Steep Slope

Where in the Hudson Valley...?



Photograph by Holley Meister

Valley residents don’t need to buy a pricey plane ticket or take a long car ride to reach one of the primo hiking hot spots in the country. Nestled along the ridge of this rugged mountain — which is located right on the east bank of the Hudson River — is the nation’s number one trail, according to a leading hiking Web site. (One of the biggest news magazines also ranks it in their top 10.)

In the early 1900s the peak was known as St. Anthony’s Face or Turk’s Face due to a rock formation on the southern cliffs that resembled the human visage; the “face” was later destroyed by mining. The mountain’s current, somewhat daunting name comes from a local legend about a wayward bull, who supposedly met his untimely demise after being chased off the peak. It’s believed that granite blasted from the sides of the mountain was used to build such Valley landmarks as West Point, the front steps of the capitol building in Albany, and — further south — the Brooklyn Bridge and Lady Liberty herself. Part of the Catskill aqueduct, the mountain is across the Hudson from another recognizable peak (one that sparked a groundbreaking environmental court decision in the 1970s).

Exchanging briefcases for backpacks, New York City dwellers often ditch the concrete jungle to travel to this spot and spend a rigorous day among the cliffs. Metro-North makes a flag stop at a small wooden platform about a half-mile north of the trail’s starting point. Along with the backpack, proper hiking attire is a real necessity for this ascent: The three-mile uphill trek includes five summits, the highest of which reaches close to 1,300 feet. At various points all four limbs are required, so be sure to ditch the flip-flops for the day and tighten those hiking boots.

Obviously not for the faint of heart, the path is rocky and difficult. Once at the top, however, there are stunning panoramic views of West Point, Bear Mountain, Bannerman’s Castle, and many other jaw-droppingly spectacular sights.

Can you name this treacherous trail? Send us your answer as a comment. The first reader who gets it right wins a prize. Happy trails!