Timp-Torne/Dunderberg Spiral Railway/R-D Trail Short Loop from Route 9W


This loop hike follows portions of the never-completed Dunderberg Spiral Railway and passes several expansive viewpoints over the Hudson River.

3 hours
Moderate to Strenuous
3.9 miles
Route Type:
Allowed on leash
Views, Historic feature
First Published:

Daniel Chazin


Lower Tunnel of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway - Photo by Daniel Chazin


View Dunderberg Spiral Railway in a larger map

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

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern terminus at the Bear Mountain Circle and proceed south on U.S. Route 9W for about four miles. At the base of a downhill section of the road, as the road reaches the river level, you’ll notice a large parking area on the right side of the road. (A side road, Old Ayers Road to Jones Point, leaves sharply to the left here.) Park in this gravel parking area. 


From the parking area, walk south on Route 9W for a few hundred feet. Just beyond road signs for Routes 9W and 202, you’ll see three blue blazes and three red-dot-on-white blazes on a tree adjacent to the road. These blazes mark the start of the Timp-Torne (blue) and Ramapo-Dunderberg (red-dot-on-white) trails. You’ll be following the Timp-Torne Trail for the first part of the hike and returning on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail.

Lower tunnel of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway. Photo by Daniel Chazin.Follow the blue and red-dot-on-white blazes into the woods along a level footpath through an area of tangled vines. Soon, the trail will bear left and climb stone steps, and you’ll reach a stone-arch tunnel to the left. This tunnel is a remnant of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway, the construction of which commenced in 1890. The plan was to have the rail cars pulled up the mountain on a cable incline by a stationary steam engine, with the downhill journey being made by gravity. Large sums were spent on the project, two tunnels were partially completed, and much of the line was graded, but the promoters ran out of funds, and the railway was never finished. The tunnel you see on the left was designed to allow the ascending trains to pass over the route of the descending trains.

The trail now bears right and ascends more steeply on switchbacks and stone steps. At the top of the climb, you’ll reach a junction. Here, the red-dot-on-white blazes continue ahead, while the blue blazes turn left. Follow the blue blazes of the Timp-Torne Trail, which head southwest, parallel to the river. The trail continues to climb, but on a more moderate grade. Soon, views of the river appear through the trees.

In another ten minutes, the trail turns right and heads away from the river. After climbing a little, you’ll pass a rock outcrop on the left with two pitch pines that offers a view over the Hudson River. The trail continues through a rocky area and soon reaches a graded section of the railway. Follow the blue blazes as they turn left and continue along this level, graded embankment for the next quarter mile. 

View of the Hudson River from the viewpoint off the Timp-Torne Trail with two pitch pines. Photo by Daniel Chazin.With the railbed ahead blocked off by fallen trees, the trail turns right and climbs to the next higher level, where it turns left. Just ahead you’ll come to the portal of an unfinished tunnel, intended for use by the descending trains. The tunnel, which has been excavated for about 75 feet, is often filled with water.

The trail now descends on a work road to the lower level of the graded railway, which it follows around a curved embankment, with views through the trees over the Hudson River. The curved roadbed ends at the opposite end of the uncompleted tunnel, but the trail bears left, crosses a stream and immediately reaches a woods road.

Turn right and follow this unmarked road, known as the Jones Trail, which was built in 1890 to enable workers on the Dunderberg Spiral Railway to reach higher levels of the railbed. The Jones Trail soon recrosses the stream and continues uphill through stands of mountain laurel. 

In about a third of a mile, you’ll reach a junction with another grade of the railway. Bear left and continue along the unmarked railway grade. This section is particularly interesting, as it goes through a rock cut, follows a curved embankment, and continues through another rock cut. 

The Timp-Torne Trail as it follows an unfinished grade of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway. Photo by Daniel Chazin.In a quarter mile, you’ll reach a T-intersection with the red-dot-on-white-blazed Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. Turn right onto Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, which climbs to a high point with a limited view. After a slight descent, it passes a small pond on the right and climbs steeply to reach a viewpoint over Bear Mountain. Continue along the ridge of Dunderberg Mountain, passing through thickets of dense birch saplings that are revegetating an area ravaged by a 1999 forest fire.

After descending from the ridge, steeply in places, you’ll notice a viewpoint from a rock outcrop just to the right of the trail, with Peekskill directly across the river. A short distance beyond, as the trail curves to the right, a short white-blazed trail leads ahead to another viewpoint. The trail soon joins another graded section of the railbed, with several gaps where the grading was never finished, and passes more views over the Hudson River.

At a stone abutment (built to carry the cars going up the mountain), the trail turns sharply left and descends steadily along the right-of-way of the cable incline. Be careful not to twist an ankle on the loose rocks as you descend. After about ten minutes, you’ll reach a junction with the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail. Continue ahead, following both blue and red-dot-on-white blazes back to the parking area where the hike began.

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

Great hike

Your directions were spot on. A truly enjoyable hike.  To see some more images of this hike: https://weekendwanderer2016.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/dunderberg-spiral-r...

Did I do the correct loop?

My son and I just did the loop above (or at least i think we did).  We entered on Ramapo trail, turned left on Timp-Torne,  cut over at the 77 trail (which based on it being the only crossover trail connecting Ramapo and Timp, i assumed it was that jones trail the description discussed).  Then we looped back on the Ramapo trail.  It was 6.8 miles, and extremely difficult terrain. We did the Breakneck Ridge trail and this was at least as difficult, especially on the way down.  The ground was all medium sized loose rocks (for like 1/2 of the descent at least) and the descent was very steep .  Not only did it do a number on my knees, but it was rough even for my teenage son who is extremely fit.  The info above says 3.9 miles and I mapped it at 6.8 miles (using map my hike app).  Did i do the correct loop, or did I misunderstand?

You didn't do the loop that I described

The hike description states (fifth and sixth paragraphs):  "The curved roadbed ends at the opposite end of the uncompleted tunnel, but the trail bears left, crosses a stream and reaches a woods road. Turn right and follow this road, known as the Jones Trail."  You're supposed to turn right, immediately after crossing the stream, onto an unmarked woods road (which is shown on Trail Conference Map 119 and labeled as the Jones Trail). Instead, you continued for another mile and a half on the Timp-Torne Trail and then turned right onto the 1777 Trail.  The longer loop that you actually did is described on our website (in the opposite direction) as a separate hike: www.nynjtc.org/hike/dunderberg-spiral-railwaybald-mountain-loop , and it is indeed about 6.8 miles long.

A little bit of everything

Both the Timp Torne and the Ramapo/Dunderberg trails were well marked. I can understand how the people earlier missed the Jones Trail, perhaps someone should mark the turn? I did not have any problems following the directions as written at all. This trail would be much better later in the Fall or Winter when the leaves have completely fallen off the trees. Nice uphills with a few steep sections, it would probably be just as good going up the Ramapo/Dunderberg trail in the opposite direction. It was really cool walking through the Birch Saplings on the descent! Will surely come back here again in the future.

Trail directions

Thanks so much for describing in detail this short loop. My wife and I followed it last summer, and again this weekend. We did miss the Jones Trail turn somehow - I think in hindsight I thought it was not immediately over the stream crossing, so we added about an hour by continuing on the Blue trail, then doubling back. This is a great hike for those who don't hike on a routine basis - not too strenuous, and a nice combination of man-made artifacts and beautiful vistas!

Lost trail markers Dunderberg Short Loop

We lost the trail after making a right at the T-intersection. Three white squares marked a rock..and then there were no more obvious markers to be found. Sun was setting and we have three young kids, so we made our way bushwhacking through many, many birch saplings and steep, rolling rock passages til we eventually saw a red-dot-on-white blaze and 9W. But the views were AMAZING, no leaves or bugs yet. (April 9,2011) The doomed railway history is fascinating too, which we read about in a book called Historic Valley Ruins before the hike.

Love the hike, a few tweak suggestions

"Turn right and follow this road, known as the Jones Trail. In about a third of a mile, after once again crossing the stream, you'll reach a junction with another grade of the railway. "

These sentences should probably read, "Turn right and follow this road, known as the Jones Trail. In a short distance, you cross the stream again, and then, in about a third of mile on the now rocky uphill Jones Trail, you'll reach a junction with another grade of the railway."

This hike was great. Did it on Dec 18, 2010 and the mud from last weekend's rain was frozen which made things easier. Steep & challenging but with very interesting scenery and views. The railroad grades & the unfinished tunnel were particularly enjoyable. Total time was exactly 4 hours. That included 20 minutes of lunch, and a few photo stops.