This past weekend, Charles and I set out to hike Breakneck Ridge, an intense trail with a very steep incline and STUNNING vistas that lies along the Hudson River.
Located in Cold Springs, NY, about a 1-hour drive from Fairfield County, Breakneck Ridge was named one of the Top 10 Day Hikes in the U.S. by Newsweek. Not for the faint of heart (or physically unfit… or those with a fear of heights,) Breakneck Ridge offers spectacular views – that is if you can handle the steep inclines.
An easy enough drive for NY and CT suburbanites, city-dwellers will rejoice in the fact that Breakneck Ridge is easily accessible via Metro North.
After parking along Route 9D, we came upon the Breakneck Ridge trailhead. A parks employee was greeting guests, keeping count of visitors and making sure all hikers knew where they were going. After briefly showing us the trail route on a map, he reinforced that Breakneck Ridge is a very challenging hike, that hikers need to use their hands in order to scale some of the rock cliffs. We confirmed that we could handle it, confirmed that we were equipped with food and water and we were off!
The trail’s difficulty was immediately apparent, but we charged ahead, over rocks and boulders, with the promise of splendid views ahead. (My DSLR stayed in my pack for these portions of the hike – thankfully I had my trusty iPhone in hand.)
The first of four scenic overlooks was breathtaking. With the sloped Storm King Mountain in sight, many hikers (including us) stopped to snap photos. With an elevation of 686 feet, it easily could have been the final destination for many, and it provided plenty of flat areas for hikers to enjoy a picnic.
The second viewing area, at around 850 feet in elevation, also offered stunning views but it was crowded so we powered through, knowing that we’d see better views higher up the mountain.
// The second scenic overlook can be seen in this photo, bottom right. //
The third viewing area was my favorite. At an elevation of 968 feet, it’s where I’d spend more time if I were doing a leisurely hike. The views were beyond spectacular and from this viewing area we enjoyed an expansive view of the Hudson River and the surrounding lush landscape.
The fourth and final scenic overlook, while higher in elevation at over 1,200 feet, was less dramatic, perhaps because its vistas didn’t include Storm King Mountain. We did take a minute to stop and enjoy the scenery, though.
The descent took us through the woods, steep but much less rocky than the ascent and incredibly serene at times.
One thing to note is that if planning to do the 3(ish) mile hike, which many visitors do, hikers will enter at the Breakneck Ridge trailhead and exit at Wilkinson Trail. The trails are in close proximity to each other, making for an easy journey back to one’s car at the end.
Also, Breakneck Ridge and Wilkinson Trail are pet-friendly and we did pass a few dogs who had successfully ascended the mountain. They were big, strong dogs, however, and their owners did say they had to pick them up and carry them over rocks at times. But for those adventure-craving large pups, I’d think it would be a blast! (Plus, I’m sure dogs appreciate stunning vistas as much as humans!)
For post-hike re-fueling, stop at Whistling Willies in the town of Cold Springs. Belly-pleasing pub fare and local beer is exactly what’s needed after conquering Breakneck Ridge!
More information about Breakneck Ridge may be found on the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference website.