Treadmill Rating (out of 10): 8 out of 10
Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
Max Elevation: 1260 feet
Elevation Gain: 1260 feet
Listed by Newsweek as one of America’s ten best hikes, Breakneck Ridge quickly provides the the day hiker with phenominal views of the Hudson River and historic landmarks such as West Point Military Academy and Bannerman Castle. The hike begins at the northern entrance to a tunnel along route 9D in Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York. Follow the white blazed trail up the rocky mountainside. You will soon find yourself climbing up the trail using both hands and feet in a steep ascent, grasping rocks and making your way over and between boulders. The angle of ascent and exposure make this a climb that may be tough for those subject to vertigo. The first summit, about a third of the way up, is at a flagpole. Take a break, have a snack and take photos. Then continue up, where some of the climbing is so steep up such sheer rock that alternative routes are marked nearby. The trail continues to climb and occassionally dip, until you reach the red trail, where you make a left and begin your descent back to route 9D, near where you parked. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen, such as deer, hawks and eagles.
This is the most strenuous hike in the Hudson Highlands State Park, and probably would rate eight out of ten. It is not unusual to see people look tired — but happy and proud — after reaching the first summit.
The elevation is 1260 feet, which is gained in 3/4 of a mile. The trail is only 5.5 miles, but can take three to five hours to hike the circuit.
HOW TECHNICAL IS THE HIKE?
While this is a non-technical hike, many experienced hikers are seen wearing rock climbing shoes rather than hiking boots. Deaths and injuries can and do occur, as there are cliffs with sheer drops all the way to the bottom.
WHO CAN DO THIS HIKE?
I’ve seen older hikers and kids hike Breakneck. It’s great for most everyone who is in reasonably good shape. Some people do it every weekend.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
The hike can be done year-round, but is considerably more dangerous in the winter, and can even be risky after a rain.
Any kind of extended, uphill hiking would be good preparation for this day trip.
No special gear is needed. Leather gloves may be helpful, as well as rock climbing shoes. Bring two water bottles per person, as well as lunch or a snack. And definitely bring your camera in your pack.