What are the best hikes near New York City and accessible via Metro-North?
There are many, though one I highly recommend is the Bull Hill Trail — specifically the Full Loop — which is one of the best Hudson Valley Hikes.
Sometimes known as the Mount Taurus trail, the name Bull Hill is actually quite misleading, as the word “hill” leads you to think the trek is easy.
You can expect a moderate-challenging mountain hike with hard-but-manageable inclines that reward you with breathtaking views over the Hudson Valley and out toward New York City.
Best of all, this trail offers hiking right off the Metro-North from the Cold Spring station. Keep reading for the full Bull Hill hike details and photos.
Pro tip: Before going hiking, make sure to download the AllTrails app to have trail guides, maps, photos, and reviews right at your finger tips. You can also sign up for a free trial of AllTrails+ to download offline maps, get alerts for wrong turns, find trails by distance from you, and more!
What Type Of Hiker Are You? (Free Quiz)
But first, before we dive into some of the best hiking near NYC by train, I want to share a free personality quiz I think you’ll love:
Discover your hiking personality in this fun and short quiz, which also shares trail suggestions based on your results.
Once you’ve grabbed the quiz, let’s discuss one of my favorite Cold Spring hikes, the Bull Hill Full Loop. Doing this trail is one of the top things to do in the Hudson Valley!
Hiking The Hudson Valley: Bull Hill Quick Facts
Bull Hill Route
You have two options when hiking Mount Taurus / Bull Hill:
- The Short Loop (2-3 hours). On this route, you’ll take in aerial views of the Hudson River and out toward Storm King Mountain. Moreover, you’ll walk through the Cornish Estate ruins.
- The Full Loop (3-4 hours). On this route you’ll enjoy the above, and will also reach the summit of Bull Hill. If you’re looking to experience one of the best hiking trails in the world, I suggest going with this one.
Bull Hill Trailhead
The trailhead is right across from Little Stony Point Park, which is also a great spot for hiking near Manhattan.
This park is nice to visit after hiking Bull Hill, especially at sunset. When you walk in, head right to hit a small beach with lovely views.
Getting To Cold Spring From NYC
The Bull Hill Trail — one of the best hikes near NYC by train — is located in the charming 19th-century village of Cold Spring, which sits within New York’s stunning Hudson Valley. This is one of the best places to hike in Upstate NY and is a highlight of any New York State travel guide!
To get there, you’ll take the train from either Grand Central or Harlem-125th — the latter of which shaves 10 minutes off your train ride — and will board the Metro-North train’s Hudson Line toward Poughkeepsie.
There is no need to switch trains, and Cold Spring station is only 70-80-minutes from NYC.
Hiking in Cold Spring is a popular activity, so the town has great signage directing you toward the trails right from the train station.
Before walking toward the trailhead, head to the Garden Cafe on Main Street for a sandwich to take on the hike. They have vegetarian options, too, like a tasty Caprese panini.
Then you’ll walk about 15-20 minutes to the trailhead.
Note that there are many Cold Spring hiking trails, as the village is home to a large swath of the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve. If you arrive early and have the energy you can easily pack in more than one.
For instance, right near the trailhead for Bull Hill, which actually begins on the Washburn Trail (for the Mount Washburn hike), is also the Cornish Trail. It’s also not far from the Breakneck Ridge trailhead.
Moreover, a variety of trails intersect with the Washburn Trail, like the Undercliff Trail, Notch Trail, and Nelsonville Trail.
Feel free to mix and match for a create-your-own-adventure loop hike.
Bull Hill Hike Cost
The hike is free to enter, though the train costs about $30 round-trip.
The train will be heading north along the Hudson River, so sit on the west side of the train to take in water views along the ride.
About The Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve
The Hudson Highlands State Park is known for its challenging yet scenic hikes that take you along the east side of the Hudson River.
It encompasses almost the entire eastern side of the Hudson Highlands from Peekskill’s Annsville Bay north to Dennings Point in Beacon.
Here you’ll find over 6,000 acres of beauty and outdoor recreation.
For example, along with trekking, the park is home to a large bird conservation area. A few common sightings include the prairie warbler, the least bittern, and the worm-eating warbler — one of 55 species of migratory songbirds that have been spotted in the park.
Additionally, the park does a lot to help protect and increase American Bald Eagle populations, so keep your eyes peeled.
Hudson Highlands Map
To help make your day trip from NYC easier, here is a picture of a Hudson Highlands Park Preserve map for your convenience:
Note that there is also a visitor center right next to the Little Stony Point Park entrance.
Bull Hill Trail / Cold Spring Hiking Map
Additionally, here is a close up of a map showing the different hiking trails in Cold Spring:
At the trailhead, there are usually paper maps, as well, or you can click here for the AllTrails version of the map.
Now that we’ve got the facts down, are you ready to hike the Hudson Valley?
Hiking The Bull Hill Trail
Our hike begins on the Washburn Trail, which immediately introduces Andy and me to the steep 1,400-foot climb that will be our path to the Bull Hill summit. You’ll definitely want to know what to wear to go hiking for this one so you’re prepared!
After walking the charming sidewalks of Cold Spring and then along the flat riverside I’m almost not prepared for the workout.
Fortunately, the serene setting calms me.
We’re actually following an old road that was once used to access a quarry, and after walking through towering trees, limbs barren from winter’s chill twisting toward the sky, we emerge into an open field with massive rock formations sitting beneath a blue sky.
Interestingly, from 1931-1967 these rocks were once part of a quarry owned by the Hudson River Stone Company, who used the rocks for construction.
Pausing, we take in the beauty, allowing ourselves to be reminded of just how small a space we take up in this big beautiful world, before continuing the journey back up into the forest.
This time we have a view, as the Hudson River sparkles beyond the naked tree branches.
I’m not sure how visible the river would be in warmer months when the forest is lush, but on this winter day, it’s a lovely addition to the hike — and a distraction from my burning calves.
Something interesting about the Bull Hill hike is there isn’t a view from the summit; instead, you’ll take in a number of vistas along the way.
Hey, as American essayist “Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “It’s the not the destination, it’s the journey.”
Dirt path soon turns to uneven rocky terrain. We look down to avoid twisting an ankle and are delighted that when we look up we’re gazing out over our first viewpoint.
In the distance, we see Storm King Mountain across the Hudson River. Andy and I pause to take it in, appreciating the chill in the air, the songs of the birds, and the blue of the water.
Sure, we have the Hudson River in NYC; however, there’s something special about taking it in while enveloped in the forest that makes it extra special.
Continuing on, we’re back in the sun as woodland opens up into expansive open space, the earth flattening. Now the view of the Hudson River is on our left as the hiking trail changes direction.
Our break from the incline doesn’t last long, as in no time we’re heading back up, the water looking more stunning with every little increase in elevation — until we reach maximum beauty at our next major viewpoint.
A gap in the trees allows us to walk out onto a natural viewing platform.
From here, we take in panoramic views out over the village of Cold Spring and the Hudson Valley.
West Point — the USA’s oldest military academy — is also visible, as is its Constitution Island, home to the earliest Revolutionary War fortifications in the Hudson Valley.
The vista thankfully puts some additional pep in our step, as we continue the steep ascent up the well-marked Washburn Trail toward the Bull Hill summit.
Despite being engulfed in trees, we don’t miss the enormous shadow that passes nearby. Looking up, there is a huge black bird gliding above — followed by about eight more!
Admittedly I am not a birder, so I have no idea if this was a hawk, eagle, or something else; however, I will say it was pretty darn majestic.
P.S: If you know the answer please leave it in the comments. I’m very curious!
Shortly after, we come to a sign that gives us a chance to back out of our original plan to do the Bull Hill Full Loop and instead opt for the Short Loop.
In the end, we decide that despite being tired we’ll regret it if we don’t actually go to the summit.
We continue on the longer path. Only two or three hours to go.
The forest continues until suddenly we hear throaty chirping noises and loud croaks coming from a pond.
Bullfrogs, one of the chattiest and most interestingly animals on the planet, at least in my opinion.
I mean, according to National Geographic, females can lay up to 20,000 small eggs. And they can eat mice and snakes!
To cross the river dryly we walk balance-beam-style over a small rock path and continue up, emerging over the treeline at times before heading back into the forest.
The best view of the hike comes after maneuvering ourselves over a series of enormous boulders:
There in the distance, 50 miles away, sits the skyline of New York City.
At this point, we can really see just how far we’ve come on this random and adventurous Saturday with endless possibilities.
If you’ve brought lunch, this is the best spot to stop for a picnic. I mean, talk about gorgeous mountain hikes near NYC!
From here the trail seems to get chillier and also greener, the trail lined with moss and grass and the twisting branches of the once-barren trees sprouting tufts of green.
We’re now descending down, taking our time to enjoy the scenery.
We walk over natural balance beams and more river stone paths, and see fallen trees with the trunks still gripping to their roots, idyllic little streams, and even ruins covered in graffiti.
There is even a very small waterfall!
At the end, we come to another highlight of the Bull Hill Trail:
The Cornish Estate Ruins.
In a past life, this was a 650-acre estate built in the early 1910s by Sigmund Stern, a diamond merchant from NYC.
The complex featured a mansion, swimming pool, greenhouse, garage, and a number of outbuildings.
Then in 1917, it was purchased by Edward Joel Cornish, president of the National Lead Company, who lived there with his wife.
They lived there until 1938 when they tragically died within two weeks of each other.
Afterward, it was maintained, though sadly a fire destroyed the property in 1958, and what you see here today are the remains of the large stone mansion walls and tall brick chimneys.
From these ruins, it’s about 15 minutes back to the trailhead. You can follow the signs directing you back to the parking lot, which is right across from Little Stony Point.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
The Bull Hill Cold Spring hike is one of the best trails near NYC!
Sunset At Little Stony Point In The Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve
By the time we get back into the village of Cold Spring, the sun is starting to set.
We’re both hungry, but it’s rare we get to immerse ourselves in nature in New York City.
And so we ignore our growling bellies and head to Little Stony Point, which a sign promises to be “One Of The Most Beautiful And Special Places On The River.” It’s also a favorite in itself for hiking spots near NYC.
Little Stony Point actually has multiple trails within it, and we’re given three options when we enter; left, right, or straight.
We decide to head right, which ends up begin a great decision as within minutes we’re at the small Hudson River Beach, watching a sky of oranges and pinks light up the sky behind the mountainscape.
It’s the perfect ending to our active day hiking in the Hudson Valley.
The Perfect Treat After Exploring The Hudson Valley Hiking Trails
Andy and I decide to continue our day trip to Cold Spring with a delicious dinner — specifically a multi-course meal at Le Bouchon, a cozy French bistro right on Main Street.
Typically French food is very expensive in NYC, but this restaurant served up delicious helpings of moules frites with a variety of broth options, cassoulet, and steak au poivre for an affordable price — with $9 glasses of wine to pair!
One interesting dish we had to start was a spaetzle mac and cheese. So rich but so good!
To end we had a delicious bread pudding.
Sorry for the lack of photos, but this food was essentially gone before I remembered I would be writing about it.
Best Hudson Valley Hikes – Other Great Options
Hudson Valley hikers rejoice! Here are some more great hikes near NYC in the region:
- Breakneck Ridge to the Mount Beacon Fire Tower
- Anthony’s Nose Hiking Trail
- Hudson Valley Rail Trail
- Fishkill Ridge
- Storm King Mountain
- Bear Mountain State Park
- Minnewaska State Park, which is home to a number of Hudson Valley hikes with waterfalls
Best of all, along with offering incredible Hudson River valley hiking these trails and parks feature some of the best hiking trails near NYC, many right off the Metro-North.
Hike The Hudson Valley Map
Also make sure to grab a Google Map that will help you enjoy some of the best hikes in the Hudson Valley.
Hotels In The Hudson Valley
Looking for accommodation in the Hudson Valley?
You can also check out these best romantic getaways in Upstate New York.
Prefer self-contained stays?
You can also use this map to search for local stays and experiences:
Have any best Hudson Valley hikes near NYC to add?
Have you done the Bull Hill Trail Full Loop?
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