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A Bird’s Eye View of Hook Mountain, Then and Now

by Peter Henry
Hook Mountain from Gedney St in NyackHave you ever seen a hawk flying through Nyack, towards the huge mountain that’s always looming in the north, and wondered, What does it see, hundreds of feet in the air? I have. And the answer is available, atop Hook Mountain. There, you can see Hudson Valley neighborhoods and landmarks, such as Nyack’s old high school, Rockland lake, and the Tappan Zee Bridge; each become miniscule, model versions of the actual structures. The view from the top of the Hook puts Nyack in a new perspective. But the Hook itself, with its winding hiking trail that extends from Rockland Lake in Valley Cottage, to Nyack Beach State Park, all the way to Haverstraw, and its ample animal and plant life, is itself a monument to behold.

 This large quarry was at the end of North Broadway in Upper Nyack, NY. At water's level are a number of sheds and other buildings, and a long pier into the Hudson River. On the slope are more buildings and equipment for the quarrying operation. Hook Mountain is almost bare of trees. Source: Nyack Library via HRVH.org

Hook Mountain, Then: This large quarry was at the end of North Broadway in Upper Nyack, NY. At water’s level are a number of sheds and other buildings, and a long pier into the Hudson River. On the slope are more buildings and equipment for the quarrying operation. Hook Mountain is almost bare of trees. Source: Nyack Library via HRVH.org


The mountain’s modern history began with New York’s Dutch settlers, who named it Verdrietige Hook, or “Tedious point,” for the far distance it stretched, and the strong winds that sailors would encounter whilst attempting to travel. Later, at the end of the 19th century, there were plans to deface and threaten the natural state of the mountain. Developers wanted to use the land to build quarries, which were springing up en masse at the time. However, due to vocal opposition from the public, as well as help from the president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission George W. Perkins, the Hook was saved from development in 1911, when it became an official state park.
Making Hook Mountain part of the Palisades Interstate Park, though, did not cease all threats. For years, developers have sought to buy the land owned by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Christian Doctrine, and used as Marydell Faith and Life Center, which is tangentially connected to the Hook. This past winter, the Sisters ended speculation that the land might be developed by selling 39 acres to New York State as dedicated parkland. The state will create a permanent entrance on the south side of Hook Mountain, and will connect it to the Long Path. NYS Senator David Carlucci expressed sentiments similar to many Rockland residents when he applauded the decision, saying, “the example set by the Marydell Sisters is admirable, not only will our beloved state parks grow in size but we show once again that New York is a leader in environmental preservation.”

Bald Eagle peers down on Hook, 10/22/15. Photo Credit: Hook Mtn Hawk Watch.

The presence of large-winged birds flying around the Hook is palpable. Hook Mountain is one of the few local areas that has been preserved, so it’s no surprise that birds congregate there. And with the birds, who use the mountain as a migration area, come people. The Hook is a popular northeastern bird-watching area; it’s not hard to spot songbirds and hawks from atop the mountain.  Recently, a friend and I attempted to travel from one part of the Hook to another, and to see all of the natural wonders that the mountain held was breathtaking. Seeing Nyack from the perspective of a hawk is something that I’ll never grow tired of, and I look forward to experiencing that same feeling again, someday soon.
Peter Henry is a Nyack High School graduate, who is attending Emerson College for writing. 

Hiking Hook Mountain: How To Get There

From Upper Nyack: There are two places you can start to Hike The Hook adjacent to Nyack Beach State Park. This is also the entrance to the Long Path.

  • At the corner of N Midland Ave and Radcliff Drive: Follow North Broadway until *almost* the end of the road. Left on Larchmont Ave, left on Midland Ave. Entrance to the Long Path to Hike Hook Mountain is adjacent to the corner of Radcliff Rd and N Midland Ave. When you reach the top of the hill (you’ll hear 9W a few feet away!) turn right.
  • Near the corner of Palmer Drive and Radcliff Drive: Walk past the dead end at the end of Palmer Drive and turn left to join the Long Path. When you reach the top of the hill  turn right. This starting point is a few blocks West (uphill) from the N Midland And Radcliff Drive entry point.

From Rockland Lake: Go north on 9W from Nyack and take the first entrance into Rockland Lake (turn right). Make Follow signs to Rockland Lake Executive Golf Course. Trail head is adjacent to the parking lot. This is a shorter hike than the Long Path from Upper Nyack.
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