I’ve made it pretty clear that I love New York City. There is so much to do and so many opportunities for fun and entertainment without spending much money. However, I do have an outdoorsy side and sometimes I need to get away from the city and enjoy some time with nature*. Luckily, I’ve found a great hike that is accessible via Metro North, out of Grand Central – Breakneck Ridge.
Make sure to check the weather and I would recommend packing as light as possible (unless you are training for a backpacking trip!). Here are the items I like to bring:
- Water Bottle (maybe even 2 – I drink a lot of water)
- PB&J Sandwiches (or mobile/picnic food of choice)
- Granola (or mobile snack of choice)
- Trail Map
That’s all you really need for this hike.
You are going to have to wake up early for this hike. Trains run to Breakneck Ridge on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:43am and 8:43am (be sure to double check train schedules). I honestly like the earlier one as it tends to be less crowded. When the weather is nice, you will be one of MANY people heading up to hike Breakneck Ridge. So get to Grand Central with enough time to buy your ticket and figure out what track the train is on. Total Price of Ticket (Round Trip): $26.50 As far as hikes go, $26.50 is pretty expensive for an activity that is normally free. So I don’t make this trip every weekend, but going a few times a year is worth it to me given my priorities. For instance, I would much rather go on this hike than go to the movie theater twice. Other people may have other priorities. On the train, double check which door (yes, door, singular) will be opening for Breakneck Ridge with the conductor. The total train ride is 80 minutes, so be ready when you get close because unlike other stops, there aren’t huge signs telling you this is the Breakneck Ridge stop. There is just a little, wooden platform. Once you hop off the train, head to the road and take a right on the path that runs alongside the road. You will pass by a parking lot and just a bit farther down the path is the trail head. On the map, this is the start of the white trail, near the river.
Before we start, let’s talk about trail blazes. These are marks on trees and rocks that indicate the direction of the trail. The blazes will be in the color of the trail, as indicated on the map. They can just be squares of paint, or round metal indicators, nailed into trees. Make sure to follow these at all times to avoid getting lost. The first part of the trail is the tough part. At least, it’s tough for me (I am not in TERRIBLE shape, but certainly not in good shape either). It’s a scramble up some rocks and there are quite a few places where you have to climb with all four limbs. I like to take this part slow, with plenty of breaks, and plenty of congratulations doled out to the rest of the hiking group for gaining so much altitude in such a short amount of time. The views all the way up are TREMENDOUS, so take the time to appreciate them.
Towards the top, there are a few false peaks, followed by a short descent and then another trek upwards. Again, make sure to take in the views at each of these peaks and when you get to the top, take a moment to gaze across the Hudson River and scoff at the lower peak on the other side. It’s called Storm King and you just showed it who’s boss!
Remember to eat some food and stay hydrated. You’ve have accomplished the tough part, but there is still some good hiking to do! If you want to make it a short trip and head back to the Breakneck Ridge train, you can take the well-marked red trail that branches off from the white trail and leads you back down (a less treacherous way). Take the red trail to the yellow trail and you will soon be back. I personally like to keep going forward. If you are following along on the map, I branch of on the blue trail to the right and follow the blue blazes. If I am feeling tired, I’ll take the following path: But if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll head up Bull Mountain, which has some great views of it’s own by taking this path: Feel free to experiment! Maybe someday I will use the yellow trail to cut all the way across, skipping the blue trail entirely! Although, for your first time, I wouldn’t recommend it, because you will miss the ruins! That’s right, there used to be a huge estate out here and I always enjoy passing by the ruins of the estate’s dairy barn.
And close to the end of your trek, you’ll come across an old quarry – a very cool place to roam around for a bit.
After the Hike
You’ll be tired. The trail will spit you out next to the road. You will want to take a left and start walking alongside the road (note, we are NOT headed back to the Breakneck Ridge train stop). Unfortunately, there is no sidewalk for this stretch, but it is less than a mile. Just be careful and wary of oncoming traffic. Soon, you will hit the town of Cold Spring and when you come to the center of town (intersection of highway 9D and Main St), you will see Whistling Willies, a restaurant and pub. I usually treat myself to a nice, cold beer. They usually have at least one beer on tap from the delicious Peekskill Brewing Company, a local brewery that is only a few towns over**. Once you are done decompressing, head down Main St (towards the Hudson) to find the Cold Spring Station. Trains here run much more often than from Breakneck Ridge, generally about ever hour on weekend afternoons. Go under the underpass to make sure you are on the side of the tracks that heads back to Manhattan and grab the next train. I can almost guarantee that you will take a nap on your way back. *I’m not saying that there are no ways to enjoy nature within the city limits, because there are. However, the options are a little sparser than if you venture outside NYC. ** If the bar isn’t your scene, there’s also an ice cream shop in town. P.S. I found this great video showing the Breakneck Ridge hike. This is not anyone I know, but I have included the link to the Vimeo page below. Also, I have added a few more pics that a buddy of mine took at various points along the hike!
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