Bull Hill Full Loop
Distance: 7.5 mi (5.5 mi when starting at trailhead)
Elevation Gain: 1,391 ft
Location: Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, NY
Field Notes by Avery Munson Clark
An escape from the city. Just 40 miles up river from NYC, the Bull Hill Full Loop hike is a 5.5 mile trail outside the town of Cold Springs, New York. The trail, with nearly 1,400 ft of elevation gain, offers views up and down the Hudson Valley and a solid slope for those looking for what is generally considered a challenging hike.
After a 1.5hr train ride from the Harlem 125 St Station you will arrive in Cold Springs, NY. The small town serves as a nice pit stop to refuel and bop around a few stores on your way through. Leaving the train station, you’ll have a 1 mile walk to the trail head. Walking north from the station alongside the road, enter the Hudson Highlands State Park and arrive shortly after at the Washburn trailhead parking lot (For those driving to the trailhead, this is where you’ll park).
Next you’ll pass the trail information panels and have a chance to grab a paper map, then begin following the Washburn Trail’s white trail markers up a gravel road.
From there you’ll face a steady 2 mile climb up Bull Hill with a generally intuitive, and well marked trail guiding you. As you hike upwards the trail will begin to narrow and provide windows through the foliage and out into the valley.
Arriving near the mountaintop you will find a few small clearings that provide stellar views and nice spots to sit and rest.
After taking a breather and squinting to see the NYC skyline in the distance, you will continue on. Cresting the hill, you will then begin a gradual descent into the forest below.
Continuing on, the forest canopy will thicken. Make sure to look up and observe the colors and shapes above you.
Before long you’ll cross over a few stone bridges and make your way alongside remnants of Northgate Farm. Here, you’ll have a chance to continue forward or take a detour to check out the overgrown buildings and learn about their history from nearby informational panels.
Leaving the farm site you’ll switch over to the Cornish trail and begin following its blue trail markers back toward the trailhead. This section of the loop will lead you alongside Breakneck Brook, with many spots to stop and cool off or explore.
With about a mile left in the loop the trail will become paved and begin to level out. Finishing up the loop, you’ll make your way back into Cold Spring, catch the next train back towards the city, and look forward to a good night's sleep.