When I first entered the world of motorcycling, I quickly learned of all the talk in the New York/New Jersey area about riding Hawk’s Nest just outside of Port Jervis, NY. Its twisty appearance would show up in photos on forums by riders who have visited and many others would make plans to ride it when they had the chance.
Part of the route 97 scenic byway, my first time through was seventeen years ago and I’ve been back several times since then. I remember how we all thought the twisty part was so short but the other 70 miles doesn’t disappoint with good road conditions and great scenery. The route runs from Port Jervis, NY and ends in Hancock, NY.
Originally known as Mahackamack in the 1600’s, Port Jervis was raided and burned during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt over the next two decades. It later took on the name of Port Jervis after John Bloomfield Jervis, an American civil engineer. Today, Port Jervis struggles to find its economic basis with the obsolete canals and the decline of the railroads. We headed north up route 209 in PA making our way through the town of Milford and crossing over into Port Jervis. From there it’s a left onto route 42 and then a branch off onto 97.
Hawk’s Nest is by far the most discussed portion of this byway with its spectacular views of the mountainous area and the Delaware River down below. Its cliffside location requires the utmost attention while swerving through with the temptation to observe the scenery as something to be put off later during a stop on a return trip. The area is usually populated with parked bikes and cars with cameras soaking up the images. Once a dirt road in the 1800’s, this area almost never came to be as the original plan was to have this as a shoreline route. However, the Erie Railroad declined to sell the needed right-of-way and forced the state to construct the famous improvement along the cliffside as well.
As you exit the curves in a northbound direction, you’ll notice the remnants of the Hawk’s Nest Café on your left hand side which suffered a fire in 2002. Bought by Ron Babcock in 1999, the restaurant boasted a wonderful view of the area from its rear deck and was extremely popular among motorcyclists. There was talk for some time about Ron rebuilding the place, but searches on that story seem to dry up after 2010 when there was hope of opening the place back up in 2011.
Sixteen miles ahead we stopped at The Carriage House in Barryville, NY for lunch. Built in the early 1900’s, it is considered a designated landmark and seems to be one of the go-to places for bikers, especially with the absence of the Hawk’s Nest Café. After lunch, we grabbed route 434 over the Delaware River to return to Pennsylvania. Next time I think we’ll go the distance to the end of route 97 in Hancock, NY.