Breakneck Ridge bypass loop

Rock scramble

An hour north from the skyscrapers of New York City, join me as I backpack one of the best hiking loops in the United States overlooking the scenic Hudson Valley River near Cold Spring, NY.  The rocky cliffs and steep ascents prove challenging but extremely rewarding. Travel with me as I guide you through the breakneck ridge bypass loop.  We’re greeted with many excellent views of the Hudson River, Bannerman Castle and bountiful wild blueberry patches along the way.

If your interested in a longer hike of Breakneck Ridge, be sure to check out my Breakneck Ridge and Wilkinson Memorial hike.

Location: North of Cold Spring, NY
GPS Trail Head Coordinates: 41º 26.59’N, 73º 58.68’W
GPS Waypoints: GPX CSV KML Google maps
Duration: Approximately 3-4 hours at moderate pace with time for sightseeing and rests.
Season (video): Early Summer
Weather Conditions (video): Sunny
Trail (video): Breakneck bypass
Difficulty: Moderate
Views: Lower Hudson Valley, Westpoint, Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, Bannerman Castle
State Park: Hudson Highlands State Park
Access: Car Parking Lots and side of road are plentyful on Route 9D minutes north of Cold Spring and very close to trail head.  Metro North station stop extremely close but runs on restricted weekends/holiday schedule  only (Hudson Line).
Recommended Supplies: 3 x 750ml (20 OZ) bottles of water or sports drink (more during summer), a small snack, map, compass & first aid kit.
Other: Day Hike, Backpacking, Bird Watching
Common Wildlife Encounted: Birds, Large Black Snakes (infrequent)
Safety Direction (if lost): West take you towards the Hudson and Route 9D.


Breakneck Ridge Trail (White): The trailhead starts on the north side of the tunnel on Route 9D.  This trail is indicated with white markers/blazes.  You will start a steep rocky ascent but wherever there’s an area that requires some tricky climbing, there is a marked alternate path which you can take if you feel uncomfortable.  5-10 minutes into your climb, there will be a stone building to your left which has the inscription “City of New York Catskill water supply 1912”.  The stone building looks like an old fort and is abandoned. This first leg of the hike will test you but when you make it to the first plateaux the toughest part is behind you.  Continue on the white trail past the second and third plateaux.  After the third plateaux there will be a yellow trial on your right leading down.  Continue on the white trail which leads up a bit more until you get to the ridgeline.  While walking along the ridgeline, you will pass a pond (dries up in summer) and further on there is an unmarked path that leads off to the left (30 seconds off trail) and this affords another scenic overlook the Hudson River Valley.
Breakneck Bypass Trail (Red): Continuing on the white trail, you’ll soon encounter the red trail on your left.  This is well marked with tree red triangles on a large stone.  Turn left at here and continue on the red trail.  This starts your decent back down the mountain.  It’s mostly a dirt path but in many spots it’s relatively steep so be careful when the ground is wet or covered in leaves as it’s area where one can easily slip if moving to quickly.
Wilkinson Memorial Trail (Yellow): When you reach the end of the red trail, you’ll be met with the yellow trail.  Proceed left down the hill.  As you continue on the red trail you’ll cross a flowing stream.  After about 30 minutes on the red trail, you’ll end up back on route 9D a couple minutes North of where you originally started.  If you parked in the main dirt parking lot or at the trailhead, go left (south) to find your car.  If you took the metro north train, go right  (north) to return to the train station.



Hiking Tips for Breakneck Ridge

1. If hiking during late spring, summer or early fall, start your hike early in the day. The first section of the Breakneck Ridge is the most intense section of the hike. You’ll burn through a lot of energy & generate a lot of heat which can make it less pleasant if your doing this section during the heat of mid-day.

2. While hiking the first section you’ll encounter several trickier climbing areas. If you feel uncomfortable with any of these climbs, look for the alternate paths which is usually marked with an X and/or the word alternate. All alternate marked paths will lead you back to the main trail within a few minutes so you won’t miss out on the main trail.

3. Be sure to bring enough water and/or sport drinks especially during hot days. Consider brining water and add powdered electrolytes to ever other bottle of water you go through. Your great hike can quickly turn unpleasant if you run out of water on a hot day.

4. You can hike this in running shoes but some of the climbing area can be tricky if you cannot get a good grip. Good hiking boots will provide the desired traction as well as keep your feet getting sore as you get further into the hike.

5. Bringing some light snacks will help keep your hike spirited and enjoyable.

6. Bring a camera to capture some priceless shots & memories!

7. Hiking alone can be great, but traveling with a good friend is safer & often more fun.

8. Be sure to bring a well marked map and compass with you. Being unsure of where you going and if your lost is never a good feeling.

9. Car parking in a dirt parking lot and on the side of the street is plentiful but if your coming from New York City, consider the Breakneck Ridge Metro North Train (Weekend and Holiday only) stop on the Hudson line.

10. Don’t forget to sign in at the Trailhead log book!

Hope you enjoy these pictures of the Breakneck Ridge bypass Trail loop.

Breakneck Ridge Bypass Trail Loop Map

  17 comments for “Breakneck Ridge bypass loop

  1. James
    February 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I liked the scenes where you went up the rock scramble. I’ve done this hike before and it’s great but I noticed you didn’t actually show us breakneck ridge, only the bypass route. Would be nice to see a video where your on breakneck ridge itself…

  2. admin
    March 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Hi James. Fair point, I’m hoping to do another video with GPS waypoints & hiking map of the full breakneck ridge trail instead of just the bypass trail shown here. Keep an eye out for it this summer! Thanks for posting.

    • May 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

      Admin: plan on hiking BNR mid June, bringing all my camera equipment, will try to video/photo the hike, how would I post pictures and videos ?

  3. Pati
    August 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I hiked up Breakneck Ridge as a teenager(38 years ago) and took the scariest route(I remember being at almost a 90 degree angle-or it felt that way)doing finger holds and toe-holds. I didn’t make it to the top-I was about 50 feet from the top…
    I’m glad I did it but it’s a challenge I wouldn’t do again.
    Things you do at 15 you don’t do at 60 -sometimes!

    • admin
      August 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience Pati. Many older people enjoy the view from atop Breakneck Ridge by starting the trail in reverse order of my route. This allows for going up a more gradual, less rocky route. There are many routes possible & no need to scale the Rocky parts if not desired.

      • Susan
        November 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

        Hi there — love this idea! Planning on hiking up there tomorrow with a somewhat impaired dog so we need something fairly easy with no rockface; any idea where I might get a more detailed map to do this in reverse? I have done BR (it was tough but amazing); but we def got a bit lost as we made our descent. And that was with a guide! 🙂 Going again tomorrow, sans guide…it would be great to have a bit more info if possible, I just haven’t been able to locate online. Thanks for anything you can do; very much appreciated!! 🙂 Susan (susan dot lietz at gmail dot com, if thats easier for you.)

  4. Chris
    November 13, 2012 at 6:38 am

    I hiked this trail and bypass yesterday with my 10yo son and 8yo daughter. We had a wonderful time in 60-degree November weather, despite heavy fog that obscured our view from the ridge. I wish I had seen your clear, concise directions earlier as they beat anything else that I read!

    • admin
      November 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Glad you had a great time with your son & daughter. It’s definitely a memorable trail that your kids will no doubt remember hiking with you for a long time to come!

  5. Will Rockell
    March 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Hi, nice video and comments. I really enjoyed the views from the top. Never hiked along the Hudson have any hikes I can do with a Yorkie dog in a pack so he will not fall out? Im new to hiking and Im 53. Do you think if I hiked the trail in the opposite direction it would be safer? Thanks Will

    • admin
      March 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      Hello Will. Great question. Yes, a lot of people start their hike going in the opposite direction. The only difference is that when they start to go down the hill, they often take the yellow trail out instead of going down the rock scrambles. I’ve gone down the scrambles a few times but I must say it’s more dangerous that way so I do advise going out the yellow trail instead of the white if you do it in reverse. See the trail map on this page for a better idea of what I’m saying.

      You may also want to consider anthony’s nose which is nearby. Very beautiful & easier to hike. Even better view from the top although the climb is less exciting. See it here

      Happy hiking in the Hudson Valley, awesome views!

  6. pieces of me
    July 30, 2013 at 7:06 am

    I am sorry I don’t see what you mean by going out the yellow trail. If we go up the Yellow and then turn to the Red, do we then walk back the same way? I don’t see how the yellow connects back to the Red, I only see how it connects to the White. Thanks!

    • admin
      August 1, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Hello pieces, if you go to—-lower-hudson-valley-new-york and scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll see a map that indicates all noted trails including the break in the yellow trail.

  7. Monika
    July 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    I was there yesterday and it was AWESOME! Is not only the experience of hiking, is relaxing, enjoying and look a spectacular view.
    I would like to continuo doing this plus a camp experience near to NY. Is there some that you could recommend for me?

    • admin
      December 18, 2016 at 6:17 am

      Glad you enjoyed it Monika. For camping you may want to check Alander mtn loop (campsite) on the edge of NY/CT/MA or perhaps Bear Mtn NJ (maybe campsite?)

  8. Mike
    April 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    These breakneck hike descriptions really need a proofreader. So many errors. The yellow trail after the 3rd plateau (NOT “plateaux”) is on the right not left. The Wilkinson trail return is badly botched, as it states that the red trail leads back to Rt 9D. The red ends at the WT, and it (YELLOW) leads back to 9D. Your Breakneck-Wilkinson description is similarly flawed: don’t offer the reader the option to turn right to go to Mt Beacon after they’ve descended several minutes to where the blue trail is re-joined; turning right at this point doesn’t lead to Mt. B. And at this point it is a LEFT turn onto the blue-yellow trail. Right (as written) leads to a different trailhead entirely.

    • admin
      July 1, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for your feedback Mike. I prefer the international spelling as plateaux but to each their own. Thank you for the note about the yellow trail being on the right not the left, I’ve updated that now. There are a few Red trails in this park… if my directions are followed, the white trail does lead to the red trail and it does bring you to route 9D.

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