Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hudson Highlands State Park: 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

View Larger Map
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


  1. Excellent blog- found it while looking into Hikes for the weekend! Your detailed pictures and directions are great as sometimes it's easy to get a little lost on these trails. Your dog is adorable too!

  2. Thank you, Kimberly! (My dog says thanks, too!)


  3. Hi, I really enjoyed reading this! As a beginner this looks easier. It's also much closer to town! I have a question. How steep and hard is the ascend on the under cliff path between White BR and the Red BK path? My friends and I plan to make a stop at the flag pole area then follow your path back to town. Thanks

  4. It's pretty steep and it's a rock scramble but it's in the middle of the woods versus the Breakneck Ridge trail which is straight up the outside of a mountain so you don't have vertigo to deal with on the Undercliff Trail if you have height issues.


  5. I was a teenager when I first did the white trail and I would come down the blue trail (where the white trail and the blue trail meet). Then I would literally walk the brook down the mountain until it hit 9D. I must have done that 6 times with my best friend. Now with my 9 and 7 year old, we just hiked the same trail. They did great. Its a tough climb/hike but if a 37, 9 and 7 year old can do it, I feel like you can get out there and hike it.