One of my favorite moments bicycle touring is exploring a new place and finding new roads that I have never ridden before. Whether it be on a fat bike, gravel bike, or in this case my road bike, I love coming up with my own route and sharing it with friends in the hope to one day inspire others to ride it themselves or to return with a group.
If you are a nature junkie like myself who can appreciate big climbs, long roads, and a full day in the saddle, then mark this route as one of your to-do road rides. The Cardinal 100 is a route that was named and inspired based on the ground course outline over a map. This is a 100-mile bike ride that begins in New York City and loops around Bear Mountain and the Seven Lakes region of Harriman State Park in New Jersey.
I find a lot of peace in the mountains as it lends me time to focus on my surroundings, whether that be the contours of a road, the grade of a climb, or the birds chirping in their natural element. This is ride delivered all of that, and more. We often forget how important it is to detach ourselves from the big city, even if it is for only a few hours. It is easy to get swept up in technology and the hustle and bustle, so being able to escape to a place that doesn’t have much cell phone service is appreciated as you are forced to turn off.
Once you leave NYC over the George Washington Bridge there is a choice of riding on the popular River Road route or Route 9W. I like to start early with my scenic adventure so I choose to take River Road and have the views of the Hudson River on my side. River Road is only a few miles long and eventually you will link up with route 9W and head north, joined by other cyclists who are putting in base miles.
Once you get into the Upper Nyack area the road begins to climb as you approach Bear Mountain. It’s important to stop for services before leaving this area because once you get into Bear Mountain there will not be many stores for several miles.
It will be hard not to stop on the side of the road to take in the picturesque views on Bear Mountain. The roads twist and turn and I imagine if ridden in reverse would make for a nice downhill decent. The route makes a pass through the Seven Lakes region of Harriman State Park and that is when the climbing gets a bit more challenging for the next 10 miles. The road is shared with cars that are either passing through or finding places to park as Seven Lakes is a major attraction, especially in the summer months.
Once you leave Harriman State Park there is a fast downhill into the town of Haverstraw that leads back to New York on quiet back roads away from busy streets. It’s not over; there is still climbing to be had in these areas but nothing like what you would have experienced just miles before. As you get closer to Englewood and Fort Lee, New Jersey more services will be available.
The Sum Up
If you are a rider who enjoys climbing or looking for a challenge with scenic views, then I highly recommend this route. If taken in reverse, you may find it to be even more enjoyable as the ascent into Bear Mountain would be more gradual and there would be a great downhill descent while riding out of the mountain. Full route details and download to the GPX file is below. If you have any questions, feel free to comment.