Breakneck Ridge and Cold Spring, NY, Guide (5/52)

Breakneck Ridge Guide including Bull Mountain and Cold Spring

If you have even the slightest interest in hiking, you’ve likely heard of Breakneck Ridge. The combination of killer views, effortless metro-north accessibility (90mins from Grand Central), and the bragging rights that come with successfully scaling a ‘breakneck’ anything, combine to make this one of the most popular hikes in the State. We’re hiking snobs and so were a little skeptical, but are happy to report that the hype is totally justified. And when combined with Bull Mountain, an afternoon in the charming town of Cold Spring, and a dip in the Hudson at Little Stony Point, you’ve got one of 52weekendsNY’s all-time favorite daytrips from NYC. This hike is challenging, but if you’re reasonably fit and reasonably sensible, it’s reasonable to assume that the only thing you’ll break is a sweat.

6:30am Take the early train, trust us

If you’re undertaking this trip in the summer, getting the earliest train possible has two major advantages. First, Breakneck Ridge is popular. This is the hiking equivalent of trying to turn up to the hippest Brunch spot in Brooklyn at 10am on a weekend without a reservation. And it draws a similar crowd. Second, it’s a hard climb exposed to the beating sun. Whereas the latter sections into Cold Spring have forest cover, the initial ascent affords no such protection. So if you’d like to go up the mountain in relative solitude and come down it without sun stroke, trust us on this one.

8am – 1:30pm Hit the trail: Breakneck Ridge, Bull Mountain, Cold Spring

Our suggested route is about 7.5 miles (5.5hours) and will drop you in Cold Spring in time for a late lunch around 2pm. A shorter alternative would be to just tackle the 3.5mile Breakneck Ridge loop and then walk into town along the main road. It goes without saying that you should be carrying at least 3 liters of water each and some snacks for the trail.

This map is worth printing for your hike and these resources worth consulting for more detail too. The route we recommend starts out as the white marked Breakneck Ridge trail. You’ll climb about 1,000ft in a mile, negotiating rock scrambles as you make your way up past increasingly eye popping viewpoints. The good news is that after that first 40min-1hr ascent, everything else will feel like a breeze.

Eventually the white trail intersects with the Blue Notch Trail. Turn right onto that trail which winds down through a forest and the eery remains of The Cornish Estate. A private sprawling mansion built by a New York diamond merchant in the early 1900s and ravaged by fire in the mid 1950s. What’s left is an impressive skeleton of stone brick ruins and the foundations of a swimming pool reclaimed by the forest.

Eventually the Notch trail intersects with the White Washburn trail and begins a mild ascent up Mt. Taurus or Bull Hill leading to some more spectacular views of the Hudson and Storm King Mountain. After the summit the trail intersects with the Yellow Undercliff trail. Turn left onto it and follow the trail all the way down into Cold Spring.

2pm-3pm A Well Deserved Lunch

If you’re organized you’ll have made a lunch reservation at the oh-so-cute white picket fenced Hudson Hill’s Market & Café. Or better yet, skip the line entirely and grab some food from their “market” instead, find that grassy knoll beneath the shade of that big oak tree beside the orange house at top of Cold Spring’s main street. A perfect spot for a picnic, kick off your boots and snooze a little.

3pm-4:30pm Exploring Cold Spring

When you’re suitably recharged, Cold Spring’s humbly proportioned Main Street punches well above its size when it comes to shopping. Start heading down towards the river and be sure to pop into Burkelman for impeccably designed décor and furniture. The Cold Spring Apothecary which is as remarkable for its ivy clad red brick home as it is for its perfume (though when you’ve hiked 8miles everything that isn’t you smells pretty good). At Old Souls stock up on gear for that expedition to Patagonia that you’ve been meaning to take.  Once Upon a Time and Bijou for antiques. And for everything else Made in America, including craft beer which might come in handy if you’re heading to Little Stony Point later, check out the Cold Spring General Store. 

Cross under the railway line and continue down to the Cold Spring waterfront for some of the most delicious homemade ice cream you’ve ever tasted from Moo Moos creamery: Best enjoyed right on the water’s edge.

5-6:30pm Hit the Beach

If you’ve still got the energy, head back up Main Street, turn left onto Morris Street and walk for 15minutes to Little Stony Point Park. In the height of summer this impossibly scenic peninsula jutting into the Hudson River assumes something of a party scene. More Jersey shore than Hamptons, the place is brimming with families enjoying the beaches (and disregarding the no swimming signs), and boats moored with music blasting or buzzing along with water skiers in tow. It’s a great spot to crack open that beer, feel the sand beneath your feet, and utterly forget just how close you are to NYC as the sun starts to slink behind Storm King Mountain.

7pm Hudson Line Home

Once you’ve pulled yourself away, retrace your path to Cold Spring where you’ll hop on the train back to NYC, perhaps with some pizza in hand from Angelina’s. If you’ve ever deserved to carb-load today is the day.

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