The Appalachian Trail and the Trailside Zoo – which came first – the trail or the zoo? Answer: the trail… but not by much. The A.T. in New York began in 1923 and the zoo was established in 1927. The zoo was originally a Boy Scout camp nature museum at Lake Kanawauke in Harriman State Park. In 1927, Trailside Museums and Nature Trail was officially established at Bear Mountain State Park. As the nation’s first self-guided nature trail, Trailside began with a cool vision: the best way to learn about nature is to be in nature and the best way to enjoy nature is to have a friendly, knowledgeable voice as your guide. Currently it is home to four museums which include exhibits on local geology, native and colonial history, nature study, and several reptiles/fish exhibits in the herpetology museum. Connecting these museums are trails that lead visitors by the bear den and other live animal exhibits as well as to special views of the Hudson River and Highlands.
The zoo houses several species of birds of prey (raptors) like the Red-tailed Hawk, the Rough-legged Hawk (named after my family I am sure), the Long-eared Owl, both the Black and Turkey Vulture, and the Bald Eagle. This special place in the midst of the A.T. is also home to mammals native to NY – the coyote, beaver, river otter, porcupine, opossum, and black bear. The residents of the zoo found a home here because they were injured or orphaned and thus unable to survive in the wild. No AT-style zoo would be complete without snakes and other reptiles. My friend, the rattlesnake, will be there along with his non-poisonous cousin, the black rat snake. Salamanders, turtles, toads, and frogs fill out the party. The zoo promises a view of the Pumpkinseed Sunfish – this is most likely a common fish, but I love the name, so I have it on my checklist.
The zoo is open daily (10:00 – 4:30), year round except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The admission price (hold on to your hats!) is $1.00! Parking is $8.00 but I will not have to worry about that. Check out their website http://www.trailsidezoo.org/about/zoo-attractions. Once I get back I will make my personal recommendation but if you are in NY it sounds like a pretty good deal for a dollar.