At the north side of the parking area, you will notice a triple blaze that marks the start of the Bobcat Trail. Follow this white-blazed trail, which descends steadily through an oak forest with an understory of blueberries. At the base of the descent, it crosses a stream on stepping stones, bears left, and soon begins to follow a faint woods road. About half a mile from the start, the Bobcat...
At the north side of the parking area, you will notice a triple blaze that marks the start of the Bobcat Trail. Follow this white-blazed trail, which descends steadily through an oak forest with an understory of blueberries. At the base of the descent, it crosses a stream on stepping stones, bears left, and soon begins to follow a faint woods road. About half a mile from the start, the Bobcat Trail ends at a junction with the blue-blazed Howell Trail. Continue ahead on the woods road, which is now quite distinct, following the blue blazes. The trail descends steadily, paralleling a stream in the gorge on the left. As the trail curves to the right, views of Storm King Mountain appear through the trees to the left.
In another ten minutes, the blue-blazed Howell Trail leaves to the left, but you should proceed ahead on the woods road, now following the white blazes of the Stillman Spring Trail, which continues to descend. Soon after crossing a stream on a stone causeway, the trail bears right, crosses a stream on rocks, and turns left to reach the paved Storm King Highway (N.Y. Route 218). You’ve now gone about a mile and a half from the start of the hike – mostly downhill.
Turn right, and follow the road for about 100 feet to a rock with a carved inscription in memory of James Stillman. Just beyond the adjacent Stillman Memorial Spring, you’ll notice three blue blazes above on the hillside. They mark the start of the Howell Trail, which you will be following for the next two miles. Follow the blue blazes as they steeply climb the hillside. The trail bears left and ascends on switchbacks, but the climb remains quite steep.
After about a third of a mile of steep climbing, the trail turns left onto an old woods road that descends slightly. Just before the end of the road at a “pitching point” (once used to toss logs down to the Hudson River below), the trail turns sharply right and climbs stone steps. After climbing some more on switchbacks, the trail comes out at an east-facing viewpoint over the river. Bull Hill is directly across the river, with Little Stony Point jutting into the river, and the village of Cold Spring is to the right.
As you continue your steep climb, more views appear. After following a curved set of rock steps through mountain laurel, you’ll reach a broader viewpoint over the river from a large rock ledge to the left of the trail. Breakneck Ridge is visible to the left, and Constitution Marsh (just south of Cold Spring) may be seen to the right.
Just beyond, as the trail curves to the right and begins to head west, a panoramic north-facing view appears. Storm King Mountain is directly ahead, and the gash carved into the mountain by the construction of the Storm King Highway in 1922 is particularly stark from this vantage point. Pollopel Island, with Bannerman’s Castle, may be seen a little farther upriver.
After some more climbing, the trail reaches another east-facing viewpoint over Bull Hill and Cold Spring from a rock ledge, with Constitution Island jutting into the river to the south. This point marks the end of the steep climb – you’ve climbed 800 vertical feet from the road below in less than a mile! The trail now turns right and descends slightly, then resumes its ascent of the North Ridge of Crows Nest Mountain, but at a much more gradual pace.
In about half a mile, before reaching the highest point on the ridge, the trail bears right and descends slightly. It continues through a valley, levels off, descends steadily, and finally climbs again to reach North Point, with views over the Hudson River and Breakneck Ridge to the east, and Butter Hill and Storm King Mountain to the north. The trail now bears left and soon begins a steady descent through an open area, with an understory of blueberries, scarred by a forest fire in 1999. A curve on Route 9W is visible on the right.
At the base of the descent, you’ll reach the junction with the woods road that you encountered earlier in the hike. The Howell Trail turns right, but you should turn left and follow the white-blazed Bobcat Trail, retracing your steps to the parking area on Route 9W where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 08/21/2003 updated/verified on 05/21/2017
This loop hike climbs to the North Peak of Crows Nest Mountain, with many spectacular viewpoints over the Hudson River and the Highlands.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.