At the parking area, you'll see a triple-yellow blaze that marks the start of the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, which you will follow for the first half of the hike. The trail begins to climb on a winding woods road, passing a stone foundation to the right. After about a third of a mile, the trail briefly leaves the road to cross a stream. The climb back to the road is rather steep, but the grade...
At the parking area, you'll see a triple-yellow blaze that marks the start of the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, which you will follow for the first half of the hike. The trail begins to climb on a winding woods road, passing a stone foundation to the right. After about a third of a mile, the trail briefly leaves the road to cross a stream. The climb back to the road is rather steep, but the grade moderates when the trail turns left and rejoins the road.
Half a mile from the start, the red-on-white-blazed Breakneck Bypass Trail begins to the right. This will be your return route, but for now, continue ahead on the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail, which soon turns left and descends slightly to cross a stream.
The trail now begins to climb Sugarloaf Mountain on switchbacks. After a steep section, the grade moderates, but the last part of the ascent is a very steep climb over rocks. At the top of the climb, you will emerge at an open area on the south end of the summit ridge. A single cedar tree and a gnarled dead tree overlooking the river mark this spot; you'll want to pause, rest from the steep climb and enjoy the spectacular view!
Storm King Mountain (marked by the highway gash across its face) is across the river to the left, with Schunemunk Mountain in the distance to its right. To the south is Breakneck Ridge, and the fascinating Bannerman's Castle on Pollepel Island is visible directly below (for more information, go to www.bannermancastle.org).
Continue along the trail, which heads north along the summit ridge, climbing a little and then descending to another viewpoint. This one looks north along the river, with Dennings Point visible in the foreground, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge beyond, and the city of Newburgh on the west bank of the river. From this second viewpoint, the trail continues to descend - first steeply on an eroded footpath, then more gradually.
Near the base of the descent, the trail briefly turns right onto a woods road, then immediately left. It soon levels off in a wooded area that was once farmed, passing a moss-covered stone foundation at the lowest point. After crossing another woods road and several seasonal streams, the trail bears right and begins to parallel the aptly-named Cascade Brook, climbing steadily but gently.
In about a third of a mile, the trail turns left, crosses the brook and a woods road, and begins a much steeper climb. On the way up, it comes out on open rocks, with the highest point on Breakneck Ridge visible to the right. Soon afterwards, the trail levels off along a minor ridge, then climbs steeply to another viewpoint (just to the left of the trail) at the summit. The elevation here is 1,220 feet, and this is the highest point you'll reach on this hike. From here, you can see the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, Dennings Point and the city of Beacon (on the east side of the river).<
As you descend from the summit, you'll pass another viewpoint over the river and soon reach a junction with a woods road. Turn right, leaving the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail, and follow the blue-blazed Notch Trail. In a short distance, you'll come to another trail junction, where you should again turn right, now following the joint route of the blue-blazed Notch Trail and the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail.
Continue to follow the joint Notch/Breakneck Ridge Trail (white and blue blazes) for over a mile. For most of the way, the trail is relatively level, although there are some ups and downs.
After about a mile, the trail makes several short but steep descents, then begins a steady, steep climb. On the way up, the blue-blazed Notch Trail branches off to the left, and you should continue to follow the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail. A short distance beyond the junction, there is a view over Surprise Lake (and the youth camp located along the lake) from open rocks to the left of the trail.
At the top of the climb, you'll reach a 360-degree viewpoint - perhaps the most panoramic of the entire hike. You can see both north and south along the Hudson River (with the eastern section of Breakneck Ridge blocking the view in between), Bull Hill to the southeast, and Surprise Lake to the northeast.
The trail descends very steeply from the summit, then levels off. Keep a lookout for three red-on-white blazes on a large boulder to the right of the trail. These blazes mark the start of the Breakneck Bypass Trail (blazed with both red and red-on-white markings).
Turn right, leaving the Breakneck Ridge Trail, and follow the Breakneck Bypass Trail, which climbs a small rise. As you descend from the rise, watch carefully for a sharp left turn in the trail after 100 feet, marked with a double blaze on a rock and on a nearby tree.
Soon, you'll reach a viewpoint to the right of the trail, looking northeast over Sugarloaf Mountain, with the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge in the distance. This is the mountain that you climbed at the start of the hike, and you can even recognize the single cedar tree at the summit viewpoint! Continue to descend along an eroded woods road, with the trail having been rerouted to the left to avoid some badly eroded sections. After turning sharply right and leaving the road, the trail climbs slightly to another view of Sugarloaf Mountain - this one, at a closer range.
From this final viewpoint of the hike, the Breakneck Bypass Trail descends - first steeply, then more gradually - and it ends at a junction with the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail. Turn left and retrace your steps, descending along the Wilkinson Memorial Trail for half a mile to your car on Route 9D.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 04/11/2008
This loop hike steeply climbs to several panoramic viewpoints over the Hudson River, gaining a total of about 2,000 feet in elevation.
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.