From the parking area, proceed uphill on a wide gravel road, following the yellow blazes of the Stillman Trail. In...
From the parking area, proceed uphill on a wide gravel road, following the yellow blazes of the Stillman Trail. In about half a mile, after crossing a stone-arch bridge, the trail turns left, leaving the gravel road. Just before reaching a north-facing viewpoint over the Hudson River, the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail joins from the left.
The joint Stillman/Highlands Trail now begins to climb on a footpath. With the gravel road just to the right, the trail turns sharply left. At the next sharp left turn, two cairns to the right and a red/blue arrow on a tree to the left mark the start of the red/blue-blazed Bluebird Trail. Turn right onto the Bluebird Trail, which follows around the side of a hill, then climbs gently. After turning left onto a woods road, the trail climbs rather steeply on switchbacks. It passes a limited west-facing viewpoint and ends at a junction with the Stillman/Highlands Trail (yellow and teal diamond blazes).
Turn left, uphill, and continue on the Stillman/Highlands Trail. A short distance ahead, you’ll reach the northern end of the blue-blazed Howell Trail, which leaves to the right. Bear left here, continuing along the yellow/teal diamond-blazed trail, which follows a relatively level route. After a short, steep climb, you’ll reach a limited view to the northwest. The Metro-North Railroad’s Moodna Viaduct is directly ahead, with Schunemunk Mountain to its left. A few minutes ahead, you’ll come to a viewpoint looking north over the Hudson River. North and South Beacon Mountain are to the right, and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge is visible in the distance.
Proceed ahead, past the summit of Storm King Mountain. You’ll come to a broad but somewhat obstructed north-facing viewpoint, but continue ahead for a short distance until you reach a panoramic, unobstructed viewpoint over the Hudson River, with superb views. Pollepel Island, with the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle, is directly below. To the east, Breakneck Ridge (marked by the rail tunnel) is visible across the river. The stone building at the foot of Breakneck Ridge (partially obscured by vegetation) caps a shaft of the Catskill Aqueduct, which tunnels over 1,100 feet below the river. North Beacon Mountain (with communications towers) and South Beacon Mountain (with a fire tower) are to the northeast, and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge crosses the river in the distance. Beyond, the Shawangunks and Catskills can be seen on a clear day. To the left, the village of Cornwall is below, along the west bank of the river. The rail line running along the east shore of the Hudson is Metro-North’s Hudson Line (also the route of Amtrak trains to Albany).
The Stillman/Highlands Trail now continues to descend, soon reaching a junction with the white-blazed By-Pass Trail. Continue along the yellow/teal diamond-blazed Stillman/Highlands Trail, which turns sharply left, immediately reaching a panoramic viewpoint from rock ledges on the right. This viewpoint faces south, with the village of Cold Spring visible across the river to the southeast, and Constitution Island jutting into the river just beyond. Even better views can be had from rock ledges a little further along the trail.
Soon, the Stillman/Highlands Trail bears left and descends along a beautiful stretch of sidehill trail, through hemlocks and laurel This narrow trail is quite rocky and can be slippery when wet or covered with snow or ice, so use caution. After passing another panoramic viewpoint to the north, the trail descends on a switchback. About a third of a mile further on, the trail goes down another switchback and crosses a wooden bridge over a steep drop at the edge of a cliff.
Shortly thereafter, you’ll reach the junction with the Bluebird Trail that you encountered earlier in the hike. Turn right and continue to follow the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail, retracing your steps back to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 10/23/2008 updated/verified on 11/02/2015
This loop climbs to the summit of Storm King 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
- 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.