Bull Hill (Mt. Taurus) via Lone Star/Nelsonville/Washburn/Undercliff Trails Loop

Overview

This loop hike climbs Bull Hill, with spectacular views over the Hudson River, Breakneck Ridge, Cold Spring and West Point.

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

Publication
First Published:
04/20/2004

Updated/Verified:
10/12/2015
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.434633,-73.93654
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern terminus at the Bear Mountain Bridge. Cross the bridge and proceed north on N.Y. Route 9D for 8.0 miles to Peekskill Road at the southern end of Cold Spring (just beyond the Boscobel Restoration). Turn right and follow Peekskill Road for 0.5 mile to its terminus at a junction with N.Y. Route 301, then turn right and follow Route 301 for 0.4 mile to its intersection with Fishkill Road (County Route 10). Bear left onto Fishkill Road and proceed for 0.4 mile to a small unmarked parking area on the left side of the road, just beyond a red fire hydrant, and opposite a break in the guardrail on the right side of the road (a brown sign marking the start of the Lone Star Trail is just beyond the parking area).

Description

Proceed ahead on the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail, which climbs gradually along a woods road. In half a mile, Hiker at Split Rock. Photo by Daniel Chazin.you’ll pass a huge split boulder to the right of the trail. Here, the red-blazed Split Rock Trail leaves to the left. This will be your return route, but for now, you should continue ahead on the blue-blazed trail.

After climbing a rather steep pitch, the trail levels off. Soon, the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail ends at a junction with a wide woods road – the route of the green-blazed Nelsonville Trail. Turn right and follow the Nelsonville Trail, which continues to climb along the woods road. Soon, you’ll encounter a rocky, eroded section of the road.

Near the top of the rise, the trail passes through mountain laurel thickets and reaches a junction. The blue-blazed Notch Trail begins on the right, but you should continue ahead on the woods road, now blazed white as the Washburn Trail. Follow the Washburn Trail as it climbs Bull Hill (Mt. Taurus) on broad switchbacks.

As the trail approaches the summit, you’ll come to a panoramic north-facing view from rock ledges just to the right of the trail. To the left, you can see the Hudson River. The imposing ridge extending northeast from the river is Breakneck Ridge, with the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge visible through a low point in the ridge. To the right, you can see the fire tower on South Beacon Mountain, the highest point in the East Hudson Highlands. In the distance to the left, the Shawangunk Mountains – and beyond them, the Catskills – may be seen on a clear day. This is a good spot to take a well-deserved rest, as you’ve climbed about 1,100 vertical feet to reach this point!

South over West Point and Constitution Island. Photo by Daniel Chazin.Just ahead along the Washburn Trail, an unmarked side trail leads left to a viewpoint from rock ledges to the south and east. Continue to follow the white-blazed Washburn Trail along the summit ridge. After passing the viewless summit – marked by a split rock on the right and a USGS survey marker along the trail – the trail makes a short, rather steep descent. Just beyond, an open rock ledge on the left affords a panoramic south-facing view over the Hudson River. Just north of the sharp bend in the river – of great strategic importance during the Revolutionary War – is Constitution Island, and beyond the bend is the United States Military Academy at West Point. To the right, on the west side of the river, is Crows Nest Mountain. On a clear day, you can see the Bear Mountain Bridge down the river in the distance.

After descending some more, you’ll reach a spectacular viewpoint over the Hudson River from a rock outcrop to the right of the trail. The view – the broadest of the entire hike - extends from West Point up the river to Storm King Mountain (identified by the gash carved into the mountain by the construction of the Storm King Highway in 1922). 

The Washburn Trail continues to descend rather steeply, then ascends a little. Just beyond, you’ll come to a junction with the yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail. Turn left onto the Undercliff Trail, which soon reaches another viewpoint over Cold Spring and West Point, with Crows Nest Mountain visible to the right, across the river.

Follow the Undercliff Trail as it continues to descend, on the way passing a seasonal waterfall to the left. After a relatively level section, the trail turns right and continues to descend on a woods road. Be alert, as the yellow trail soon turns left, leaving the woods road, and reaches an east-facing viewpoint over the hills of Fahnestock State Park, with the Hudson River visible on the right. Here, the trail turns right and continues to descend, entering the Nelsonville Nature Preserve (the trail in the preserve is marked by green “Nelsonville Footpath” blazes).

At the base of the descent, the Undercliff Trail reaches a T-junction with a wide woods road – the route of the green-blazed Nelsonville Trail. Turn left and follow the green blazes along this road. Soon, you’ll cross paved Gate House Road at a parking area and, in another 500 feet, you’ll cross a grassy strip which is the route of the Catskill Aqueduct. The stone building on the left marks one end of an inverted syphon that carries the water down to and then under Route 301, to the east.

Beyond the aqueduct, the trail begins to climb, first gradually, then more steeply. In about half a mile, you’ll pass rusted gate posts on either side of the trail. Just beyond, you’ll notice three red blazes that mark the start of the Split Rock Trail. Turn right and follow this short trail back to the Lone Star Trail at the “split rock,” then turn right again and follow the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail back to the trailhead on Fishkill Road, where the hike began.

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

Undercliff needs re-blazing

My husband and I did this hike in three and a half hours today. Beautiful hike with great views, BUT: Please, please re-blaze the Undercliff trail! We nearly got lost a few different times on it. First we encountered a single blaze where there should have been two, indicating a left turn; at other times the blazes were too "few and far between"; and at one junction, just after a great viewpoint, hikers can see two trees, both seemingly "aimed at" hikers coming from the same direction, where one tree has two blazes indicating a turn, and the other has a single, "straight-ahead" blaze. Here we accidentally hiked in a complete circle, coming back to where we'd started! And as long as i'm grousing: On the red trail near the end of the hike, but before you get back to the blue trail, more red blazes are needed. We wandered around for quite a while there, too, looking for the next blaze.

Blazing of Undercliff Trail is acceptable

Today, I did this hike (for the first time in 11 years).  I found a number of other things in the hike description that required updating (and I have since updated the description), but had little trouble following the route of the Undercliff and Split Rock Trails.  I agree that the blazng is somewhat sparse in places and could probably be improved, but there are enough blazes to show the hiker where to go.  Thanks for alerting me to a potential issue with the hike -- as a result of which I enjoyed a magnificent hike today!

Missed turns too!

I have to laugh. I didn't take notes about where other people said they missed turns on the yellow trail. I remember reading the comments that the yellow trail was tricky, so we paid careful attention to the blazes. However, we missed two turns too! The same ones described by others. One of my dogs actually pointed out the first one to us (which we had just past). The second one, at the view, where the trail markers changed we missed too. We no longer saw blazes and had to go back, where someone else pointed out the turn to us. Nice hike though with several views. Some photos: http://agiletrekker.blogspot.com/2014/04/bull-hill-mt-taurus-via-lone.html

Great Hike But Pay Attention to the Blazes

We went on this hike this past weekend and it was wonderful.  The views at the top were amazing and well worth the effort.  I have to note however, the importance of paying attention to the blazes and not the footpath, especially on the yellow Undercliff Trail.  There's a point in particular just after you break off of the white trail and make the left onto the yellow trail where there's a clear path that continues but without any blazes to lead you on.  Confused, we had to double back up the unmarked path to the last blaze that we saw, and it was only then that we realized that the blazes actually lead off to the left, rather than down this unmarked path.  Really easy to miss that turn if you're only paying attention to the path and not the actual blazes.Another thing to note, which another person commented on, is that the blazes on the yellow path aren't uniform, and they suddenly change shape, from circles to diamonds right at the point where it says you need to be alert, where the yellow trail turns leaving the woods road near the east-facing viewpoint over the Aqueduct and Fahnestock.  Needless to say, we were a little thrown off by the unexpected change and it took us a few minutes to figure that out.  Finally, in the last hundred or so feet to the intersection with the green trail, the yellow blazes suddenly stop.  We cautiously ventured down the path, fearing we might have missed another turn as before, but we ended up coming upon the green trail.Otherwise however, its a great hike.  The Lonestar Trail and the the Undercliff/Nelsonville trails appeared to be little trafficked and we encountered no one on either of those trails the entire time we were on them.  The white trail, on the otherhand, was busy with hikers, but it wasn't impossibly crowded.

Trails need to be maintained

Recently tried hking the Nelsonville Footpath trail beginning from the Lonestar trail (blue). Lonestar trailhead at CR-10 has a lot of overgrowth that's making it difficult to find from the street. If you're hiking south-west along the green Nelsonville trail and after crossing the map kiosk at Gatehouse Rd, (and just before reaching the yellow Undercliff trail), a BLUE-blazed unnamed trail (still part of the Nelsonville Footpath) branches off to the south from the green Nelsonville trail (this is also indicated on NYNJ Map 102) terminating down to Rt 301. The diamond-shaped blue Nelsonville plastic marker that shows this branch has been removed /damaged and should be repaired. The blue trail itself also has a lot of overgrowth (especially at the sourthern end) that needs to be maintained (although I'm not sure whether  the green / blue Nelsonville trail maintenance is still under NYNJTC or the town's). =)

Nice Hike But Undercliff Needs Attention

This is a beautiful hike with numerous great views and a small but appealing waterfall. With a good pair of binoculars you can entertain yourself watching your counterparts struggle up Breakneck Ridge! :-) What I want to mention regarding the trail description is that the Undercliff Trail, in the direction given here, needs a little attention. It was longer than expected and much of it felt not so much like a trail as a bushwhack with occasional markers. The trail is not heavily used and therefore not easy to discern, especially at the top and especially covered with leaves in the fall. But the yellow markers are also rather sparse (again, mainly the top half of the trail or so), and also harder to see in the fall, so it can be difficult to find your way. (The markers seemed better in the other direction.) There is a confusing array of about 5 different types of yellow markers, and one of them identifies the trail as "Nelsonville Walk" (or something like that) long before you get to the green-blazed "Nelsonville Trail", which made us wonder if we had missed a turn. And not that I'm looking to nitpick but many of the markers also identified the wrong region. I think it would not take much to improve all this, just a consistent, properly labeled set of markers more closely spaced. Aside from that, the paragraph that begins "Follow the Undercliff Trail..." is not all that clear - the "woods road" referred to is not obvious here, and the turn after the "east-facing viewpoint" is not just sharp, it doesn't seem to be marked as a turn at all. One other thing - the cairn near the top, not too long after you start to descend Mt. Taurus - what is it for? Didn't notice it in the directions and was not sure whether it was marking a trail or not. The trail at that point seemed clearer without it. Other than that, it was a day well spent in the magnificent Hudson Highlands.