The history of the East Hudson Highlands is as rich as its landscape. It was the setting for many significant events of the American Revolution, as well as advancements in engineering. In 1929, the Bear Mountain Bridge, and at that time, was the the longest suspension bridge ever created. The Mount Beacon Incline Railway opened in 1902, and the Catskill Aqueduct, completed in 1924 and still supplying New York City with fresh water, begins here.
It is a stunning region with some of the state's most spectacular hikes. This list of suggested hikes will give you an idea what to expect, how long the trails run, what color they are marked with, and your best approach to planning your next hike in East Hudson Highlands State Park.
Length: 1.7 miles
The Overlook Trail (red) offers views north of the Highlands. The trail begins on a woods road and climbs steadily until descending to cross a stream. It continues up Lamb's Hill and at 1.1 miles bring hikers out onto open rocks for an unbelievable view of the Hudson River. Continuing on, hikers will enjoy the sites of abandoned orchards and old stone walls until ending at the Fishkill Ridge Trail.
Anthony's Nose/Camp Smith Trail
Length: 4.2 miles
Viewpoints from this trail are popular among birdwatchers looking for eagles, hawks, and vultures. The Camp Smith Trail (blue) begins on US6/202, south of Bear Mountain Bridge at the old stone tollhouse - 0.7 miles north of the Camp Smith entrance. It will ruggedly rise 1,100 feet to the top of Manitou Mountain then eventually cross Broccy Creek gradually heading uphill parallel to the road. After turning away from the road, the trail leaves woods roads and crosses streams. At 2.4 miles, hikers will be rewarded with stunning outlooks and around 2.7 miles, hikers tackle the remaining assault up Anthony's Nose (peak). The Camp Smith Trail ends at 3.7 miles but hikers should follow the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail and descend steeply for 0.6 mile back to Route 9D.
Bull Hill (Mt Taurus)
Length: 4.5 miles
This trail welcomes the greatest vertical ascent of any trail in Hudson Highlands State Park. Hikers may begin on the Washburn Trail (white) on NY 9D, 0.8 miles north of Cold Spring. The rise is steep and will provide stunning views to the south and west before reaching a wooded summit. Continue north, past a clearing boasting views of the Shawangunks and Catskills, and the Washburn Trail will end at the beginning of the Notch Trail (blue). Take the Notch Trail until the Breakneck Brook crossing and turn left onto the Brook Trail (red). Hikers will follow a stream on an eroded woods road past an abandoned real estate. This trail will leads down to NY 9D, about 1.7 miles from Cold Spring. Another popular option is to return by way of the Cornish Trail (blue) that ends at a gate 0.2 miles north of the Washburn trailhead.
Length: 4.9 miles
The Fishkill Ridge Trail runs from the city of Beacon to the top of the ridge, where it makes a loop with many scenic views. Begin on East Main Street near NY 9D in Beacon. Follow East Main Street uphill for about 0.2 mile past the intersection with Howland Street, until you reach a narrow road leading to a metal water tank of the Beacon water supply system. After 0.7 miles, you will reach Fishkill Ridge Falls. The loops continues along the ridgeline over Lamb's Hill and Bald Hill with great views of urban and rural areas. The Fishkill Ridge Trail ends at 4.9 miles, where it meets the Wilkinson Memorial Trail (yellow). The Wilkinson Memorial Trail, which proceeds straight ahead past Hells Hollow, leads back toward the starting point for a 7 mile round trip.
Length: 5.5 miles
Skill level: Strenuous
Breakneck Ridge offers hikers a climb over some of the steepest terrain in the Highlands, as well as some of the most dramatic views. The trail (white) begins north of the tunnel of NY 9D, 2.1 miles north of Cold Spring. It's an immediate steep climb, followed by a small descent. This pattern continues until the top of the ridge is finally reached. A junction with the Notch Trail (blue) will lead hikers to the Wilkinson Memorial Trail (yellow) and over Sugarloaf Mountain. This trail is not recommended in slippery conditions or strong winds.
South Beacon Mountain
Length: 6 miles
Marked by an abandoned fire tower, South Beacon Mountain is the highest summit of the Hudson Highlands. This hike begins with a steep elevation climb of 1,000 feet in the first mile, and the overall elevation gain exceeds 2,000 feet. The hike begins on the Notch Trail (blue) on NY 9D, four miles north of Cold Springs. Continue on it until meeting up with Wilkinson Memorial Trail. Take Wilkinson until joining Breakneck Ridge Trail (white) which will come from the right. Follow it up Devil's Ladder to the top. From a woods road to amazing views of the old fire tower and the Hudson River valley, this trail is challenging but so worth the work.
Length: 6.5 loop
The Southern Highlands offer many variations for circular hikes. Start on the Appalachian Trail (white) where it crosses US 9 at the intersection of US 403. Where the trail turns left to climb, take the Carriage Connector (yellow) which ends at the Osborn Loop (blue). Continue following the blue markers to the junction of Sugarloaf Hill Trail (red). A side trip (only an extra mile) will bring hikers to the top of Sugarloaf Hill for amazing views up the river to West Point and south to Bear Mountain Ridge. The Osborn Loop will meet the Appalachian Trail. Take it north along the ridge until descending to meet the Carriage Connector.
Wilkinson Memorial Trail
Length: 9.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
The Wilkinson Memorial Trail(yellow) is the longest trail in Hudson Highlands State Park. It begins along NY 9D and gradually ascends to cross all the summits of Scofield Ridge - the highest peak in Putnam County. The trail follows three ridges after a steady and fairly steep ascent from the river. It descends to Old Albany Post Road North.