Breakneck Ridge Trail

Loop • 9.6 mi • 1500 ft

In Hudson Highlands State Park, this trail makes a rugged ascent from river-level to roll along a knobby ridge, gathering vistas and reaching a lookout. Special Attractions: Hudson river, Shawangunk, and Catskill Mountains vistas; old fire lookout tower; mixed forest; mountain laurel and spring and summer wildflowers. Expect some hand-over-hand rock scrambles and wear boots that protect ankles. High winds and rain increase risk of the rocky ascent.
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Beacon
Length: 9.6 total miles
Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
Trail Type: Loop
Skill Level: Strenuous
Season: Spring through Fall
Local Contacts: New York State Parks, Taconic Region
Local Maps: New York-New Jersey Trail Conference map, East Hudson trails.
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Relaxing, Charming, Natural Trail; Enjoyed it so very much!


Fabulous views some of the best i've seen in this park of NY. The beginning is a straight very steep climb, hand over hand pushing your way up. Once at the top you can take an easier way down then you went up or you can continue on the white trail which will take to a a few others trail or to the fire tower which is what we did. This was much further then we thought it would be. Once we got to the tower we were pretty tried and running low on water which was worried sum because we still had to decent back down on the yellow to breakneck train station. Our decent was confusing and not marked clear enough, we made some wrong turns which ate up time. Bring more water then you think. Give youself more time then you think you will need. The best part of this hike is the beginning assent to the top. Not sure if is worth going to the tower from breakneck. There are other hikes you can do that are much shorter which will bring you to the fire tower .They will also be very steep in the beginning aswell but shorter in length vs getting there from breakneck. All in all this is a strenuous hike with rewarding views which are worth it!


I can't ask for a better trail! 2 warnings: 1) It is a very popular trail and is FULL of people at all skill levels. 2) It is an intense hike. Bring twice as much water as you think you need and it will take you much longer than you think it will.


This is easily my favorite trail in the Hudson Valley, with the incredible views and ruins, it has everything I look for in an adventure. I'm usually someone who needs to get far away from roads and civilization, but with the steep ascent you quickly forget about everything but how to get from one boulder to the next. Breakneck Loop also offers a few different ways to head down if you feel you don't have it in you to crank out all 9 miles. Great Trail!


This is a long but enjoyable hike. Bring lots of water if going in the summer. I have a video of my hiking experience that almost exactly follows this guide (slightly different). Have a peak at my videos for Breakneck Ridge - Wilkinson Memorial Full day hike or for a half day hike using the bypass as well as maps, gps waypoints, photos and general trail info.


Relaxing, Charming, Natural Trail; Enjoyed it so very much!


Relaxing, Charming, Natural Trail; Enjoyed it very much.


The ascent and descent are the best parts of this loop. While the back half is beautiful, next time I will most likely just do the shorter loop and hit another trail in the same day nearby.


I'm pretty sure I made the first leg of this hike harder than it should have been. I saw what looked like a vertical dry river bed just and I went right up it...hand over fist for most of the way. My pay off was mind blowing views of the Hudson River and West Point. Once I reached the top of the ridge I made my way down through the woods (losing the trail at one point and ending up on a small creek). All in all a great and challenging hike just a quick train ride from NYC, I look forward to doing it again in the near future.


We ascended on the white trail, which can get quite steep at times, and quite strenuous. We had to watch our footing. Good Hiking Boots are a must! The view was quite good. While descending on the red and yellow trail, towards the end the trail was blocked by some fallen trees and branches, but it wasnt a big deal


I agree with all the other reviewers. This is a nice day hike. We arrived at the trailhead at around 8pm and spent a couple hours hiking before we found a nice spot to set up our tents. Unfortunately the trail guide really is bad and the trails aren't very well marked. Definitely pick up a local guide and make sure you do your planning before you set off for the hike. The views during the day are nice and I recommend hitting up the steeper ascent.


This trail is just the right amont of strenuous for the intermediate hiker. The steep ascent at the beginning can be tackled either by planning or force, depending on whether you prefer a rounded-out path or to go straight up the boulders. Beautiful views of the river and surrounding Bear Mountain. Not for one who is afraid of heights. Unfortunately the trail guide is too vague and the map unhelpful. At the beginning of the Breakneck trail head (at the north end of the tunnel on the Hudson river side) you will see a box nailed onto the side of a tree. Inside are photocopies of maps done by the NY/NJ trail conference, which gives a much better perspective of distance than the map provided on It also provides blaze colors for each of the mapped trails; extremely helpful. Starting on the white trail at the north of end the tunnel, the first intersecting trail will be yellow heading right. This trail does switchbacks down to the base of the mountain, where it intersects with the red trail on the right. The red trail ends at the south end of the tunnel. For perspective, the intersection of the yellow and white trails from the start of the white trail to is about twice the distance from the start of the whtie trail to the American flag/POW flag (this flag will be obvious if you are walking/driving to the tunnel). I intended to loop back through the Breakneck Bypass trail but in talking with some other hikers on the trail it is apparently a lot farther than heading back on yellow.


If you are using this trail guide, let me add some much needed information for MetroNorth users to Breakneck Ridge Station stop. The trail lists two trail heads. We looked for the yellow trail, since we wanted an easier ascent up. The directions in this guide are so vague and inaccurate to that trail head. When you get off the train, walk towards the tunnel til you see the parking lot on the left. Continue to walk through the tunnel from the road, and it is supposedly much further up the road. We never found it even asking an organized trail leader who told us it was "just on the other side of the tunnel". Later, when he saw us on the white blazed trail ascent and I told him I couldn't find the trail head he said, "Oh, you have to go way past the tunnel, to the hotel". I consider myself an intermediate hiker. I would say the ascent up would be at the very advanced end of intermediate - advanced. There were two times when it bordered on being more like rock climbing. But it was a great hike to Cold Spring and I would highly recommend it! However, unless you are an intermediate level hiker with good hiking boots, do not attempt the rocky ascent.


Great Hike. Try the Wilkinson Trail after dropping back down from the fire tower and go over Sugarloaf Mtn to get a good view of Bannerman Castle and to make it more of a loop trail.


Great trail with excellent views of the Hudsen River, the "Gunks", with the prominant Tower, and Catskills. A challenge with the plastic trail markers, particularly the Yellow, as they have been washed out by the sun and appear white. Not such a great thing when there are white marked trails in the area. The trail may be difficult for beginners and those not used to winter hiking, as some of the descents are tricky. The wind twisted trunk of a now dead tree is rather beautiful on the prominace of Sugarloaf overlooking the Ridge behind it and Storm King across the Hudsen.


This is ONE OF THE BEST hikes I have ever taken. The rock scrambles are something I enjoy immensely! For a while it seems that you will never reach the top. The views of the Hudson in both directions and across to Storm King are most rewarding! We stopped at Sunset Point and returned by the Wilkinson Trail. I will return to complete the trek to the fire tower. The Wilkinson Trail from Sugarloaf down to the parking area is STEEP at times and makes an interesting descent. This trail is VERY popular. Trying to hike on a weekday might be a good idea.


Beautiful day to hike. The trail head is right by the tunnel on rt 9d. Steep hike but not too difficult. We did not hike the whole trail, did about 6 miles total. Great views of the Hudson.


This trail was absoutely amazing! It was challenging, clearly marked, and had beautiful views all around. We took the train into Breakneck Ridge and began our hike from there. At first, the trail is a bit intimidating, but once you get started, you don't want to stop. Hiking boots are highly receommended and bring lots of water.


Beautiful scenery, good mix of other people and solitude (once you get to the top of breakneck, at least), and a host of trail options. Highly recommended. Oh, and Cold Springs is a very cute town -- I recommend getting off Metro North at the Breakneck stop, then hiking back to the town -- more train options to choose from, and lots of cute stores and restaurants while you wait. And public bathrooms near the train station.


Beautiful trail. A little crowded at the beginning but not until the tower. So go until the tower, you will be almost alone and the view is amazing. It's too bad that we can't climb at the top of the tower (it's being restoring by volunteers) Don't do this trail when it's too hot, the view will be wasted by the haze.


As you head north on Rt. 9D and go through the tunnel there will be two parking areas on your left. One right after the tunnel is small, a larger one is up ahead. There are two trailheads. The Wilkenson Trail (yellow blaze) is to the north and the Breakneck Trail (white blaze) is to the south. Cross the street to get to the Wilkenson Trail. Stay on the same side of the road as the parking areas to get to the Breakneck Trail. You will cross over the train and road tunnel as you hike up this trail. The Wilkenson Trail acsends steeply through forest on a dirt and rocky trail but views along the way are limited due to the canopy. The Breackneck Trail ascends much more rapidly to the point of hand-over-hand rock scrambling. Views of the Hudson come quicker along this trail.


Me and my wife have done this trail twice, on 7/1/07 and 7/15/07, plan on doing it again tomorrow 7/22. We love this trail, especially the intial rock scramble which is a challenging, but doable climb up. We have yet to cover the whole trail as outlined in this guide. We got to withing 1 mile of the Beacon Tower the first time out, but turned back due to the fact that it was getting late and we figured it would take time to get back. Second time out we just decedided to do the intitial rock scramble and hike back down the Breakneck Bypass Trail. That in itself is a great hike. We will do the full hike by the end of fall.


Amazing Hike! Took the scramble up (White blaze trail)! It is as advertised - steep & be prepared to use all fours/rock climb in parts. Definitely a great work out and the views are definitely worth it! Be careful to wear appropriate shoes and watch where you're going! There were a few drop-offs that could freak out the faint-hearted (we actually had to go around a woman sprawled on a very steep part of the trail who refused to move due to fear)! Also, definitely bring plenty of water! I went through almost 2 liters of water and a Gatorade bottle. And wear sunblock - it's very easy to burn the backs of your shoulders going up. Definitely recommend continuing on the white trail on to the blue trail but be aware that there's a bit of overgrowth and the white trail isn't as well marked in parts. It eventually gets better, but there is that moment of confusion! Also, watch for the split to the blue trail - it could be easily missed. Due to time constraints, we followed the more direct blue trail (which turns red at one point, and then back to blue) down to Cold Spring where we stopped in for a bit of food and drink! Nice afternoon hike - we were two people, making good time on a crowded trail - took us about 4.5 hours with a few stops in between. Would do this hike every day if I could! ;) Highly Recommend it!


An amazing hike for those looking for a bit of an adventure...lots of ascending at the beginning--and be careful if it has rained in the last 24-48 hours or so, because the rocks may be a bit slippery--but the views are completely worth it! Seeing the brook that runs through the second half of the hike (on the blue trail) is really pretty and refreshing, and the mill ruins are interesting to see as well. Just be careful if you are taking the red trail to the end--one of the later markers is not as visible as others, and if you miss it, you will continue along a path that looks very much like the trail but is, in fact, not! Make sure to wear good bug spray and take lots of water! If you head north after the hike, make sure to stop at the little ice cream store in Beacon--a well-deserved reward after you finish!


The first mile of this trail with without a doubt one of the best trails anywhere. It's fun, with outstanding views and beautiful open air. I have now hiked this trail three times and have taken different routes down each time. It is possible to make Breakneck into an all day 10 mile hike with multiple inclines and declines, or to make it into a quick 2 hour tour by heading down at one of several cutoffs. Unfortunately both side and back routes are relatively poorly marked. Still, I would recommend this trail to anyone seeking a fabulous outdoors experience - especially so in that it is within an hours drive of Central Park!


Great hike and easy to get to from NYC. The white blaze trail is marked very well, the trip up to Bull Hill is worth it, as is the Yellow Blaze 'Undercliff' trail. If you take the White Blaze to the Blue Blaze, the trail split was hard to find. But all the mainstream trails are well worn and easy to follow. If you do this at a good clip, prepare to be sore the next day!


Wonderful trail. Scrambling is awesome! 2nd time I have gone and have loved it. Advice, to not go after it has rained - rocks, moss can be wet and slippery and at some parts very muddy and have to bypass or walk through stream. Bring appropriate shoes. great hike. approx 6 hours... wonderful views.


Great trip on a bit of a nasty day --- 30+ MPH winds with gusts @ the top and along the exposed sections of route that just added to it. The first stretch is as advertised, steep, all-fours stuff. The hike is beautiful from start to finish. The view from the top is worth the trip, NYC from 40+ miles, quite spectacular.


in you have the time, the trail head just north of the tunnel on 9D brings you right to the foot of a very strenuous 800-1000 ft hike/scramble. pick your route and be up to the POW/MIA flagpole and back in an hour or less. just in time to go to work.


Great hike with tremendous views of the Hudson. Difficult climb to the top of the ridge but it is certanily worth the effort


Did not have time to complete entire trail, but managed to complete about 1/3 of hike. There is parking along the highway and a lot which is beside the Hudson and railroad tracks. The trail begins with steep climbing over rocks. You quickly encounter pretty views over the Hudson valley. The initial portions of the trail reveal signs of its popularity and traffic, with graffiti and miscellaneous pieces of litter. The deeper one travels into the forest along the ridge, the better the natural experience. It is diifcult to believe civilization is nearby on either side of the ridge (Beacon to the north and Cold Spring in the south). I would advise taking a different return trail (Breakneck Loop trail if I recall correctly)) in order to avoid steep downward climbs. The ease of visit from NYC combined with excellent views of the Hudson and variety of flora (including sweet blueberries) make it a very satisfying hike.


Absolutely great hike. The first part is more rock-climbing than hiking. A great work-out


as always Breakneck is a thrilling hike/ scramble. it's the most exciting ascent in the Hudson Highlands & has some of the excitement of an Adirondack High Peak or White Mtn climb. you can [& i do] make it evn more exciting by taking the more exposed routes & doing some short rock scrambles. i do this one 10 -15 times a year in all seasons except when it's very icy. the round trip up the ridge & NW [left]down the red trail or further along & down through an old woods road, short bushwack to the same trail is a great 1/2 day experience. bob meyer


Really amazing. A very, very difficult hike, with more scrambling than I could have ever imagined. Beautiful scenery. Just be careful to watch for rattlesnakes. They like to hang out on the big rocks and sunbathe. My girlfirend got an unexpected scare from one that was about 5 feet long. Overall, one of the best hikes I've been on.


I have been wanting to do this trip for about 3 years and finally did this past week. You really can not consider this trail a hike as the majority of the time you are rock climbing (using all fours). Rain or wet conditions would certainly make a risky descent. It was a good workout and the view is fabulous. We went during the middle of the week and stil found 10-15 cars in the parking areas. Will be back with friends and hope to add additional mileage to the hike! Bob from New Jersey


Many false peaks as other reviewers have said, but if you're looking for a non-technical, physically challenging climb close to NYC, this is as good as it gets. Which is not to damn with faint praise--it reminded me of the steep way up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia Nat'l Park in its demands of the hikers and views. I'm going back in the fall to see the colors...


What I find most attractive about this trail is that one can get to it by Metro North from Grand Central Station. On Saturday and Sunday the first two trains leaving the station stop at a whistle stop called Breakneck. The trail begins on the other side of the road next to the tracks. The trail is marked. Actually there are two ways to hike Breakneck Ridge. The Red Breakneck Trail markers and the Yellow Wilkilson Trail. The Yellow trail is easyer and less crowded. One can hang out on Breakneck and from where you got off catch the late trains back to NYc or if you are really up to it hike back to Cold Spring. See you. Peter


Good energetic trail. Excellent ability to get there from Grand Central for a day trip. 1st part steep and rocky (couple of bits may give those without a head for heights a brief moment of doubt). Once past the first rise it turns into a good ramble. The trail is in good condition and easy to follow. The fall views, even on a windy overcast day, were great. All in all a good workout for the thighs and rewarding views. A couple of mile hike to Cold Spring gives a better timetable for a return to GCS and some random shops and a couple of bars. If you keep up a fair pace the trail is about 5 hours


Very enjoyable trail. I try to go there every time I am in the area.


Challenging Trail with Spectacular views. There were unmarked side trails that led to great vistas, could've been better if these were integrated more with the white (main) blazes. Lots of false peaks too which were kind of annoying. Great Mountain though


Great day hike, especially for easy access from NYC. You can take Metro North right to the "Breakneck Ridge" stop (there are, I believe, about two trains that stop there in the morning and two returning trains in the evening on the weekends). One trail head is just south of the train stop - though the train makes for a very crowded trail because everyone debarks the train at once. Also, be far warned that the trail involves scrambling up rocks - it is infamous for skinning people's knees. If you are uncomfortable with heights, don't bother with Breakneck. Other than being far too crowded, the trail offers sumptuous views of Storm King and the Hudson (including a mysterious decrepit castle on an island in the river). The hawks made a nice showing when I was there, riding rising thermals up and around the hills. If you scrambled up the white blazed trail south of the train stop, an easier red blazed trail will take you down to the bottom, instead of scrambling back down the boulders (the red trail can easily be found without map, just by continuing along the white blazed trail). Go there in peak fall foilage, fill your nalgene with wine, and find a ledge to chill out on.


An excellent trail, however, it's not for the beginner. The good news is there are several bypass trails that can avoid the majority of the rock climbing. There is some weekend service via Metro North RR to the base of the trail and Cold Spring near by, so why drive?


This is the hike to do in the Hudson Highlands. The views are wonderful and non-stop. Storm King is directly opposite, West Point is to the south, Bannerman Island and its amazing castle are slightly north. There are at least 2 moderate loops available and these can extended. The trail up Breakneck Ridge is steep and at times on slabs. Staying left is the easiest line. Parking at the base of Breakneck Ridge is limited so get there early on weekends. Highly recommended to bring two cars and spot them at different points. This will allow a choice of loops and avoid any walking on road.

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