Route: Breakneck Ridge, Hudson Highlands (NY)

New York, US
11.6 mi
Vertical Gain
4,740 ft

Breakneck is one of the most popular hikes in North America, seeing over 2,000 visitors per day on a sunny weekend. It's easy to see why with epic views of the Hudson and cliff lines all around you, just an hour from NYC. It's also quite possibly the most difficult trail mile on the east coast, not only for the vertical feet per mile, but the scrambling nature of the trail. The first 1/4 mile ascends over 500', with ample class 3 scrambling involved. It's a great mixed route, perfect for the rock climber turned trail runner. The ascent from the Breakneck Ridge TH on Rte 9D gains ~ 1200 vertical feet in 1.1 miles.

A map of this part of Hudson Highlands State Park 

It's worthwhile to preserve the discussion from our old website about this route, which was established by Carlo Agostinetto.


Carlo Agostinetto (8/31/2014):

After taking a tour of the trail yesterday with Michelle G. and Sebastien Baret, today I've run the Breakneck Ridge Trail from Rt9, to the Fire Tower and down to the Beacon parking lot following the white trail, then the white and blue and eventually the red trail from the tower to the parking lot. I've stopped there for 10 minutes and looped back.
I got lost two/three times going to Beacon and only once coming back to Rt 9.

Total cumulative time for the double transverse was 2:56:09 while the single was 1:30:16 (with unexpected detours cause by lack of knowledge of the course) going and 1:25:53 back.
I will not have many chances to run here again this year, but it would be nice to see of someone can improve this time to get things going. I think easily 25 minutes can be shaved without getting lost and taking some risks on the downhills (I was very cautious).

Here is a link to the Garmin files:

Ben Nephew (8/31/2014):

Carlo, you ran back down the ridge trail?? I was thinking of running a FKT route by coming back over that hill to south, but you have made things quite a bit more interesting! Those trails are a bit hard to follow with all the unmarked side trails. For those who don't know this trail, that first and last climb is extremely steep, and running it when wet is probably going to end very badly. A helmet might be a good idea for that last downhill. As much or more climb than Escarpment in 6 fewer miles. Thanks for posting, another Hudson Valley classic!

Carlo (9/1/2014):

Yes, I did run back down the ridge. Due to my lack of knowledge of the trail, I ended up running pieces of the steep route down, and after finding myself off course, I turned back to the main section. I'll need a couple of more attempts to memorize better the trail there (it was my first time going downhill).
Ben, as you said, it is not an easy section. If wet, I would not even try running it, but another serious problem is "hikers" coming up. I ended up scrambling off the main route due to the large presence of groups of them that were already a danger to themselves.
Ben, if you run it, I'm sure you'll go under 2:30; I've checked the file and I have 12 minutes lost wondering around in those sections I was "lost". I hope more people will post here routes and times so we can find interesting places to run

Steve Hawkins (9/8/2014):

Hi Carlo (from Manitou's I assume?),

This is actually something I know a lot about, because I live at the foot of these mountains, and run them all the time.  My preferred route is up Bull Hill, reverse slightly and descend yellow, ascend the backside of Breakneck, then white all the way to Mt Beacon, then descend the red to Mt Beacon parking lot. This is by far the most aesthetic line on the range, and gets you 3,500 to 4'000 feet of gain. I ran this line out and back yesterday in 4:45. A single traverse could go sub 2 hour by yourself or Ben with an all out effort.  Here are some other things for you to consider, with my approximate PR, which you could destroy.

Bull Hill ascent (entirely runnable) - 27 minutes, RT 45 minutes

Mt Beacon ascent 24:01' RT 42minutes. Really interested in what you or Ben could do on Beacon cuz I think it is my strongest time. I think Ben could do it in 37 minutes.  Beacon has a lot of potential for a tough 5k race.

There are many other possibilities on the ridge, these are wonderful mountains.

Ask away, and if you want to run these hills sometime shoot me a note at stevenchawkins@gmail.

Steve (9/24/2014):

Last week I hiked from 9D to Breakneck Ridge Summit in 18:06. I was 6:56 to the flag, 13:01 to the third viewpoint (the best one), and 18:06 to the true summit. I jogged back via white, left on red, in 42 minutes. Not claiming any FKT, just saying what I did.

Josh Burns (11/2/2014):

On November 2, 2014 starting at 8:05AM I ran an out and back on Breakneck Ridge to the Beacon Fire Tower and down to the Beacon parking area with a cumulative time of 2 hours 40 minutes and 48 seconds. I followed the route that Carlo Agostinetto had set on August 31, 2014. Conditions today were Sunny, dry, and temperatures in the 30s to 40s which made the portions with exposure very runnable, but there was a consistent 20mph wind. I believe the temperatures and wind may also have kept many hikers from venturing out. My GPS recorded 12 miles total with 10,600 feet of elevation change. Provided below is a link to my GPS in addition to some splits in case there is an error.

Breakneck Summit: 22.10
Beacon Fire Tower:1:01.30
Beacon PA:1:17.20 (Over the Ridge)
Beacon Fire Tower:1:45.50
Breakneck Summit:2:24.20
Breakneck Trailhead:2:40.48

Ben (11/22/2014):

I set a new FKT of 2:24:11 this morning, on the same crazy route that Carlo established. A helmet would not be a bad idea on this one. The trail is a bit hard to follow, and very technical. This trail, Storm King, and the Schunemunk Ridge make a great Hudson Valley trio. Steve, that is an incredible time for the ascent of Breakneck, you must have been hammering!

Steve (8/13/2015):

I ran the standard (3.5 mile / 1,400 ascent) Breakneck Ridge Loop in 37:50 yesterday. This is the loop that literally hundreds (dare I say thousands) of New York City folk hike on any given weekend. Sub 40 minutes is good for me, but I realize there are a lot of talented runners in the Northeast that could take this sub-35 at least. This loop would be a really cool Mt Marathon style shoot-out race.

GPS Track