This last weekend I had the first opportunity in a long time to go winter bikepacking. I joined a few friends from the NYC-ADV bicycling club for an overnight adventure to Harriman State Park. We took the new north-side path over the George Washington Bridge. The accessibility of this path is miles easier than the south side. This entry is right at 180th Street, though the best access is via 179th.

Entry to the GWB north side pedestrian path
Entry to the GWB north side pedestrian path.

From here we rode more or less directly west out to Saddle River County Park. There’s a lovely trail that provided a respite from road riding as we traveled north towards the New York Border. Given that riding in New Jersey involves a lot of riding on variable width shoulders. Still, it was a small section of the overall 55 mile day, but a nice respite.

Bikes at Harriman State Park entrance
Bikes at Harriman entrance

We arrived with plenty of daylight remaining to set up camp, have some snacks, and collect firewood. This was great, because once the sun went down, the temperature dropped fast. The daytime had been in the mid-30s but in the altitude it easily dropped down to the teens. The fire was immensely important while we ate dinner, chatted, and enjoyed being outside. Once it had died down and we all headed off to bed, we all pretty solidly missed the warmth.

Winter campfire
Wintry campfire

The next morning

I’m not sure any of us slept particularly well that night, but the quiet of a winter mountain morning was well worth it. We packed up and rolled down to Dottie Audrey’s on Rt. 17 for an enormous breakfast to refresh ourselves for the ride back.

Breakfast at Dottie Audrey’s

My ride back ended up clocking about 80 miles. (I tacked on a visit to Industry City after dropping off gear at home). The trip down the OCA was, as always, beautiful, and the skies towards sunset were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Skyline from the Astoria Waterfront

Winter bikepacking can be tough. You absolutely need to carry additional and bulkier gear to stay warm, which makes for larger and heavier loads. Layering properly to manage your perspiration is critical, since being damp will freeze you faster than anything else. That said, it’s maybe my favorite time of year to go camping. There are no bugs to speak of, fewer crowds, and the air is crisp and fresh. I’m already looking forward to next winter.