Ranger Rick and I decided to squeeze in one more fall hike. This time we tackled a twelve mile day, though RR swears it was more. We went the length of the Hudson Highlands State Park on the yellow blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail then connected to the White Blazed Fishkill Ridge and hiked that down into the town of Beacon.
The nice thing about the Wilkinson Memorial is that the trail head is directly across from Breakneck Ridge Metro-North stop.
Another great aspect was the relative privacy. While a mass of people were turning right to begin Breakneck Ridge, Wilkinson was pretty empty. We only had one other hiker with us at the start and we bumped into a few more people coming down off Breakneck (Wilkinson is linked with the red blazed Breakneck Bypass as part of the NY/NJ Trail Conference recommend loop), but we had the majority of the hike to ourselves.
The beginning of this trail has great trail work! From a little set of steps to well placed boulder bridges. I can’t fathom what it’s like maintaining a trail that thousands of people descend on every weekend. While “thousands” is my guesstimate, RR and I took the second earliest train out and if those crowds stay consistent or rise with each arrival then the foot traffic is undeniably massive in scope.
Shortly after leaving behind the intersection with the Breakneck Bypass, the trail begins heading up about 500ft to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain
It’s a challenging little climb right at the outset of a hike and offers a nice view of Storm King and view up and down the Hudson.
Coming down Sugar Loaf was tricky as all the fallen leaves made the footing incredibly slick and spotting Yellow colored blazes difficult. The trail follows a stream bed and the navigation became even trickier as RR said best, we had entered a “sea of yellow.”
This “sea” had small switchbacks and leisurely ups and downs with cool views of the Hudson along the way. With leaves down the views felt all the more dramatic.
However the inches of leaves covering the trail felt like hiking through snow or mud and had us more ping-ponging between blazes than on a clearly defined footpath.
Next, Wilkinson meets with the blue blazed Notch trail leading us to hike along a Yellow/Blue blazed combo.
The trails break after a stream bed and a gentle up let us know that soon we’d be starting our climb around Mt. Beacon. While this wasn’t nearly as intense as the scramble going up via Breakneck Ridge Trail, the gradual incline meant fatigue crept up on us when we stopped for lunch.
The most scenic vistas along the Wilkinson Memorial Trail are after it crosses red Casino Trail. A lot of beautiful spots are right along the trail as it leaves the woods and becomes a rocky ridge walk.
After crossing in front of Mt. Beacon it dips back into the woods and seems to weave for a while until hitting an intersection with blue blazed connector trail and then it isn’t much further along until it crosses with the white blazed Fishkill Ridge.
Fishkill Ridge is a really beautiful trail. We bumped into a lot of people on it, and it makes sense. I’d love to go back and just spend a day on only this trail. There are so many lovely vistas and outlooks, it’d be easy to move slowly from view to view.
From out point of entry, Fishkill Ridge started flat, but the 1000ft climb came on us fast. The work was definitely rewarded though, at the summit of little bald is a panoramic view of both sides of the mountain. Oh, and a rocking chair.
Along Fishkill Ridge we’d bump into an old “Scenic Hudson” blaze, these looked like they were in the process of being replaced by the standard white State Park markers, but were a fun little piece of trail history to bump into.
One thing we encountered a lot on Fishkill, but also elsewhere in the Hudson Highlands were these little half circle blazes that marked slight turns. RR and I felt that doing regular blazes at shorter intervals would have been easier to read than these little curves, especially when fatigued.
Grievance aside, following Fishkill all the way into Beacon led us to an amazing waterfall. Ranger Rick got a great picture of it, but, much like the NYC view on Bull Hill, it’s something I want you to see for yourself!
After passing the waterfall, the trail follows the stream until it hits a damn. Once at the damn we were on the outskirts of Beacon and it was a 2mi walk to the train station. We broke up the 2mi walk with a return pit stop into the 2 Way Brewery, which is conveniently located on the way to the train. I highly recommend a visit.
Feel free to leave any updates on the trail as a comment in case people are using this post to help plan a trip. Happy hiking!