TRIP REPORT: Breakneck Ridge – Hudson Highlands, NY 10-8-16
Hiking stats at a glance:
Trailhead: Highway 9D
Miles Round Trip: ~3.7
Elevation Gain: 1,442 ft
With limited time available and the crummy weather forecast we decided to spend this particular weekend close to home. After a little bit of brain storming we decided to head over to Breakneck Ridge in the Hudson Highlands. Kelly had never done this particular hike and it had been at least a year since I had done it so it seemed like a good choice. The hike consists of a good amount of easy scrambling on a small ridge that offers commanding views of the Hudson River below. Since this area is close to NYC and is easy to access by road or even train there are no shortage of people looking to scramble up the ridge. However, thanks to the crummy forecast on this particular day we did not have any issue finding a parking spot along 9D. The hike starts on the side of the tunnel on 9D and parking is available along the side of the road. After gathering our things we started walking up towards the tunnel and the start of the hike.
During the summer months the NY/NJ Trail Conference sets up a tent to offer hikers information and details about the area. They offer this service due to the large amount of rescues that are often conducted on this hike due to people being unprepared and getting in over their head. Now don’t let that scare you away because really the hike is fairly short and nothing dangerous as long as you go into it seriously and just realize that it is a real hike and not just a stroll in the local park.
We made a quick pit stop before hitting the trail and then shuffled right along up the trail. The first section of the hike is marked with white blazes which are easy to follow but honestly the path is so well worn that route finding should really be no issue.
After just a short distance of hiking through the woods you come to the base of the scramble up the ridge. From here a series of short sections of rock scrambling lead you all the way up stopping at various viewpoints before eventually topping out on the ridge. There is a marked path up the ridge which generally follows the path of least resistance to your left but there are also plenty of alternate sections you can scramble up which are a bit more challenging if you feel comfortable on that kind of terrain.
After passing the last steep section of rock we topped out on the first viewpoint which is where the large flag pole sits. From here you get the first of many views of the surrounding area.
We sat down to enjoy the views for a few minutes and would have liked to stay longer but the crowds made it a little less than optimal in my opinion so we decided to keep moving. Also I should mention that one of the few downsides about this hike is the fact that there is quite a bit of graffiti. Its unfortunate people would think to do that to such a naturally beautiful place but I hope that one day the principals of Leave No Trace will be ingrained in each and every one of us.
From the first viewpoint the trail continues up more rock scrambles as you work your way up the ridge.
As you make your way up the upper section of the ridge there are also various spots where the trail is marked with an easier option to the left should you choose to go that way. We didn’t choose to take any of the easy routes but it was nice to know that they were there for people that preferred another option.
There are a total of four viewpoints along the ridge which offer similar views of the river below but with just slight differences. Most people seem to stop at the first viewpoint and hang out there but in my opinion I think the best ones are higher up on the ridge and they were much much quieter overall in my opinion.
After reaching this second lookout one more short section of fun scrambling got us back into the woods near the top of the ridge.
After passing this last section of scrambling we were back to hiking in the woods and heading towards the final steep section of hiking along the ridge.
At the base of this final hill on the ridge is actually the junction with the Yellow Blazed trail. From here you can choose to hang a right and take the yellow trail back down to 9D but we decided we wanted to have a longer hike so we continued up the hill in order to make a longer loop for ourselves.
It seemed like most people stopped their hike at this junction so it was nice to enjoy a bit more of peace and quiet as we continued up to the final viewpoint along the ridge. Another short section of easier scrambling placed us at the final viewpoint which in my opinion was one of the best.
After passing the viewpoint we continued on our way up and over the crest of the ridge and started our descent back down the other side. From here it was mostly a matter of following the well marked trail as it worked its way down the back side of the ridge. We were making very good time and before too long we reached the very well marked trail junction for the Red Blazed trail.
We hung a left down the Red Blazed trail and continued along our way back towards the car. If you wanted to make your hike even longer you can actually continue down the white trail for a bit to make a longer but similar loop. The Red trail was pretty uneventful but it is good to note that it is a fairly steep descent on loose rocky ground. However, we are used to this kind of thing so we made very quick time on our way down.
Before too long we reached the junction with the Yellow Blazed trail which would take us the rest of the way back to the car.
The Yellow blazed trail is mostly a well worn and flat trail so it is pretty boring but luckily it is also a short section that is easy to do quickly.
Thanks to our quick pace we were back at the road in no time at all. The trail exits onto the road not too far from the tunnel and depending on where you parked it should only be a short walk back on the road.
We also saw some people heading up the trail from this direction which is certainly an easier option but I am not sure it would be as rewarding. All in all we enjoyed this short little hike and I would recommend it if you are in the area. It can get incredibly crowded which is a bit of a drag but if the weather is cold and/or otherwise crummy you can expect to see considerably less people. I still haven’t done a ton of hikes in this area but I plan on doing many more so if you know about any gems please let me know what they are!