I’ve hiked the Bull Hill Short Loop in Hudson Highlands State Park twice now and would like to give you a review and preview of this trail if you’re considering to hike it.
The “short story” on the Bull Hill Short Loop trail is that it is very scenic and fun to explore, but certain parts of it, like the beginning can be pretty tough, so what I’ll be doing is sharing the most important things to remember, what to bring to it and other fun things to explore in this park after you’re done with this hike (and have energy to explore other spots nearby).
- 1 The basics of the Bull Hill Short Loop trail explained:
- 2 Here are the 5 things to expect on the Bull Hill Short Loop:
- 3 1) First up is the white trail:
- 4 2) Next up is the yellow trail:
- 5 3) Followed by this is the red/blue trail:
- 6 4) Continuing along the blue trail back to the parking lot:
- 7 And that completes the Bull Hill Short Loop trail!
- 8 What other hikes are available near the Bull Hill Short Loop?
The basics of the Bull Hill Short Loop trail explained:
Here’s how it works (with a map):
Most people elect to do this trail in the counterclockwise method where:
- You begin at the trail head which is a large parking lot across the road from Little Stony Point.
- You make a right and take the white trail for about a mile (mostly uphill).
- You then turn left at the yellow/white fork and continue on the yellow trail for 1.5 miles.
- This will take you through some beautiful spots and mostly flat/downhill trails.
- Then you’ll shirt left at the next fork (red/blue trail) and follow that down.
- At the next fork (red/blue), you’ll turn left again and continue on the blue trail for 1 mile.
- This will take you back to the parking lot.
Basically it’s just taking a left at every major fork on this trail to do the Bull Hill short loop and what I want to do now is explain each part of this trail, what to look out for, what to expect and how to get the most out of it.
Here are the 5 things to expect on the Bull Hill Short Loop:
- The whole trail is about 4.5 miles.
- The first mile is the hardest (white trail, uphill).
- The most fun part is the yellow trail (best views).
- There is a nice waterfall on the red trail.
- The ruins might be the most interesting part of the entire trail.
Now let me describe each part of this trail so you know what to expect at each stage as well as how to properly prepare yourself to do this hike.
It’s not the most difficult trail you’ll ever run, but certain parts of it require knowing ahead of time what to expect. Anyway:
1) First up is the white trail:
1) The trail head is right next to the parking lot and before you begin, make sure to take a picture of the map just in case.
2) The white trail starts on a regular concrete path and zigzags for about a quarter of a mile. This is also entirely an incline.
3) After that, it turns sharply right and takes you into a rocky trail (again, more incline).
4) You will have about 2-3 scenic viewing areas on the white trail, but for the most part, 90% of it is uphill, rocky and there are several switch backs along this trail.
5) Shortly put, this trail can get annoying and quickly so be prepared for a long hike up, even though it’s slightly less than a mile.
I recommend taking your time on the white trail, enjoying the scenic views there and taking frequent breaks when needed.
2) Next up is the yellow trail:
The yellow trail will be a turn on your left once and while you can continue on the white trail (which would take you along the Bull Hill Full Loop), I recommend turning left and making your way along the yellow trail.
It’s mostly flat because by this point you are close to the summit of the mountain.
There is going to be one major overlook on this trail and on it you can see beautiful sights like:
- Breakneck Ridge.
- Storm King State Park.
- The Hudson River.
From that viewing area, as you continue on the yellow trail, it’ll slowly start taking you downhill. I usually run along this trail, but certain parts of it are slippery so be careful here and know that there are certain switchbacks on it (not as many as there are on the white trail).
But I really enjoy trail running here as it’s very exciting and uplifting, especially after the annoying uphill climb on the white trail.
3) Followed by this is the red/blue trail:
As you continue on the yellow trail downhill, you will see a marker for the red/blue trail and it will turn left (take that trail). If you continue taking the yellow trail, it’ll take you up towards Breakneck Ridge, so unless you want to do that hike (and another summit), switch over to the red/blue trail.
Not long after that, you’ll encounter a small bridge under which there is a small waterfall and stream. I usually cool off here and freshen up before continuing.
As you continue down the red/blue trail (it’s merged), you will hit a fork that separates both trails. Red is to your right and takes you to the base of Breakneck Ridge and blue which is to your left continues the Bull Hill Loop Trail.
If you take the red trail to Breakneck Ridge, not long after the fork is a really cool waterfall that you may want to consider checking out, but if not, just make a left at the fork to be on the full blue trail.
4) Continuing along the blue trail back to the parking lot:
The blue trail is the longest trail on the Bull Hill Short Loop hike but it is also one of the flattest. There are a few switch backs but this trail will be easy to walk/jog on.
You will pass by the famous ruins as you head through this trail and I do recommend making a quick stop there before moving forward.
As you pass the ruins and continue the blue trail, there will be a concrete walkway available to jog on. This will split eventually and the blue trail will continue to your left (concrete walkway goes right and you don’t need to go that way).
From that fork, the blue trail continues through a nice little pathway back to the parking lot (about 1/8th of a mile).
And that completes the Bull Hill Short Loop trail!
I’ve actually done it twice and the second time in a bit more of a challenging environment. Basically:
- I began at the Bull Hill Short Look trailhead.
- Took the white trail, then the yellow one.
- Then the red/blue merged trail.
- But at the fork where you would normally head to the blue trail to go back, I went to the red one.
- And went to do the Breakneck Ridge hike (another white trail).
- That then took me to the yellow trail, which took me back again to the red/blue trail.
- This time I took the blue trail back.
- And in total, that had me summit 2 peaks at Hudson Highlands State Park, do about 10 miles of hiking and 2,500+ feet of elevation (very challenging but fun).
Now if that’s too much, you can just do the regular Bull Hill Loop trail for starters (or the Breakneck Ridge hike on it’s own). And that summarizes this cool hike. There’s a lot to see and it’s exciting to hike and trail run on.
Here is an All Trails page on the Bull Hill Short Loop you can check out and get other people’s views on.
What other hikes are available near the Bull Hill Short Loop?
1) For starters, there are other varieties of trails available in Hudson Highlands State Park, including the Bull Hill Full Loop trail which is about 1-2 miles longer than the short version.
2) Secondly, Breakneck Ridge is probably the more popular hike in this region you can hike, but it is more dangerous and challenging.
3) Third, you have the option to explore a few more hikes south of Hudson Highlands State Park, including Anthony’s Nose.
4) If you pass the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge (by Anthony’s Nose), you can check out Bear Mountain State Park as well as Harriman State Park, which I highly recommend (Harriman State Park that is). A good starting hike there is the Reeves Brook Loop Trail.