Trailside Museums & Zoo is a journey through local ecology and history shaped by natural forces and human endeavours. A visit brings you up close to some of the wildlife native to this area. Trailside’s wildlife residents are non-releasable as they were either permanently disabled due to injuries or orphaned before learning how to survive on their own. The wildlife are well cared for and live here for the remainder of their lives.
The trail is a very short section of the Appalachian Trail (about 2,200 miles long) from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Through Trailside, the trail is paved and suitable for strollers. It provides spectacular views of the Hudson River and Highlands and connects Fort Clinton on the grounds at Trailside to Fort Montgomery. There are 4 museums that introduce you to more native reptiles and amphibians, geology, and history from Native Americans, settlers, Revolutionary War and even Daniel Beard (a founder of the Boy Scouts).
Trailside’s story begins in 1920…
Originally, it was a Boy Scout camp nature museum at Lake Kanawauke in Harriman State Park. In 1927, Trailside Museums and Nature Trail was offficially established at Bear Mountain State Park through the Palisades Interstate Park Commission’s unique collaboration with the American Association of Museums and the American Museum of Natural History.
As the nation’s first self-guided nature trail, Trailside began with an innovative founding 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.This approach is exemplified by a sign that once welcomed visitors: “How many of us are able, unaided, to read the signs of nature? Let the guiding labels take the place of a naturalist friend who has an interesting story to tell you as you follow the trail.”
for a glimpse at the history of Trailside and nature study in the Palisades Interstate Park.
Trailside has continued to evolve in exhibit expansion and rehab, in animal policy, plant communities and philosophy. Currently, it is home to four museums which include exhibits on local geology, Native American and colonial history, animal specimens in nature study, and live reptiles, amphibians and fish exhibits in the herpetology museum. Connecting these museums are winding nature trails that lead visitors by the bear den and other live animal exhibits and to spectacular views of the Hudson River and Highlands.