Breakneck Ridge Hike: Everything You Need To Know To Conquer It | Stanton House Inn

ruins along the Breakneck Ridge hike

The Breakneck Ridge Hike, the darling of New York’s Hudson Valley, is as easy car or train ride from the City that Never Sleeps. It’s arguably the best hiking trail in Hudson Highlands State Park. From the Hudson River’s shimmering waters to the imposing landmarks that dot the landscape, it’s no wonder this trail is a magnet for wanderers. The path is rugged, climbing skyward from the get-go, but the reward? Views that’ll knock your socks off. Fancy a short jaunt or a long expedition? Perhaps a climb up to South Beacon Mountain? Be warned, the beauty of the vistas is directly proportional to the sweat on your brow. This guide is your trusty sidekick, providing you with all the knowledge you need to take on the Breakneck Ridge Hike.


Let’s get into it:


Quick hits

  • Conquer the thrilling Breakneck Ridge Loop Hike for amazing scenery and a rewarding rock scramble.
  • Get ready with physical fitness, essential gear, safety precautions & navigation tips.
  • Explore nearby attractions, plus accommodation options

About Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck ridge trail mapBreakneck Ridge, a rugged mountainous area, stretches along the Hudson River, sandwiched between Beacon and Cold Spring in New York. It straddles Dutchess and Putnam counties like a sleeping giant. As you approach from the south, its rocky cliffs jut out like the chin of a defiant boxer, visible from miles away. And it, in cahoots with Storm King Mountain across the river, forms Wey-Gat, or Wind Gate, a picturesque northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands.


The ridge is home to several peaks, with the highest one being somewhat elusive, nestled inland and reaching approximately 1,260 feet above sea level. The southern face of the peak is quite dramatic, showcasing its impressive cliffs, the result of historic quarrying. It is located within the Hudson Highlands State Park and provides a panoramic view of the river and the surrounding landscape. It’s so frequented by hikers that a flag stop has been established on the Metro North line, which passes right by the base of the ridge along NY 9D. A road tunnel was carved beneath the peak’s western slopes in 1932, which is now a part of Route 9D.


The mountain used to go by the names of St. Anthony’s Face or Turk’s Face until the early twentieth century. The namesake was a facelike stone formation on the southern cliffs that quarrymen destroyed in 1846. A bit of a tragedy, but c’est la vie.

The Breakneck Ridge Experience

A hiker standing on a rocky ridge overlooking the Hudson River

Breakneck Ridge is no walk in the park. It’s a beast of a hike, not for the faint of heart. Its trailhead, close to the quaint village of Cold Spring, marks the start of a grueling 3.7-mile trek that’ll have you climbing a whopping 1,250 feet. But the real prize is the jaw-dropping vista of the Hudson River and the majestic mountains that surround it.


The Breakneck Ridge experience is a test of will and grit. The Breakneck Ridge Loop Hike is the star of the show, starting at the Breakneck Ridge Trailhead. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might even want to veer off onto the lesser-trodden Wilkinson Memorial Trail.


So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the heart of the Breakneck Ridge hike: the rock scramble and the views that’ll make you feel on top of the world.


The Rock Scramble

The triumphant view from the top of the rock scrambles after rock scrambling when we hiked breakneck ridge

At the very core of the Breakneck Ridge adventure is the notorious rock scramble. This audacious and exhilarating steep climb dares seasoned hikers to master its sharp inclines and rugged landscape. The rock scramble commences within the first mile of the trail. As you embark on this physically taxing section, you’ll find yourself relying on the strength of your hands and the stability of your feet to navigate the inclines and maintain your footing.


As in, you’ll literally be scrambling over rocks. It’s as close to rock climbing as you can get without needing a harness.


The rock scramble, while intimidating, is a heady part of the hike that offers a sense of achievement that’s hard to rival. Be sure to punctuate your rocky climb with regular pauses to replenish your breath. These moments of respite also provide an opportunity to soak in the breathtaking views that unfold as you ascend.


Remember, mastering the rock scramble is a badge of your grit and resolve. So, take on the challenge, revel in the struggle, and bask in the sweet taste of victory!


Breathtaking Views

Cliff overlook

The Breakneck Ridge hike, my friend, isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s a chance to:

  • Push your body to its limits
  • Immerse yourself in the raw, unspoiled beauty of the Hudson Valley
  • Gaze upon the mighty Hudson River and the enigmatic Bannerman’s Castle
  • Enjoy views that’ll make a reward well worth the sweat and toil of the journey


From the cliff overlooks, perched high above the world, you’ll watch as boats, barges, and helicopters glide across the Hudson River. From there, they’ll look like tiny toys in a giant’s world. And in the distance, the majestic Bear Mountain Bridge stands tall. So, pause for a while to drink in the stunning vistas, snap some photos for keepsakes, and bask in the natural splendor enveloping you.

Navigating the Breakneck Ridge Trail

A rocky ridge with a view of the Hudson River

Alright, you’re all set to tackle the beast that is the Breakneck Ridge hike. Pick from the different trails you can choose to face this mountainous behemoth. From the classic loop to extended hikes, there’s a path for every adventurer, whether you’re a grizzled trail veteran or a fresh-faced novice. It’s crucial to know the lay of the land before you set foot on the trail. That way, you can pick the path that suits your mettle and mood.


The next sections will walk you through the classic Breakneck Ridge loop and extended hike options. They’re not for the faint of heart, but they’re worth every bead of sweat.


Classic Breakneck Ridge Loop

A breathtaking view of the Breakneck Ridge Hike trail during the Classic Breakneck Ridge Loop

The classic Breakneck Ridge loop is a darling among those who dare to hike, offering:

  • A 3.7-mile trail
  • A steep hike, with an elevation gain of 1,250 feet
  • An unforgettable rock scramble
  • Views of the Hudson River and surrounding countryside to enjoy while you’re gasping for breath
  • White trail markers to guide you

Extended Hikes

If you’re the kind of soul who laughs in the face of a challenge, Breakneck Ridge has a few more cards up its sleeve. There are extended hike options that link up to the main trail. These longer routes are not for the faint-hearted, they’re for those who want to push their limits and see more of the world from a higher perspective. Two popular extended hike options include:

  • The Breakneck to Cold Spring route (5.7 miles, 1,800 feet elevation gain)
  • And the Breakneck to Beacon route (6.7 miles, 2,100 feet elevation gain)


Before you go marching off on an extended hike, make sure you’re ready for the extra miles and the extra elevation. Here are some tips to help you get your ducks in a row:

  • Bring extra water, snacks, and gear that’s up to the task of the more challenging terrain.
  • Remember, it’s not about getting there the fastest, it’s about enjoying the journey. So take your time and pace yourself.
  • Keep your eyes open for the incredible scenery that awaits you on these extended hikes.

How to Get Here: Transportation to Breakneck Ridge

A sunrise view of the Hudson River and the surrounding mountains

Getting to the Breakneck Ridge trailhead is as easy as falling back down the hike itself. And that goes whether you’ve got a set of wheels or not. A hop, skip, and a jump from the City that Never Sleeps, the trailhead is within arm’s reach for eager hikers.


From subways to rental cars, there’s a myriad of ways to get to hiking Breakneck Ridge and kick off your daring adventure.


From NYC

Jumping aboard the Metro-North Railroad Line at Grand Central Station, you’ll find yourself at Breakneck Ridge Train Station in a swift 1.5 hours. Be warned, the Breakneck Ridge station keeps its doors open only on weekends and holidays. It’s a bit like a rare bird, appearing six times in the morning with northbound trains and five times in the evening with southbound ones.


If the idea of a train doesn’t tickle your fancy and you’d rather be in control of your own journey, renting a car is a fine choice. You’ll be at the trailhead in about the same time it takes to watch two episodes of your favorite sitcom, give or take a few minutes.

Parking Tips

To tackle Breakneck Ridge by way of the horseless carriage, parking awaits along the well-trodden path of State Road 9D. A modest lot sits near the trailhead, with a larger lot to the north. But be warned, these parking havens fill up fast, especially when the weekend rolls around or the peak hiking season is upon us. So, if you fancy securing a spot for your trusty steed, best to rise with the sun and be prepared to part with a few coins for the larger lot.

Exploring Attractions Near Breakneck Ridge

A hiker standing on a rocky ridge with a view of Cold Spring Village

After taming the beast of Breakneck Ridge, you’re likely craving more Hudson Valley adventures. From charming hamlets to more incredible Hudson Valley hiking trails, this region is excellent. Whether you fancy retail therapy and a good meal, or another challenge on the trails, there’s plenty to explore.


Cold Spring Village

Located just a short 2-mile journey south of the Breakneck Ridge trailhead, you’ll find the charming village of Cold Spring. This idyllic riverside hamlet provides a tranquil getaway from the daily grind. Here, you’ll discover boutique stores and charming eateries lining the main street.


After conquering the demanding hike, reward yourself with a relaxed amble through the village. Take your time to explore the unique shops and indulge in a delicious meal at a local café. Complete your trip with a delightful ice cream from Moo Moo’s Creamery, while you soak in the charm of Cold Spring by the scenic Hudson River.


The trail walk from Breakneck to Cold Spring is approximately 2 miles long.


Storm King Mountain

The view across the river from the Breakneck Ridge Trail

If you’re looking for another thrilling adventure after Breakneck Ridge, consider Storm King Mountain. This challenging trail is near Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. It’s a tough climb, but the stunning views of the Hudson River and the surrounding countryside are well worth the effort.

Hotels, Inns, & Placest to Stay near the Breakneck Ridge Hike

A hiker standing on a rocky ridge on Storm King Mountain

If you want to tackle this popular hike, the drive from our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast to the start of the Breakneck Ridge trail is about an hour.


This writer usually heads here, pokes around a nearby town all sweaty, then heads home.


If you’d rather shower sooner, or stick around a bit longer, there are some cute places to stay nearby:


Hotels and B&Bs

The Pig Hill Inn Bed and Breakfast, in Cold Spring

In the Hudson Valley, you’ll find lodgings aplenty, each with its own charm. From the boutique hotels of Cold Spring and Beacon, to the quaint B&Bs close to NYC scattered across the landscape, there’s a perfect nook for every weary hiker to hang their hat and rest their bones after a day of conquering trails and taking in the sights.


Hudson House River Inn

Etched in the annals of 1832 and persisting to this day, the Hudson House River Inn is a living fragment of the Hudson River’s storied past. The Hudson House River Inn, comfortably nestled on the tranquil banks of Cold Spring, is a mere hop, skip, and a jump – or a hundred feet, if you’re a stickler for detail – from the Hudson River. It presents a grand spectacle of West Point, the mighty Hudson, and the landscapes that embrace it. A proud member of the National Register of Historic Places, this historic inn is one of the most unique places to stay in the area.


West Point Foundry Bed and Breakfast

This National Historic Landmark, fresh off a face-lift, sits on its own private 9-acre estate, a stone’s throw from the West Point Military Academy. The West Point Foundry Bed & Breakfast boasts a swimming pool if the views of the Hudson River from the porch make you want to take a dip. Cold Spring’s restaurants, shops, and train station are all within a five-minute stroll. But who’s counting minutes when you’re in a place like this?


Pig Hill Inn

Perched on the bustling main street of Cold Spring, you’ll find the Pig Hill Inn. Despite its prime location, it maintains a tranquility that rivals the quietest corners of the countryside. Do yourself a favor and check out their garden terrace. Here, you’ll be greeted with a warmth that rivals the Hudson Valley sun. Personalized service and a welcoming atmosphere are as guaranteed as a sunrise.


So, go on, reserve a room, and prepare to bask in the genuine hospitality of the Hudson Valley’s hotels and B&Bs.



Breakneck Ridge is no saunter in the park. It’s a wild beast of a trail, a dance with nature, a test of mettle. Conquer this rugged challenge, and you’ll be rewarded with heart-stirring vistas of the Hudson Valley. So, lace up those boots, pack your grit, and prepare for an afternoon adventure on the Breakneck Ridge hike.


And be sure to read our guide to even more hiking trails nearby.


Frequently Asked Questions about the Breakneck Ridge Trail


How hard is Breakneck Ridge hike?

Breakneck Ridge, nestled in the Hudson Highlands State Park, is a demanding hike that spans 2.5 to 4 miles with an elevation gain of 1,250 feet. While it’s a tough hike, it’s certainly achievable!


The trail is situated in an area that offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River and the landscapes that surround it. It’s a fantastic opportunity to engage in physical activity while appreciating the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley.


What is the difficulty level of Breakneck Ridge?

Breakneck Ridge is a hike of high intensity, spanning between 2.5 to 4 miles with a significant elevation gain of 1,250 feet. Despite its difficulty, it’s manageable as a loop, or one can extend the hike to Cold Spring.


The panoramic views from the apex of Breakneck Ridge are truly magnificent, with the Hudson River and the Catskills unfolding in the distance. The trail is clearly marked and straightforward to navigate, offering ample chances to soak in the picturesque surroundings.


How much elevation gain is Breakneck Ridge hike?

With a significant elevation gain of 1,250 feet, the Breakneck Ridge hike is a challenging yet achievable endeavor. It is situated just an hour and 20 minutes away from New York City by car, or an hour and a half if you opt for a train ride.


How long does Breakneck Ridge take to hike?

On average, hikers spend about an hour traversing the short loop of the Breakneck Ridge Trail, which spans 1 mile. The moderate loop, which is 2.1 miles long, usually takes about 2 hours to complete. For the long loop of 2.8 miles, expect to spend around 3 hours on the trail.

  • The Breakneck Bypass Trail is the red trail, with a distance of 0.76 miles.
  • The Blue Trail is 0.30 miles.
  • The Breakneck Ridge Trail is the white trail, and is 4.40 miles.
  • The Brook trail is also red, with a distance of 0.61 miles.
  • The Wilkinson Memorial Trail has yellow blazes, the yellow trail distance is 7.8 miles.
  • The Nelsonville trail distance is 2 miles, and is a green trail.
  • The Undercliff trail is also referred to as the Cold Spring trail, and is also a yellow trail. Distance is 3.80 miles.


Taking on the trail is an excellent opportunity for physical activity while immersing in nature’s beauty. The trail is clearly marked and provides spectacular vistas of the Hudson River Valley. It’s a splendid way to dedicate a day to outdoor exploration and fresh air.

What are the essential items to bring on the hike?

For your hike, it’s crucial to bring along durable hiking boots, breathable clothing including hiking socks, ample water supply, snacks to keep your energy up, sunscreen for protection, a hat, and don’t forget a camera to capture the beautiful scenery.

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