Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hudson Highlands State Park, NY: Breakneck Ridge-Bull Hill-Cornish Estate-Little Stony Point

Hudson Highlands State Park - New York State Office of Parks and Recreation
Breakneck Ridge - Wikipedia
Cornish Estate - Hudson Valley Ruins
Little Stony Point - Paddle NY

GPS Coordinates 41.426706, -73.965436

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No sign for the parking lot, easy to miss. Heading north on 9D, drive slowly leaving the town of Cold Spring and watch for the lot on your right less than a mile out of town directly across from the Little Stony Point sign on the left.  Get there early - the lot fills up fast.

East Hudson Trail Map #102 - NY/NJ Trail Conference (best map)
Hudson Highlands North Trail Map - NY State Office of Parks and Recreation

Cornish Estates - Breakneck Ridge - Bull Hill Loop:  8 miles
Cornish Estates - Breakneck Ridge Loop: 5.5 miles
Little Stony Point:  1 mile

The most popular way to hike Breakneck Ridge is up the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail a little farther north on 9D.  That almost vertical trail is beyond the capabilities of my dog and probably not a good idea for me with my fear of heights.  So we went the back way, still a strenuous hike, minus the crowds, same fantastic views.

From the north end of the parking lot, pick up the white-blazed Washburn Trail just beyond the trail map box.  After only a few steps, turn left on the blue-blazed Cornish Trail at the sign.
The trail is somewhat overgrown initially, but passable.  After a quarter of a mile the trail turns right on a paved drive, the original drive to the Cornish Estate.
Another half mile along go left at a fork to the mansion ruins.  (This link contains pictures of the original mansion.)
Continuing along the path through the ruins towards the sound of water, meet up with the red-blazed Brook Trail which leads to waterfalls reached by keeping straight a short distance when the trail turns right.
Breakneck Brook Waterfalls
Bridge over Breakneck Brook on yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail
The yellow-blazed trail ascends more steeply with some rock scrambles.  Going in this direction the trail is not well-blazed but it is in the opposite direction so if you are not seeing blazes, turn around to find them going the other way to be sure you are on track.

The yellow-blazed trail terminates at the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail beyond the steepest parts of the Breakneck Ridge Trail.  Turn right and go up one fairly steep scramble to the views Breakneck Ridge is famous for.
Rock Scramble to Views
View from Breakneck Ridge
Panoramic View from Breakneck Ridge - Storm King Mountain in center (click to enlarge)
Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island from Breakneck Ridge
Bull Hill (Mount Taurus) from Breakneck Ridge
Newburgh Beacon Bridge from Breakneck Ridge
Leaving the Breakneck Ridge Trail, turn right on the blue-blazed Notch Trail to ruins of the Cornish dairy barn.
The blue trail comes to an intersection with the red trail.  Turn left on blue to continue up and over Bull Hill or keep straight on red to connect with the blue-blazed Cornish Trail back to the parking lot for a shorter hike.
View South from Bull Hill
Washburn Trail over Bull Hill
Descending from Bull Hill, a short side trail loops around the inside of an old abandoned quarry.
Loop Trail through Quarry

After arriving back at the parking lot, it's worth taking a short trip over to Little Stony Point.  Cross over 9D and take the foot bridge over railroad tracks.  At the intersection with the "no swimming" sign there are 3 options.  The right trail goes directly to the north where the beach is - expect lots of people heading in this direction in the summer.  Left loops around south to north coming out at the beach and returning to this intersection.  The center trail goes up to the top of the cliffs for great views.  It's 1 mile total to walk both the lower and upper trails.
View north from Little Stony Point
"The Beach" at the north end of Little Stony Point
Breakneck Ridge (left) and Bull Hill (right) from Little Stony Point Cliffs
Unfortunately, because this area is so hugely popular, litter is abundant.  We packed out as much as we could and luckily were able to deposit it in the bins at Little Stony Point to lighten the load before finishing our hike.

[  0.00]  White-blazed trail briefly to right on blue-blazed Cornish Trail
[  0.25]  Blue-blazed trail turns right on paved drive (gates to left)
[  0.75]  At fork go left on narrower paved path to mansion ruins
[  0.90]  Beyond collapsed bridge with blowdown, right on red-blazed Brook Trail
[  1.00]  Red-blazed trail turns right but short out and back straight goes to waterfalls
[  1.30]  Cross straight over mowed grass road with old concrete pillars on either side
[  1.40]  Keep straight on red when blue terminates at red to the right.
[  1.50]  Turn left on yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail, cross bridge
[  1.90]  Yellow trail terminates at white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail, turn right on white
[  2.50]  Side trail to left with views
[  3.00]  Right on blue-blazed Notch Trail
[  3.50]  Blue trail turn right on woods road with view of reservoir ahead
[  3.70]  Cornish dairy barn ruins
[  3.80]  Left on blue when red goes straight***
                *** For 5.5 mile loop straight on red to left on blue Cornish Trail back to parking
[  4.90]  Straight on white-blazed Washburn Trail when blue trail terminates; trail crosses woods road - easy to miss, watch for blazes
[  5.40]  Side trails to views
[  6.15]  Keep straight on white crossing over yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail
[  7.25]  Turn right on unmarked side trail to loop around inside of old quarry
[  7.50]  Right on white at end of quarry loop
[  8.00]  Arrive back at parking lot

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stokes State Forest, NJ - Stony Brook/Appalachian Trail Loop from Culver's Gap

Stokes State Forest - NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Stokes State Forest - Wikipedia

GPS Coordinates to Culver's Gap Parking Lot 41.180132, -74.788000

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The paved parking lot is huge.  I would guess it holds about 40 cars and it is not heavily used since the only reason to park there is to hike - nothing else is nearby.  While there is an entrance fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day to get into the park for the other parking lots, this is a free lot.

Northern Kittatinny Trails Map 122 - NY/NJ Trail Conference (this is the better map)
Stokes State Forest Trail Guide - NJDEP (map is not so good but the paper copy available at the park office has nice descriptions of the trails on the back)

HIKE DISTANCE:  10.5 miles

This hike does not include the highly popular and heavily visited Sunrise Mountain but covers many of the lesser used trails through beautiful forests.  The hike begins on the Appalachian Trail which skirts the parking lot.  Head towards Maine.
When the Appalachian Trail crosses over paved Sunrise Mountain Road, turn left and stay on the road for about a quarter of a mile.
Sunrise Mountain Road
Leave Sunrise Mountain Road to the left on the Coursen Trail.
Watch your step! Red Efts are abundant along a section of this trail.
The Stony Lake Trail circles around Stony Lake: (The NY/NJ Trail Conference map shows this as a blue/brown-blazed trail - the markers must be discolored as they appear to be green/tan as shown below.)
Stony Lake
From the far side of the lake note the fire tower up on the Appalachian Trail where this hike goes later.
After circling the lake, a short road walk comes out at the Stony Lake Day Use Area.  The next trail is a little tricky to find.  Turn left before the sign below and walk through the parking lot towards the basketball hoops.
As you near the hoops you should see the brown trail markers of the Stony Brook Trail on the tree.  The trail is to the left of the markers and goes through a grassy area.
The trail becomes very pretty and parallels Stony Brook.
Stony Brook Falls
Stony Brook Trail
The Stony Brook Trail ends at two old barns.  Straight ahead is a gravel parking lot.  Proceed to that lot and turn right on to the Blue Mountain Trail.
The brown/green-blazed Blue Mountain Trail ends at a camping area at Big Flat Brook.
Big Flat Brook
Another short walk along a quiet paved road brings you to the yellow-blazed Tinsley Trail which passes through pleasant woods.
Shortly after crossing the paved Sunrise Mountain Road, the Tinsley Trail ends at the Appalachian Trail.  Turn right on the white-blazed A.T. and a short distance ahead on the right is a nice pine needle covered clearing with a view to the west.
Appalachian Trail
From the base of the Normanook (Culver) Lookout Tower, a view of Stony Lake from the beginning of the hike.
Stony Lake in the bottom center.
Normanook (Culver) Lookout Tower (marked no trespassing - climbing up not allowed without permission).
Limited views of Culvers Lake to the east.
Just before the Appalachian Trail starts to switchback down to the parking lot, a couple more views.
Kittatinny Lake to the south.
View to the West - continuation of A.T. to the right beyond dead tree.
The white A.T. blazes are hard to follow across this area.  Keep to the right of the stone surfaces heading towards the dead tree shown above.  Turn right just past that tree and the blazes will pick up again.

[  0.00]  From the information board at the far end of the parking lot, turn left to the white-blazed Appalachian Trail then turn right on the Appalachian Trail
[  0.20]  Turn left on paved Sunset Mountain Road and keep straight when the white-blazed A.T. goes right
[  0.65]  Turn left on the blue circle-blazed Coursen Trail
[  1.55]  Turn left on the green/tan (should be blue/brown) trail before crossing creek
[  2.05]  Trail turn left away from pond and ends; right on black circle-blazed Lackner Trail
[  2.15]  Turn right on paved park road, cross bridge over creek
[  2.25]  Turn left before Stony Lake Day Use Area sigh, proceed through parking lot towards basketball hoops, take brown circle-blazed Stony Brook Trail to left of hoops
[  2.45]  Brown-blazed Stony Brook Trail turns right before foot bridge
[  2.50]  Cross wooden foot bridge, proceed to the right through picnic area
[  2.60]  Take orange/brown trail between picnic pavilion on left and restroom building on right
[  2.80]  Keep left on brown when orange Silver Mine Trail goes right
[  3.25]  Keep right at clearing then left between two old barns; head towards gravel parking area
[  3.30]  At gravel parking area, turn right on blue circle-blazed Blue Mountain Trail
[  3.40]  Keep right at fork when unmarked goes left
[  4.50]  Rock hop creek, veer left towards camping area, rock hop another creek, right on paved road running parallel to Big Flat Brook to right on paved park road
[  4.75]  At "dead end" sign leave paved park road and turn right on the yellow circle-blazed Tinsley Trail
[  5.20]  Keep right on yellow Tinsley Trail when Spring Cabin Trail goes left
[  5.70]  Keep straight on yellow Tinsley Trail when red Swenson Trail joins in from left
[  5.80]  Keep left on yellow Tinsley Trail when red leaves to right (no red blazes at intersection)
[  6.05]  Unmarked trail to left appears to go nowhere
[  6.50]  Pass kiosk, cross paved Sunshine Mountain Road, continue on Tinsley Trail
[  6.55]  Tinsley Trail ends, right on white-blazed Appalachian Trail
[  6.70]  Clearing with view on right (nice break spot)
[  7.85]  Keep straight on A.T. when the brown circle-blazed Stony Brook Trail and blue-blazed trail to the Gren Anderson shelter go right
[  8.80]  Keep straight on A.T. when green circle-blazed Tower Trail goes right; A.T. trail register; Normanook Lookout Tower
[  9.90]  Cross open rock clearing staying right to continue on A.T. to right beyond dead tree, A.T. descends
[10.35]  Left on paved Sunshine Mountain Road briefly then right as white-blazed A.T. continues into woods
[10.50]  Arrive at parking lot