Bear Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Cranberry Lake area and the, especially since the trailhead is located within the popular . There are no views from its 2177 foot summit, however the view from a rocky outcrop offers a spectacular view of part of Cranberry Lake and the Five Ponds Wilderness. The hike described below is a 3.6 mile loop hike with an elevation gain of 677 feet to the summit and an overall elevation gain of 742 feet.
There is a large, paved parking area across from campsite 28 at Cranberry Lake State Campground. There is a DEC sign, a picnic table and a kiosk as well as a trail register. The elevation at the start of the trail is 1500 feet. The red marked trail begins to climb gently as it passes by a couple of campsites (#29 & #32) on the right. At 0.1 miles reach the junction of the yellow marked Connector Trail aka Boardwalk Trail.
The Connector Trail aka Boardwalk Trail connects Bear Mountain Trail with Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail. It was constructed in 1987 to provide campers at the Cranberry Lake Campground with more access to this parcel. It also provides hikers with access to Bear Mountain from NY 3. The crew that built this trail refers to it as "the boardwalk" because two 250 foot bridges cross portions of Bear Mountain Swamp.
According the trail sign it's a long 6.8 miles to Burntbridge Pond from this point. Another sign states its one mile to the Bear Mountain Lookout. This is incorrect, its 1.1 miles to the summit and 1.6 miles to the rocky outcrop with the views from this trail junction.
The trail now crosses a couple of small bridges as well as puncheons while still climbing before reaching the Bear Mountain Lean To at 0.7 miles. This is the perfect spot to take a break, drink some water or eat a lunch before starting a steeper climb up Bear Mountain. The elevation at the lean to is 1828 feet. You have gained 328 feet in elevation so far.
Now the red marked Bear Mountain Trail begins its steepest sections. The trail climbs steeply along a washed out section of trail before turning left on a newer built section of trail that utilizes switchbacks. Be careful not to miss this turn as the washed out old trail continues through blowdowns straight ahead.
At 1.0 miles the trail levels off briefly as it passes a perfectly placed rock that we call the "Resting Rock". A great spot to sit and relax after your hard work hiking the trail so far. The elevation here is 2048 feet. One last pitch up brings you to the 2177 foot summit and the summit ridge of the mountain at 1.2 miles. There is a summit marker off to the left of the trail. There are NO VIEWS here, but don't get discouraged. The views are further along the trail.
Resting Rock along the Bear Mountain Trail
At 1.3 miles pass by a huge boulder. You'll see other big boulders strewn along the ridgeline of the summit. You may notice a few views through the trees as you begin to gently descend on the ridge. The descent begins to get a bit steeper as you reach a rocky outcrop at 1.7 miles on your right. Here is the signature view of Bear Mountain.