Popolopen Gorge/Popolopen Torne Loop

Overview

This loop hike climbs to the summit of Popolopen Torne, with panoramic views, and runs along the scenic Popolopen Gorge.

Details
Time:
3.5 hours
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Length:
4.5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Historic feature
Publication
First Published:
06/01/2004

Updated/Verified:
03/08/2016
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Bear Mountain Bridge and the Hudson River from Popolopen Torne. Harriman

Parking


View Fort Montgomery in a larger map

See also
Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.324539,-73.988736
Driving Directions

Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its terminus at the Bear Mountain Circle. Proceed north on US 9W, cross the viaduct over Popolopen Creek, and immediately turn right into the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site. Park in the parking area at the bottom of the ramp. (If the parking area is closed, or no parking spaces are available, proceed north on Route 9W to another parking area on the east side of the road and walk back to the Fort Montgomery Historic Site.)

Description

Near the bottom of the ramp, at the entrance to the parking area, you'll see a brown post with a yellow arrow, a blue blaze, and 1777W and 1779 blazes. This marks the start of three co-aligned trails: the 1777W and 1779 Trails (which commemorate Revolutionary War events) and the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail. Follow these trails up stone steps and under the US 9W viaduct.

The cascading Popolopen Creek. By Daniel Chazin.

Soon, the trails turn left on a paved road. They follow the road for only a short distance and reenter the woods. In another 0.2 mile, the trails turn left onto the paved Mine Road, but in 125 feet, they turn right, leaving the road, and descend on a grassy woods road. In a short distance, the three trails turn left on a footpath, briefly joining the red-on-white-blazed Brooks Lake Trail. The trails cross a wet area on puncheons, then immediately bear left, climb the hillside (with seasonal views of Brooks Lake below on the right), and come out once again on the paved Mine Road.

Turn right onto the paved road and follow it for about 500 feet. Just past the intersection with Wildwood Ridge (another road), follow the three trails as they turn left, leave the paved road, and descend into the woods. The trails soon cross a stream on rocks and join a wide woods road - the route of the West Point Aqueduct, built in 1906. At first, the route climbs steeply, but it soon descends steeply and then levels off, with a stone-and-concrete retaining wall on the left. The trails begin to parallel Popolopen Gorge, with the rushing waters of Popolopen Creek visible in places through the trees on the left.

T-T-1777W-1779 Trail along the route of the West Point Aqueduct. Photo by Daniel Chazin.After about two-thirds of a mile along the West Point Aqueduct, you'll reach a trail junction. The 1777W and 1779 Trails continue ahead, following the aqueduct, but you should turn sharply right, following the blue blazes of the Timp-Torne Trail, which climbs gradually on a woods road, soon reaching paved Mine Road. The trail turns left, follows Mine Road for 100 feet, then turns right at a kiosk and begins to climb the Popolopen Torne on stone steps and switchbacks. After a relatively level stretch, the trail turns left and climbs more steeply. Soon, it comes out on a east-facing viewpoint over the Hudson River, the Bear Mountain Bridge and the East Hudson Highlands from a rock ledge.

You'll want to stop here for a short break, but - despite what you might think - this is not the summit of the mountain. Continue ahead on the trail, which makes a sharp bend to the south and continues to climb over rock ledges. In another ten minutes or so, you will reach the true summit of the Popolopen Torne, where open rock ledges afford a 360° view. From here, you can see not only the Hudson River and the Bear Mountain Bridge to the east, but also Bear Mountain to the south, and the hills of the West Point Military Reservation to the west.West view from Popolopen Torne. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

After spending some time at this beautiful spot, continue ahead as the trail steeply descends the mountain on rock ledges. The descent is much steeper than the climb, and you will have to use both your hands and your feet in places. About halfway down, the trail reenters the woods and continues to descend more moderately on stone steps and switchbacks. You'll cross paved Mine Road and unpaved Fort Montgomery Road and descend to rejoin the 1777W and 1779 Trails at the West Point Aqueduct.

Turn right and follow the three trails (Timp-Torne, 1777W and 1779) along the aqueduct route for 250 feet, then turn left, descend stone steps, and cross Popolopen Creek on a 62-foot footbridge. This prefabricated bridge was installed in 2012 by a volunteer trail crew from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, replacing a similar bridge that was severely damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene.

Footbridge over Popolopen Creek. Photo by Daniel Chazin.On the other side of the bridge, the trails climb the hillside to reach the route of the Bear Mountain Aqueduct, built in 1929 and rebuilt in 2012. Here, the Timp-Torne, 1777W and 1779 Trails turn right, but you should turn left, now following the red-on-white blazes of the Popolopen Gorge Trail. The trail proceeds along the route of the 1929 aqueduct (you will note manhole covers and exposed sections of the pipe along the way), passing through a wild and beautiful section of the Popolopen Gorge. Although the Palisades Interstate Parkway is only a short distance to your right, for most of the way the sounds of traffic are drowned out by the sounds of the rushing waters in the gorge far below.

Soon, the route of the 2012 aqueduct comes in from the right, and the trail begins to follow it. In three-quarters of a mile, the Popolopen Gorge Trail descends on switchbacks and stone steps towards the bottom of the gorge. Near the bottom, it turns right onto a level footpath. A short distance ahead, it bears left at a fork and descends to the level of the cascading creek. It passes the site of the former Roe Pond, created in 1901 by the construction of a stone dam across the creek. The dam (visible just ahead) was recently breached. The trail now climbs a little, then descends to reach an abutment of a former bridge over Popolopen Creek, from where it climbs out of the gorge on a wide gravel road.

At the top of the climb, the trail bears left and heads out to the trailhead on US 9W. Cross this busy highway (watch carefully for traffic), turn left, and cross the viaduct over Popolopen Creek, with panoramic views to the right of a suspension footbridge and a railroad bridge over Popolopen Creek and the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. At the end of the viaduct, turn right and descend the ramp into the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site, where the hike began.  

NOTE: Due to major construction work on the Popolopen Creek Viaduct on Route 9W, this viaduct is closed to pedestrian traffic for the duration of the construction. To complete this loop hike, hikers should cross Route 9W, then turn right and follow along the shoulder of the paved road to the Bear Mountain Bridge. Just before reaching the sidewalk on the northern side of the bridge, follow a red-stripe-on-white-blazed trail that leads downhill to the blue-stripe-on-white-blazed Twin Forts Trail. Turn left onto the Twin Forts Trail and follow it across the pedestrian suspension bridge over Popolopen Creek and up to the Fort Montgomery Historic Site.


To view two photo collections for this hike, click here and here.

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

Fun hike but better do it in the opposite direction.

Did this hike twice, on both directions. The description above is excellent. Trail marks are a bit of a hit and miss but, use common sense and you shouldn't have much problem. Some parts of the trail are not in best shape, some fallen trees, nothing really challenging, just minor discomfort. The best part is, of course, scrambling up the Torne. In the direction described above you'll end up descending the steeper part. As others have wrote, it's a little sketchy but go slow and pay attention and you'll be alright. Doing it the other direction though is A. Easier (or, at least, less scary) and B. More fun (imho). Last note; on my first trip, on the north part of the summit, I almost stepped on a rattler that was kind enough to rattle rather than bite.

Great hike!

I did this hike with my small (26 pounds) dog for the first time on November 7, 2015. The description on this page, while quite verbose, was very clear and helpful.  I found the trail to be well-marked and only had trouble spotting a blaze once or twice, and probably because I let the dog lead instead of looking where I was going.   We did the hike in 3 hours, without much stopping, aside from taking in the beautiful views at the summit.  The climb down from the summit was quite difficult with the dog, and I wound up actually sliding down a rock face for a good 5 feet, and so did the dog...not a good time!  When approaching the summit, there are ropes to help those who need assistance, and I think ropes would have been beneficial for the descent side as well.  It may be easier to climb that side of the summit going up, so maybe next time, I'll do this hike in reverse.   I'm actually glad that the viaduct was closed due to construction, as the other way to get back to the parking area gives you great up-close views of the Bear Mountain Bridge, and you cross over the water for more great picture/view opportunities.  I look forward to doing this hike again in the spring, summer and earlier in the fall when there's more foliage and colors!

7/7/15 Note about construction on trail

We did this gorgeous hike today, and used the directions on this page, which were perfect all the way. Wanted to let people know that when you get near to the end at the point where you emerge from the woods and need to cross 9W, that the bridge is entirely under construction and the sidewalk is closed so you cannot take that left to bring you back to the trail head. You have to go right and as soon as construction allows, cross 9W, stay to your left and the road will bend around to a bridge with a toll booth. Still staying to your left, walk like you are going to cross that bridge, but right before you'd enter the walkway on the bridge, there is a lamp post and a big bush. Look down and to your left to find stairs that will take you on a trail that will lead you over a footbridge and back to the parking area.    Beautiful hike. Well worth it!

Beautiful hike, but Timp-Torne turnoff is hard to find

We did this trail in the winter, and it was a good workout in the snow. A lovely contrast of hiking through a valley/gorge and summiting the Torne. The hike description states that "After about two-thirds of a mile along the West Point Aqueduct, you'll reach a trail junction." That's technically true, but in the direction that you're walking, you will not actually see that you're at a junction. If you turn around and face the other direction, this is what you would see: (That's the aqueduct/1777W/1779 Trail on the right, which is where you're coming from. The Timp-Torne Trail has its blaze missing. If you were doing the hike as described, you would be facing the camera, walking towards me, and the hike recommends that "you should turn sharply right," which will take you up along the left side of this photo.) It's likely you'll miss this junction. But actually, that's OK. The next opportunity that you have is still another sharp right, but it's a little more noticeable, being more of a stone stairway. Again, this is what it looks like facing the opposite direction of how the hike description states (you would be walking towards the camera on the right side of this photo):   You'll know you missed both of these turnoffs if you see the bridge over the creek. Should that occur, turn around, and then you'll see this exact view, which is very close to the bridge. I recommend going up in this direction--the stone stairway--because it's steeper, and I prefer to go up steeply and down more gradually. If you disagree, then do as the hike description recommends, which is the first photo above. Enjoy!

This hike

Just did the hike on June 22. Sunny day, beautiful weather. The hike was mostly in the shade, so it wasn't overly hot. We printed out the directions above and had very little problem following the trail markings. Only once or twice did we have to scout ahead a little to find the next blaze. A well-marked trail with enough difficulty to be a little challenging for someone with good fitness. The descent was tricky, but not dangerous. Go slow and you'll be fine. The views from the top of the torne were great and the return along the gorge was pretty as well. We did it in 3.5 hours on the dot, with several short breaks along the way.

Popolopen Gorge Hike

I just hiked the gorge and torne today albeit in reverse from the NYNJTC hike description.  All the trails were marked and the fork to the bridge was obvious from the south side of the creek.  As one commenter said, back track if you lose the trail markers because they are there and obvious enough.  The trail on the south side of the creek is marked with a red square within a white square.  The trail down to the bridge across the creek and up to the torne and back down again is a blue blaze.   After coming down the torne on the back side to Mine Road, there is a hikers parking area from which you walk down to the acqueduct trail that heads back to Fort Montgomery.  At this point the easiest thing is to follow the 1777/1779 blazes all the way back to Fort Montgomery.  This route uses short bits of Mine Road in a residential area twice from which it returns to the woods.  Just keep heading east, watching for the trail blazes first on the left then the right.  The view from the top of the torne is great.  The scramble wasn't as bad as I expected, but there are a couple places where you do need to boost yourself up onto the next slope of rock.  Even my medium sized dog made it up without much problem.  Just take your time and watch your footing and hand holds.  It's not a cliff;  I get vertigo and this didn't phase me at all.

We started the hike at the

We started the hike at the Fort Montgomery parking lot.  While the hike was very enjoyiable we found the trail to be poorly marked and parallel to a major roadway making the serenity of the woods overtaken by the roar of cars and motorcycles.  Our first indication that something had gone wrong with the trail markers was when we came upon the warning sign for a firing range right in the middle of the historic 1777/1779 Trail.  After a while we found ourselves by a pump station for a dam where we found out  some trees had recently been cut down that had trail markers on them but new trail markers have not been posted.  As we proceeded we found ourselves at a major road to cross to continue the trail...we decided against it.  After three hours of pretty much warndering around we wanted to get back to our car parked at the Fort Montgomery lot which closes at 5pm.  Fortunately we hitched a ride and it took six minutes by car to get to the parking lot.  During this hike we saw NO ONE!  Very weird since this was a glorious day for hiking.  Maybe the word is out to avoid this trail until better trail markers and directions are available.

Took my sweet time and enjoyed this hike to the fullest!

I'll keep this one short.  Directions are very good, blazes are almost always visible, just pay attention and if you feel lost, stop and go back to the last blaze, look ahead for the next one! The top of the Torne is the absolute best place I've been to all Summer, and that's saying a lot :) Will try to make this a monthly trek in each direction. Aother fine job by the Trail Conference.

Took Popolopen Gorge Trail this past weekend

Sounds really easy above to get to the start of the trail, but it is NOT.  The start of one trail begins off of Mccoy Road, which isnt even stated above.  We wasted ALOT of time up and down trails to find our way back and up to the top for the views.  The trails are not well marked at all.  What they definetely need are small wooden signs stating which way is Timp-Torne trail; to Popolen Creek; to the top of Popolen etc etc.  Mine Road was a long walk on macadem.  If it wasn't for some seasoned hikers we may have never made it to the top.  We've been hiking for over 30 years, but this was not easy to find and follow.  It's No wonder there were not more hikers out on a beautiful day, their probably stil looking for the entrance to the trail.  It was beautiful at the top, I  just hope you get there!

Amen

I recommend skipping this trail until somebody decides to mark it.  

Alternate version

I did this hike yesterday with my husband, but not exactly as Daniel has posted. We parked at the small parking area on Mine Rd. This brings you to the junction of the gorge and the Torne parts of the trail. Ours was a shorter version of the hike, but still strenuous! We hiked the footbridge that the Trail Conference built and along the gorge before doing the Torne. We went up the front of the Torne and down the back. The views were wonderful and we were awed by the memorial on the top. The next time we do this, I'd like to start at the Fort.

popolopen torne

I have wanted to do this hike for a while and decided to park at Bear Mountian Lodge and take the Fort Montgomery trail to avoid walking on the road. Unfortunately I was there before the Zoo opened (it was a shock to me that part of the AT could actually be closed!) so had to go up to the bridge and take the blue trail. Then I discovered that the gate to the Fort Montgomery trail was locked (it was 9:53 by now and the trail was supposed to open at 9). I think I was spotted because within minutes of my arrival, someone arrived to open it. From there it was easy to find all trails. The view from the top of the Torne is magnificent though the descent is a little disconcerting . I decided to take 1777 to the AT and climb up to the Perkins Tower - I wanted to see the newly completed AT back to the Bear Mtn parking lot. My aching legs tell me that combining two strenuous hikes in a ten + miler was not my brightest move, but it was worth it! Least enjoyable part is actually the AT on Perkins Drive.

Supporting Daniel's statement

My wife and I hiked this loop for the first time yesterday. As Daniel wrote, there was no problem finding the FIRST turnoff (to the right) for the Timp-Torne Trail. The dark blue blazes were reasonably visible on the nearer trunk of a double-trunked tree on the right. More importantly, the trail junction itself is blatantly visible as an incline coming down on the right from the east parallel to the trail you are on, ending in a large swath of dirt where hikers have "rounded" the curves on both sides of the intersection. The NAD30 coordinates displayed right smack in the middle of this trail junction were 0582870/4575140. And, BTW, this loop trail is strenuous!

blaze not visible for Timp-Torne trail

Early on in this hike, there are instructions to turn right on to the T-T trail ("After about two-thirds of a mile along the West Point Aqueduct, you'll reach a trail junction. The 1777W and 1779 Trails continue ahead, following the aqueduct, but you should turn sharply right, following the blue blazes of the Timp-Torne Trail, which climbs gradually on a woods road,") but the 1) the blaze for this trail is not visible from the direction this hike takes. Because of the placement of the blaze you can only see it if you've gone too far and doubled back and 2) the T-T does not begin with a woods road, as indicated, but with a stone staircase. To clarify, the trail begins shortly after the end of the aqueduct wall and first appears as a set of stone steps heading up to the right.

Above comment is not correct

I did this hike last week, and the above comment is not correct.  The hike is correct as written.  The Timp-Torne Trail does climb the hill on a woods road, rather than a stone staircase, and the double blaze indicating the turn is visible in the direction of the hike.  The writer of the above comment missed the first turnoff of the Timp-Torne Trail; her comments are applicable to the second turnoff, which is where the hike route returns to the Aqueduct route.  Just keep a careful eye for the turnoff, and you should be able to follow the hike as written.

Paved Road

Actually, what is not correct is your description of the trail. I wandered for an hour on a paved rad looking for the turnoff to the trail.  The description did not give an accurate description of this section of the hike.   The description says:  "Turn right onto the paved road, but just past the intersection with Wildwood Ridge (another road), follow the three trails as they turn left, leave the paved road, and descend into the woods." The description did not indicate how long to walk on this paved road.  I walked and walked and ended up in a suburban area.   There was no Wildwood Ridge.   I never did find the entry back into the woods.   Moreover, since the trail is so poorly marked going back, I couldn't find my way going back either.  Finally, I just walked back to my car on the road. In my view, if you're going to describe trails and then publish them, you should be very careful with your descriptions.  Especially these trails in Bear Mountain, which are very poorly marked.  As the prior commenter noted, no wonder nobody was on the trail that day.  They know to go somewhere else.            

Blazing of Timp-Torne Trail in Popolopen Gorge

I did this hike (in the opposite direction) a few weeks ago, and I unfortunately concur in your comment that this section of the Timp-Torne Trail is very poorly blazed.  In fact, I might not have succeeded in finding the continuation of the trail myself were it not for the fact that I had a map and the description with me, and I am somewhat familiar with this trail, having hiked it a number of times before.  I have brought this matter to the attention of our West Hudson South Trails Chair, who has assured me that corrective action will be taken.  You should keep in mind that our trails are maintained by volunteers, so it can take some time before the problem is corrected.  I have also amended the description to make it clear that you are supposed to follow the paved road for a relatively short distance.  As for Wildwood Ridge, there is a sign reading "Wildwood Rdg" at this intersection (or at least there was such a sign a few weeks ago when I was last there). Again, I concur that the blazing of this trail at present is poor and that it needs to be upgraded.  Thanks for bringing this to our attention.