New Yorkers are often surprised to learn that in just over an hour’s time they can escape the busy city streets of Manhattan and reach cool mountains and expansive, open space. Now, is the perfect time to catch a train and hit the trail.
Leave the city behind, and take an MTA Hudson River Line train to nearby hiking trails and explore the ruggedly beautiful Hudson Highlands, just 50 miles north of midtown Manhattan. Most of these hikes traverse land protected by OSI and subsequently blazed and mapped by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Listed below are three hikes of varying difficulty, all a stone’s throw from Metro-North’s Hudson Line.
But if climbing a mountain seems overly ambitious, why not pack a picnic and head to the Hudson River at Dockside, a newly created park of about 7 acres which offers unobstructed views of the Hudson Highlands and Storm King Mountain. Within easy walking distance of the Cold Spring train station, Dockside’s location makes is a link in the Hudson River greenway extending from Foundry Cove to Boscobel, Constitution Marsh, the Philipstown Park, and Philips Brook. Dockside is also in close proximity to Little Stony Point and Hudson Highlands State Park beyond.
Marcia’s Mile/ Arden Point
MTA Grand Central Central to Garrison Station
Easy Hike—2.2 miles, 1.5 hours*
Visitors entering Arden Point State Park from the Garrison train station in Philipstown, Putnam County cross the tracks to a wooded trail that meanders along the edge of the Hudson River. Eventually, the trail opens out onto a rocky promontory known as Arden Point with river views to the north and south, including a full view of West Point on the opposite shore.
“Marcia’s Mile” was blazed by the Open Space Institute in memory of Marcia Favrot, a local artist and environmental advocate. The trail presents an opportunity for a leisurely ramble on mostly flat terrain through the woods to reach a promontory on the banks of the Hudson River, offering expansive views.
“This is one gorgeous earth,” Marcia wrote in September 2000, one month after she was diagnosed with cancer. A useful map with a sampling of the many parks and trails in Philipstown, brief trail descriptions, with some interesting historical detail can be found at:
22 Hikes in Philipstown
Directions: From the south end of the northbound platform at the Garrison train station, head east towards the paved road. The trailhead is to your right, between two stone pillars, at a sign for “Arden Point.” Follow the blue-blazed woods road south for about half a mile until you reach a bridge over the railroad. Turn right, cross the bridge, and immediately turn right, continuing along the blue-blazed trail. When you reach an intersection, turn right on the red-blazed trail and continue past an old stone wall, and descend to the water’s edge for a spectacular view north up the Hudson River (including West Point). Retrace your steps to the intersection with the blue-blazed trail and bear right, continuing to follow the red-blazed trail, which soon reaches a west-facing viewpoint over the river, with a bench. Near the southern tip of the point, where the red-blazed trail turns sharply left, continue ahead on a wide path to a rock outcrop at the tip, with a great south-facing view. Retrace your steps back to the red-blazed trail and bear right. When you reach the bridge over the tracks, cross it, and turn right (south) onto the white-blazed Marcia’s Mile. After about 0.2 miles, stone steps to the right (west) lead to a large gazebo with a beautiful view. To return to the start, retrace your steps back to the railroad bridge (do not cross it), and continue ahead along the blue-blazed woods road back to the train station.
The hike can be extended by following the Glenclyffe Loop, which adds about 1.5 miles (one hour) to the hike.
Cold Spring Train Station
Moderate/Difficult—5.7 miles, 4-5 hours
Just north of the village of Cold Spring, this hike climbs the 1,420-foot Bull Hill (also known as Mt. Taurus). Bull Hill is part of Hudson Highlands State Park, which the Open Space Institute has worked for many years to expand. Portions of the hike are steep, and the footing can be tricky in places, but the summit rewards with spectacular views over the Hudson River, Breakneck Ridge and, on a clear day, the Catskills and Shawangunks.
On the way down, you’ll pass the ruins of the estate of Edward G. Cornish, a wealthy industrialist. Using rocks from nearby Breakneck Ridge, he built a mansion in the 1900s with elaborate gardens and a dairy farm in this remote and ruggedly beautiful setting. The mansion was abandoned and later burned down, but extensive ruins remain. The town of Cold Spring has a variety of shops and antique stores along Main Street. There are numerous places to eat, including a deli, restaurant, and a pub.
Directions: From the Cold Spring train station, walk north along the platform to Main Street. Walk up Main Street for two blocks, turn left onto Fair Street, and follow it to its end on Route 9D. Turn left (north) on Route 9D, and in about 0.2 miles, you’ll notice a small parking area on the right. Here, the white-blazed Washburn Trail begins. Follow the Washburn Trail as it climbs Bull Hill, steeply in places. After descending from the summit, the Washburn Trail ends at a four-way junction. Follow the blue-blazed Notch Trail downhill, and turn left at the base of the descent onto the red-blazed Brook Trail. When you reach a fork, bear left onto the blue-blazed Cornish Trail, which follows an old road through the ruins of the Cornish estate. When the Cornish Trail ends at Route 9D, turn left and follow it back to Cold Spring.
Breakneck Ridge Stop (limited service)
Very Difficult—2.8 miles, 3.5 hours
This is the most strenuous hike in the East Hudson Highlands. There are some steep climbs over rock ledges, but spectacular views of the Hudson River reward hikers who are up for a scramble and some challenging climbing. After ascending the Breakneck Tunnel, views to the Catskill Aqueduct and Storm King Mountain right across the river are breathtaking. According to legend, Breakneck gets its name from the same wild bull, from the neighboring Bull Hill hike, as the place where the bull finally fell to its death.
Directions: From the Breakneck Ridge stop, walk south along Route 9D for about 0.6 miles. Just before the road goes through a tunnel, there is a parking area on the right side. The white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail starts at the southern end of the parking area. Almost immediately, you’ll reach a viewpoint over the Hudson River, with Storm King Mountain across the river and Bannerman’s Castle on Pollopel Island to the right. As you climb, you’ll come to additional viewpoints over the river. In one spot, the trail is particularly steep, and an alternative route, marked with white X’s, offers a more moderate (although still challenging) climb. At the upper reaches of the ridge, the views are broader, although less dramatic. After some ups and downs, you’ll reach a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Breakneck Bypass Trail (marked by three blazes on a boulder to the left). You’ve gone only 1.5 miles to reach this point, although it will probably seem like you’ve hiked a much longer distance! Turn left and follow the Breakneck Bypass Trail downhill to the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Trail, then turn left on the Wilkinson Trail to return to Route 9D. Turn right and follow Route 9D for about a quarter of a mile to an overpass over the tracks, which leads to the southbound platform of the Breakneck Ridge station.
Dockside Hudson River Park
However if climbing a mountain seems a bit overly ambitious, why not relax with a picnic by the Hudson River at New York State’s newly created park known as Dockside, which offers unobstructed views of the Hudson Highlands and Storm King Mountain. Within easy walking distance of the Cold Spring train station, Dockside’s location makes it a critical link in the Hudson River greenway extending from Foundry Cove to Boscobel, Constitution Marsh, the Malcolm Gordon School, and Philips Brook. Dockside is also in close proximity to Little Stony Point and Hudson Highlands State Park beyond.
NY-NJ Trail Conference
22 Hikes in Philipstown