Bull Hill Full Loop Hiking Trail in Hudson Highlands, NY
The hiking trails located in the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve are an expansive natural resource with options for any level hiker. Seriously, there are 70 miles of trails, which means plenty of options for whatever adventure best fits you.
Due to the expansiveness, new hikers could be intimidated by all the options and picking one that’s right for them. The NY Parks Department put together this guide to help hikers pick a trail (or trails) to explore.
This article explores the bull hill full loop trail – a 5.5 mile, moderate hiking trail with spectacular views, some historical structures, and even an old swimming pool to explore.
Location: Cold Spring NY
Parking: Plenty, but gets very crowded so can be tricky to park at peak hours
Distance: 5.5 miles for the full loop – can do shorter durations
Elevation: 1400 ft
Features: 3 Overlooks, small waterfall, Cornish Estate Ruins
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset, year around
Time: 3-6 Hours depending on hiking speed, and breaks taken at viewpoints
Bathrooms: Several porta-toilets in the parking lot at the start of the trail
Dog Friendly: Yes, but must be on-leash at all times
Cell-Phone Service: Great. I had service the entire hike
Location of the Bull Hill Full Loop Trail
This hiking trail is easy to locate with its simple address and clear signage as you arrive. The parking lot faces two buildings, a visitor center and a volunteer center to help you get oriented if you need help upon arriving.
If you’re coming by train, then this is also an excellent park as Amtrak services this area with a stop in Cold Spring. It is a bit of a walk between the station and this trail entrance, but is totally doable, especially if you want a chance to explore a bit of Cold Spring itself. Once you leave the train you’ll walk up Fair Street to arrive at the parking lot.
The parking lot is the base of the the Washburn Trail Head located on the Trail Map North. The Bull Hill Full Loop trail begins at the location.
Parking and Bathrooms for Bull Hill Full Loop
There is plenty of parking, but like other popular trails, the spaces can fill up quickly at peak hours of the day. I arrived around 3pm and we were lucky to get a spot, but I can imagine it would be even harder if you arrived at 9am or 10am instead. You cannot park on the street. There is clear signage displaying this, so you will need to find a spot in the lot.
At the end of the parking lot, and at the base of the trail, there is a collection of 6-8 porta-toilets for public use. They were surprisingly clean (for portable toilets) and stocked with toilet paper and sanitizer, even at 3pm when I arrived.
Immediately past the toilet is the trail entrance. It is clearly marked, and also provides directions for other trails. For the Bull Hill Full Loop trail you’ll want to follow the arrow (which is to the right) to start the trail.
The Bull Hill Full Loop trail follows four trails for the entire loop. They are the White, Blue, Red, and Blue (again) trails. A quick way to remember this while you’re hiking is “We’ll Be Right Back”
We’ll = White trail
Be = Blue Trail
Right = Red Trail
Back = Blue Trail
Beginning of the Trail
At the end of the parking lot you’ll see this trail marker, which will take you to most of the Mianus River hiking trails
Hiking the Bull Hill Full Loop Trail – Beginning of the Trail
There’s no hiding it. The beginning of Bull Hill Full Loop hiking trail is the hardest part. It immediately starts uphill and you continue uphill for the entire 1400ft elevation. This takes about 1.7 miles before reaching the top.
Now, I know this sounds intimidating but there are plenty of overlooks and opportunities for rest while you’re hiking up, so you don’t have to do it in one go. However, the first two miles will be the part of the hike where you spend the most time just due to the elevation climb.
If you’re looking for a challenge, then you’ll find it in the first 2 miles. After you reach the top though, it’s an easy gentle descent the remaining 3.5 miles. I really enjoyed how the challenging part was finished first, and then by the time I was tired I was able to coast the rest of the way downhill.
Hiking the Bull Hill Full Loop Trail: The 3 Overlooks
While you’re hiking your way up this trail, you’re going to come across three named outlooks. There are plenty of other viewpoints in addition to these, but these three are the official ones that are marked as outlooks. When you’ve hit the third, you’re completely at the top.
The first one you get a glimpse of while you’re at the beginning of the trail. You’ll turn a corner and see this massive rock formation and see people at the top. It’s a good warning of what’s to come, because you’re going to keep hiking until you get to that first viewpoint. But, when you make it you’re granted a beautiful view of the Hudson River.
Once you continue, it’s not too much farther to the second outlook, which provides you with a full view of the city of Cold Spring and the Hudson River. There are so few hikes that offer a beautiful nature view AND an overlook of a city, so I was pleasantly surprised to see both.
View of Cold Spring, NY
Finally, you’ll make your way to the top of the trail and see the full expansion of Bull Hill and it’s truly stunning.
Hiking the Bull Hill Full Loop Trail: The Waterfall
I love waterfalls. I seek out any hike, big or small, where I can see one and get so excited when I know one is coming up. So, I was thrilled to learn that the Bull Hill Full Loop Trail has a waterfall.
Now, it’s a pretty small waterfall. If you’re into big crashing water falling hundreds of feet off a cliff, this will be unlikely to impress. But if you like any type of stream flowing off of rocks, then you’ll be thrilled just like me.
Once you reach the last overlook and you start to descend, it’s a pretty easy and beautiful hike. But, there aren’t a lot of features between the overlook and waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a wonderful and easy downhill hike next to a stream and in a pretty dense and secluded wooded area. This is wonderful. But by the time you reach the waterfall, you are almost at the end of the hike.
As you approach you’ll hear the water growing louder. Then a wooden bridge will appear on your left, allowing you to get a perfect view of the falls.
Hiking the Trail: Ruins and Swimming Pool
At the very end of the trail you’ll stumble upon the Cornish Estate Ruins (also known as Northgate). Built in the 1910s, this estate was acquired by Edward Cornish and sold to the Taconic State Park Commission in 1936.
These ruins consist of a mansion, greenhouse, fireplaces, and barn. They’re hauntingly beautiful and adds a nice piece of history to an otherwise solely nature hiking trail.
Several walkways lead down to the ruins to explore and see in more detail.
Other Tips to Remember
This trail is a moderate trail, so you should really consider having the proper gear before taking the first step. This includes having the proper shoes (boots or shoes made specifically for hiking), a trail map, enough water, and sunscreen. For my hike, I used the Teton Sports Oasis 1100 to carry all of my stuff and it was perfect for this trail.
As always when you’re out in nature, leave no trace. Take out anything you bring in, and leave the plants, animals, and rocks where you found them.
Hiking the Bull Hill Loop trail in the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve will allow you to see the beautiful Hudson River, explore some interesting history, and even spot a small waterfall. It’s a hike that truly has everything.
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