Everything You Need To Know About Hiking Breakneck Ridge

Not too far away from New York City are some amazing hiking trails and beautiful nature adventures. There are so many stunning and challenging hiking sports near this city, but the Breakneck Ridge Trail is one of the best.

The Breakneck Ridge Trail features gorgeous views of the Hudson river, as well as the mountains of the Hudson Highlands.

Hiking the Breakneck Ridge Trail Everything You Need to Know

Although, you will need to be prepared for a challenge if you want to tackle this trail.

If you are thinking about doing this hike yourself, then you will need to get planning and preparing for your next adventure.

Hiking at Breakneck Ridge Trail can be an excellent experience as long as you know exactly what to expect from it. We are going to tell you everything that you need to know about this trail here.

What You Need To Know About the Breakneck Ridge Trail

The first thing that you should know about the Breakneck Ridge Trail is that it is located in the Hudson Highlands State Park reserve, and it is very popular with New York Locals, and even those that live in New Jersey and upstate.

It is not like many of the urban trails that are in the city, and it is a difficult hike that will involve a lot of difficult maneuvering.

Although, this means that it is great for those hikers with more experience, or those that want to try out something new without having to go too far from the city.

It is possible for you to drive down to the trail head, but the great thing about this hike is that it is also accessible from New York City if you go by public transportation.

You can go ahead and take the MTA to the Breakneck Ridge train station, and then easily walk down to the start of the trail from there.

This is the reason why the trail can often get very crowded on weekends and holidays when the weather is nice and warm.

The Breakneck Ridge Trail has a total distance of between 2.5 and 3.5 miles, and an elevation grain of 1250 feet.

It is considered to be a strenuous hike that might not be the best for first-time hikers, but anyone is welcome to give it a go.

Preparing For The Breakneck Ridge Trail

The trail itself is very well marked, and it is quite self explanatory. However, there are some things that you should know before you set off on your journey.

Firstly, there are two versions of the Breakneck Ridge trail, which are the short and the classic loops.

Preparing For The Breakneck Ridge Trail

If you don’t have much time available to you, then you might want to do the short loop, which is around a mile shorter and takes around 2 hours 2 complete.

The second trail, the classic loop, will take around 3 hours to complete, and there are also a number of other trails that will take you off of the main Breakneck Ridge Trail, which can make your trip take even longer.

You are going to need to use your hands quite a lot at the start of the trail, as it does take a bit of a scramble to get started. This will account for the first hour or so.

For this reason, it is recommended that you pack lightly for this hike, and only take with you the things that you really need to.

You should know that the best time of year to do this trail is in the fall, as this is when it will not be as busy. This trail tends to get really busy in the warmer weather, which is something to keep in mind.

The air will also be cooler this time of year, with a bit of a stronger breeze, and this will help to keep you cooler as you hike.

As well as this, the fall colors are very pretty and they make for the perfect visual as you go. The valley will be painted in various shades of warm colors, and this is a sight to behold.

Breakneck Ridge is not the most dog friendly of places to go either. While dogs are technically allowed on the trail, it is not ideal to try and hoist them up the side of a cliff for the first hour of your journey.

So, if you have a dog, it might be best to leave them at home for this one. Some people have been known to turn around before it really gets started because their dogs have not been able to make it up,

How To Complete The Breakneck Ridge Trail

Now that you know everything that you need to know before you get started, we are going to walk you through the Breakneck Ridge Trail itself, so you can be prepared for the journey ahead.

We will break this down into different sections of the hike below.

Finding The Trail

When you do get to the start of the trail, you will probably see that there are lots of cars that are lined up along the main street.

There is a parking lot for the trail, but sometimes this will fill up, especially in the Summer months.

If you have driven, you will need to find a place to park near the start of the trail. If you have arrived on public transport, you can head straight to the trailhead.

You will start your hike at Breakneck Ridge at the trailhead, where you will be able to see sets of rock ‘staircases; that will take you up a sharp ascent.

This will become more challenging as you scramble up the stones to make it to the top. It can often be helpful to take a picture of the trail map at the start, so you will know exactly which routes you should be following.

There are lots of trails that branch off from the main trail, so if you don’t want to end up somewhere you don’t want to go, knowing the route will be helpful.

At the beginning of the trip is also where you will need to decide on the route that you want to take.

There are 3 options for you to choose from, which are the short loop, the classic loop, and the trail that leads down to the town of Cold Spring.

All of these trails will start in the exact same place, and it is up to you to decide which one you want to take.

Starting The Hike

The beginning of the Breakneck Ridge Trail is super thrilling, very scenic, and also quite challenging.

The trail will start to become quite steep very quickly, and 99% of this part of the hike will involve scrambling.

This means that you will need to use your hands and feet to pull yourself up and over rocks.

You should note that poles are not going to be very helpful here, and they will more than likely get in your way, so you might want to either leave them at home or strap them to your backpack.

This part of the trail is why it is not recommended to bring dogs with you, as they will struggle to get over the challenging rock climb.

Even the most agile of dogs would struggle with this, and you would only end up having to carry them, which is not ideal for bigger dogs.

After a few minutes of scrambling in the dusty rocks, you will make it to the first summit, which is the flagpole area.

How To Complete The Breakneck Ridge Trail

The views from this part of the trail are truly stunning, and there is also a nice light breeze in the fall that will help to cool you down after you have managed to scramble up the side.

You will also be greeted with sweeping views of the Hudson River, as well as the surrounding mountains.

Heading To The Next Viewpoint

Once you have had some time to catch your breath and take a sip of water at the flagpole point, you will continue on upwards.

You will be greeted with yet more rocky scrambles that can be difficult to manoeuvre at times, but it gets easier as you go. You will then hike on further until you need to make a decision.

You can either choose an alternative route to the left that is labelled as an easier ascent, or you can continue on the main trail to the right.

Eventually, you will make it to the second stunning viewpoint, which will be even higher up and more beautiful than the previous spot.

You can sit down here and enjoy the view for a little while before continuing.

Once you have spent enough time here you will be able to continue on.

There is a lovely detour that you can take that will show your glorious views of the Hudson River and forestry, and you should definitely go and spend some time up here. The views around this area are incredible.

The Short Loop

As you continue on from the previous spot, you will notice a yellow marker that highlights the undercliff trail. These signs will tell you that this is the way to go for the short loop trail.

So, if you are taking the short loop trail, you will need to follow the direction that the arrows are pointing in. You can take a right and continue down the stone steps until you reach your next destination.

Turning this part of the hike, you will be able to spot amazing rock formations and cliff faces, and the descent is much more gradual than the chaotic ascent that it took you to get there.

This whole part of the trail is both shaded and forested, and it is really nice to take some time out of the sun as the other side of the cliff is exposed.

After some time, you will find yourself at a small and abandoned cabin that is near a creek. You will need to cross the creek and take a right to take the green blazed trail.

There is very obvious signage again at this point. The trail that follows is very flat, and there are only a few steeper areas that are more difficult to navigate.

You should enjoy this easier path, as you definitely will have deserved the break by this point. You will also pass a couple more historic structures on your way.

Eventually, you will get to a turnoff on the right hand side, and again, there are lots of signs to tell you which way you should be going.

You can take the path all the way to the road, where you will then pass through a tunnel and find yourself back at the trailhead where the hike began.

The Classic Loop

If you are planning to tackle the classic Breakneck Ridge loop, you will need to continue forward with the white blazes rather than turning right toward the yellow blazes in the last section.

If you do this, you will gradually continue up into another summit, and then descend down through the trees. After some time has passed, you will reach a fork in the trail, and you should continue on to the left.

You will then be able to follow this trail down until you reach the parking area. As with the previous trail, there is lots of signage to mark this loop of the trail at each turning point, you just need to make sure that you read it and choose the right direction.

Breakneck Ridge Trail Hiking

What To Take With You On The Breakneck Ridge Trail

The first thing that you will need to take with you is breathable hiking clothes. If the weather is warm, you should try to stay as cool and comfortable as possible by wearing sweat-wicking clothing and breathable pants.

On the other hand, if the weather is going to be colder, you will need to dress in layers and wear a down jacket to keep you warm.

You can always remove layers if you get too warm. No matter what the weather is like, you will also need to make sure that you are wearing appropriate hiking boots for this hike, and you can pair them with hiking socks for extra breathability.

The last item of clothing that you should consider taking with you is a brimmed hat or cap, and this will help to keep your head protected and keep the sun out of your eyes on sunnier days.

You won’t need trekking poles for a lot of this hike, as they might get in your way, but if you do want to take them, you should take some that are lightweight and easy to transport.

This way, you can tie them to your bag and only use them if you need to. You will need to keep your hands free when it comes to scrambling up the rocks.

Next, you will need a good quality and waterproof hiking bag to store all of your essential items in. It is always a good idea to take a waterproof bag, just in case it rains, but most hiking bags should be.

Arguably the most important thing that you should take with you is a filled water bottle. It is really important to stay hydrated on your hike, especially in warmer weather, where you will be sweating more.

On the subject of staying healthy and safe, you should also pack a first aid kit with you, just so you can be prepared for any emergency situation.

You never know what could happen, and it is always better to be prepared, just in case.

Finally, you might need sunscreen and bug spray if you are taking the longer hike, as these are things that you will need to reapply.

Emily Winters