Begin the hike by proceeding downhill on the Alpine Approach Road past the Administration Building and bear left onto a wide footpath at the “No Bicycles on Trails” sign. You’ll soon reach a tunnel under the road. Turn right, proceed through the tunnel, and climb stone steps on the other side. You’re now following both the aqua blazes of the Long Path and the orange blazes of the Closter Dock...
Begin the hike by proceeding downhill on the Alpine Approach Road past the Administration Building and bear left onto a wide footpath at the “No Bicycles on Trails” sign. You’ll soon reach a tunnel under the road. Turn right, proceed through the tunnel, and climb stone steps on the other side. You’re now following both the aqua blazes of the Long Path and the orange blazes of the Closter Dock Trail. Turn left at the T-intersection and continue ahead parallel to the Parkway on your right.
In a few minutes, you’ll notice a tunnel under the Parkway on the right. Here, the orange blazes turn off, but you should bear left and continue parallel to the Parkway, following the aqua blazes. In a quarter mile, just past an old stone foundation on the right, an unmarked trail on the left leads to a panoramic viewpoint over the Hudson River, with the Alpine Boat Basin visible directly below..
Over the next mile, you’ll pass by more old stone foundations and walls. These are the remains of large estates that once graced the Palisades cliffs. The properties on which these estates formerly stood were acquired by the Park for the construction of the Parkway.
About a mile south of the trailhead, as the trail descends stone steps and then turns right at a T-intersection, you’ll notice the stone ruins of a large building on the left. This was the “Cliff Dale” estate of George Zabriskie, built in 1911 (the date is still visible in the stonework of the building). The ruins that remain are only the basement portion of the building. Use caution if you wish to explore the ruins of this once-magnificent structure.
In another two-thirds of a mile, you’ll reach the Alpine Lookout, with outstanding views over the Hudson River. The trail follows a paved sidewalk along an iron railing around the perimeter of the lookout. This was the site of the “Rio Vista” estate, the home of Manuel Rionda (his manor house was located just south of the lookout). After reentering the woods, the trail reaches a fenced-in parapet that juts out over the river, with even better views up and down the river.
In another third of a mile, the trail approaches the Parkway. Just ahead, a sign and three red blazes mark the start of the Huyler’s Landing Trail. Bear left and follow this red-blazed trail, which descends to the river along the route of an old road, which has largely narrowed to a footpath. After a sharp switchback to the right, the trail emerges on the paved Henry Hudson Drive. Turn left, follow the paved road for about 300 feet, then bear right at an opening in the stone parapet (often chained off) and continue to descend on a wide woods road.
You’ll reach the river at an old picnic area, with an abandoned stone jetty just ahead. An historical sign points out that the Huyler’s Landing Trail was the route used by British troops to scale the Palisades cliffs on November 20, 1776. Turn left and follow the white-blazed Shore Trail, which follows a path between the cliffs on the left and the river on the right, passing several former beaches along the river. In half a mile, the trail climbs stone steps and follows a path above the river level. Along the way, it dips down to river level, then again climbs to a wide path above river level. After crossing a wooden bridge over a stream (and just before reaching a second wooden bridge), you’ll pass a plaque affixed to a rock on the left in memory of John Jordan, the first Superintendent of the Park, who died here in 1915.
A short distance beyond, you’ll reach a grassy area at the southern end of the Alpine Boat Basin. Continue north through the parking area for the boat basin, then proceed past the historic Kearney House, a small white building on the left. This house is the oldest building in the New Jersey section of the park. The oldest part of the house – which once served as headquarters for the park – dates back to the eighteenth century.
Just beyond the Kearney House, you’ll notice a plaque on the left entitled "Old Alpine Trail," which states that the trail you are about to use to climb the Palisades was used by British troops in 1776 during the American Revolution. (As an adjacent sign points out, the information on this plaque is no longer considered to be historically accurate.) Bear left here and climb the old stone-paved road. At the top of the rise, turn sharply left and continue uphill on the road, now marked with the orange blazes of the Closter Dock Trail, which climbs on switchbacks. In two places, side trails go off to the left, but in each case, turn sharply right to continue along the Closter Dock Trail. When you reach the underpass on the left, proceed straight ahead (do not turn left) and continue to the Administration Building, where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 05/29/2003 updated/verified on 09/05/2021
This loop hike combines a walk along the top of the Palisades cliffs with a stroll along the river, passing several outstanding viewpoints and interesting ruins of former estates.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.