Mount Beacon’s summit is the highest peak of the Hudson Highlands, and it maintains a unique historic and recreational value to the local community as well as the country. Atop the southern peak of this two-summit mountain rests a fire tower lookout at 1,610 feet in elevation. From the main trailhead located at the intersection of Howland and Wolcott Avenues in Beacon the hike is approximately 4 miles there and back. This path will intrigue you with the remains and relics of former activities and attractions that have shaped the landscape and provide magnificent views of the Hudson Valley.
Shortly up the path you will come upon a large metal staircase that lies adjacent to the former loading site of the first electrified incline railway. It was built in 1902 and ridden by more than 3.5 million visitors until it shut down in 1978. The Beacon Restoration Society is currently working to rebuild and reopen the attraction.
Continuing on, the trail switches back-and-forth up the face of the mountain and passes foundations of the chairlifts built in 1967 for the Dutchess Ski Area. These slopes closed in 1975 due to several mild winters, but hikers and cross-country skiers still enjoy these unmarked trails located on the north side of the mountain.
At the summit of the first peak you will be greeted by the incline railway’s powerhouse that still holds the massive gears once used to pull the railcars up the slope. This was the unloading point for guests to access the restaurant, casino, and hotel that once overlooked the valley. A large lookout platform now marks the location of this establishment that was destroyed by fire.
Nearby, the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument in 1901 at the site of an original signaling beacon that was used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War to warn the surrounding lands of incoming British troops. The value of this mountain was so important that it became the source of the city's name, and it is depicted in the background of the New York State flag.
From the north summit, the fire tower can be seen to the southwest. Take the red trail one more mile and continue on the white trail to reach this southern summit. Upon your arrival, climb the steps to the top to enjoy incredible 360-degree views of the entire Hudson Valley. Many other enjoyable hiking locations can be seen from here including Storm King Mountain, Breakneck Ridge, and Skytop Tower. On a clear day, you can see all the way south to New York City and north to Albany, the state’s capital.
The surrounding lands were purchased in 1995 and 1998 by Scenic Hudson, the City of Beacon, and the Town of Fishkill to prevent development and preserve its recreational value. There are several other connecting trails that lead to the adjacent mountains, as well as a fire road sometimes tackled by motorist. Mount Beacon offers a number of outdoor activity opportunities, and the scenery and variety of the route are bound to impress any adventurer all times of the year.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.