Description: The Breakneck Ridge Loop is a great hike. Despite being under 3 miles in length it can easily take you 2.5 to 3 hours to complete the hike as it starts out very strenuous.
From the trail-head (which you’ll see on the south end of the parking lot that’s just past the tunnel) You’ll immediately start following the white blazed trail. You’ll be on this for awhile so just stick to the white blazes. You’ll encounter steep climbs over many rock ledges so you’ll want to avoid these trails when its wet, windy, or icy.
After a half hour from the trail-head you’ll reach a ledge with a flagpole – this is a good resting point to stop and take in the scenery. At some points on the trail where it gets a bit more difficult, you’ll see an alternate route marked with an x that lets you bypass a couple points that might be difficult if you’re not agile or need a boost. Then continue along following the white blazes until you reach another panoramic view. Some inconsiderate people will leave garbage at the large flat top here – so f you have an extra pocket feel free to grab an empty bottle and dispose of it properly.
You’ll continue following the white blazes (The white blazes are the Breakneck Ridge Trail by the way), you’ll start descending from here, occasionally working your way up and down. You’ll see a yellow trail on your right (don’t take it), just continue following the white blazes. Farther in you’ll see a red trail on your left, and some faded paint on a rock indicating its the way to 9D, take the red trail now, which is called the Breakneck Bypass Trail.
The red trail needs some better blazing, some marks are hard to see, in the few hundred feet of the trail you may end up turning around as there’s a couple points where you can miss a left turn but it still seems like you’re on well traveled path. There’s going to be a mix of red only blazes, Red blazes with white around them, and some plastic circular blazes that look orange. Just follow whatever you come upon and you’ll continue to descend, and possibly spot a deer or two. There’s also a nice ledge early on the bypass trail that you can get a view of Bannerman Castle as well as the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge in the distance.
You’ll eventually intersect with a yellow trail, the Wilkinson Memorial Trail. If you still have some energy in you, take a right and follow it for a half a mile and you’ll be upon the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain before turning around. Otherwise just take a left and follow the yellow blazes back to 9D. You’ll take a left here and follow the shoulder back to your parking spot.
Maps: You’ll want to get this Map of the Breakneck Ridge Trail, its much better if you’re sticking to just this part of the Hudson Highlands. At the trail-head they have free maps available – if you’re doing more than just the loop I’d suggest grabbing one, but in my opinion those are not sufficient in comparison for purposes of the loop.
Getting There: Get directions from Google Maps
Alternatively, if you have a GPS – you could look up direction to the Breakneck Ridge Metro North Station (check with Metro North for Schedules of when they stop on the weekends and holidays) or there’s a restaurant called Chalet on the Hudson – with an address of “3250 Route 9D • Cold Spring, NY 10516” – instead of parking there you’d just go a bit farther north on 9D through the tunnel.
Parking: Once you pass through the tunnel on 9D going North there’s immediately parking to your left as well as the trail-head. If that lot is full then there is a much larger lot about .2 miles farther up the road, as well as many spots where the shoulder is large enough that you can just park on the side.
Looking down after the beginning of the ascent up the western side
When you’re getting close to the top you’ll come along a flagpole, if you’re moving at a good pace you’re only about 15 minutes away from the top. You’ll see Storm King Mountain directly across.
Looking south from the same ledge where you find the flagpole you’ll get a nice view of the Hudson
You don’t want to slip when scurrying up these rocks – as there won’t be much to catch you
After that section you’ll soon be at the second lookout past the flagpole
If you come down via the Red Trail you’ll get a nice view of Bannerman Castle (Pollopel Island)
You’ll also see the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to the north