The Breakneck Ridge Trail ended up being one of the hardest and challenging day hikes I have done to date. I had been told the hike would be around 10 miles with a lot of scrambling and elevation gain, but I had no real idea what this would translate to in real life beforehand. By the time we were done it ended up being quite certainly one of the most enjoyable hikes I’ve completed.
This trail marks No.10 in my 52 Hike Challenge, and we completed it on 10/15/16. Located in the Hudson Highlands State Park, you can find the trail map here.
Although I can’t say for sure, I’m gonna go with this trail getting its name from the steep rock scrambling you’ll find throughout the first half of the hike. You aren’t just going over a few large boulders that require a step up or two. On this trail there are times you are nearly (though not quite) vertical as you scramble up to continue.
The rest of the time you are drudging up a rocky hill, getting good use of your lungs, and wondering why you do this to yourself.
Luckily, Breakneck provides ample opportunities to enjoy gorgeous, breathtaking views of the Hudson River, and you suddenly remember this is why you do this to yourself.
As we drove over a bridge going across the water, before we even arrived at the trail head, the most mesmerizing fog was rolling along as if waves themselves. Something about seeing this first thing in the morning, just before you arrive to the start of the hike, made you feel like this is going to be a good day today.
When we arrived at the parking lot for the trail, the morning started off freezing cold. I didn’t want to get out of the car. I hadn’t done any hiking in colder weather before, and though I’ve researched a lot in the past year it’s not the same as experience. I had a synthetic long sleeve tee, a lightweight wool full-zip hoodie from Cotopaxi, and a 8 year old EMS rain coat (later there were times when we weren’t moving that I got a little cold with this).
Gradually, the sun started to come out and warm us, or maybe it was the uphill battle we finally were attempting after everyone arrived. The very first start of the trail has a quick, though small, area to take in your first overview of the river.
We saw lingering patches of fog hug against the hills in front of us, following along the lines of the train tracks far, far below. It was the promise of the more impressive view we would eventually have.
Now This Is Rock Scrambling
The trail gains in steep elevation just within the first mile. In some more difficult parts, there is an alternative, easier path marked with a painted X. We took the white blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail, but not the traditional small loop. We were taking the trail past the three overlooks and all the way up to the Fire Tower, then back around via the Wilkinson Memorial Trial.
Getting up that first half of the hike was difficult. Especially when you are only 5 feet tall. We were living up to the definition of the word scramble almost more so than I have on any other hike. The only other hike I’ve completed that might have been more difficult was in the White Mountains, New Hampshire on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail in Franconia Notch, but at least that didn’t end up to be a 10 mile hike by the time I was done.
Here is what my Fitbit managed to record: