Crows Nest Mountain/Howell Trail from Route 9W

Overview

This loop hike climbs to the North Peak of Crows Nest Mountain, with many spectacular viewpoints over the Hudson River and the Highlands.

Details
Time:
3 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate to Strenuous
Length:
4 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Orange
State:
NY
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Buy Book:
Publication
First Published:
08/21/2003

Updated/Verified:
11/11/2011
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


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Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.414925,-73.993714
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern end at the Bear Mountain Circle. Continue north on U.S. Route 9W for 7.4 miles to a small gravel parking area on the right side of the road. (This is the first parking area along Route 9W in Storm King State Park and is not marked by a sign, although it does have a park bulletin board. It is located 2.3 miles beyond the intersection of Route 9W with N.Y. Route 293, and it is 0.2 mile beyond a blue sign that reads "Parking Area - 1 Mile").

Description

At the north side of the parking area, you will notice a triple blaze that marks the start of the Bobcat Trail. Follow this white-blazed trail, which descends steadily through an oak forest with an understory of blueberries. At the base of the descent, it crosses a stream on stepping stones, bears left, and soon begins to follow a faint woods road. About half a mile from the start, the Bobcat Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Howell Trail. Continue ahead on the woods road, which is now quite distinct, following the blue blazes. The trail descends steadily, paralleling a stream in the gorge to the left. As the trail curves to the right, views of Storm King Mountain appear through the trees to the left.

In another ten minutes, the blue-blazed Howell Trail leaves to the left, but you should proceed ahead on the woods road, now following the white blazes of the Stillman Spring Trail, which continues to descend. After crossing a stream on a stone causeway, the trail bears left, and it soon crosses another stream and reaches the paved Storm King Highway (N.Y. Route 218). You've now gone about a mile and a half from the start of the hike - mostly downhill.

Turn right, and follow the road for about 100 feet to a rock with a carved inscription in memory of James Stillman. Just beyond the adjacent Stillman Memorial Spring, you'll notice three blue blazes above on the hillside. They mark the start of the Howell Trail, which you will be following for the next two miles. Follow the blue blazes as they steeply climb the hillside. The trail soon begins to ascend on switchbacks, but the climb remains quite steep.

After about a third of a mile of steep climbing, the trail turns left onto an old woods road that descends slightly. Just before the end of the road at a "pitching point" (once used to toss logs down to the Hudson River below), the trail turns sharply right and climbs stone steps. After climbing some more on switchbacks, the trail comes out at a east-facing viewpoint over the river. Bull Hill is directly across the river, with Little Stony Point jutting into the river, and the village of Cold Spring is to the right.

As you continue your steep climb, more views appear. After following a curved set of rock steps through mountain laurel, you'll reach a broader viewpoint over the river from a large rock ledge to the left of the trail. Breakneck Ridge is visible to the left, and Constitution Marsh (just south of Cold Spring) may be seen to the right.

Just beyond, as the trail curves to the right and begins to head west, a panoramic north-facing view appears. Storm King Mountain is directly ahead, and the gash carved into the mountain by the construction of the Storm King Highway in 1922 is particularly stark from this vantage point. Pollopel Island, with Bannerman's Castle, may be seen a little farther upriver.

After some more climbing, the trail reaches another east-facing viewpoint over Bull Hill and Cold Spring from a rock ledge, with Constitution Island jutting into the river to the south. This point marks the end of the steep climb - you've climbed 800 vertical feet from the road below in less than a mile! The trail now turns right and descends slightly, then resumes its ascent of the North Ridge of Crows Nest Mountain, but at a much more gradual pace.

In about half a mile, before reaching the highest point on the ridge, the trail bears right and descends slightly. It continues through a valley, levels off, and finally climbs again to reach North Point, with views over the Hudson River to the east. The trail now bears left and soon begins a steady descent through an open grassy area scarred by a forest fire in 1999. A curve of Route 9W is visible on the right.

At the base of the descent, you'll reach the junction with the woods road that you encountered earlier in the hike. The Howell Trail turns right, but you should turn left and follow the white-blazed Bobcat Trail, retracing your steps to the parking area on Route 9W where the hike began.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

love this hike!

I just recently did this hike the past weekend and I consider it a hidden gem among the more popular and crowded trails over at Storm King, Breakneck and Bear Mtn. I rarely saw anybody else doing this hike. There are several viewpoints where you can see Storm King, Breakneck, Sugarloaf and Mt. Taurus together! I also started from Rt. 218 climbing up the steeper Howell Trail and then coming down to a more gradual descent of the Stillman Springs trail. One thing though, I noticed it's hard to find the trail markers (white) for the Stillman Springs trail if you're starting from route 218. As it says from the description above, it's about 100 ft. right of the Stillman Memoral Springs and the rock w/ the carved inscriptions, and also just after the metal guard railing. You have to look a little hard towards the woods to see some of the white blazes of the Stillman Springs trail.

Another idea

You can also park at the bottom of this loop, on Rt 218.  There is a parking area just across from the Stillman memorial.  Hike up the hard way, then come back down as described in the route.

Reversal

If you would rather descend steeply than climb steeply, you can always take the first blue trail to your right from the woods road.  The blue trail follows the ridge then descends to rt. 218 where you can climb back up via the less steep white/blue/white trails. It all depends on your preference.  I plan to take my family and backtrack rather than descend the blue trail.  

A very enjoyable hike

This was pretty easy going down and not too hard going up. Some great viewpoints on the way up to stop and relax if it gets too tough! The trails were very well marked and description is accurate. It would be hard to get lost on this hike. Does anyone know the actual elevation gain from Route 218 to the parking lot on 9w?

Great Hike

Did this yesterday.  Great weather, great trail, great time.   Thanks!

another nice hike in Storm King State Park

This hike is lovely, and I'm glad I discovered this hike after hiking up Storm King numerous times. The Stillman monument, views of Storm King Mountain, Little Stony Point, Constitution Marsh are some of the highlights of this hike.  I enjoyed this hike because it was off the beaten path, where there was less of a crowd.  This was quite a good workout with almost one thousand plus feet of elevation gain.   

4th July Hike!

Did this hike today with the wife and 13 & 11 year olds. We did the hike exactly as described - had no problems following the route at all - aided in the field by a GPS and the NYNJTC map. It was a hot day so we took our time, enjoyed the views and took frequent breaks. Back at the car the GPS said we hiked 4.25 miles in 3:15 with a total ascent of 1250'. This is a very nice hike and there's a lot of interest packed into the short 4 miles. The trails are well maintained, the route is easy to follow and the views spectacular. "medium to strenuous" is about right and the 800' ascent in short distance is tough (especially on a 90F day) but no serious challenge. Views rival those available next door at storm king but there's more chance of solitude on these lesser known hills. Very recommended!