Harriman State Park: A New York State of Mind

Paula ChampagneThe Corman Harriman Outdoor Center offers a pristine sanctuary from the busy schedules of nearby city dwellers.


On a busy Friday morning in New York City, a taxi ride from the Upper West Side to the Financial District can take nearly an hour, the entire journey enmeshed in the sounds and smells of the city: car horns, exhaust, yesterday’s trash, and the unfiltered greetings of other New Yorkers.

But head just an hour northwest outside of the city and you step into an entirely different scene: ripples lap up against a sun-kissed dock, birds chirp, and the only sign of civilization is the sound of a few children playing nearby as their parents read quietly in lawn chairs. Skyscrapers are replaced with towering white pines and hearty hemlock groves.

This is the Stephen & Betsy Corman AMC Harriman Outdoor Center (Corman Harriman Outdoor Center). And it might be one of New York’s best-kept secrets.

“Every time I come here, I am floored that you can’t hear the sounds of the city. It really feels like you’ve gotten away from all the stresses of daily life,” said Nancy Ritger, a programs manager at AMC. “What is truly amazing is that we’re only 30 miles from Manhattan, and people can get here on public transportation.”

Hidden in Harriman State Park—New York’s second largest—the Corman Harriman Outdoor Center offers a bit of something for everyone. There are hiking trails, overnight cabins with electricity, tent sites, complimentary canoes and kayaks for visitors to use on the 64-acre Breakneck Pond, and a sandy beach perfect for relaxing.

“The true beauty of this place is that every person of every skill level and ability can find their place here,” said Ester DeVito, regional development director for AMC. “There is just so much potential here for visitors to create an experience that matches their exact wants and needs. And it’s simply beautiful.”

But these experiences weren’t always in reach. The outdoor center opened in 2016 after a $2 million renovation by AMC. It was the first step in what has become a larger partnership between AMC and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to operate the outdoor center and provide activities in Harriman State Park. The park has millions of visitors each year but doesn’t have enough recreation facilities to meet demand.

Harriman State Park is a major focus of AMC’s strategy to increase outdoor opportunities for people living in the greater New York City area. Last year, AMC took over and reopened two visitor centers in the park and are now starting its most ambitious project yet: completely renovating and redeveloping the old Baker Camp as a second, much larger outdoor center. Baker Camp is just 3 miles from Corman Harriman Outdoor Center. It fell into disrepair (and closed in 2017) and AMC is excited about the opportunity to reopen it for public access.

“Our goal for Baker-Sebago is to create experiences for guests that bolster their confidence in the outdoors and enhance their enjoyment of and appreciation for nature,” said DeVito. “The outdoor center will cater to folks looking for waterfront recreation opportunities— including boating, sunbathing, fishing, and swimming—and hikers, trail runners, and cyclists looking for a good base from which to explore Harriman State Park’s beautiful road biking network.”

Both outdoor centers are only a few miles from the Appalachian Trail, which cuts through Harriman State Park on its meandering route from Georgia to Maine.

About the Author…

AMC Staff

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