Dunderberg Spiral Railway/Bald Mountain Loop

Overview

This loop hike follows portions of the never-completed Dunderberg Spiral Railway, climbs to the summit of Bald Mountain, and passes several expansive viewpoints over the Hudson River.

Details
Time:
5.5 hours
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Length:
7 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Rockland
State:
NY
Publication
First Published:
12/12/2002

Updated/Verified:
10/04/2010
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Bear Mountain Bridge from Dunderberg Mountain

Parking


View Dunderberg Parking in a larger map

See also
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.281193,-73.962922
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.

Description

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.

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 to 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 going through a rocky area on switchbacks, you'll arrive at 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 of a mile. 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 trail now returns to the lower level of the graded railway, which it follows around a curved embankment, with views 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 then a woods road, and climbs to another viewpoint, looking south along the river. Beyond the viewpoint, the trail is relatively level, and even descends a little.

Watch for a very sharp right turn in the trail, which reverses direction and heads northeast on a switchback, uphill at first. After another level stretch, the trail reaches a panoramic viewpoint, looking both north and south along the Hudson. Peekskill is visible at a bend in the river to the north, and the New York City skyline may be seen in the distance to the south.

From the viewpoint, the trail again reverses direction and heads southwest on a relatively level footpath. After passing another panoramic viewpoint that looks south along the Hudson, the trail climbs gradually, with cairns (piles of rocks) marking the way in places. From the crest of the rise, there are views of the ridge to the north, which will be your return route. The trail now begins a steady descent, with rock steps provided along one steep section. At the base of the descent, the trail intersects a woods road, with the junction marked by a small cairn.

Turn right here, leaving the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail, and follow the woods road, which is blazed with white "1777" blazes, commemorating the use of this road by the British in their attack on Fort Montgomery during the Revolutionary War. You'll be following this road for only about two or three minutes. When you see the red-dot-on-white blazes of the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail crossing the road, turn right and follow these blazes. You'll be following the red-dot-on-white blazes for the remainder of the hike.

The Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail climbs to a viewpoint from open rocks, with Bear Mountain (identified by the stone tower on its summit) visible ahead (through the trees), and Bald Mountain to the right. The trail continues over a rise through dense mountain laurel thickets, then descends to briefly join a woods road that crosses a stream at a fireplace. Just beyond, follow the red-dot-on-white blazes as the trail bears left and begins to climb Bald Mountain.

After a level section, the trail climbs to the summit ridge, which it reaches at a south-facing viewpoint. The trail continues along the relatively level ridge, then makes its final climb to the summit. Just before reaching the 1,115-foot summit of Bald Mountain, the trail makes a very sharp right turn. Continue ahead on a white-blazed side trail to the summit, and proceed to a rock outcrop just north of the summit that offers a panoramic view to the north over the Hudson River, Iona Island and the Bear Mountain Bridge. You've now gone a little more than halfway (and have finished nearly all of the climbing), so this is a good place to take a break.

When you're ready to continue, return to the trail, and be sure to take the left fork. The trail begins to descend, passing an opening of the Cornell Mine on the right. At the base of the descent, the blue-blazed Cornell Mine Trail leaves to the left. Continue ahead on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, which follows the ridge of Dunderberg Mountain, with several ups and downs.

About a mile from the junction with the Cornell Mine Trail, the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail briefly joins a woods road and then climbs to a high point with a view. After a slight descent, it climbs steeply to reach an even better viewpoint. You can see the Hudson River to the right (south), with Bear Mountain and the Bear Mountain Bridge to the left (north). Continue along the ridge of Dunderberg Mountain, passing through thickets of dense birch saplings.

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 excavated for the cable incline. 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.

Try the Hike in Reverse

I went up the RD this morning,as it is more exposed to the sun, and came back on the TT, which had more shade and less ups and downs.  I also extended the hike to the Timp, making a 10 mile loop. I started at 10:00, reached Bald Mt just after 11:00 and reached the Timp for lunch at 12:15. I was back at my car at 2:15 and drank about 2 quarts of water.  I didn't hike fast, but steady with almost no stops. I found the downs hard on my knees,even though I used trekking poles, but I am 62.  I had some breeze today and rain cooled things down overnight, otherwise I would start earlier in the summer.  Dunderberg had fires 20 years ago and the RD was much more exposed some years back, but the new growth provided shade most of the time.

nice hike, mind the snakes.

Wow was it hot today, but this hike was worth it! The path just challenging enough and the views were spectacular. I took the trail backwards, Ramapo-Dudenberg to 77 to Timp-Torne, and I noticed going up the Ramapo side first that finding red and white markers could be very challenging and I often had to backtrack to make sure I was still on trail. Also, there were a couple of larger fallen trees blocking the path between Dudenberg and Bald Mountain, forcing a new alternate path to be slowly formed in the high grass. I only point this out out of concern because as I was descending from Bald Mountain, I almost staggered upon a very large Timber Rattesnake that was hanging out right next to the  path in the leaves, high grass and brush. He was very kind to let me know that he was there with a vigourous shaking of his rattler and was also nice enough to forgive my foul language as he did take me by surprise. 

Great Hike - Icy today, but still a fun hike

Good trail. One of the longer hikes that I have done - GPS logged it as 8.0 miles and I did it in 5hrs. & 20 mins. I followed the Red -on White Ramapo-Dunderberg blazes to the right after the trail splits. You will meet up with the Blue blaze Timp-Torne and follow them all the way home. The conditions were not ideal today - yesterdays rain left a frozen cover of ice on everything. The micro spikes saved my life today. The ice should melt in a day or two if the temps stay about freezing. Track is well maintained and marked. A few scrambles, but mostly nice walking in the woods. Will recommend to friends!

Don't let others' comments deter you from this hike

I rarely give my review or comment on hikes, but after reading some of the previous comments, I felt I needed to express my own thoughts about this trail. I followed the hike entirely with the directions above. I agree that the beginning felt a little strenuous (I paused here and there to catch my breath), but it wasn't bad. The scenery once you get to the level areas is beautiful and so picturesque! I highly recommend this hike purely for the beautiful features...wild flowers and plant life abound! The views aren't bad either.  I was somewhat expecting a horrible descent based on previous comments, but was surprised to find it wasn't that bad at all. I feel like some of the previous reviews are overexaggerated. You shouldn't let their comments deter you from this hike. It was very pleasant, though, a bit of a workout at times (mostly on the inclines). I don't think the downhill gravel section was even 1/4 of a mile...it seemed much less. And it wasn't too steep at all. I just walked on the banks of the trail or watched my step when in the gravel-like footing. My personal opinion is that if people don't want even the slightest bit of a challenge, they shouldn't be hiking trails labeled as "Strenuous." Just a thought. I'm a 32-year old female (with so-so knees and ankles due to 25 years of equestrian sports)... I made it in 3 hrs, 20 minutes with just a few stops for pictures. It's not as difficult as it sounds...and it's worth the workout! Here is a photo from this lovely hike:    

Exhausting Hike but well worth it with an incredible history.

We did this hike on 12-07-2013. The hike is a great hike with some very interesting history. i would strongly suggest looking up the history of the area and what the Rail way was going to be before going. The loop itself was quite easy to follow. The point where the timp torn trail and the 1777 trail meet can be confusing, but just look for the pile of rocks marking the point where it intersects. From there its a VERY short walk to the RD trail. then just simply following it from there on. when you get to the top of the range, the views are absolutly incredible. Right before the down hill section is a really short white trail. if you follow it, you wind up on a rock outcrop that overlooks the hudson. The hike was a little difficult in the begining with some steep sections and lots of scrambles. then the top of the mountin range is pretty easy for some time. the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the loop is a steep straight shot down where the path of the rail way. its all small loose rocks 4 to 8 inches. This is where Trekking poles come in handy.  At the end of this hike our GPS read 8.02 miles.

Watch for the R-D blaze!

When you turn off the Timp Torne onto the 1777 trail, be very watchful for the R-D intersection, which is very poorly marked. We missed it and hiked 10 min out of our way (it was a beautiful day anyway).  You really need to look at every tree on the right hand side, and the R-D blaze is at a 10 foot height.  It comes up very fast.  This hike has some of the most spectacular views in the NY-NJ region!

interesting hike with some great views

Did this hike today with the wife and kids (12 and 11), and followed it pretty much as described. busy on the trails today - the car park was full and two parties set off ahead of us in the 5 minutes it took us to get our gear in order. its a robust hike with moderate pitches alternating with long level stretches and so there was no trouble with anyone in the family making it around. we had problems at the TT/1777 intersection as the map indicates the 1777 has red blazes but the one i could see where the intersection surely has to be is white - gave us a moment's confusion. The view at Bald Mountain is spectacular and made the trip worthwhile in its self. Busy - with 6-7 parties chillin' at the site but not crowded. As is usual on the R-D the trail takes the high ground over rocks and offers frequent great views. We stopped off briefly to investigate the crashed plane at the north most section of this hike. A very pleasant day was spoiled by the 0.25 mile section on the cable incline over a pile of loose rocks; IMHO the trail really needs to be rerouted around this section as (being at the end) it spoils the whole day. GPS said 7.4 miles for the hike today which we did in a very leasurely 5 hrs and 40 mins.

Wonderful views of Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge

Did this as a day hike today; the weather was too warm for our liking, but that took nothing away from the awesome views that we were able to catch during the hike. A couple of gotchas though:
  1. Finding the intersection between the Timp-Torne and 1777 was slightly tricky
  2. Descent via the Ramapo-Dunderberg was "cartiage-crunching"  - so better be prepared for the walk thru gravel
View of Peekskill is definitely worth the entire hike though..as are the different views of Bear Bridge mountain. Walking along the Dunderberg moutain, watch out for the trail markers carefull though, the birch saplings have grown now, and its easy to miss the markers (should make too much of a difference, since the trail seems well-travelled and hence, quite visible).  

interesting alternative

There are a couple of unblazed but hikable ways down from the top of the Dunderberg that see more of the DSR. (I was just up there a couple of weeks ago.) On the way up the Dunderberg from the west, the R-D crosses an obvious rail grade, marked with a cairn. If you follow it to the right, it leads around the south side of the mountain (crossing the Jones trail, also marked with a cairn) until it comes to an end in an unfinished rock cut. Scrambling up the rock takes you to the upper incline of the DSR. This can be either followed uphill over a filled but ungraded section until it comes to the R-D, or downhill to where it ends in another unfinished cut. In that unfinished cut, a short scramble to the right (southwest) takes you onto another obvious rail grade that descends to the upper tunnel and the T-T trail. If instead of scrambling to the right, you forge ahead, (or make your way back to the line of the incline), the incline can be followed down to the loop joining the two inclines. I'd imagine that from there you can get onto the lower incline down to the R-D, but I've never tried.) Don't attempt any of these routes without a good map, but they afford views of the unfinished construction (including holes drilled in the rock for explosives at the end of the cuts) that few hikers ever see.

from 1777

I did this trail on 8/13. There was a work crew in the parking lot, so I had to park farther south. I ended up on the 1777 trail. I took the Jones trail (marked with red blazes to the TT, so I got to see the tunnel and 3 great views. I was amazed at the amount of color and leaves that have already fallen. It looks more like mid-September than mid-August. One comment on the trail description - I hit the woods road about a half hour after leaving Bald Mountain and the steady descent about an hour after. The thick stand of young beech trees on the descent are all yellow. There are also a lot of invasives and other overgrown shrubs which cut down on the view and make the hike from the Cornel intersectiob less than pleasant. By far the worst part of the hike are the places where massive amounts of rocks have been dumped for grading. I'm glad I had to use 1777 and Jones to access.