Hudson Valley NY Hiking: Breakneck Ridge trail
There are many hiking trails within fifteen or so minutes of my home, so all of the hiking posts I’ve previously done focused on the West side of the Hudson River. Someone had asked recently whether the Schunnemunk Mountain Trail on the West was more or less difficult than the Breakneck Ridge trail on the East. Never having hiked on the second trail, I had no idea how to answer the question. And there was only one way to find out….
The Breakneck Ridge Trail is located at 3258 Bear Mountain Beacon Highway/Route 9D in Cold Spring, NY. There are a few small gravel parking lots along the road. In addition, the shoulder is used for parking (more on parking below). The actual entrance to the trail is on the river side of 9D, right near the bridge. Following are my version of the pros and cons of this trail:
Exercise: There is a sign upon entering the trail that says, “This is not just a walk in the park.” The sign warns that the trail is a steep rock scramble. It is. This is a great trail to work out your arms, legs and cardiovascular system! The first hour or so is all uphill. Specifically, clambering over rocks and boulders on the way up 1200 or so feet. There are some areas where you need to find finger and toe holds to make upward progress. Other spots require you to put your foot into a small crevice between large boulders. At some points there are easier path options to take. This is definitely a great trail if you want exercise.
Views: The views make the rock scramble worth it. There are three or four lookout points, and each one is better than the last. You can see both north and south on the Hudson River. On the day we were there, the sky was clear. We saw ships and tugboats, a small plane flying above, sailboats and motorboats. The views are phenomenal.
Trail markings: We didn’t realize how long the trail would take, so we wound up taking the white trail up the mountain, and after an hour and a half or so, we saw a red trail that would slowly loop back down the mountain, and then a yellow trail that would get us back to the parking lot. All the trails were well marked and easy to follow. On the day we were there, there were also trail guides available at a table at the entrance to the trail. If you don’t have one, certainly pick one up – there are many options once you get up the mountain.
Crowds: This is a very popular trail. We went on a weekend, which we would not do again. We did get there early and were able to find a parking spot in the lot. By the time we left, the lots were full and the shoulders of the road were full of cars. In addition to the parking crowds, the trails were full of people. At one point, I leaned against a boulder and looked down to where I had just climbed. It looked like a cluster of spiders were scampering up the rocks. People just kept coming! My preferred trails are those where it’s just my hiking buddies and me. Those are the hikes where you can actually see animals and enjoy nature. I wasn’t a fan of the crowds.
Heights: There was one spot early on in the hike where the height was starting to scare me a bit. I’m not sure why that spot was worrisome, because higher up was fine. I had to pause for a few moments before attempting to move again. If you have a fear of heights, just know that you might need to take a little break before moving forward. Either that, or don’t look at the river until you’re on a flat surface again!
Fluids: We went on a very warm day, and should have brought more water. A lot of the hike is in the direct sunlight, so make sure you bring enough fluid to keep yourself hydrated for several hours.
Traffic/Crowds: If you can, go during the week when it’s less crowded.
Walking Sticks: If you normally carry/bring a walking stick, it will be useless on the rock part of the climb. That being said, if you go back down via one of the other trails, it could come in handy. There were quite a few areas with crumby pebbles/rocks in a sandy trail which proved to be a bit slippery.
Time: It’s best if you do this climb with a full day to explore. Trying to squeeze it into a short time period just won’t work.
And there you have it! The views make this trek worthwhile. Just be forewarned this is not an easy walk-in-the-park!