South Beacon Mountain Firetower and Scofield Ridge

Overview

This hike climbs to the firetower atop the summit of South Beacon Mountain and follows the Scofield Ridge, passing many panoramic viewpoints over the Hudson River and the surrounding mountains.

Details
Time:
6.5 hours
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Length:
8 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Public Transportation, Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Dutchess
State:
NY
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Buy Book:
Publication
First Published:
06/02/2006

Updated/Verified:
08/17/2014
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin
See also
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.493547,-73.959854 (or N41°29.61282, W073°57.59124)
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern terminus at the Bear Mountain Bridge. Cross the bridge, bear left onto N.Y. 9D, and proceed north on N.Y. 9D for 14.5 miles. As NY 9D (Wolcott Avenue) curves sharply to the left at Bob’s Corner Store in Beacon, turn right onto Howland Avenue. Immediately, turn right into the parking area for Scenic Hudson’s Mount Beacon Park.

Train

Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to the Beacon station. The trailhead is approximately 1.5 miles from the train station.  To reach the trailhead from the station turn right (south) onto Beekman Street (towards Dia Beacon).  In 0.4 mile, Beekman Street ends, and you should continue along Wolcott Avenue (Route 9D).  In about another mile, Wolcott Avenue makes a sharp right turn.  At this bend, turn left onto Howland Avenue.  The trailhead is on your right.

Description

This hike begins with a steady, steep climb of 1,000 feet of elevation in the first mile, and the overall elevation gain exceeds 2,000 feet. It is not an easy hike, but the spectacular views that it affords are ample reward for the strenuous ascents. Much of the land traversed by the hike has been protected through the efforts of Scenic Hudson, which preserves open space in the Hudson River valley.

From a kiosk at the parking area, follow a gravel road gently uphill to the base of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, in operation from 1902 to 1975. Although it has been abandoned for nearly 40 years, much of the infrastructure remains.

The gravel path continues uphill to a series of steps that parallel the abandoned railway. Here, the red-blazed Casino Trail begins. At the top of the steps, the Casino Trail bears left and follows a steep woods road to the summit, with a number of switchbacks along the way. Pay attention to the red blazes and avoid the many unofficial side trails that cut across the switchbacks.

Hudson River and the Newburgh Beacon Bridge from the Casino. Photo by Daniel Chazin.Soon, you’ll reach a trail junction at the first switchback. The yellow-blazed trail that continues ahead will be your return route, but you should turn sharply right to continue on the red-blazed trail. At the next switchback, a side trail ahead leads downhill to an overlook over the City of Beacon. You’ll get much better views from higher up on the mountain, so you might want to skip this viewpoint and turn sharply left, continuing on the red trail.

After traversing a badly eroded section of the road, the trail turns right onto a footpath as the road curves to the left. Follow the footpath, which leads west to a viewpoint over the City of Beacon, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and the Hudson River below, then bears left and climbs to rejoin the main road.

Turn right onto the road and climb the final pitch to reach the top of the old incline railway. The shell of the brick building housing the machinery that powered the railway still stands, and the remains of the machinery may be seen insidePowerhouse Ruins. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

After exploring the remains of the machine house, follow a path to a concrete platform at the site of the former casino, which offers a spectacular view. To the north, you can see up the Hudson River as far as Poughkeepsie, where two bridges cross the river. The rugged Catskill Mountains may be seen to the northwest, with the long, level-topped Shawangunk ridge to the west. Another viewpoint, a short distance to the south, affords south-facing views. The imposing ridge on the east side of the river is Breakneck Ridge, with Storm King Mountain on the opposite bank and Schunemunk Mountain beyond. To the southeast, you can see the fire tower on South Beacon Mountain, which you’ll soon climb. You’ll want to spend some time here, resting from your arduous climb and taking in the view.

When you’re ready to continue, proceed ahead (east) on the red-blazed woods road (which resumes at the rear of a large cleared area). You’ll encounter several other woods roads along the way, so be sure to follow the red blazes. At first, the road is relatively level, but it soon begins a gradual climb, with one steep pitch.

After a gradual descent, be alert for a left turn where the red-blazed trail leaves the wide woods road that it has been following. Just beyond, you’ll reach a junction with the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail. Turn right and follow the white trail uphill to the fire tower. (If you miss this turn, you can follow the woods road up a series of open rock ledges to the fire tower).

Mt. Beacon Fire Tower. Photo by Georgette Weir.

Built in 1931, the Mount Beacon Fire Tower was used to spot fires for about 50 years. Subsequently, it fell into disrepair and was closed to the public. A volunteer group, the Mount Beacon Fire Tower Restoration Committee, raised funds to restore the tower, and it reopened in June 2013. The tower affords spectacular 360-degree views that are even broader than those from the site of the casino, and on a clear day, you can see as far as the Tappan Zee Bridge to the south! 

When you’re ready to continue, retrace your steps on the white trail down to the junction with the red trail and turn right. In another quarter of a mile, the red-blazed Casino Trail ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail. Turn left onto the yellow trail, which follows a footpath – a welcome change from the woods roads that you have followed almost continuously from the start of the hike.

In the next mile and a half, you’ll climb over three minor summits. From two viewpoints on the southeast side of first summit, you can see several bits of the Hudson River to the south, with the Bear Mountain Bridge visible for the first time. The trail then heads west to a third viewpoint – this one, over the Beacon Reservoir, with the fire tower visible to the south and the Hudson River to the northwest. 

The next summit (marked by a yellow cross painted on the rock and a large cairn) has only a limited view. The trail now drops to a col and climbs to the third summit, passing a panoramic east-facing view along the way. It traverses a relatively level stretch, then descends steadily.

After turning sharply left and regaining a little altitude, the yellow-blazed trail levels off, then turns sharply right and descends steadily through mountain laurel on a woods road. At the base of the descent, it passes a series of stone walls and reaches a T-intersection. Turn left here, leaving the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, and follow a blue-blazed trail. The blue trail soon bears right at a fork, descends a little, then bears right at another fork and ascends along a severely eroded woods road to reach the aptly-named “Dozer Junction,” after the rusting yellow bulldozer on the right.

The blue-blazed trail ends here, and you should turn left onto the white-blazed Fishkill Ridge Trail, which climbs Lambs Hill. Just beyond the summit, the trail reaches an open area with spectacular views over the Hudson River valley to the northwest, with the Shawangunks and Catskills in the distance. The fire tower you climbed earlier in the hike (as well as the communications towers on North Beacon Mountain) are visible to the south.

After descending on a rocky, winding path through mountain laurel, the white trail climbs another rise. It descends a little, then climbs to a junction with the red-blazed Overlook Trail, which begins on the right. You should continue along the white-blazed Fishkill Ridge Trail, which bears left and descends, soon emerging onto a ledge with another panoramic view over the Hudson River. The City of Newburgh is visible directly across the river.

The trail now descends rather steeply, passing through dense scrub oak thickets for the first part of the descent. Towards the base of the descent, the trail turns away from the river. After crossing a dirt road, the trail briefly joins a gravel road to cross a stream, then descends through a former hemlock grove (largely decimated by the wooly adlegid) to reach the scenic Dry Brook.

The trail crosses the brook on a wooden bridge and turns right to parallel it, passing a waterfall along the way and crossing the brook twice more. Be alert for a double yellow blaze, which marks the start of a connecting trail that leads back to the start of the hike. Turn left onto this yellow-blazed trail, which climbs to the crest of a rise, then descends. You’ll intersect several woods roads along the way, so make sure that you follow the yellow blazes. After a steady uphill stretch, the yellow-blazed trail ends at a junction with the red-blazed Casino Trail. Bear right and follow the Casino Trail downhill to the base of the railway, then continue on the gravel road to the parking area where the hike began.

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

Really nice hike, very well described... thanks

I've done this hike a few times now at different times of year and really like it.  I can usually easily do it in the estimated time but today I got stuck behind several (counted 5 in total) different slow moving jeeps who were with me on and off all the way up to the firetower, which slowed me down quite a bit.  Will probably avoid this route in the Fall if off roading is normally this popular...  

A Fantastic Hike.

  Thanks for the description, Daniel.    I did it yesterday, and it was just gorgeous.  It's my 4th or 5th time on this route, but it doesn't lose anything with repeated use.     As you guys say, the Scofield Ridge portion is always completely deserted, which I love.     Thought I'd mention that I've measured it three times now, and I get right around 7.0 miles every time.   Also right around 2400 feet of climb, all told.  (Starting and ending at the gate just above the Beacon Mt. parking lot.)     Also, folks should be forewarned that long stretches are not well-marked, and it's very easy to get very lost in certain areas.    The connecting stretch of Yellow, that takes you from the White trail down the brook back across to the Red Casino trail you ascended, has at least two forks which are totally unmarked, and brutally confusing.   (If I remember correctly, you have to go right (downhill) at the first, and left (uphill) at the second, to bring you back into Casino, a short distance above the top of the staircase.)     Thanks again.     S  

South Beacon mountain, great hike, really fun trail.

Hiked this trail yesterday. Awesome hike! Lots of bang for the buck. The views at the top are spectacular. But I equally enjoyed (if not more so) the return loop via the Wilkenson Memorial. It is a really interesting, quarky trail with lots of variety in foliage & terrain...lots of going up to go down...keeps it interesting. I lost the trail a couple of times which means you can't just zone out. Which I like. Also, it looks like most people just go up the red blazes and back down the same way. On a friday afternoon there were several people on the ascent (red blaze), but on the way back down via the "back loop" I saw NO ONE the entire hke down.....i had the trail to myself. And from the look of the trail itself looks looks like it does not have as many travelers. Awesome. Thanks trail blazers!

South Beacon Mountain hike

Your comment inspired me to rehike this trail yesterday -- for the first time since I wrote the hike description eight years ago.  This is a really fantastic hike -- one of the very best in the entire New York metropolitan area.  The restored Mount Beacon Fire Tower is a highlight of the hike, but there are many other spectacular viewpoints, spread throughout the hike. Your observation that most people go up to the casino site on the Casino Trail and then come down the same way is definitely correct.  I did meet four people on the second part of the hike, but I must have encountered about 100 people on the Casino Trail leading up to the fire tower. I should also point out that the second part of the hike is mostly on attractive footpaths, while the Casino Trail, for the most part, follows a wide and relatively unattractive woods road.  I have revised the hike description and brought it up to date.  Thanks again for your review of the hike!

This is a terrific hike!

Did this hike yesterday and was very pleased from start to finish. The directions are accurate as usual and the blazes are very good for the most part. But the junction where the Casino Trail ends and the Wilkinson Memorial Trail needs new blazes. Two of yellow blazes are missing and none of the red ones are there anymore. You can see in the photo that they're gone. Hopefully someone can get up there and replace them before someone gets lost. Something must be wrong with my GPS because it said that I only gained 1364 feet and that is was 8.88 miles in total. I followed the directions carefully. Maybe some of the wandering at the Casino lookout and the tower added o the distance. There was a lot of people on the Casino trail but once I got on the Wilkinson Memorial Trail I only saw one more person the entire way until I once again reached the Casino trail. It's a shame that so many foolish people leave garbage on the trails and not to mention all the broken bottles at the Casino area. Can't wait to get back up there soon though!

(No subject)

Great Day Hike

This was an amazing day hike with lots of interesting, varied terrain and views.  Highly recommended!

Amazing views, strenuous hike

Wow.  This hike is beautiful. Ruins, a fire tower, an abandoned bulldozer, and views galore. Bring binoculars. Very worth it. Highly recommended. Take it easy. The trail has a ton of ups and downs. It was difficult to follow after leaving the Dry Brook waterfall--the woods roads intersections are not always blazed as to which one is the official Fishkill Ridge Trail.  Photos from this hike done in October 2011: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kleepet/tags/southbeaconmtscofieldridgehike/

Great hike!

I wanted to say that this is an amazing hike indeed!  My wife and I have walked it this past weekend and had a blast.  I would suggest reading the entire description before hand as it is very informative of the historic things that you will see along the way, and also, check out the site posted below.  Especially, look at the great videos of the railway in operation. http://www.inclinerailway.org   Just wated to add couple of things to the very nice description description of this trail: Trail Head GPS coordinates: 41.493547,-73.959854 (or N41°29.61282, W073°57.59124) Directions from Train Station: The trail entrance is approximately 1.5 miles from the train station.  As you come out of the train station on the side of the town of Beacon turn right onto Beekman St (towards Dia Beacon).  After 0.4 miles Beacon St. turns into Wolcott Ave.  Keep walking on Wolcott Ave until it makes a sharp right turn at Howland Ave.  The trail entrance will be on your left.    Cheers   Victor

Thanks

Thanks for the feedback, and for the GPS and train info.