Storm King Mountain

banner

 

Cornwall, New York, weather forecast

Scenery: 4.5 cameras out of 5

Difficulty: 6 out of 10

Highlights: Awesome views from several overlooks

Distance: 2.5 miles, loop

Approximate roundtrip time: 2.5 hours

Total ascent: 893 ft

Max Elevation: 1,385 ft above sea level

GPS goodies:  Google Terrain map and a cool Google Earth flyover of hike route

This hike is for you if: You want some steep, quick climbs to some of the best views of the Hudson Valley you’re likely to find without renting a helicopter.

Background you can feel free to skip: For many years, Storm King Mountain has been my go-to hike for bringing out-of-towners, even people who hate being outside.

“If this hike was 100 yards longer, I would have stopped having fun, but it ended at just the right time,” reported my friend Jaime after a day at Storm King.  Jaime and her husband Josh (who incidentally designed the logo and Web layout for HiketheHudsonValley.com) both pretend not to like hiking all that much, but they actually seemed to enjoy themselves here.

That’s their picture in the banner graphic above.  Don’t the backs of their heads seem to be smiling?

And there’s plenty to smile about at Storm King.

CIMG0288 Storm_King_view

“Oh, no, this isn’t the money spot yet,” you’ll tell newcomers to this hike as you pass viewpoint after viewpoint.  As a bonus, this is one of those hikes that starts you halfway up the hill, so you get more view than you actually earn.

All of this is not to say that this is an easy hike.  There are a couple of very steep stretches here, including a place toward the beginning that requires a little bit of rock scrambling.

CIMG0248

These steep stretches in the beginning are the reason I’ve given this hike a fairly beefy difficulty rating of 6.  If you can get past the first 30 minutes or so, though, this hike becomes more of a meander, with intermittent views in all directions as you circle the crown of Storm King Mountain.

Besides being an all-around awesome hike, how cool is the name Storm King?  I defy you to find me a cooler-named mountain.  The instant you say the words “Oh, I’m just heading up to Storm King today,” you automatically become 20% cooler.

So even if you don’t like hiking, give this place a visit and see if it doesn’t change your mind.  And if you already like hiking, you’re in for a king-sized treat.


Trail guide:

1.  From the parking area on Rt. 9W, face the woods and look to your left, where you’ll see the beginning of the Orange Trail.  Hop on the Orange Trail to start your Storm King adventure.  You’ll see the White Trail coming in from the right, which is the end of the loop that you’re about to make.  You’ll have some good memories and some tired legs the next time you’re standing at this spot.

Storm_King_00083 Storm_King_00084

2.  I hope you weren’t looking for a warm-up before hitting the steep stuff.  Ascend the steep, rocky path towards the top of Butter Hill (the appetizer to the main course of Storm King).  Route 9W quickly falls away behind you.

CIMG0242 CIMG0246

3.  After the first steep stretch, you’ll pass the ruins of a small building.  Want to know what was once there?  Buy Peggy Turco’s awesome trail book.  I honestly can’t remember what used to be there, but I know she gives that information in her excellent Storm King write-up.  Since I can’t find that info anywhere else online, I think Peggy deserves some love for digging up that tidbit.

Storm_King_00099

4.  Head down a small saddle after the ruins, then Butter Hill demands your complete attention once again.

Storm_King_00102 Storm_King_00108

5.  Thankfully, your efforts are immediately rewarded.  As you make your way up Butter Hill, the views open up in almost every direction.

DSC_0305

6.  The Orange Trail abruptly bids you adieu when it dead-ends into the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail (which is often marked with both yellow and blue blazes together.  The entire Orange Trail used to share those yellow-and-blue blazes – you might have noticed some of the faded old markings along your way).  Take a right onto the Yellow Trail (standing at the junction, the only blaze you’ll see is a blue one, but once you turn right and walk a few feet, you’ll see the yellow blazes, too) to continue climbing Butter Hill, which you’ll summit in just a few minutes.

Storm_King_00121 Storm_King_00122 Storm_King_00160

7.  After a solid 30+ minutes of hiking from the parking lot, you’ll reach the top of Butter Hill, which affords some very nice views and a rocky spot to take a break.  See if you can find the round US Geo Survey marker for the summit in the stone beneath your feet.  You’ve gained over 400 feet in altitude since the parking lot.  You still have some uphill stretches ahead, but this is the highest spot on the hike, at 1,375 feet.

Storm_King_00147 IMG_0081

8.  Continue along the Blue/Yellow Trail as it meanders across the mountain.  When the blue/red-blazed Bluebird Trail intersects from the left, turn right to stay on the Blue/Yellow Trail.  This intersection is also marked with a small cairn (which is fancy talk for pile of rocks.)

Storm_King_00161 Storm_King_00162

9.  Just a minute after the intersection with the Bluebird Trail, the blue-blazed Howell Trail intersects from the right.  Don’t be wooed.  Take a left to stick with the good ol’ Blue/Yellow Stillman Trail.  If you happen to have a lovely assistant, see if you can get her to point the way.

Storm_King_00170

10.  The Blue/Yellow Trail takes you to the northern end of Storm King Mountain, where you’ll start to get some views of the river.  The real money spot is yet to come, though.

11.  You’ll know you’re at the money spot when you get there.  The Blue/Yellow trail pops you out into a rocky field with wide views of Newburgh Bay, Bannerman’s Castle, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, the Catskills in the distance and the eastern Hudson Highlands across the river.  On a sunny, breezy day, the Hudson River will be filled with sailboats.  What an awesome spot to relax and take it all in.

DSC_0346 CIMG0285 Storm_King_00222

12.  After you’ve chilled out here for a good long while, keep heading along the Blue/Yellow Trail.  You’ll see some short spur trails heading off to your left occasionally, which lead to some more nice overlooks, though nothing as huge as you just saw.  Still, they give a different view, and it’s worth checking them out.  If it’s the right time of day, you just might be able to get some nice silhouette shots.  Then you can use one of those shots as your banner graphic when you decide to start a website.

DSC_0367 DSC_0383

13.  A couple of minutes after the money spot, the White Trail begins when the Blue/Yellow Trail takes a very sharp left-hand U-turn to head back around the mountain.  Say goodbye to the Blue/Yellow Trail and keep going straight to hop on the White Trail.

Storm_King_00271

14.  After about 15 minutes, you’ll see the blue-blazed Howell Trail join you from the right.  Just keep heading straight to stay on the White Trail, which is now blazed with both blue and white markers.

Storm_King_00281

15.  Say goodbye to the Howell Trail when it departs to your left.  The White Trail takes you all the way back to your car, so keep sticking with it.

16.  After generally meandering downhill for almost the entire walk back, the White Trail demands one last steep uphill climb, just to make sure you’re good and sweaty when you get back in your car.

Storm_King_00290

17.  That’s it!  You’re now right back where you started.  Except that you’re a little bit more awesome (and tired) than you were just a few hours ago.


 

Directions to the trailhead:  From Newburgh, head south on Rt 9W.  Shortly after you cross under the overpass for Angola Road, you’ll begin climbing a large hill.  At the crest of the hill, on your left, you’ll see the trailhead for Storm King Mountain, which looks like a scenic pulloff with room for about 20 cars.  Unfortunately, it’s illegal to turn left here, and you’d be taking your life (and maybe some other people’s lives, too) in your hands if you tried it.  So you have to drive three miles past the trailhead to the cloverleaf at the exit for Rt 218/ Rt 293, then drive three miles back.  This is supremely annoying, but it’s the only safe way to do it.  Park in the pulloff, check out the educational signage and get ready to rock.

Storm_King_00294

You can also get directions by checking out the Storm King entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.

 

Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The intersection of Mountain Road and Rt 9W in Cornwall, NY is just a few hundred yards north of the trailhead parking on Rt 9W. (My old-ish Garmin Nuvi lets me put in an intersection as a destination, so hopefully yours does, too.)

 

Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:

More Storm King Mountain pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:

Was this trail guide useful to you?  Please leave a comment!


Search HiketheHudsonValley.com:

Search HiketheHudsonValley.com plus other awesome local sites (nynjtc.org, scenichudson.org, nysparks.com, catskillmountaineer.com, nycdayhiking.com, berkshirehiking.com, localhikes.com, njhiking.com, cnyhiking.com):




22 thoughts on “Storm King Mountain

  1. This was a great hike. One driving note: the parking is on the northbound side of 9W and the area is SOUTH of the Mountain Rd./9W intersection. When driving northbound on 9W, there is a blue sign 1 mile before it telling you Parking Area 1 mile.

    Also, maybe you should say that the white trail that takes you back to your car is sparsely marked and ends in a climb out of the ravine to the parking area…we were a little confused.

    Thanks again for all your efforts on these pages!!!
    Great work.

      • MG,

        Yikes, and thank you! Yes, I had “south” in the “Sorta nearby address for your GPS” section when it should have said “north.” The error is now corrected – sorry you had to be the one to catch it! I hope that saves other hikers the same hassle. My sincere apologies.

        Mike

    • Is there an exact address that I can type into my GPS. I tried clicking on your link but I cannot find the trail on google maps

      • Hi Michael — If you punch “Storm King State Park, Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY” into Google Maps (or the Google Map app), it’ll put you right on the trailhead parking lot. Hope that helps!

          • It seems as though that White Trail section is being left to go wild, but I was there late last fall, and it was very much still there, and very easy to follow. It’s also a key piece of trail for making a nice loop out of Storm King – I hope it stays passable. If you find it in any other condition, or if this guide needs an update based on what you see there, please let me know! I feel pretty safe in recommending this trail guide as-is, though, since I’ve done this one recently (with my then four-year-old, who is still proud of hiking Storm King). Hope you have a great trip!

  2. Thanks for the great overview. I have done this hike several times and love it! Now I have a 1 year old and am wondering how comfortable you felt with your little guy in the back on the beginning scrambling sections because I would love to take my son. Thanks!

    • Hi there EJ — I’m really glad to hear that this guide has been useful for you. This is one of my favorite hikes, and I’m just starting to think about bringing my four-year-old here. He loves the steep stuff (long, flat slogs, not so much), and this would be quite an adventure for him.

      I understand your caution about carrying your little one — there’s really a zero tolerance policy for stumbling or falling when you have a kid on your back. The first section is a little hairy, and it’s helpful if you have someone who can give you a hand. But I’ve done this a few times with an infant/toddler on my back without any help, and I’ll probably do it again with my youngest son (1-year-old) soon. Everyone has to gauge their own comfort level, but for me, as long as I’m careful and move slowly and deliberately, this one is doable (I’m not making a blanket recommendation here – I think a significant subset of people would find this too steep to attempt while carrying a child).

      One more little tip – I just took a steep hike (South Taconic Trail up Brace Mountain, which I’ll write a trail guide for one of these days) last weekend with my youngest son on my back, and I was SO glad to have my hiking poles with me. They really give you a lot of extra stability when you’re hiking with a little one on your back, and I felt much more confident going both up and down the steep stuff (on the flat parts, too, come to think of it). If you don’t have hiking poles already, you might want to invest in a pair. I don’t think I’ll go hiking again without ‘em, at least not when I’m carrying a little one.

      Hope all this helps! And I hope you and your little dude/dudette have some great adventures out there.

      • Thanks so much. I appreciate it! Hiking poles are a great idea. I also saw your write up on Bull Hill (which I have never been to). I don’t mind a challenge so I’m wondering if that might be a better choice. I posted a similar question on that page because it sounded perfect (great views, great workout, no rock scrambling) but I did see someone comment about part of the train being close to the ledge-I wasn’t clear on if that was the “correct” trail, or only if you take the “long trail”. Sorry for all the questions! I was much more of a “let’s just go and see how this hike is” before I had a child and now I am definitely all about planning ahead!

  3. I just finished this hike with my boyfriend, best friend, and her boyfriend and we had a blast! You are so right.. we thought we reached the “money shot” 3 times.. when we finally did we couldn’t believe we could have thought anything else could have been it. I just want to say thank you so much we followed your directions verbatim and it made the hike so manageable. We even had a man and his son pick up the hike with us because he loved how much we knew but it was all thanks to you. We will definitely be checking out your other hikes. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thinking about checking out Storm King …I see pictures of people with their dogs…Whats your suggestion…..I would hate to bring her along only to find out the climb was too steep. Great write up!!!!

    • Just brought my dog there last weekend! She needs a boost or three to do Breakneck, but does Storm King on her own no problem. Hope you all have fun if you venture out there!

  5. Hi Mike

    Thanks again for all the great info.

    About the dog, I saw your previous reply, what about on the way down? Will we have trouble climbing down with the pooch?

    THanks!
    Doug

  6. I have a question about the last part of the trail, steps 17 & 18. Unless I am misunderstanding both the NYNJ trail map (2013 )implies that the white trail dead ends at the blue trail, and the continuation of it, the trail back to the parking lot, is unmarked? Similary NYNJ discussion of this trail, states that it dead ends; http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/butter-hillstillmanbypass-trail-loop-route-9w
    and comments below which suggest that the trail is hard to find and that the blazes going to the parking lot have been/are being removed. But this was in 2011, see below, is it blazed now?

    “Storm King Woods Road From Butter Hill Parking
    On December 27th, 2011 Larry Wheelock says:
    The old road bed connecting the Howell Trail to the Butter Hill parking on Route 9W is not a trail. It was blazed at one point and some of the blazes may still be visible. The Palisades Interstate Park authorities have specifically asked us to not maintain it and to remove the blazes. We may need to do a bit more removal. In the past the Park management has removed blow downs for easier access in case of fire or rescue but they’ve not done so in the last year or so though they do know about the downed trees.”

    • Hi Jane! I was last there on Oct 20, 2013, and while I wasn’t specifically looking for white blazes on that final stretch to the car, that section of trail is very wide, well-trodden and easy to follow. (And you can see the White Blazes that close the loop under Step #1 above, right where that trail pops out into the parking lot, so it would make sense that those blazes are there the whole way, right?) In any event, just don’t follow the Howell (blue) Trail when it departs to the left (Step #15) and you’ll be all set. I agree with this snippet from the write-up in the link you provided: “…the road is distinct and easy to follow.” I’m surprised to see the bit about removing blazes from that section, as it a very important little section of trail to make a nice loop out of Storm King.

      You shouldn’t have any issues here – just keep heading straight for the final little stretch and you’ll be back to your car in no time! Hope you have a great trip!

  7. Thank you for posting this. We hiked up Storm King today–5/31/14–absolutely beautiful.

    I had been over in the area, and eerily close actually to this hike, but had never known about it. (The parking lot w/ the view over near where the trail starts is actually where I got engaged last October). That said, it was way cool seeing what else this area had to offer.

    We’d read the notes on repeatedly thinking each view was the “money shot” — and I can say that my friend and I each thought the views we came across was “the one”…until, as you noted, you arrived at the place that actually is the best view on the hike. Needless to say–it was incredible!

    I love this site–and just want to say thx for posting all these hikes. I look forward to seeing what more of these has to offer!

  8. Mike,
    I went to this hike yesterday. It seemed to me I was following the trail as suggested by you. After orange trail it seemed I followed the Blue/Yellow trail. As I followed the yellow trail I was supposed to get a view of river…and I was thinking this matches with this description:

    “10. The Blue/Yellow Trail takes you to the northern end of Storm King Mountain, where you’ll start to get some views of the river. The real money spot is yet to come, though”

    Now I can’t see the blue/yellow trail anymore. I moved around a bit , checked here and there. The trail went up . that’s where I could see the river views , li’l bit though. But I can’t find next steps.
    Then far ahead I see the trail going down and the mark of Yellow/Blue. So I thought to myself how can we have better views ( remember “the real money spot is yet to come”) when the trail is now going down. So I spend sometime here , thinking that we might have taken a wrong path but still no clue on how i made it wrong. So I kept on following Blue/Yellow trail. What I was thinking is I will get to money spot later ( and we will know when we reach the spot as money spot) but I followed the path I could see we were slowly going towards the RW9. I had a a MAP track App on in my phone.
    Still no sign of money spot and neither am I getting the white trail which will take me back to parking spot. At this point I was thinking that the little river view I had , was perhaps the money spot, and now after rain and more bushes and grasses have grown perhaps I am not able to sit and enjoy anymore.
    But I kept on walking and still no sign of the white trail. So I stopped and turned back as I am energetic. I thought i might have seen something like white trail long before earlier when I had partial views of the river. As I was turning back, I found another couple who were following a different website , but trying to follow the same trail – Orange trail–>> Blue/Yellow Trail—> Money spots—>White trail , like mine. So how can two different groups form two different sites can hit on same trail.
    I thought we are all right track. . Turned back again and together we continued in same track along -the great blue/yellow trail.
    But we drifted more towards the R9W and no sight of river and I can hear the cars from the highway. The trail meandered its way down and then we came to proper road and I can see houses. I was planning to someone about where we are o rif he knows any money spot etc. And I realised we were on Mountain road ( near The storm King school) – 9w was just couple of blocks from that place.
    Now its really an awkward feeling when you get lost in woods without a proper map . As per your website the junction between mountain road and 9w is couple of hundred yards from my original parking spot. Now since got lost once, I didn’t have much trust on my ability to read on your instructions. ( I didn’t spend much time researching the site before starting …this is my mistake) .

    1. So now question is where did Go wrong? I think I got some idea but want to get your view as well.

    2. Also I think I should really have a trail book/map with me in these kind of trips. Don’t want to get lost and not know my way back. I was feeling like if I can call you and ask you what should I do next..lol. ( btw we walked along 9W and my parking spot was really few hundred yards away from that spot , junction of mountain road and 9W). Can you suggest a trail book? the http://www.nynjtc.org suggest some trails. Is that what you recommend as well?

    3. And may I suggest that you add some caveats and pointers in your trail descriptions which stands out like for example some different font size or style . This might seem to difficult if you try to maintain and write content on webpage in old fashioned way but todays website builders like Go daddy, wix, weebly can help you a lot. Something like:

    “6. The Orange Trail abruptly bids you adieu when it dead-ends into the yellow-blazed Stillman Trail (which is often marked with both yellow and blue blazes together. The entire Orange Trail used to share those yellow-and-blue blazes – you might have noticed some of the faded old markings along your way). Take a right onto the Yellow Trail (standing at the junction, the only blaze you’ll see is a blue one, but once you turn right and walk a few feet, you’ll see the yellow blazes, too) to continue climbing Butter Hill, which you’ll summit in just a few minutes.

    ——————————————————————CAVEAT————————–
    if you go take left instead of right you will miss the spot. ( make it bold or some other font type) .

    “”

    PS. I must add this. Although I asked you to add some caveats which I am not sure if you will have time and energy to do. I appreciate you effort a lot. I ONLY follow your website before hikes. I pick up trail with combination of good view and difficulty level. Then I search how to go there and that’s it. I try to read through the descriptions but as you can see I missed it. So my suggestion is when you have developed the site so far, and you already have the passion for it , why not make it more comprehensive and complete. It can become the greatest website and hudson valley hikers best friend. :)

    Thank You

    • Maloy,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences out there! As it looks like you’ve already determined, my best guess is that you turned left in Step 6 above, when the directions advise you to turn right. If you look at the link to the Scenic Hudson map that Michael posted above, you can see that turning left there would indeed put you out on Mountain Road, just as you described. I hope you can come back soon and give it another go! I’m also glad to hear that you made it back safely to your car – I know how frustrating it can be to get turned around in the woods.

      If you look at the FAQ for this site, under question 4, you’ll find links to purchase the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference maps for this area, which really are essential for anyone who loves to hike in the Hudson Valley. You’ll find Storm King in the “West Hudson Trails” set.

      I’m always up for making improvements to the site – thanks for your recommendations!

      I hope you can visit Storm King again soon and take in the view from the money spot. Good luck, and happy trails!

      Mike

  9. Nice hike! It was a bit technical in a few spots, but nothing particularly difficult. The views from the top are amazing, and the hike is not too long so it’s a good bet for someone with limited time or endurance. One word of caution though, we ran into a fairly large copperhead about an eighth of a mile from the summit on the yellow/blue diamond trail. I don’t know if we spotted a very infrequent visitor, or if that area is his home, but he was quite bold. He wasn’t in any way aggressive, but if I hadn’t stepped to the side he would have gone right between my feet.

    • Yikes! Thanks for the heads up, Alicia. Glad you had a great day out there, if perhaps a tad more exciting than you might have bargained for. I’ll step carefully out there next time :-)

  10. Thanks for such excellent directions. Together with the pix, I had no trouble following the trail. The time/distance was right on and super helpful too. I’m really looking forward to taking my next hike from your site.

    Hit one tricky spot on the white-only section of the trail, couldn’t find the next blaze down a rocky slope. Left and right were sort of trail-ish, in a rocky scramble kind of way. I finally spied more of the dirt/rock trail down below to the right, so I headed that way and was back on blazed white terrain. My impression was that the white blazes are being maintained.

    Happy trails!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *