Butter Hill/Stillman/By-Pass Trail Loop from Route 9W


This loop climbs to the summits of Butter Hill and Storm King Mountain, with many spectacular viewpoints over the Hudson River and the Highlands.

2.5 hours
Moderate to Strenuous
2.5 miles
Route Type:
Allowed on leash
Views, Historic feature
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Daniel Chazin


Stillman Trail on Storm King Mountain.


View Butter Hill Parking in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern end at the Bear Mountain Circle. Continue north on U.S. Route 9W for 8.1 miles to a parking area on the right at a sharp bend in the road. (This is the second parking area along Route 9W in Storm King State Park, but the only one which is designated by a blue “Parking Area” sign; it has a yellow-on-blue historical marker entitled “Freedom Road” and an adjacent marker commemorating the completion of the Storm King By-Pass Highway.)


From the parking area, walk north along the grassy shoulder of the road. Soon, you will see a triple-orange blaze, which marks the start of the Butter Hill Trail. Follow the orange blazes as they bear right, away from the road, and begin to ascend steeply. Soon, views over the Hudson River begin to appear to the right. The mountain across the river is Bull Hill (Mt. Taurus), and the point of land jutting into the river is Little Stony Point.

In 0.2 mile, you'll reach three stone pillars, with a stone foundation behind the pillars. These are the remains of Spy Rock House, the summer cottage of Dr. Edward L. Partridge, who served on the Palisades Interstate Park Commission from 1913 to 1930. The trail now descends slightly, then continues to climb Butter Hill, first gradually, then more steeply. At the top of the steep climb, you'll reach open rock ledges that afford a wide panorama to the east, south and west. Route 9W is visible straight ahead to the south, with the North Ridge of Crows Nest Mountain to its left. The Hudson River is to the east. You'll want to pause here for a little while to enjoy this expansive view, but the best is yet to come.East across the Hudson River from Butter Hill. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

After a short level stretch, the Butter Hill Trail ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail, also the route of the teal diamond-blazed Highlands Trail (some of the blazes at the junction are blue diamonds). Turn right and follow the Stillman Trail up to the summit of Butter Hill, where a rock outcrop just to the left of the trail provides a 360-degree view. The East Hudson Highlands are visible across the river, with towers marking the summits of Beacon Mountain to the north. Bull Hill is directly to the east. On the west side of the river, the North Ridge of Crows Nest Mountain is directly to the south, with Black Rock Forest visible to the southeast. Schunemunk Mountain may be seen to the west, with the Moodna Viaduct (on the Metro-North rail line to Port Jervis) towering over the valley just north of the mountain. In the distance to the northwest are the Shawangunks and, behind them, the Catskills. To the north, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge spans the Hudson River.

After enjoying this spectacular view, continue ahead on the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail, which descends slightly. Soon, you'll reach a junction with the blue-and-red-blazed Bluebird Trail, marked by a large cairn. Turn right, uphill, and continue on the Stillman Trail. A short distance ahead, you'll reach the northern end of the blue-blazed Howell Trail, which leaves to the right. Bear left here, continuing along the yellow-blazed trail, which follows a relatively level route for the next 0.7 mile. After a short, steep climb, you'll reach a limited view to the north. About five minutes ahead, though, you'll come to a much better viewpoint looking north over the Hudson River. Pollopel Island is directly below, with the ruins of Bannerman's Castle on its high point. The rail line running along the east shore of the Hudson is Metro-North's Hudson Line (also the route of Amtrak trains to Albany).

Village of Cornwall, on the west side of the Hudson River, from the viewpoint on the Stillman Trail just beyond the summit of Storm King Mountain. Photo by Daniel Chazin.Continue ahead, past the summit of Storm King Mountain, with some more views from rock ledges to the left. After a short descent, you'll reach a panoramic north-facing viewpoint, with superb views. To the east, Breakneck Ridge (marked by the rail tunnel) is visible across the river. The stone building at the foot of Breakneck Ridge (partially obscured by the vegetation) caps a shaft of the Catskill Aqueduct, which tunnels over 1,100 feet below the river. North Beacon Mountain (with communications towers) and South Beacon Mountain (with a fire tower) are to the northeast. To the northwest, the village of Cornwall can be seen along the west bank of the river.

The Stillman Trail now continues to descend, soon reaching a junction with the white-blazed By-Pass Trail. Turn left at this junction and walk about 25 feet to a rock ledge that affords a broad south-facing view down the Hudson River. The village of Cold Spring is visible across the river to the southeast, and Constitution Island juts into the river just beyond.

Now return to the junction and continue along the white-blazed By-Pass Trail, which descends along the side of the mountain, first gradually and then more steeply. There are several views of the river from rock ledges to the left, but they are not as broad as the views from the junction with the Stillman Trail. After crossing a seasonal stream, the By-Pass Trail climbs briefly to end at a junction with the blue-blazed Howell Trail, which comes in from the right.

Bear left and continue ahead on the Howell Trail, which soon begins to follow an old road. In about 500 feet, the blue-blazed trail turns sharply left, leaving the old road, but you should continue ahead on the road. Although shown on the Trail Conference map as an unmarked trail, the road is distinct and easy to follow (as of December 2014, it was blazed white). The old road climbs briefly, then descends steadily. As it approaches Route 9W, the road climbs rather steeply to end just beyond the parking area where the hike began.

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Very nice

Did this yesterday. Enoyable day out. I say people with dogs, baby carrier on the back, kids all make the trip. Think it'll be taxing for the kids/dogs...but for adults (even out of shape ones) it should be manageable.    Identifying the parking lot may be a bit of a problem, but after that it's all simple.    Follow the Orange Trail. The starting 15-20 mins is the tough part and has a bit of ascends and rock scrambling. Nothing really difficult though. Near the end of Orange trail you reach woods and safe from direct sunlight rest of the trip.  There are 2 overlooks, the first one you see is the smaller one (and most poeple incl us thought that was it) but 5 mins later you reach a ledge with a much bigger view.    Continue on forwards through the Blue/Yellow trail and it leads to White Trail. Continue on the whites and you reach the parking lot again.   Took us about 3.5 hrs at a very relaxed pace. 

A little more than a stroll in the park

Hiked this trail with kids today to celebrate Father's Day.  Some good climbing right off the parking lot.  All of the hard work is over after the first 1/2 hour.  Great views from the top--360 degree panorama worth the effort.  More challenging than typical nature walk, but all my kids (from 7 to 15 years old) had fun.  Highly recommended for the views.

excellent views

Hiked this yesterday - it took about 1:40 mins with a few stops along the way. At the end, the white blazed bypass trail now goes all the way back to the parking lot and is well marked. The trail was also clear -- any fallen trees have been cleared.

Rewarding hike

Hiked this on Sunday April 7th and it took exactly 2.5 hours with several short stops along the way. The parking lot was almost full at noon. The directions were quite accurate. We had a clear view from the summit of Butter Hill with a view all the way north to the Catskills. The "burned" out section mentioned in paragraph four seems to have mostly recovered as we noticed only a few remnants of a fire. The view of Banerman's Castle aided by binoculars was very interesting from our vantage point. The unmarked "road"  toward the end of the hike appeared to us as a clear foot path. Some old faded white blazes were noted along the way as well. We encountered a major jumble of blowdowns which required climbing under and over the trees. But that was the last obstacle before the parking lot. Unfortunately, that spot also included some large items of trash as well.  Overall, this hike includes some great views, challenging hiking and some local history into relatively short mileage.

Hiked this trail onSunday,

Hiked this trail on Sunday, Nov 25th. The views are even more spectacular than described. One note though toward the end of the hike when the trail turns left and you are to continue straight on an old road, though, the narrative indicates its distinct, It's really not!  Though there's a path you're unlikely to think its an old road. Perhaps it's more distinct as you go. We didn't follow it and exited south of our entry requiring a walk along 9w to reach our car. 

Hiked this trail today and it

Hiked this trail today and it doesn't disappoint!  The views are spectacular and appear around almost every bend in the trail.  The only other comment I'd make is that the hike duration is significantly overstated.  Even leaving time to enjoy the views, this is a 1 hour and 30 minute (maybe 1:45) hike.  Enjoy!

Storm King Woods Road From Butter Hill Parking

The old road bed connecting the Howell Trail to the Butter Hill parking on Route 9W is not a trail. It was blazed at one point and some of the blazes may still be visible. The Palisades Interstate Park authorities have specifically asked us to not maintain it and to remove the blazes. We may need to do a bit more removal. In the past the Park management has removed blow downs for easier access in case of fire or rescue but they've not done so in the last year or so though they do know about the downed trees.

Boxing Day Hike

Did this hike pretty much as described with the family today. This is a low effort, high reward hike with many spectacular overlooks for its 2.5 miles - my favourite is on the stillman trail just past the bypass intersection looking south - we stopped here for lunch and some solitude - the other hikers on the trails today don't seem to have got past the north facing overlook. One variation from the hike description and the maps - the white bypass trail appears to be blazed all the way back to the parking lot and doesn't end where it meets the howell trail. two or three downed trees block the path at the end there - if you have small kids you might find this a problem.