South Beacon Mountain and Scofield Ridge, Dutchess County, New York

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website listed an 8 mile strenuous hike, suggested by Daniel Chazin, in Dutchess County, New York. The hike is routed over a number of trails and properties, as I will detail below.

I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m., but after turning off the alarm, I next woke at 5:00. I left home around 5:50, headed north to Beacon, New York, and arrived at my destination right at 7:00 a.m.

The parking area is a large gravel lot in Mount Beacon Park. This 234 acre park is owned by Scenic Hudson, an organization dedicated to land preservation. My car was the first in the park’s large gravel parking lot, though by the time I returned from my hike at 1:00 p.m., there were about a dozen cars. A kiosk presents informational posters, explaining the historical significance of Mount Beacon Park. During the American Revolution, our soldiers stood guard on this mountain, using signal fires to report sightings of British troops.

On Memorial Day, 1902, the Otis Elevator Company opened a tourist attraction at Beacon Mountain: an incline railway that would take passengers 1,540 feet up the mountain, affording them with incredible views. There was also a hotel and dance hall up there, the Beaconcrest Hotel and Casino. Here are the posters, if you want to read more:

Poster, Welcome to Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

Welcome poster

Note that the poster only covers Mount Beacon Park and the 1 mile of trail within in. There are many miles of trails beyond the small park, as I will describe.

Poster, History of Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

History poster

7:04 a.m.: Behind the kiosk with the posters, a wooden fence and gravel road signaled the start of my hike. A woman and her dog were just leaving as I started hiking.

Gateway from parking lot to Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

Gateway from parking lot

The gravel road was level, and within minutes I arrived at a second kiosk and the foundation of the old stationhouse, where the passengers of a century ago would board the incline railcars for the trip up the mountain.

Stationhouse Location, Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

Stationhouse location

Here’s the poster at the second kiosk:

Poster, Gateway to Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

“Gateway to Mount Beacon Park”

7:10 a.m.: Just beyond the kiosk is a stairway that climbs about 120′ of a particularly steep ascent. The three red markers on the tree to the right signify the start of the red-blazed “Casino Trail.”

Start of Casino Trail, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

Start of Casino Trail

As you can see, there is a footpath to the right of the stairs, for people who might think that stairs are cheating. However, I thought that climbing the stairs was a pretty good workout in itself, as it was about the same as climbing twelve flights of stairs. The unsightly power poles are following the path of the ancient incline railway; I believe the poles are to provide power to radio transmitters on the mountain.

Casino Trail stairs and footpath, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

Stairs and footpath

7:17 a.m.: At the top of the stairs, a trail continued up the mountain, then hit a switchback and kept going higher:

Casino Trail, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

Casino Trail

7:21 a.m.: It’s hard for a picture to depict how steep a trail is, but perhaps this gives some idea. It was quite a cardio workout.

Casino Trail, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

Steep portion of trail

7:35 a.m.: There are a number of “woods roads” on the mountain, and in places the trails use these roads, while in other places the trails are footpaths that were never designed for a vehicle.

The woods roads were built by mining and forestry interests, and were probably abandoned decades ago. In places significant erosion made them impassable to most vehicles, such as these large rocks that could damage the oil pan on vehicles that are low to the ground.

Erosion on Casino Trail, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

Erosion on woods road has washed dirt downhill, left large rocks behind

7:43 a.m.: You can see on the right side of this photo that the “woods road” has seen so much erosion that the adjacent topsoil is several feet higher than the roadbed.

Erosion on Casino Trail, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

The roadbed has lost several inches of dirt compared to the surrounding soil

7:49 a.m.: Imagine trying to drive over this spot. Probably at one time there was soil surrounding these big rocks.

Erosion on Casino Trail, Mount Beacon Park, Mount Beacon, NY

Big rocks would make for a punishing ride

7:54 a.m.: I finally reached the top of the incline railway. The shell of the power house is still there, and you can also get a sneak preview of the view of the town of Beacon and the Hudson River:

Power house, Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

Shell of power house

I found a flat rock and engaged my camera’s auto timer, and jumped into the photo:

Power house, Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

Self-portrait in front of power house

A view inside the powerhouse:

Power house, Mount Beacon Park, Beacon, NY

Remains of power house

The bridge over the Hudson is the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, from Power House on Mt. Beacon, NY

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge is in the background

Here’s a postcard from 1907 showing the hotel and powerhouse. Only the foundation remained of the hotel and dance hall, so I didn’t take any photos of those:

1907 Postcard: Hotel and Power House, Mt. Beacon, NY

1907 postcard shows hotel and power house

I spent about twenty minutes at this spot, enjoying the view:

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, from Mt. Beacon, NY

Beacon, the Hudson, and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

A stitched panorama:

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, from Mt. Beacon, NY

Beacon, the Hudson, and the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

I continued my hike on the red trail. I met a man jogging down the mountain. He was the last person I would see for over four hours.

8:22 a.m.: Can you identify this car? It had an inline six-cylinder engine. Whatever it was, it didn’t make it off the mountain.

Wrecked car, Red Trail, South Beacon Mountain, NY

Wrecked car

 

Wrecked car, Red Trail, South Beacon Mountain, NY

Wrecked car

 

8:49 a.m.: The red trail now left Mount Beacon Park and entered Hudson Highlands State Park. I temporarily departed from the red trail to take a detour on the white-blazed Breakneck Ridge Trail. One rock was covered with an impressive amount of flora:

Rock with moss

Rock with moss

 

Moss

Moss

 

8:53 a.m.: I approached the peak of South Beacon Mountain, which afforded nice views. Note that now there are big sheets of solid rock, instead of a few rocks sticking out from dirt and gravel.

View from South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

View from South Beacon Mountain

 

View from South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

View from South Beacon Mountain

8:54 a.m.: The fire tower on top of South Beacon Mountain comes into view.

Fire tower on South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Fire tower

8:56 a.m.: The fire tower has seen better days. It was a very windy day, and I was almost afraid the wind would blow down the steel tower, so I didn’t want to stand too close or linger too long. I was wearing a number of layers, including a couple of lightweight polyester mesh shirts, a midweight fleece jacket with a hood, and a nylon windbreaker.

Fire tower on South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Fire tower

8:58 a.m.: There were nice views from the base of the tower:

View from South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

View from South Beacon Mountain

View from South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

View from South Beacon Mountain

View from South Beacon Mtn., Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

View from South Beacon Mountain

9:08 a.m.: I backtracked to the red trail and continued on. Something tells me this feather didn’t belong to a sparrow:

Large feather

Large feather

9:15 a.m.: The red trail came to an end, and I turned left onto the yellow-blazed Wilkinson Memorial Trail, following a footpath, rather than an old road. At some point, the yellow trail left the state park and continued through private property. Apparently the owners don’t mind, as long as hikers stay on the trails.

Wilkinson Memorial Trail, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Wilkinson Memorial Trail

9:24 a.m.: This trail led me up various minor summits, which each afforded nice views:

View from Wilkinson Memorial Trail, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Scenic view

9:38 a.m.: Another summit, another view, this one of Beacon Reservoir, with the Hudson in the background:

Beacon Reservoir, from Wilkinson Memorial Trail, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Beacon Reservoir

9:57 a.m.: The crushed leaves among the grass show the path:

Wilkinson Memorial Trail, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Wilkinson Memorial Trail

9:59 a.m.: There was a bit of rock scrambling on this hike. Definitely no vehicles on this path:

Scramble, Wilkinson Memorial Trail, Hudson Highlands State Park, NY

Scramble

10:24 a.m.: I saw rock walls all over my last hike, and finally encountered one on this hike. I left the yellow trail and followed a blue trail. This trail left the private property and entered Fishkill Ridge, 1,900 acres of property (with 11.5 miles of trails) owned by Scenic Hudson.

Blue trail, Fishkill Ridge, NY

Intersection of yellow and blue trails

10:31 a.m.: What’s left of a rotary tiller?

Wrecked rotary tiller

Wrecked rotary tiller

10:35 a.m.: The short blue trail ended at Dozer Junction, about the halfway point of my 8-mile hike. [I believe this is a Caterpillar D2 tractor, which was manufactured from 1938-57.]

Dozer Junction, Fishkill Ridge, NY

Dozer Junction

Abandoned Caterpillar D2

Abandoned Caterpillar D2

Four cylinder engine:

Engine of abandoned Caterpillar D2

Engine

This looks like a good place for lunch:

Sitting on abandoned Caterpillar D2

Sitting on dozer

The pedals still work, and the transmission lever moved around, though it wouldn’t go into gear.

Sitting on abandoned Caterpillar D2

Dozer pedals

11:18 a.m.: I turned left onto the white-blazed Fishkill Ridge Trail, climbing Lamb’s Hill, which afforded more nice views:

Fishkill Ridge Trail, Lamb's Hill, Fishkill, NY

View from Lamb’s Hill

Fishkill Ridge Trail, Lamb's Hill, Fishkill, NY

View from Lamb’s Hill

Fishkill Ridge Trail, Lamb's Hill, Fishkill, NY

View from Lamb’s Hill

Fishkill Ridge Trail, Lamb's Hill, Fishkill, NY

View from Lamb’s Hill

11:25 a.m.: This was a tall, wet rock face.

Wet rock face, Fishkill Ridge Trail, Fishkill, NY

Wet rock face

11:35 a.m.: Descending.

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, from Fishkill Ridge Trail, NY

Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

View from Fishkill Ridge Trail, Fishkill, NY

Scenic view

The white trail crossed a stream and a gravel road. I saw a black dog trotting by on the road. If he saw me, he ignored me.

11:56 a.m.: I entered an area where many trees had fallen, perhaps in the strong winds we’d experienced lately.

Fallen tree

Fallen tree

Fishkill Ridge Trail, Fishkill, NY

The trail descends

12:08 p.m.: The white trail followed a dry brook, then again found the stream and ran alongside it. There were a few tiny waterfalls of a few feet, but I didn’t get any good photographs there. At this point, the trail had left the Fishkill Ridge property and was cutting through private property. This rock looked interesting: I wondered if  someone had started chipping on it to make a spear point:

Spear point?

Spear point?

I left the white trail and entered a yellow trail, which re-entered the Mount Beacon Park, ending at the red Casino Trail, not too far above the stairway. I met a family of five climbing the stairs, not having seen anyone since meeting the jogger hours earlier. I returned to my car right around 1:00 p.m.

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