When one thinks about New York City, nature isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. But, with a quick train ride on Metro North and within a couple of hours, you can access some of the best hiking trails and views in the Hudson Valley.
Storm King Mountain
Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Highlights: Scenic views from several overlooks
Storm King is one of the more popular hikes in the Hudson Valley, so expect there to be crowds when parking at the trailhead, especially on the weekends and in the fall. The loop has some great views of the Hudson River and Hudson Highland State Park. It has an initial steep hike to the top of Butter Hill, but then evens out into light rolling hills with amazing views at the top.
Follow the orange-blazed Butter Hill Trail until it merges onto the Highlands Trail (blue markers)/Stillman Trail (yellow markers). Follow this trail for one mile until you reach the top of Storm King Mountain where you can catch your breath and enjoy the great views of Hudson Highlands State Park across the river.
To complete the loop, turn right on the white-blazed By-Pass Trail for 0.4 miles. This trail ends on the Howell Trail, which you follow until you reach the Connector Trail which also has white markers. Follow this for another 0.5 miles to return to parking.
Beacon Mountain Fire Tower
Distance: 4 miles up and back
The hike to the Mt. Beacon Fire Tower is short, but steep. At the top of the trail are remains of an old casino and hotel, and you can see the remains of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway. Not to mention, some of the best views of the Hudson Valley. The trail can be pretty quite technical in some sections, so watch your footing.
Start at the Mount Beacon parking lot, next to the General Store. From the obvious trailhead, hike uphill on the well-defined trail. Take the metal stairs alongside the broken-down railroad, and follow the red trail markers through the switchbacks to the south summit.
Distance: 3.7 miles, loop
Highlights: Some of the best views you’ll get, rock scrambling
Breakneck Ridge offers some of the most incredible views in the Hudson Valley, but it is not for the faint of heart! The hike up to the summit includes 4 sections of steep rock scrambling, so I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who isn’t an experienced hiker with decent leg and upper body strength.
From the trailhead you cross over the road and straight up past a series of summits with progressively impressive views. Once you get to the top, follow white blazes through the woods, dropping into a couple valleys, and then climbing out again. The trail follows the ridge, passing the beacon mountain fire tower, then heading to beacon reservoir, where it connects to the top of the Mount Beacon South Summit trail.
Minnewaska State Park - Gertrude’s Nose
Distance: 6.4 miles, loop
Highlights: Lake, scenic overlooks, waterfall
This loop is a good mix of dirt carriage roads and wooded singletrack. Some of the overlooks and viewpoints on this route have sections of exposed rock to explore. If you are sensitive to heights, you may want to stay away from the rocky sections, but the trail is always close by.
To access this hike, begin at the Minnewaska Lake parking area and head towards the lake. Take the obvious carriage road along the lake, moving counterclockwise.
Hike down a gentle hill with small rock faces on your right and the lake on the left, where you’ll see a swimming area with a small beach. Continue up the trail as it gradually ascends.
Next, look for the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway, (yellow blazes) that begins on the southern corner of Lake Minnewaska. It runs south along the Palmaghatt Ravine edge with a slight uphill climb. The first trail junction is with the Hamilton Point and Castle Point trails which turn to the right. Then, turn left onto the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway.
After less than a mile, you’ll come upon the gorgeous viewpoint of Patterson's Pellet. Continue for another half mile or so until you see the entrance for the Gertrude's Nose Trail (red blazes), which departs to the right. Turn right and continue up.
Follow the red-blazed trail as it zigzags through bare rock, along the Palmaghatt Ravine, and through stands of trees, which leads to the breathtaking view at Gertrude's Nose. Along the way, the trail can be quite technical, so watch your footing.
Once you’ve enjoyed the views, follow the red blazes as the trail bends toward the northeast. Just after 4.4 miles, the trail will parallel the Millbrook Mountain Carriageway as both come to an intersection with the Millbrook Ridge Trail and Millbrook Mountain Trail.
From this intersection, look for the sign for Lake Minnewaska and take the Millbrook Mountain Trail to the northwest. You'll descend the hillside and cross Coxing Kill before climbing up the other side to the southern tip of the lake.
Here, turn right back onto the Minnewaska Lake Carriageway and continue around the lake headed counterclockwise back to the parking area.