Overview: Just to the south of Breakneck Ridge, Bull Hill (or Mount Taurus) offers rock scrambles and amazing views of the Hudson River, Storm King Mountain, Breakneck Ridge, and Cold Spring. You won’t escape the crowds, but the trail is *slightly* less crowded than the more popular sister hike to the north.
This lollipop hike uses the following trails: Washburn (white) – Notch (blue) – Brook (red) – Undercliff (yellow) – Washburn (white).
Hike Length: 6.0 miles
Elevation gain: 2,200 feet
Location: Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, Cold Spring, NY
Parking: There is a parking lot at the trailhead for the Washburn Trail on NY 9D, 0.8 miles north of Cold Point and right across the street from Little Stony Point. This is a popular trail and the lot fills quickly, especially on weekends, so plan to arrive early.
From the north end of the parking lot, find the trailhead for the white-blazed Washburn Trail (to the right) and blue-blazed Cornish Trail.
You’ll mostly follow signs for the “Bull Hill Full Loop”, although note that in this hike description we will be returning via the Undercliff Trail instead of the blue-blazed Cornish Trail. Make a right to follow the Washburn Trail.
The trail follows a woods road at first, rising steeply.
You’ll soon reach an open area where there was once a quarry, but which nature has been reclaiming.
You can explore this open area, or make a sharp right turn to continue to follow the white blazes. The trail is well marked with signs indicating distances to viewpoints and trail junctions.
As the Washburn Trail is incredibly popular, it gets very high volumes of foot traffic which is eroding the trail. Stone staircases are being built by the NY-NJ Trail Conference to help better manage the high foot traffic.
There are several great viewpoints along the trail. The first major one is of Storm King, Breakneck Ridge, and the Hudson River.
A short distance later you’re treated to a view of Cold Spring from above.
Continue uphill. About a third of a mile further, if you look to your left you may notice a faint trail on your left that descends to a clearing with a large rock and with nice views of the river.
You’ll next reach the junction with the yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail. We’ll return via Undercliff from the left side, but for now, continue to follow the white blazes uphill.
As you ascend, you’ll pass a number of back-to-back viewpoints on opposite sides of the trail offering progressively nicer panoramic views.
On opposite ends of the trail, just beyond the summit, there are some views to the northwest and southeast on opposite ends of the summit.
The Washburn Trail ends at a junction with the Notch Trail (blue). Follow the sign for the Bull Hill Full Loop to make a left onto the Notch Trail.
We’ll follow the Notch Trail as it descends the north side of the mountain and turns left.
At the Breakneck Brook crossing, we will turn left onto the red-blazed Brook Trail. Alternatively, at this junction, you can make a short detour and follow the blue blazes north a very short distance to visit the ruins of an abandoned estate.
If you made the detour, retrace your steps to return to the junction. Follow the red-blazes as the trail follows the stream on an eroded woods road.
About a quarter mile along the trail, we’ll reach the junction with the yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail. While the official Bull Hill loop continues straight and then returns via the Cornish Trail (as indicated by the signs just a few feet ahead), we will make a left here and return via the more scenic Undercliff Trail.
Before making a left, if you continue straight along the red-blazed Brook Trail just a little further, you’ll reach a nice footbridge that crosses over small cascades of Breakneck Brook.
Retrace your steps back to the prior junction and turn east onto the Undercliff Trail. The trail rises steadily for about a mile and traverses the western shoulder of Bull Hill. Along the way, there are multiple spots offering views of the Hudson River – some panoramic views and others more limited
From several viewpoints, you get a clear profile view of Breakneck Ridge.
Continue until the trail reaches a junction with the Washburn Trail.
Turn right to follow the white blazes downhill (Note: the Washburn Trail is relatively steep, so it can be challenging, especially if you have knee issues. In that case, consider returning via the regular loop along the Cornish Trail instead of taking the Undercliff and Washburn trails back). Follow the white blazes back to the parking lot.
If you’re looking for something else to do, cross the street and visit Little Stony Point.