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Breakneck Ridge

Hudson Highlands State Park

Hudson Valley, New York

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Breakneck Ridge

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  • The parking lot and roadside trail.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The Route 9D tunnel at the trailhead.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Warning signs at the trailhead.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Honeysuckle welcome you to the mountain.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The rock climbing starts right away.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Follow the arrows around the boulders.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Take a breath and enjoy the lookouts.- Breakneck Ridge
  • A view from below the midpoint.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Pink wild roses grow along the way.- Breakneck Ridge
  • A siphon for the Catskill Aqueduct along the trail. - Breakneck Ridge
  • Looking up to to the midpoint.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Ascending to the flags.- Breakneck Ridge
  • A view from the midpoint.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The first of four scenic overlooks.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Storm King Mountain and the Hudson River.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The West Point Military Academy.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Mined rock faces.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Visitors must choose between an easier route and a harder one.- Breakneck Ridge
  • A hiker on the ridge looking to the south.- Breakneck Ridge
  • CSX trains at the base of Storm King Mountain.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Looking down at the path.- Breakneck Ridge
  • There are continuous lookouts along the route.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Mount Taurus can be seen to the south.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Each view is more impressive than the last.- Breakneck Ridge
  • A minor summit is just beyond this point.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Hikers appreciating the climb along a rock ledge.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The final ascent past the Yellow Trail.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The summit of Breakneck Ridge.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The Hudson River to the north.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Bannerman's Castle on Pollepel Island.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Flat rocks along the true summit.- Breakneck Ridge
  • More lookouts with views above the trees to the north.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Well-traveled trails along the top of the ridge.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The Red Trailhead leading to Route 9D.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The Breakneck Bypass.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Descending on the Red Trail.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Continue to the left on the Yellow Trail.- Breakneck Ridge
  • A few stone steps near the bottom.- Breakneck Ridge
  • Emerging from the woods.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The Wilkinson Memorial Trail, marked with yellow blazes, at Route 9D.- Breakneck Ridge
  • The Metro-North Breakneck Station.- Breakneck Ridge
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Incredible and rewarding views.
Cons: 
Very popular. Crowds. Obscene graffiti.
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Region:
Hudson Valley, NY
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,225.00 ft (373.38 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
5.00 mi (8.05 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
15.00 ft (4.57 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

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Breakneck Ridge is a 1,240-foot mountain located in the heart of the nearly 6,000-acre Hudson Highlands State Park. Situated on the east side of the Hudson River, just north of Cold Spring, Breakneck Ridge is one of the main highlights of the park and an extremely popular hiking destination for thousands of visitors each year. A 5-mile loop, from the White to Red to Yellow Trails, takes you from the Hudson River all the way up steep and exposed rock face to several awe-inspiring views that span up and down the Hudson Valley.  It won’t take long for you to realize why this trek is often rated as one of the best day hikes in America. The New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) maintains a map of the Hudson Highlands to help you navigate your route.

The trailhead is located along Route 9D a quarter-mile north of a tunnel. Over 100 cars can fill the parking lot and roadsides on a sunny weekend. Many others also take the Metro-North train to the Breakneck Station on the East Hudson River Line, or to the Cold Spring Station, which has more regular service. Be mindful of the warnings that line the beginning of the path. The trail is quite challenging. Breakneck Ridge ascends 1,250 feet in the first three-quarters of a mile! It is an extremely steep rock scramble that is exposed to cliff faces and high winds. Wear proper footwear, and do not attempt in adverse weather conditions.

Follow the white markers and arrows that lead directly up the mountain face. Your first lookout will be marked by the America and Prisoners of War flags. This spot is an unmistakable icon of the hike, and halfway up the mountain. The scenery becomes even better as you continue to climb. In some places the trail splits between easy and hard routes. The harder routes will involve rock climbing and dangerous steps. Each vista is better than the last.

Storm King Mountain in Storm King State Park is directly across the river, and Mount Taurus is directly south. Army helicopters regularly fly overhead en route to the United States Military Academy (USMA) just to the south. Sometimes you can feel the mountain tremble with passing trains.

After reaching the peak, the path will dip down and intersect the Undercliff Trail, marked in yellow, which leads to the Cornish Trail, marked in blue. The Cornish Trail runs past ruins of the Edward J. Cornish Estate and eventually returns to Route 9D. Stay on the white path and climb another peak, where the path is well worn from the thousands of visitors each year. Eventually you will reach an unmistakable sign directing you to the Breakneck Bypass Trail, marked with red blazes. This path will lead to the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, marked by yellow blazes, and take you on a 3-mile descent back to the bottom of the mountain a short distance north of the parking lot.

Beginning in the days of the American Revolution, these mountains were mined extensively for their iron and copper. The jagged rock face on the southern end of this mountain is the result of the mining operations that continued work into the early 20th century. Many of the paths today were once used by vehicles when mining was still active. The Breakneck Ridge face was the first 177-acre purchase of Hudson Highlands State Park in 1938 by the Hudson River Conservation Society (HRCS). Several decades later the Rockefeller family’s foundation gave New York State a deed of trust for land purchases which enabled the group to acquire an additional 2,500-acres.

NYSOPRHP requests that you remain on the trails to minimize the impact on the forest environment. This helps to protect the many rare and delicate plant species on these mountains. The only potable water is available in Garrison and Cold Spring. Lyme disease, transmitted by deer ticks, has become a major concern and danger throughout the Hudson Valley, so please check your body for these pin-head size creatures during and after your adventure. Camping and fires are prohibited throughout the park and all-terrain vehicles are not permitted on the trails. Dogs are permitted on leashes 10-feet long or less. For additional information on hiking tips and safety, visit the NY-NJ Trail Conference website.

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