Hike to the Mt. Beacon Fire Tower
New York › Breakneck Ridge Trailhead - Mount Beacon
Added by Shaun O'Neill
Mt. Beacon is a perfect hike for both sunrise and sunset, as well as the New York City skyline on a clear day. There are also tons of options for post hike food and adult beverages.
Mount Beacon is a very popular trail along the Hudson River, and for good reason. It offers a good workout, fantastic views for both sunrise and sunset (and of course the time in between), a recently rebuilt fire tower, and all with incredibly easy access right on the edge of a lively town.
The mountain has a designated parking lot (41.493900, -73.959934) with plenty of space, though on a beautiful summer weekend don't be shocked if you're left parking on the side streets. The trailhead has an information kiosk that gives some of the history of the mountain, including old pictures of the casino and motor house who's ruins you'll be exploring a bit later.
Your journey takes you up a short stretch of gravel trail which leads to a giant metal staircase (which I suggest walking along side of if you have a dog who happens to be terrified of stairs). You then begin the switchbacks which seem to get more daunting with each pass, up the red trail. Loose rocks are plentiful and I suggest sturdy footwear and a little caution as you make your way up, no one wants to roll an ankle before getting to the big payoff at the top. You can definitely make this a family hike and I've seen a great many casual walkers and hikers on this trail, but it can be tiring. Don't feel bad taking breaks as you need them, you won't be the only one huffing and puffing.
The back and forth will eventually get you high enough that the sky opens up above you, and you can turn around to get your first glimpse of Beacon laid out below. Continue up and you'll see the first landmark that lets you know you've made it, the motor house. The brick walls still stand and house the massive rusted gears and motor that used to chug people up and down the mountain. Given all the work you just did to get this far, you'll probably appreciate the view much more than they ever did!
Past the motor house lies the foundation of what used to be the casino, which now acts as a perfect concrete platform to take in the first big views. With Beacon directly below you the view stretches out across the Hudson and well out west towards Pennsylvania. This in its own right is a beautiful place to take in a sunset, and if you stopped here and went back no one would blame you. But you shouldn't, because the best is yet to come.
As you turn around from the look out, you can follow the service road towards the fire tower which you'll be able to see from here. Things get a bit hairy, technically this is a continuation of the red trail which you've been on but since you're following the service roads that are used to maintain the radio towers at the top of the mountain other roads do break off in different directions. As a plus, if you do take one of these side roads to the very top of the mountain and walk around the fenced in building you get to check out the Daughters of the American Revolution memorial which has stood watchful over the valley for over a hundred years. Keep to the well worn path and look out for the occasional red blazes, eventually it stops being a service road and starts being a trail again. The approximate GPS coordinates for the fire tower itself are 41.481384, -73.944646, so when in doubt follow the trail that looks to head that way and you should be good. Follow it through the little field of cairns and keep an eye out for white blazes, which you'll see just before the final push up the mountain to the fire tower. The last stretch takes you up sheer rock, which can be slick if damp, and opens up for a panoramic view in every direction.
The fire tower is sturdy, rebuilt not long ago with the help of local jeep clubs that hauled workers and supplies to the top of the mountain, and provides an unbeatable 360 degree view as far down as New York City on a clear day. It's the perfect spot for a sunrise or sunset, and the trail back and forth is clear enough to do in the dark by headlamp. Enjoy your snacks, take your pictures, soak up the beauty, and head on back the way you came fully understanding why the people coming down the mountain looked so happy while you were suffering on the way up!
- Sturdy shoes with some traction
- Water/Snacks (base of the fire tower is a lovely picnic spot)
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ReviewsLeave a Review
Very nice hike up in Beacon, NY. The hike up is steep and very rocky but it is super simple to follow. You will see a lot of children and dogs on the trails so this hike is very family friendly. The ruins at the first overlook are very cool and the overlook is good. I prefer views that are not overlooking houses or towns so if you head to the left of the old cable car ruins you will find a more forest/river lookout. Definitely try to get to the fire tower. The views from up there are incredible of the Hudson Valley.
Great day trip! Little steep and rocky at some points but the views are defiantly worth the hike up. Even though this adventure is labeled as intermediate I saw many young kids today on the trail and doing just fine, great trip for a family. I also brought my dog and he loved it. If you are able to make your way to the fire tower after spending some time at the ruins I would highly recommend it. Very cool 360 degree view and we went up to the top of the fire tower where you can see everything, even the NYC skyline! But it was very windy today so be careful up there, yet sturdy enough. Have fun.
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