One of the Best Backpacking Trails in North America, Breakneck Ridge!

One of the great backpacking trails: straddling the boundary between Putnam and Dutchess counties, Breakneck Ridge is a mountain along the Hudson River between Cold Spring and Beacon, New York. Together with Storm King Mountain on the opposite bank of the river forms Wind Gate, or Wey-Gat, the picturesque northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands, and its distinctive rocky cliffs are visible for a long distance when approached from the south.

Breakneck Ridge
Breakneck Ridge, backpacking trails

It has several summits, with one reaching approximately 1,260 feet above sea level, the highest, some distance inland. For its striking cliffs, the southern face of the peak is spectacular. A rail flag stop has been established on the Metro North line which runs right by the base of the ridge along NY 9D, lying within Hudson Highlands State Park, it is quite popular with hikers and features many stunning views of the region and river.

Metro North Line
Metro North Line, backpacking trails

Most hikers take the white blazed trail up the mountain's west face that begins on the Southbound side of Route 9D near the tunnel, even though several backpacking trails exist. After circling around to cross above the tunnels, it begins a challenging, rocky and steep ascent up to the first hump of the mountain, where there are sweeping views of the Highlands and river, about 720 feet above the river.

Trail Head is Just on the Other Side of This Tunnel
Trail Head is Just on the Other Side of This Tunnel, backpacking trails

It continues over the remaining humps until it reaches the top peak, but becomes a one way trail that keeps on going and travels over several other peaks, and finally comes to an end. There are green, red, and blue trails that ascend from the various other summits that the white blazed trail crosses over, as there are other trails that lead down from the white trail. They are a shortcut to the base of the mountain.

Breakneck Ridge Looking South
Breakneck Ridge, backpacking trails

Find the trailhead near the 9D highway tunnel, at the Breakneck Ridge Metro North flag stop. Starts from the base of the ridge and progresses from the white Breakneck Ridge Trail to the blue Notch Trail, a four to five mile hike, depending on pace and party size. Leading to the charming town of Cold Spring, bear left on blue blazed trail, continue onto the yellow Wilkinson Memorial Trail, which returns you to 9D.

Pollepel Island
Pollepel Island, backpacking trails

Breakneck Ridge may not be recommended for height fearing people, while the clearly marked trail is easy to navigate even for first timers. You will find the amazing sight of an unfettered view of lush landscape to be well worth the challenge, as you progress from one hill to the next.

Storm King Mountain
Storm King Mountain, backpacking trails

Breakneck Ridge features 5.5 miles of rugged hikes and challenging rock ascents for even the most seasoned backpacker, repeatedly voted as one of the best trails in the country! With no way to go but up, you will need all of your limbs to climb up the first mile when suddenly the vertical ascent will have you between a rock and a hard place. The adrenaline will be pumping at this point!

Challenging Rock Ascents
Challenging Rock Ascents, backpacking trails

How to Get There

Via the Metro North Hudson River Line from Grand Central Station, Breakneck Ridge Trail is easily accessible. Situated just north of the trailhead, disembark at Breakneck Ridge flag stop, on holidays and weekends. The trail is accessible from Cold Spring all other times. Check weather conditions before you go there.

Metro North Hudson River Line
Metro North Hudson River Line, backpacking trails

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