Length: 5.5 miles • Elevation: 1,260 feet • Highlight: Bragging rights for one of the country’s hottest hikes
A few years ago Newsweek dubbed Breakneck Ridge one of the top 10 hikes in the country; then www.trails.com followed up by calling it the number one hike in all of North America. So what’s all the fuss about this craggy mountain that juts out majestically over the Hudson River between Cold Spring and Beacon? It must be that this one-of-a-kind trail offers an amazing array of outdoor excitement just 80 minutes north of Manhattan. Actually, calling it a hike is a bit of a misnomer — for almost the first three-quarters of a mile, it’s a strenuous rock scramble, requiring both hands and feet. And while you can certainly do it in hiking boots, you’ll see many seasoned trekkers donning rock climbing shoes and gloves. Your ascent on this trail is rapid — at times it seems almost completely vertical — and the views are both stunning and terrifying. Rest at the flagpole at the first summit, and marvel at how far you’ve come. From this often windy vantage point you’ll spot ships and trains below, perhaps an eagle (or vulture) soaring above, and the Shawangunks and Catskills on the northwestern horizon. From here the trail remains quite steep for a bit, with many large boulders, as it meanders through a pine forest before leveling out. At this point, you can hook up with several other trails that lead to a variety of hikes in the 6,000-acre Hudson Highlands State Park. Best bet: Plan to tackle Breakneck on a weekday. Hordes of downstaters — who can board a Metro-North train at Grand Central and hop off at the special station stop located just steps away from the trailhead — crowd Breakneck on weekends.