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 theAmerican 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.” Click here 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 spectular views of the Hudson River and Highlands.