Harriman State Park
Drinking grape juice at Harriman state park
Drinking grape juice at Harriman state park

While on the trail, we encountered some other hikers and asked for some insight into the trail ahead. That helped us decide to turn around when we were ready. It was plenty of adventure just navigating the mud, sticks and rocks. And going to town on the grape juice, of course!

After our hike, we continued driving through Harriman State Park to see some other areas. We stopped by the visitor’s center which was still not really open for the season (no running water) and hit the road content with our forest bathing adventure!

We decided to drive for a bit before stopping for lunch. The sun suddenly came out and we hit the jackpot with a fantastic cafe in Nyack called the Art Cafe. Well fed and sunbathed, we headed home with three sleeping kids!

Wondering what else we did over the break?

One rainy day was spent at the library. Two days at two separate parks- scooting, playing soccer and climbing on the playground. One day at my favorite Manhattan playground near the World Trade Center.

We also bought seeds at the Dollar Tree and planted them in some of our empty plant pots. We painted and crafted. We built puzzles and read lots and lots of books!

More ideas of things to do in New York City on school break here!

Have you turned a visit to a state park into a full out weekend? What’s your favorite way to escape the city? Doing anything fun for spring break?

P.S. Driving time from New York City to this area was under two hours! For some other options within a two hour drive, try New Paltz, Philadelphia or Princeton!

5 thoughts on “Harriman State Park in the Spring”

  1. What a peaceful place to visit, especially with kids! It looks so peaceful and a great way to let them run free haha. We’re so fortunate to have all these outdoor spaces near us!

  2. I like to visit a park like this with my son when he was little. Flat trails, finding this and that to let them know about nature. And to end the hike with lunch at a fantastic cafe like Art Cafe would be a reward!

  3. Oh those old mill bits looks super cool! I love coming across ruins in the most unexpected places – the kids must have had a ball!

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