I’ve hiked the Bull Hill Short Loop in Hudson Highlands State Park a few times 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).
Quick info on the Bull Hill hike:
- Name: Bull Hill Short Loop.
- Location: Hudson Highlands State Park.
- Length of hike: 3-4 miles.
- Difficulty: Moderate.
- Scenic? Yes very!
- Dangerous? Certain parts are slippery, but it’s mostly fine.
- Rating: 4 out of 5
- Recommended hike? Yes!
Now besides these basics, I want to share exactly what to expect (and be careful off) once you start on this trail.
And the first time I want to do is share a map of the Bull Hill Short Loop, because there are other trails connected to it which lead to completely different regions of Hudson Highlands State Park.
Here’s a Bull Hill Short Loop trail map:
Most hikers do the Bull Hill loop trail counterclockwise ( here’s how it works):
- You start at the Bull Hill Parking lot.
- You take the white trail for about a mile (mostly uphill).
- You then turn to the yellow trail at the first turn and stay on it for 1.5 miles.
- Then you’ll shirt left at the next fork (red/blue trail) and follow that down.
- At the next fork (red/blue), turn left and stay on the blue trail for 1 mile.
- This will take you back to the parking lot (completing the loop).
Here’s an easy way to navigate the Bull Hill Loop Trail:
When you start the hike, you will turn right to get on the white trail but afterwards at every other trail marker intersection, all you’ll do is turn left. Each colored section of the Bull hill hike (white, yellow, red then blue) all have their own unique elements to conquer as well as sights to explore. And what I want to do right now is just help you prepare for what to expect as you do this loop.
Here are the 5 things to expect on the Bull Hill Short Loop:
- The whole trail is about 3-4 miles.
- The first mile is the hardest (white trail, uphill).
- The most fun part is the yellow trail (best views).
- There is a nice (small) 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 (toughest part of the Bull Hill hike):
The Bull Hill Loop trailhead starts at the Washburn Trail on Bull Hill Parking lot. Right next to the parking lot and before you begin, make sure to take a picture of the map just in case.
1) The white trail starts on a regular concrete path and zigzags for about a quarter of a mile. This is also entirely an incline.
2) After that, it turns sharply right and takes you into a rocky trail (again, more incline).
3) 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.
4) 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 most scenic part of the Bull Hill Loop):
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:
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).
In fact, there is one muddy area as you’re descending down the yellow trail where it’s VERY slippery and I’ve literally slipped twice on this same exact spot, the first time by total surprise, and the second time, knowing ahead of time that it was dangerous there, walking carefully over the area, and STILL slipping. Trail running the yellow trail might be very risky, so be very careful.
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, then 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 (and the ruins):
The blue trail is the longest and flattest part of the Bull Hill Short Loop hike. 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 many times 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? 5 more ideas:
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.
It can also span from 5 miles to 10 depending on which option you take.
3) Third, you have the option to explore a few more hikes south of Hudson Highlands State Park, including Anthony’s Nose and other Hudson River Valley hikes like these.
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.
5) Storm King State Park: Good hiking trails there (I have yet to visit this park).