Dunderberg Spiral Railway/Bald Mountain Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take the Palisades Interstate Parkway to its northern terminus at the Bear Mountain Circle and proceed south on U.S. Route 9W for about four miles. At the base of a downhill section of the road, as the road reaches the river level, you’ll notice a large parking area on the right side of the road. (A side road, Old Ayers Road to Jones Point, leaves sharply to the left here.) Park in this gravel parking area.
From the parking area, walk south on Route 9W for a few hundred feet. Just beyond road signs for Routes 9W and 202, you'll see three blue blazes and three red-dot-on-white blazes on a tree adjacent to the road. These blazes mark the start of the Timp-Torne (blue) and Ramapo-Dunderberg (red-dot-on-white) trails. You'll be following the Timp-Torne Trail for the first part of the hike and returning on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail.
Follow the blue and red-dot-on-white blazes into the woods along a level footpath through an area of tangled vines. Soon, the trail will bear left and climb stone steps, and you'll reach a stone-arch tunnel to the left. This tunnel is a remnant of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway, the construction of which commenced in 1890. The plan was to have the rail cars pulled up the mountain on a cable incline by a stationary steam engine, with the downhill journey being made by gravity. Large sums were spent on the project, two tunnels were partially completed, and much of the line was graded, but the promoters ran out of funds, and the railway was never finished. The tunnel you see to the left was designed to allow the ascending trains to pass over the route of the descending trains.
The trail now bears right and ascends more steeply on switchbacks and stone steps. At the top of the climb, you'll reach a junction. Here, the red-dot-on-white blazes continue ahead, while the blue blazes turn left. Follow the blue blazes of the Timp-Torne Trail, which head southwest, parallel to the river. The trail continues to climb, but on a more moderate grade. Soon, views of the river appear through the trees.
In another ten minutes, the trail turns right and heads away from the river. After going through a rocky area on switchbacks, you'll arrive at a graded section of the railway. Follow the blue blazes as they turn left and continue along this level, graded embankment for the next quarter of a mile. With the railbed ahead blocked off by fallen trees, the trail turns right and climbs to the next higher level, where it turns left. Just ahead you'll come to the portal of an unfinished tunnel, intended for use by the descending trains.
The trail now returns to the lower level of the graded railway, which it follows around a curved embankment, with views over the Hudson River. The curved roadbed ends at the opposite end of the uncompleted tunnel, but the trail bears left, crosses a stream and then a woods road, and climbs to another viewpoint, looking south along the river. Beyond the viewpoint, the trail is relatively level, and even descends a little.
Watch for a very sharp right turn in the trail, which reverses direction and heads northeast on a switchback, uphill at first. After another level stretch, the trail reaches a panoramic viewpoint, looking both north and south along the Hudson. Peekskill is visible at a bend in the river to the north, and the New York City skyline may be seen in the distance to the south.
From the viewpoint, the trail again reverses direction and heads southwest on a relatively level footpath. After passing another panoramic viewpoint that looks south along the Hudson, the trail climbs gradually, with cairns (piles of rocks) marking the way in places. From the crest of the rise, there are views of the ridge to the north, which will be your return route. The trail now begins a steady descent, with rock steps provided along one steep section. At the base of the descent, the trail intersects a woods road, with the junction marked by a small cairn.
Turn right here, leaving the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail, and follow the woods road, which is blazed with white "1777" blazes, commemorating the use of this road by the British in their attack on Fort Montgomery during the Revolutionary War. You'll be following this road for only about two or three minutes. When you see the red-dot-on-white blazes of the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail crossing the road, turn right and follow these blazes. You'll be following the red-dot-on-white blazes for the remainder of the hike.
The Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail climbs to a viewpoint from open rocks, with Bear Mountain (identified by the stone tower on its summit) visible ahead (through the trees), and Bald Mountain to the right. The trail continues over a rise through dense mountain laurel thickets, then descends to briefly join a woods road that crosses a stream at a fireplace. Just beyond, follow the red-dot-on-white blazes as the trail bears left and begins to climb Bald Mountain.
After a level section, the trail climbs to the summit ridge, which it reaches at a south-facing viewpoint. The trail continues along the relatively level ridge, then makes its final climb to the summit. Just before reaching the 1,115-foot summit of Bald Mountain, the trail makes a very sharp right turn. Continue ahead on a white-blazed side trail to the summit, and proceed to a rock outcrop just north of the summit that offers a panoramic view to the north over the Hudson River, Iona Island and the Bear Mountain Bridge. You've now gone a little more than halfway (and have finished nearly all of the climbing), so this is a good place to take a break.
When you're ready to continue, return to the trail, and be sure to take the left fork. The trail begins to descend, passing an opening of the Cornell Mine on the right. At the base of the descent, the blue-blazed Cornell Mine Trail leaves to the left. Continue ahead on the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, which follows the ridge of Dunderberg Mountain, with several ups and downs.
About a mile from the junction with the Cornell Mine Trail, the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail briefly joins a woods road and then climbs to a high point with a view. After a slight descent, it climbs steeply to reach an even better viewpoint. You can see the Hudson River to the right (south), with Bear Mountain and the Bear Mountain Bridge to the left (north). Continue along the ridge of Dunderberg Mountain, passing through thickets of dense birch saplings.
After descending from the ridge, steeply in places, you'll notice a viewpoint from a rock outcrop just to the right of the trail, with Peekskill directly across the river. A short distance beyond, as the trail curves to the right, a short white-blazed trail leads ahead to another viewpoint. The trail soon joins another graded section of the railbed, with several gaps where the grading was never finished, and passes more views over the Hudson River.
At a stone abutment (built to carry the cars going up the mountain), the trail turns sharply left and descends steadily along the right-of-way excavated for the cable incline. After about ten minutes, you'll reach a junction with the blue-blazed Timp-Torne Trail. Continue ahead, following both blue and red-dot-on-white blazes back to the parking area where the hike began.