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A Beginners Guide to The Breakneck Ridge Hike

As of the last update on this post, I’ve done the Breakneck Ridge hike at least a dozen times and in every way imaginable so I have a lot of experiences in how to complete it correctly and what mistakes to avoid. This post will show you the details of all of this and it’s an ideal guide to anyone who is a beginner to this trail.

There’s a lot of people who say different things about the Breakneck Ridge hike and most often what I hear is that it’s either very difficult or just dangerous. In my experience there’s a few parts of this trail where that can be the case but for the most part, it’s a pretty safe trail. But the point is that as long as you take your time and follow the instructions I give (I also included a video), you’ll be able to:

  • Know what to expect from the Breakneck Ridge hike.
  • Find easier ways to complete it.
  • And I’ll even show you ways to avoid hiking through some of the dangerous and difficult areas (something that’s become more possible over the past few years as more connecting trails have been built around it). 

Quick info on the Breakneck Ridge hike:

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  • Name: Breakneck Ridge.
  • Location: Hudson Highlands State Park (upstate NY).
  • Hiking distance: There’s 4 different loop options, anywhere from 1-10 miles (I’ll show you the options below).
  • Hike difficulty: Hard. But there are 4 ways to do this hike, some of which are more beginner friendly.
  • Dangerous? Yes, some parts of the Breakneck Ridge hike are dangerous.
  • What’s the elevation gain of Breakneck Ridge? Depending on how far you go, it can be up to 2,000 feet.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Recommended hike? Yes, even if you are a beginner you can still do simpler versions of this hike and avoid the most difficult parts of it. Since I’ve done pretty much every possible loop option at Breakneck Ridge, I’ll show you what you need to know so you can decide which level of this hike is ideal for you.

Break neck Ridge hike full breakdown:

Now in addition to this video, I have also included much more info on the Breakneck Ridge hike to further provide you with more info on what to expect, how to hike it (the various trail options) and much more, and I’ll start with this:

4 ways to do the Breakneck Ridge hike (beginner-advanced):

The following 4 trail options I am sharing with you all start at the same place which is the official Breakneck Ridge trailhead. You will begin on the white trail (BR) and from there depending on your skill level, time and interest, choose to do one of the 4 options. There are actually more trail options available, but these 4 are loops and popular.


Option 1 (beginner):

breakneck ridge easiest hike option picture

  • Hike distance: 1.5 miles
  • Hike difficulty: Easymoderate
  • Elevation gain: 500+ feet


  1. Start at Breakneck Ridge Parking lot.
  2. Begin on the white trail (BR).
  3. Hike up 1/4 miles to the Green trail, make a left.
  4. Follow the green trail 1/2 mile to the yellow trail.
  5. Return to the parking lot via yellow trail (1/4 mile).
  6. The green trail is relatively easy to hike down on and has steps.

Option 2 (Intermediate):

breakneck ridge hike moderate option picture

  • Hike distance: 3.5 miles
  • Hike difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 700+ feet


  1. Again, start on Breakneck Ridge Parking lot.
  2. Again, hike up the White Trail (BR).
  3. Go past the green trail this time from option 1 (continue on the white trail basically).
  4. Reach the yellow/white trail fork. Take the yellow trail down.
  5. When reaching the bottom, switch to the red trail.
  6. Take the red trail to the road, then make a right.
  7. Go under the tunnel and you’re back on the parking lot.

One of the benefits of this short Breakneck Ridge hike is that you’ll be able to see this waterfall on the red trail

beautiful waterfall near breakneck ridge


Option 3 (Advanced):

breakneck ridge hike information new photo

  • Hike distance: 6 miles
  • Hike difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet


  1. Start on the same parking lot.
  2. Take the same BR trail (white).
  3. Pass the green trail fork. Go further up.
  4. Pass the yellow trail fork (basically stay on the BR trail).
  5. You’ll continue further up on the BR trail, reach the summit of Breakneck Ridge and eventually come across the red trail marker.
  6. Make a left and you’ll be on the red trail (not the same as option 2).
  7. Take the red trail down, until you hit the yellow trail (different yellow trail than option 2).
  8. Make a left and follow the yellow trail down to the parking lot of Breakneck Ridge.

Option 4 (Hardest):

breakneck ridge to beacon fire tower hike map photo

  • Hike distance: 9.5 miles
  • Hike difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 2,000 feet


  1. Start on the same BR parking lot.
  2. Follow the white trail (BR) all the way to the end where you’ll reach Beacon Fire Tower. From there, you’ll be able to see NYC.
  3. While you are on the white trail, it will mix with other trails (blue, then yellow). Just stay on the white trail.
  4. Once you reach Beacon Fire Tower, turn back on the same white trail (now mixed with the yellow trail) down.
  5. When the trails divide, follow the yellow trail to it’s end point back down to the parking lot.

One more additional way to do option 4:

Instead of taking the yellow trail back, you can backtrack on the same white trail until you come across the red trail from option 3 and even the green trail from option 4. I would not recommend taking the white trail all the way back to the parking lot.

Common questions about hiking the Breakneck Ridge trail:

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How difficult is Breakneck Ridge?

There are numerous ways to hike Breakneck Ridge but for the most part, it is a difficult and steep hike especially the first mile from the parking lot.

Are there bears in Breakneck Ridge?

While bears are rare to encounter in Breakneck Ridge, they are there sometimes.

How do you get to Breakneck Ridge from NYC?

You can either drive north on road 9D to reach the Breakneck Ridge trailhead or take a train from NYC to Beacon Station (very close to Breakneck Ridge trailhead).

Can dogs do Breakneck Ridge?

I have seen numerous dogs on the Breakneck Ridge hike, but there are small sections of it where they are unable to go further without getting carried.


I really hope that this post has helped you decide if this is the right trail for you and if you have any other questions or if you’ve already hiked Breakneck Ridge and have some other tips to share, let me know as well!

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  1. Although I lived for many years in that part of the country I never hiked Breakneck Ridge. It is good to know about the danger spots on this hike and that there are different choices you can make. The alternative trails sound very interesting as well. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the Catskill Mountains and I appreciate your link to that article. At this point in life I would choose the safer options you mentioned on Breakneck Ridge.

    1. Totally understandable Joseph. But I can totally relate to you hiking the Catskills and having done it many times myself, it is one of my favorite places to visit in New York!

  2. Wow what a very insightful article. You see i enjoy finding new places to hike. After reading I should check it out but with caution. With that said good for you for climbing it that many times. Very impressive. I’m guessing for someone in good shape right? Just so i can get in shape before hand.

    1. Yes you do need to be in decent shape to do it but there are parts of the hike and connecting trails which are easier to walk and hike up to it. But if you’re into doing the serious hike, then the white trail is where you’ll want to go and that does require you to be in shape. Stairmaster exercises would be best for this!

  3. Hiking is something that I want to do. I’m thinking about it for a while. Of course, I’m what could be called a complete beginner. So even if I’m interested in hiking Breakneck Ridge, I would have to wait a bit until I get more experienced. Or I will have to choose the safest paths. Great article. Loved it.

  4. Wow! That’s truly an accomplishment that you have over there. Hiking this trail 3 times and going all in on your last hike? I’m truly impressed. I’m terrified of high places but the fact that I can get a clear view of NYC (regardless of the distance) just makes it so worth it for me. This place will go straight into the bucket list of thing I would like to do while I visit NY!

    1. It’s a very popular hike for many good reasons Stephanie, hope you try it out one day.

  5. Is breakneck ridge doable if you have vertigo? Are you hiking along any narrow paths with a big drop down? Is the peak quite a large area? Thank you for a great article

    1. Hi Thomas, thanks for the questions. So:

      1) If you have vertigo, there are parts of Breakneck Ridge I would not suggest doing, like the first scrambling area of it.

      2) There are parts after where you’re not near any huge drop that might trigger it, but overall, I’d play it safe and avoid this hike. You may want to consider the Bull Hill Loop Trail if you really want to hike here (it’s next door), because it is a lot safer, but I would not do it alone if you have a condition like vertigo.

  6. Just hiked Breakneck Ridge all the way to the fire tower and down the red trail to beacon. Your explanation was spot on. It can be very dangerous or somewhat easy. It’s up to each person to decide. Thanks for the insight.

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