July 5, 2021 – Cold Spring, NY
Length: Approximately 1.9 miles
Max elevation: 592 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 625 ft.
Route type: Out and back
Buy Map: East Hudson Trails Map #102
Free Web Map: Hudson Highlands Trail Map North 2021
Trailhead parking: Wilkinson Memorial Trailhead – Beacon, NY 12508
Breakneck Ridge is a mountain along the Hudson River between Beacon and Cold Spring, straddling the boundary between Dutchess and Putnam counties. Breakneck Ridge is located within the confines of Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve and is administered by the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Until the early 20th century, the mountain was also known as St. Anthony’s Face or Turk’s Face, after a face-like stone formation on the southern cliffs that was destroyed by quarrymen in 1846. It has several summits, the highest, some distance inland, reaching approximately 1,260 feet above sea level. The southern face of the peak is remarkable for its striking cliffs, the result of quarrying in past years.
Breakneck Ridge is considered one of the best and toughest day hikes in the country. The steep ascent up its western face involves climbing over rock ledges, using both hands and feet. This rock scramble attracts hikers from all over and is one of the most popular hikes in the region.
The beautifully constructed Nimham Trail provides an easier alternative to the summit for hikers who seek Breakneck’s stunning views of the Hudson River Valley while avoiding the steep rock scramble. The trail follows the natural “bench,” or shelf, along the ridge, connecting the flagpole area to the Wilkinson Memorial Trail.
Professional Trail Builders, Tahawus Trails LLC, with assistance from the Jolly Rovers, constructed the new Nimham Trail between October 2020 and July 2021. The half-mile trail has over 500 expertly engineered stone stairs carefully harvested from the slopes of Breakneck. The Nimham Trail opened to the public on July 1, 2021. Once open, foot traffic on the Breakneck Ridge Trail ascent will become one-way (up only); the new trail will be two-directional.
This is the first construction project managed by the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, a new non-profit working with State Parks and the 19 other project partners to advance the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail linear park between Beacon and Cold Spring.
The impetus to the Nimham Trail was the increasing popularity of hiking at Breakneck Ridge, visited by over 100,000 hikers annually. The new trail will help both reduce lost and injured hiker calls and preserve the mountain habitat. Data gathered by the NY-NJ Trail Conference shows most people who hike Breakneck are either novice hikers or, in fact, attempting Breakneck Ridge as their first hike. Novice hikers often reach the first summit and decide they don’t think they can finish the hike. They try to find a way down from the flagpole area and that’s when problems arise. The Nimham Trail adds the option of a shorter loop hike centered on the flagpole area of the Breakneck Ridge Trail. The Nimham Trail will allow hikers to get a taste of Breakneck while providing a safer way to bail out.
The trail is named in honor of Wappinger Chief Daniel Nimham (1726–1778) a respected leader of the Wappinger people, whose ancestral lands, along with those of the Lenape and Munsee, include the idyllic landscape now known as the Hudson Highlands.
Daniel Nimham and his son Abraham (born in 1745) fought for the American cause during the Revolution and were some of America’s first Veterans. They served with Washington at Valley Forge and later with General Marquis de Lafayette’s troops. On August 31, 1778, the Nimhams and fifty of their fellow Wappinger were surrounded then killed in the Battle of Kingsbridge, in what is now Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
This hike follows the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail for the first 250 yards.
The half-mile Ninham Trail marked with green blazes, connects the Wilkinson Memorial Trail to the lower lookout on Breakneck Ridge. A series of more than 500 stone steps climbs steeply to Hudson River views from an area of staggered rock outcrops, marked with an American Flag.
The Nimham Trail now allows access to the famous Breakneck Ridge flagpole area to those that would like to avoid the steep rock scramble that was necessary before this trail was constructed. The trail also provides a shorter loop option for those that want to do the rock scramble utilizing the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail.
It’s a short walk uphill on the Wilkinson Memorial Trail before turning right on the Nimham Trail. This green-blazed trail is where you gain a lot of elevation quickly. The Nimham Trail gains over 500 feet of elevation in about a 1/2 mile. Although this is the easiest route to Breakneck Ridge, it’s still no walk in the park. The expertly engineered stone steps helps hikers gain a lot of elevation in a short distance, eliminating any rock scrambles that are usually associated with Breakneck Ridge.
Having seen the press release for the opening of the new trail, I wanted to check it out. I have to say that I was quite impressed with the craftsmanship of the stone steps. They went to great lengths to make the steps as even as possible. The risers and treads of the steps are consistent with a normal staircase that one would encounter in an indoor setting. The trail is well laid out and blends into the landscape, making for an enjoyable and scenic hike.
This out and back hike begins and ends at the trailhead for the Wilkinson Memorial Trail on Route 9D.
Although the steps are quite helpful, the trail is still steep as it climbs Breakneck Ridge and proper footwear should be worn.
An early start on a weekday is recommended for this hike as it gets really crowded on the weekends.
On the east side of the road, you’ll see a triple-yellow blaze that marks the start of the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, which you will follow for the first 250 yards. The trail climbs gradually on a wide footpath, climbing several sets of stone steps along the way. The trail soon comes to a junction with the green-blazed Nimham Trail, which begins on the right.
Turn right on the Nimham Trail and follow the green blazes as they ascend Breakneck Ridge on another wide footpath. A short distance later, the trail crosses a wooden footbridge and ascends steeply on stone steps.
The trail turns right and climbs more stone steps, then levels off briefly, and again climbs more steps. As the trail gains elevation, the Hudson River is visible through the trees down below.
In about 0.3 mile from the start of the Nimham Trail, there is a large rock outcrop on the right with views over the Hudson River with Storm King Mountain directly across and Pollepel Island and Bannerman Castle to the north. This makes a good spot for a short break.
When you are ready to continue, proceed ahead on the Nimham Trail as it continues to climb stone steps, now even more steeply. After climbing some steps bounded by a wooden railing, the trail moderates as it nears its terminus at a rock outcrop just above the flagpole area.
The views up and down the Hudson River from this point are spectacular, and you will want to take a rest to enjoy the panoramic views.
When you are ready to continue, retrace your steps back to the Nimham Trail, marked by a sign, and turn left.
Looking up to the top of the ridge from the junction with the Nimham Trail, you’ll notice a steep, near-vertical rock outcrop that the Breakneck Ridge Trail climbs to gain the crest of the ridge.
Retrace your steps along the Nimham Trail, back to the junction with the Wilkinson Memorial Trail and bear left. Then follow the yellow blazes back to Route 9D, where the hike began.
A great hike on a well constructed trail to panoramic views of the Hudson River Valley. Although it was rather foggy on our visit, it was still a good day out on the trails. We were on the trail by 7:30am and back to the trailhead by 9:30am. By getting an early start, we didn’t encounter any other hikers on the way up. By the time we left the flagpole area, a steady stream of people started to pass through. Worth doing at least once to marvel at the hard work that was done to create this wonderful trail.
Nimham Trail, Breakneck Ridge, American Flag, Hudson River Valley views, well constructed trails.
Breakneck Ridge gets extremely crowded on weekends.
Take a hike!
- Tahawus Trails LLC
- New Connector Trail in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve
- Breakneck Connector Project Expected to Begin Construction in 2020
- Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail – Scenic Hudson
- Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail
- Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail – SCAPE
- New Life for the Fjord Trail – The Highlands Current