60 Hikes within 60 Miles: New York City
by Christopher & Catherine Brooks (Menasha Ridge Press)
© 2013 Christopher & Catherine Brooks/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.
Challenging as described. Really loved the workout and vistas. Serious rock scrambles. I took the 8-mile option rather than the 9, concerned I wouldn't have time. But completed the 8 in 4.5 hours.
Tackled the Breakneck Ridge Loop today and enjoyed every minute of it. The weather was brisk to say the least, about 15F with a fair breeze on the exposed ridges but the uphill work kept me plenty warm. I left Mt. Taurus for another day as I had a 8 month old puppy with me and she can't handle 7 hrs of hiking so we followed the yellow blazes to the left (having gone right at the car park)...the blazes are easy to follow in winter but the trail itself is impossible to find as the track is snow covered and wind-scoured smooth. I met a group coming the other direction after a while and it was easy to follow their tracks. I wore strap on crampons and appreciated them as the going was very compacted and icy in places. At times it was heavy going as a foot would break through the ice crust and go to the knee in powder (with pack and all I probably weighed 240lbs so lighter folk will skip over this no problem). The ruins are magnificent, my favorite part of the hike...the snow filled pool a particularly notable sight. The elevation gain is noticeable, especially in the first half hour after leaving the car but is simply a great warm up. The descent on the yellow blaze trail is quite steep in places....the steps that are supposed to be there were obviously covered in snow so it is really a matter a taking whatever route you fancy down. Views are magnificent, the Hudson is almost frozen over this time of year. I'll be back when the dog has a little more stamina and we'll do it all!
The ascent of Breakneck Ridge is a wonderful challenge. The trail up is clearly marked in white blazes and the footholds are solid. There are three distinct landings where folks can take a break on the way up. Views this day were perfect. I've not seen any mountain in the area with quite the same spectacular field of view of the Hudson as Breakneck. On this sunny Sunday, there were a lot of visitors.
If you're new to Breakneck, the trail starts at the end of the underpass on 9D. There's a small wooden box there with b&w maps and the first white blaze. The trail is strenuous, to say the least, not unlike climbing a steep staircase. If you're not up to that kind of exertion better not to go.
In any event, you'll discover this right off as the trail very shortly goes straight up. There are many areas where you'll need to scramble up the rocks using hands and feet. There are a few areas where one could slip but actually cascading off the cliffs would take some serious bad luck. Still, don't let kids play around by the edges. For instance, there's a spot on the trail as you approach the second hump, that goes straight down about 200' and it's only about 2 or 3 feet to the right of the trail. Pay attention!
I've done the ascent of Breakneck now about 50 or 100 times. It gets easier all the time and now I usually do a few up & downs before heading home. My favorite longer hike here is to stay on the white trail all the way to its end, about 5 or 6 miles, to the Beacon Fire Tower. The Tower itself is closed but the mountain top it's on (South Beacon Mt) has a tremendous 360 degree view of the area. That, and the fact that this mountain is also a steep climb, makes this hike a good workout.
VIdeo review of breakneck ridge bypass can be found at hikingcampingtrails.com/?p=8 . An excellent trail that shows off some of the best views of the Hudson Valley, West Point, Newburg-Beacon Bridge & Bannerman Castle. It's not a long hike (3 or 4 hours) but it's a fun one. The quick accent and step rocky areas provide lots of challenge for experienced backpackers while the alternate routes provide an easy way around for anyone who feels uncomfortable with any area. Well worth an afternoon!
Today's high was about 92 - making the already challenging acsent even more interesting. Good hiking boots, galon of bugs spray, and plenty of patience to look for trail markers is a must. Don't forget to pickup free map at the trailhead parking lot. Proved to be a good supplement to the map provided here.
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