Proceed ahead on the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail, which climbs gradually along a woods road. In 0.3 mile,...
Proceed ahead on the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail, which climbs gradually along a woods road. In 0.3 mile, you’ll pass a huge split boulder to the right of the trail. Here, the red-blazed Split Rock Trail leaves to the left. This will be your return route, but for now, you should continue ahead on the blue-blazed trail.
After climbing a rather steep pitch, the Lone Star Trail reaches a junction with the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail, which begins on the right. Bear left to continue on the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail, which soon levels off. In 0.2 mile, the Lone Star Trail ends at a junction with a wide woods road – the route of the green-blazed Nelsonville Trail. Turn right and follow the Nelsonville Trail, which continues to climb along the woods road. Soon, you’ll encounter a rocky, eroded section of the road.
Near the top of the rise, the trail passes through mountain laurel thickets and ends at a junction with the white-blazed Washburn Trail. Turn left and follow the Washburn Trail as it climbs Bull Hill (Mt. Taurus) on broad switchbacks.
As the trail approaches the summit, you’ll come to a panoramic north-facing view from rock ledges just to the right of the trail. To the left, you can see the Hudson River. The imposing ridge extending northeast from the river is Breakneck Ridge, with the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge visible through a low point in the ridge. To the right, you can see the fire tower on South Beacon Mountain, the highest point in the East Hudson Highlands. In the distance to the left, the Shawangunk Mountains – and beyond them, the Catskills – may be seen on a clear day. This is a good spot to take a well-deserved rest, as you’ve climbed about 1,100 vertical feet to reach this point!
Just ahead along the Washburn Trail, an unmarked side trail leads left to a viewpoint from rock ledges to the south and east. Continue to follow the white-blazed Washburn Trail along the summit ridge. After passing the viewless summit – marked by a split rock on the right and a USGS survey marker along the trail – the trail makes a short, rather steep descent. Just beyond, an open rock ledge on the left affords a panoramic south-facing view over the Hudson River. Just north of the sharp bend in the river – of great strategic importance during the Revolutionary War – is Constitution Island, and beyond the bend is the United States Military Academy at West Point. To the right, on the west side of the river, is Crows Nest Mountain. On a clear day, you can see the Bear Mountain Bridge down the river in the distance.
After descending some more, you’ll reach a spectacular viewpoint over the Hudson River from a rock outcrop to the right of the trail. The view – the broadest of the entire hike - extends from West Point up the river to Storm King Mountain (identified by the gash carved into the mountain by the construction of the Storm King Highway in 1922).
The Washburn Trail continues to descend rather steeply, then ascends a little. Just beyond, you’ll come to a junction with the yellow-blazed Undercliff Trail. Turn left onto the Undercliff Trail, which soon reaches another viewpoint over Cold Spring and West Point, with Crows Nest Mountain visible to the right, across the river.
Follow the Undercliff Trail as it continues to descend, on the way passing a seasonal waterfall to the left. After a relatively level section, the trail turns right and continues to descend on a woods road. Be alert, as the yellow trail soon turns left, leaving the woods road, and reaches an east-facing viewpoint over the hills of Fahnestock State Park, with the Hudson River visible on the right. Here, the trail turns right and continues to descend, entering the Nelsonville Nature Preserve (the trail in the preserve is marked by green “Nelsonville Footpath” blazes).
At the base of the descent, the Undercliff Trail reaches a T-junction with a wide woods road – the route of the green-blazed Nelsonville Trail. Turn left and follow the green blazes along this road. Soon, you’ll cross paved Gate House Road at a parking area and, in another 500 feet, you’ll cross a grassy strip which is the route of the Catskill Aqueduct. The stone building on the left marks one end of an inverted syphon that carries the water down to and then under Route 301, to the east.
Beyond the aqueduct, the trail begins to climb, first gradually, then more steeply. In about half a mile, you’ll pass rusted gate posts on either side of the trail. Just beyond, you’ll notice three red blazes that mark the start of the Split Rock Trail. Turn right and follow this short trail back to the Lone Star Trail at the “split rock,” then turn right again and follow the blue-blazed Lone Star Trail back to the trailhead on Fishkill Road, where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 04/20/2004 updated/verified on 05/01/2023
This loop hike climbs Bull Hill, with spectacular views over the Hudson River, Breakneck Ridge, Cold Spring and West Point.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.