Background you can feel free to skip: Facebook is a funny thing. It can suck away precious hours of your life that you should be spending doing actual stuff, but it can also introduce you to amazing new hikes (and funny cat pictures) that you might never have found otherwise. Thanks to Chris Fraley’s photo posting on Hike the Hudson Valley’s Facebook page with the caption: “The amazing view from Popolopen Torne looking toward the Bear Mountain Bridge and Anthony’s Nose,” I realized that Popolopen Torne needed a visit, as immediately as possible.
Thank you, Chris Fraley! (And Mark Zuckerberg.) The hike to Popolopen Torne is insanely beautiful, and my only regret is that I’ve lived here for 14 years without visiting sooner.
The only minor bummer about this hike is the road noise that accompanies you for a good portion near the beginning, since the trail parallels the very busy Route 6. But what this hike lacks in a deep-wilderness vibe, it more than makes up for with its pleasant trails and off-the-hizzle views of the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge far below.
Most of this trail is fairly tame, with the major exception of the very steep climb up to Popolopen Torne (you can also just call it “the Torne” like many locals do, since there aren’t too many other tornes around here). Be prepared to use your hands. I don’t know how steep an average torne is, but this one means business.
A warning to skimmers: To successfully replicate the journey detailed below, you’ll need to very carefully navigate several turns on many different trails. PLEASE do not skim these instructions, especially if this is your first time here. Also, if you have any ideas for updates to this trail guide to keep others from getting lost, please let me know — it seems to be a recurring problem here. (Just in case you skimmed this warning, the gist is that you’ll almost definitely get lost here if you skim this trail guide.)
Note for dog people: My medium-sized pooch didn’t need any help to get up these spots, but I was surprised she didn’t. There was much scritch-a-scritch-a-scritching for her to scale some of these places, where she would look at me as if to say, “Say what now?” before plowing onward and upward. A friend of mine reported that his German Shepherd didn’t like this part of the hike, either, but that she also successfully navigated it. This hike won’t be for every dog – if you have doubts about how she’ll do, it might be best to leave her at home until you can scope it out for yourself.
Continuing notes for humans: Some comments on the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference online guide for this hike mention the difficulty in following the blazes here. It seems this hike has developed a bit of a reputation for being tough to navigate. Perhaps there has been new blazing done recently, though, because I found it to be very clear, with a couple of minor exceptions (I’ll spend plenty of time pointing the way in the trail guide below). Overall, the trails here are very amply blazed, and as long as you stay alert, you shouldn’t have any trouble. Besides, you know, that mountain you’re climbing.
If you’ve never given this hike a try, I highly recommend it. It’s likely to be the finest torne you’ll visit all year.
**UPDATE October 2014** I wish I’d thought to visit the Popolopen Creek Suspension Footbridge while I was here, which can be accessed via a short trail directly behind the Fort Montgomery Site, and which connects across to the Bear Mountain Trailside Zoo on the far side. This is a quintessential Hudson Valley site — in fact, if you do a Google image search of “Hudson Valley,” that bridge (or the view from it) shows up in several of the images. Bing.com even featured an image of that bridge and the Bear Mountain Bridge on its homepage on October 17, 2014. It would be trail-guiding malpractice not to mention it, so now it’s mentioned! Hope you can visit this very cool place while you’re here, and I’ll have to check it out next time.
Bonus logistical caution: At the trailhead (directions at the bottom of this guide), a posted sign says that the parking lot closes at 5pm. Dude, no dawn to dusk? Bummer, but you’ll need to plan accordingly.
**UPDATE** Bonus addendum to the bonus logistical caution: If you need to return to your car after 5pm, or if the main lot at Fort Montgomery is full, there’s additional parking if you head north on 9W for .3 miles, on the right-hand side. Thank you for cluing me in with your comment, Dewan! And for this link to a Google Map picture of the additional lot! (Oh no! I had to rebuild this page to fix a mobile formatting problem, and it deleted the comments. Sorry, commenting people! Problem’s fixed now, won’t happen again. Good thing Dewan also commented on Facebook, too.)
**UPDATE April 2016** A parks director at the Fort Montgomery site wrote to me asking to advise hikers NOT to park in the Fort Montgomery parking lot, but in the lot that Dewan mentioned above. PLEASE heed that advice and park in the hiker lot .3 miles north of the Fort Montgomery site on Rt 9W, on the right-hand side as you’re headed north. No more worrying about that 5pm deadline – woo hoo!
**UPDATE June 2020** Friendly hiker Sandy reported below losing cell service on this hike, no longer being able to access this page, and having to call a park ranger for help. The ranger said that this happens on a daily basis! (Just reading that comment gave me hives.) If you’d like to create a PDF of this trail guide to make sure that you can access everything here even without cell service, you can do so using this link (the PDF has some annoying DEMO watermarks on it — if enough people complain about that, perhaps I’ll purchase a license that would enable removing the watermarks, but at least this is a workable solution for now):
(Many mobile browsers also allow you to save pages for offline viewing, but at least with the native “Reading List” feature on Safari on my iPhone, that feature appears to be rather worthless. But if you figure out a better solution, please share it in the comments and I’ll update this section accordingly.) Stay not lost out there, everyone!
If you find this free trail guide useful, please provide payment by picking up at least one piece of litter on your hike. Cha-ching! Thanks for being awesome! (And here’s a quick primer on Leave No Trace, too, to help us keep the trails nice and fresh for each other.)
**UPDATE July 2017** Several comments from friendly hikers at the bottom of this page mention construction on the Rt 9 W Popolopen Bridge – that construction is now complete, and won’t hassle you any longer. I’ve removed about 17 updates from this spot that gave some workarounds that fortunately are no longer necessary. Happy hiking out there!
1. **UPDATE April 2016** Since the Fort Montgomery folks asked us to start parking in the hiker lot just north of the Fort Montgomery site, you can skip this step and pick up the trail guide on Step 2 — just stroll to the entrance to the Fort Montgomery site and we’ll all be on the same page again.
From the parking area at the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site (see “Directions to the trailhead” below), walk back up the driveway toward Rt 9W, passing the stone staircase and trail blazes for the combined Blue (Timp-Torne)/1777W/1779 Trail (say that five times fast). You’ll be ending your loop today by coming down that staircase with a head full of awesome new memories. For now, keep heading up the road until you get to 9W.
2. Let’s begin our day in nature by walking along a very, very busy highway, just like Thoreau would have done. Have no fear – we’re only on 9W for a short stretch, and that stretch is mostly comprised of a scenic bridge walk with a pedestrian lane.
You want to turn left onto the very busy Rt 9W here — the trail turns into the woods on the far side of the bridge, on the other side of the road. I recommend crossing the street here, before the bridge (if you can do so safely), then turning left to walk toward the bridge, since the road looks a little tougher to cross after the bridge.
When you can safely cross the street, turn left onto Route 9W, then cross over Popolopen Creek, which you’ll be seeing much more of today.
3. After you cross the bridge, just after the guard rail ends, on your right, you’ll see a “NO PARKING ANY TIME” sign, with the three red-and-white blazes of the Popolopen Gorge Trail (henceforth referred to as the Red Trail) just behind it.
Turn right here to hop on the Red Trail (this turn is very easy to miss – keep a sharp eye out!). Adios, Rt. 9W! Thanks for the good times, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re the poor man’s I-87. I-87 is the poor man’s 9W.
4. You’ll be on the Red Trail for the next 1.6 miles (this 1.6-mile stretch will take us all the way to Step 12 below, since the Red Trail can be a wily one), during which you’ll gain 453 ft and descend 213 ft. Be very careful not to get bucked off onto unmarked trails (there’s one immediately after the hike begins, where you’ll take the right fork to stay on the Red Trail).
In another minute, cross under some power lines and take a gander as they descend down toward Popolopen Creek.
5. Just after the power lines, the trail brings you to a small clearing high above the creek, then takes a sharp left turn to begin your first climb of the day. Here, as with everywhere else on this hike, pay special attention to the Restricted Area signs. West Point’s property adjoins this land, and you don’t want to star inadvertently in any of their drills.
6. Keep following the Red Trail as it joins the creek and ambles along beside it. You’ll pass a fire circle just beside the trail (unless it’s been removed since my last visit on 8/9/2014), then enjoy some more quick climbs as you venture away from the creek (and toward Rt 6, a bad trade in my opinion).
7. Five minutes after the fire ring, the trail takes a hard uphill bend to the left, marked with two blazes and a small cairn (fancy talk for pile of rocks). Careful here! An unmarked trail continues following the creek, which is the way you’d go if you weren’t carefully playing a game of “Find the Next Blaze.” Keep on the lookout for the two blazes marking that hard bend to the left! (One hiker reported missing this bend, and also noted that there are multiple fire rings out here. Keep your eyes peeled for the two blazes that mark the turn, and beware the siren call of the unmarked trail!)
8. Toward the top of the next rise, you’ll turn left to continue following the blazes. In another moment, take a right to keep following them, ignoring the siren call of the unmarked trail.
9. Shortly after that right turn, the trail winds past some cool rock formations.
Dare you to stick your hand in there!
Just kidding. Please don’t do that.
10. Along this stretch, you will need to test your Jedi sense-focusing abilities on ignoring the road noise from Route 6, which you can see at times through the trees. Just keep on motoring and ignoring the actual motoring.
About five minutes after the cool rock formations, you’ll arrive at a fork in the trail with no obvious (as of August 2014) blazes to be seen. Take the downhill fork to your right and you’ll start seeing blazes again in just a moment.
11. In another moment, you’ll pass some, uh, concrete things that look like they could serve as a set for the upcoming movie The Ring III: The Rectangle. Samara, are you in there?
12. Just a few minutes after the last concrete doohicky, you’ll come to the Trail Junction of a Million Blazes. Keep an eye out for this junction! It’s very well-marked, but you could easily stroll right past it if you weren’t paying attention.
Here, the Red Trail continues straight ahead, joined by the 1777W and 1779 Trails, and also the Blue (Timp-Torne) Trail. Don’t go that way!
This is where we bid adieu to the Red Trail, and turn right to hop on the 1777W and 1779 Trails, which are also joined by the Blue Trail (though I didn’t notice any blue blazes until a few yards down the trail).
13. Head down the hill to find a very cool bridge crossing Popolopen Creek.
From the NY-NJ Trail Conference guide for this hike: “This prefabricated bridge was installed in 2012 by a volunteer trail crew from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, replacing a similar bridge that was severely damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene.”
Thank you, NY-NJ Trail Conference and your volunteers! For everything, really, but in this particular instance, for this awesome bridge.
14. Ready for some climbing? From the bridge, it’s .5 miles and 586 vertical feet to the summit. Follow the markers on the far side of the bridge to climb some stone steps, emerging onto a wide, flat trail.
Turn right onto the 1777W/1779/Blue Trail to continue following the blazes. (And if you happen to notice a stray red blaze out here, you can ignore it. I think it wandered here by accident.)
15. Almost immediately (within one minute), look for the Blue Trail to intersect the many-blazed monster you’re currently walking on, heading uphill to your left and downhill to your right. (“But I’m already on the Blue Trail,” you might be saying. Shhhhhh. Let’s not overthink this.)
Turn left to follow the Blue Trail uphill, leaving the 1777W and 1779 trails (and all their excess syllables) behind.
16. In a couple minutes, cross over a gravel road, following the Blue Trail straight across.
17. The final obstacle before the rock scramble up to the Torne is the guard rail that you have to limbo under to arrive on the paved Mine Road (this road is blocked to traffic on both sides of this spot, so I’d be surprised if you saw any cars here).
First you spread your limbo feet, then you move to the limbo beat. How low can you go?
18. Hop across Mine Road and steel yourself for the climb to come. Just keep following those blue blazes. Going up!
19. Less than ten minutes from Mine Road, you start to get your first hint of a view.
More where that came from! But first, up, up and up.
And then, after about fifteen minutes of strenuous climbing from Mine Road, the hint of a view becomes the real thing.
Stroll along the awesome clifftop vantage point and take it all in. This is not the summit, but it is still a money spot in its own right. Take a break here or keep trekking to the summit. (You still have one more money spot before the summit, too.)
20. A few more minutes uphill and boom! ‘Nother money spot.
Know what’s wrong with this place? Nothing.
21. One more short climb to the actual summit. When you get to the top, you’ll know it.
Popolopen Torne’s summit is marked with two stone benches and a stone monument. You’ll find out more about these memorials on a kiosk you’ll pass on your way down. (Images of the write-ups here and here, in case you’d like to read them now.) From that kiosk: “These rocks were carried from the bottom and stacked here as a tribute to American soldiers now serving on the Frontier of Freedom. To their safe return.”
I’m sure this goes without saying because you are an awesome person, but some less awesome people have apparently taken souvenirs from this monument. Please don’t be one of those people.
The two benches are dedicated to West Point graduates who were killed in action in Afghanistan.
MAJ Thomas “TK” Kennedy: Obituary, Military Times tribute
1LT Daren M. Hidalgo: News story, Military Times tribute
We’ll get back to the trail guide in just a moment, but this is a great opportunity to take a moment to think about, well, whatever you think it’s important to think about right now.
UPDATE: Per this comment on the Facebook announcement of this trail guide going online, here’s some more information about the origin of these benches and some other excellent trail work on this hike: “The new cedar kiosk, trail blazing, 2 new granite benches and QR codes on the benches were part of my son, Grant Thomas’, Eagle Project. It’s a wonderful hike! … Grant was able to name the trail “The Trail of the Fallen” which is how many of us refer to it. I’m happy to see this article. Below is the link to his fundraising for the Eagle project.” [The fundraiser is now closed, but follow that link to see more pictures of the project, and to get an idea of how much work went into all of this.] Wonderful work, Grant!
22. This is the part where you sit down, eat a granola bar, and say, “Wow” or “Duuuuude” or something to that effect. Don’t forget to check out the view behind you, too.
Also, don’t forget to water your dog (if applicable).
23. When you’re done soaking in the solemn and gorgeous awesomeness of this place, wander around the stone monument (so that it’s between you and the benches) to pick up the Blue Trail again, which heads down a wide-open rock face. (If you have trouble picking up the blazes, the Blue Trail continues almost straight across the Torne, coming down directly opposite the way you came up, before heading down the right-hand (eastern) side of the hill. You should be able to pick up the blazes again just on the far side of the monument.)
24. Continue following the blue blazes down through the pitch pines and steep rock faces. Watch your step! Over the next .7 miles, we’re going to descend 550 feet.
When you see KEEP OUT signs around here, you know, keep out.
Also, careful not to get bucked off on any unmarked trails – keep following those blue blazes down, down, down.
It took me twenty minutes to emerge beside a kiosk onto the paved Mine Road. Here, you can stop for a moment to read more about the monuments up on the Torne, and the caring people who put them (and this kiosk) here.
When you’re done reading, turn left (assuming you’re coming down the trail, with your back to the kiosk) to head downhill on the paved road.
25. In just a moment, you’ll arrive at a parking area on your right (you can park here for a much shorter route to climb the Torne, if you’re looking for the Clif’s Notes version of this hike).
Turn right into the parking lot, then follow the gravel road that heads out of the back-right corner of the lot to stay on the Blue Trail. You’ll walk around the gate (notice the blue blaze on it) to proceed.
Just after that gate, the Blue Trail departs the gravel road, descending down the bank to your left. That’s where you want to be. Turn left off the gravel road here to stay on the Blue Trail. (UPDATE November 2016: Thanks to Tasi for the helpful comment on this section — the sign pictured below has been moved further down the trail, where it makes much more sense. You should no longer see the sign as it is pictured here – you’ll turn off the gravel road before reaching it. Thanks, Tasi!)
26. After a short descent, turn left to stay on the Blue Trail when it widens and levels out, rejoined from the right by the 1777W and 1779 Trails. Hello again, Popolopen Creek! Enjoy this flat stretch of easy traveling as you mosey high above the burbling water – it’ll be just under one mile before you need to worry about any more turns.
27. I see you back there, you turkeys! (If you don’t see any turkeys right now, you can skip this step.)
28. About fifteen minutes after the 1777W/1779/Blue Trail junction from Step 26 above, you’ll find a wide unmarked trail crossing your path. Continue straight here to stay on the 1777W/1779/Blue Trail.
29. Is that a house over there? Yup, it’s a house. How did a house get out here in the middle of the wilderness? Answer: It’s not the wilderness. Just a moment after that seemingly out-of-place house, you’ll pop out onto the paved Mine Road once again – this time, the road is open to traffic, so be careful. Hi there, civilization!
It’s not entirely obvious which way to turn onto Mine Road. The correct answer is right – turn right onto Mine Road, and stay on it past Wildwood Ridge, which departs to your right, and Camp Road, which departs to your left. You’ll see the Blue Trail/1777W/1779 markers on the occasional phone pole to let you know that, indeed, you are still hiking, not power walking.
30. This road section takes less than five minutes. Keep an eye out on your left for your entry point back into nature, which is marked on a short pole with the familiar 1777W/1779/Blue Trail blazes. Turn left here to hop back on the trail and get some dirt back under your feet.
31. Follow the trail into the woods, and in just a moment, you’ll start to get a glimpse of Brooks Lake down through the trees.
32. At the bottom of the hill, it’s decision time! You’ll arrive at a many-blazed trail junction where you can go left or straight/right.
If you choose left, you’ll take a 1-mile, flat stroll around Brooks Lake. On the far side, you’ll wander across a town park, complete with ball fields, gazebo and porto-potty (score!).
If you turn straight/right here, you can cut off that extra mile entirely (this hike is 4.7 miles total without the loop, 5.6 miles with).
The loop around the lake is pleasant, but not earth-shattering. (This body of water must have a good publicist – I might have called it a pond.)
I’m glad I went around the loop during my first visit, but if I were to come back, I’d probably skip it.
I’ll give the loop below as an optional step. If you choose to skip it, go right/straight across the little boardwalk here, then meet us down at Step 34 (you’ll hit the next trail junction very soon – within a minute or two. See you there!).
33. Optional step: Stroll around Brooks Lake.
Okay, wild person, let’s do it! Turn left at the junction to hop on the red-on-white-blazed loop around Brooks Lake.
Enjoy nature’s beauty.
And humankind’s contributions.
About two-thirds of the way around the loop, you’ll find some actual very nice contributions from humankind, in the form of a picturesque lakeside park.
Continue hugging the shore of Brooks Lake as you pass a kiosk, hop on a gravel road, and pick up those red-and-white blazes again. Head back into the woods where the gravel road runs between two boulders.
The old concession stand has seen better days, hasn’t it? (Actually, I have no idea what that building used to be, but one thing’s for sure: You’ll have to get your Fun Dip elsewhere.)
Stroll beside some bull rushes and boom! On your right, you’ll see a couple of trees with many blazes. That’s the end of the Brooks Lake loop.
We’re right back to where the lazy people who didn’t go around the lake will meet us. (It’s okay, we can call them lazy – they’re not even reading this part.) Hope you enjoyed your stroll around the lake!
34. Hello again, people who didn’t walk around the lake — we were just talking about you! All good things, all good things.
From this junction, you want to go straight/left if you’re coming from the lake loop, or right if you skipped the loop.
35. In a minute, arrive at another paved road. Turn left and follow the road for a few moments.
36. On your right in a minute or less, turn right to stay on the Blue/1777W/1779 Trail.
37. In a couple of minutes, arrive at a mildly confusing fork. Take the left option here to stay on the trail. The right fork goes somewhere you’re not supposed to be.
38. In another minute, pop out onto another road, with an old park building in front of you. Turn right to walk along this road for just a minute. (When I was here in August 2014, there was some construction machinery parked at this junction. If you’re a five-year-old and those machines are still there, welcome to your favorite spot on this hike.)
39. The trail blazes are posted on phone poles along this stretch. When a driveway joins you from the left, notice the blazes on the phone pole on your left. They’re telling you to turn right, following the trail into the woods. (I missed this turn and had to backtrack. May you be spared the same fate.)
40. Follow the blazes (and Lyme disease warnings) for another couple of minutes before arriving at a fork with a posted sign (Left: West and Round Hill Redoubts; Right: Visitor Center). Choose the right-hand option to return to the Visitor Center.
41. The trail takes you right underneath the Route 9W bridge. Pretty cool, but watch out for bridge trolls!
42. Two minutes or so after the bridge, boom! You’ve closed the loop.
Hello again, Fort Montgomery Historic Site, and thanks for not locking up our car in here!
Hope you enjoyed the Torne! Bonus points for every time you manage to say “I have Popolopen Torne it up” for the rest of the day.
Directions to the trailhead:
From the Bear Mountain Bridge heading west, enter the traffic circle just after the bridge. Take the exit for Route 9W north, then immediately cross Popolopen Creek on the 9W bridge. In just a few more seconds, take your first right into the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site.
Head down the driveway to the parking lot, grab a spot and let the adventure begin!
You can also get directions by checking out the Popolopen Torne entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: Here’s the address that Google gives for the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site:
690 Rte 9W
Fort Montgomery, NY 10922
Putting this address into your GPS will land you almost within eyeshot of the actual site – on Google Maps, that address shows up .5 miles north of where you want to be. If you go to that address, just keep an eye out for the huge Fort Montgomery sign just north of the bridge over Popolopen Creek on Rt 9W, and you should be all set. (As noted above, per Dewan’s Facebook comment, there’s additional parking — without the 5pm restriction — just .3 miles north on 9W, on the northbound right-hand side, should you need it. Good option to be aware of — thank you, Dewan!)
**UPDATE April 2016** The Fort Montgomery folks have asked us (as detailed way up above) to park in the lot just north of the Fort Montgomery site. I’ve updated the GPS coordinates below to match that lot. Please plan to park there, not in the Fort Montgomery lot, so that there will be enough spots for everyone. Thanks, awesome hiking people!
GPS coordinates of parking area (these should take you straight to the right spot): 41.32832, -73.98745 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Resources & Interactives
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:
- An excellent trail guide for the same loop (in reverse) from the always-awesome New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
- The informative Popolopen Wikipedia page
- A nice write-up for the same hike from NYCdayhiking.com
- Some beautiful shots of the views in foliage season from harrimanhiker.com
Want to support trails in the Hudson Valley? Here’s one great way: Visit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference homepage and click on Volunteer, Donate, or Shop! (Then you can volunteer, donate, or shop, depending on your mood.)
Comments (84)Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
If you use Waze to its automated “Popelopen trail head”, it will drop you at step #18.
We did this hike for the fourth time this weekend, and it is so much better marked now than it was a few years ago. Big thanks to the trail angels. Download this guide to your phone before you leave, and you’ll be in great shape. One of my very favorites!
First off, fantastic hike and a fantastic, very helpful trail guide. Thank you for helping us having a wonderful day.
Three photo updates for you below/attached:
#7 – there’s now a rock that helps ensure you don’t miss the turn
#24 – the Danger sign has a bit more written on it
#26 – the Restricted Area sign is gone, but the easily recognized frame is still there
#24 – the Danger sign has a bit more written on it
#26 – the Restricted Area sign is gone, but the easily recognized frame is still there
We did this trail today. We used your trail guide and completed successfully without getting lost. We also hiked around the pond and did the suspension bridge behind the museum. We could not have done it without this trail guide and we are thankful for this guide. We are using your trail guide for each hike.
Appreciate you taking time and creating this trail guide.
Did the hike today, a mid size black bear was sitting right on the trail in front of me! Wish I got a picture of him but he ran away. Great hike!
Just did this hike today, loved it! Beautiful fall foliage, quiet and pleasant all around, and amazing directions through and through.
That’s fantastic to hear, Moshe — thank you so much!
we did the hike today.. used your guide for our last few hikes( surprise lake was our fave) and love your guides. huge issue today was there was no internet service much of the hike so we couldnt follow your guide when we were unsure!! ended up calling park ranger for assistance as it was getting dark and we were walking on the red trail going nowhere.. so how do people do this loop without phone service???
Screenshot every step, or download as a pdf.
i guess we never had this no internet issue on any other hikes so werent prepared appropiately.. but we sure learned our lesson. as per the park ranger they receive several calls for help in this area daily so i think others should be aware not to enter this hike without following your suggestions as they will be without service. ( or a good ole map…)
Sandy, I am so, so sorry that this happened to you. That must have been a traumatic experience, and I hate that this page played a role in you having to call a ranger for help. I’ve added an update at the bottom of the “Background” section above, with a link down to these comments and a link to create a PDF out of this trail guide. I really hope that helps other hikers avoid the same issue. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here so that others may benefit!
This site is great for all the photos, directions and information but would also recommend getting the maps from the NY/NJ Trail conference.
I did the hike yesterday, but in the reverse route. I think going up is easier this way, still a challenge and still great views. Taking the loop down the torne is a bit of a challenge, but I think more folks can do it more easily this way. My wife and a friend had taken this hike without me as published and could not make it up to the top, but with me, going the exact opposite way it was a cinch. Just be sure to take the first blue blazed trail on the right after you re-enter the woods on Mine Road (right after the Private Camp Road).
Thanks for the recommendation, Chuck! Sounds like a great option for anyone who would prefer not to scale the Torne. Much appreciated, and glad everyone was able to navigate the route successfully going the other way!
The directions in the beginning is a bit misleading because step four says “1.6 miles on the red trail” which I took as being one step, when that 1.6 miles encompasses the next many steps. We got turned around many times and didn’t make it to the peak this trip. A little rephrasing would go a long way!
Oh no, Nicole, I’m so sorry to hear that! I’ve updated Step 4 to read: “You’ll be on the Red Trail for the next 1.6 miles (this 1.6-mile stretch will take us all the way to Step 12 below, since the Red Trail can be a wily one)…”. Let me know if that improvement doesn’t fix the issue. I hope you have a better experience next time, and thanks so much for providing this feedback so that nobody else will ever run into that same problem!
That should do the trick! We’ll be back to conquer this one when it’s green again. Thanks for all the great trail instructions – we always use your guides 🙂
Thank you so much, Nicole. Hope you have a smoother run of it next time! (And here’s wishing for that green to get here soon.)
Did the hike yesterday. Did not get lost lol. Was great. Thanks for all the help. The view was amazing. 2 things. Either I got lucky or one of your instructions is a bit ambiguous. When we turn right at the keep out sign with someone marking and arrow pointing right for the trail. You say keep going down down down. Me and my friends couldnt find that for like 15 mins. All we saw was the blue Mark’s taking us a up for a little part before descending again. But the second most important thing is while going down after the top when you hit the rock faces. Someone put two ropes at different places to help out. I only took this one picture of one of them because basically it’s the same thing. Thanks again.
Hi, Shaukat! Glad you had a great day out there! Thanks for your comments and photo. I updated the trail guide above (Step 24) based on your comments, just by moving an image to where it matched the text a little better. Let me know if that doesn’t help clarify the instructions there, or if there’s something else I could add there to make sure nobody else gets confused. I’m not sure how permanent that rope fixture will be — looks more like something somebody left there, and I expect it may disappear at some point. Your photo is really helpful — thank you for sharing it here!
This was a great hike. I did it on Labor Day weekend, followed by Wittenberg the next day and I used your trail guide and information for both. Keep up the good work! It is really helpful information!
Hiked this route today and can report there are no longer any issues with closed trails. Lots of fun, a great rock scramble to get to the top and some magnificent Hudson views.
I was there today and boy did we end up so very lost. There were some storms here for a couple of days and there are many trees down for the count. The trail gets lost very easily with all the debris and the mud is everywhere. I agree with the previous post in regards to red trailblazers that take you off course (different from your guide). I’ve done this hike before in the winter and the ice was easier to deal with and we had no problems following your guide then. Either way, I’d wait until they’ve been able to clean it up. It went from a fun hike day to trying to find a road just to get back to the car. Also, I live by these guides so thank you for being so detailed and informative. ✌️
I actually did this hike yesterday – and not for the first time. Usually, I trek up route 6 for half a mile and then cut down to the trail to save time (only have so much window given I take the bus from Port Authority and must return at 3:19 PM.) The beginning of the trail is unmarked if you take it from just over (or short – depending on from which way you’re coming) of the 9W bridge. It used to be clearly marked. Then about 15 minutes in, there’s a clump of debris and an incorrect blaze which led me to believe I should head uphill – which I did to my chagrin for a while (very steep and tough to descend once I knew I was off). I then climbed over the debris and found the trail again only to miss the turn uphill several hundred yards later. Once I doubled back and found the trail I was good to the top. The best part was the water was high from all the rain and after climbing and descending I found a rushing pool of cool clear water into which I submerged blissfully. All in all…a great day. But it took a save and I have to admit to being confused for 15 or 20 minutes before I decided to climb the debris and refind the trail.
Thank you so much for these guides! My friends and I would be completely lost without them. Just thought I’d stop in to give a quick update
Step 4. The pile of rocks is still there.. this turn is very easy to miss!
Step 24. The steep flat rocks going down has a rope now, though this is probably more so for coming up the rocks. After this, it was easy for us to get lost as the blue blazes continue straight then just stop… apparently there’s a turnoff on the right that’s easy to miss. Thankfully we met a very nice couple who showed us the way as they had just come up from that direction.
Thanks again for all the helpful guides!
hey Nicole, I’m heading up Popolopen this weekend. Were the rock scrambles icy? Should I bring crampons/microspikes?
Scrambles were fine… we all wore regular sneakers and had no problem. I uploaded a pic of the worst of it… some icy sections along the trail but managed to just walk around it.
Update for you: July 14 2018:
We tried to do this hike this Saturday. There is a lot of damage from the storms in March and April. We had to turn around as we could not get below/above a massive area of debris. You can tell there was work being done at the beginning of the trail, but about 15 minutes into it, we decided to turn back. We had never done this trail before, it’s not marked all that well, and had hesitations. I would wait until the landslide area (like 40 trees) is cleared.
Thank you so much for the warning, Dot! I’ve added a warning and a link to your comment at the beginning of the Trail Guide section. Sorry you had such a bad experience there, and thanks for helping others to avoid the same fate!
I did this hike last week and was able to complete it – I’m pretty sure the spot referenced here now has a new trail to bypass it.
Kevin, thanks so much for the heads-up! I’ve removed the warning from the trail guide above. Much appreciated!
The boulder in Picture 3 is there. I was there today. Great guide.
Thanks so much for the confirmation, Z52!
me and my wife did that trail on september 23rd,2017 . your info was very helpful( especially about sharp left mentioned in paragraph 7 ) . we continued along the creek as well another hiker we’ve met . thanks to you notes we found the right path . worth mentioning : in the parking area mentioned in paragraph 25 is trunk of the tree that was either cut or it fell in 2016 . marked are important that from u.s. history , such as world war I , 9/11 etc
Hello! Just hiked this today, 9/4/17, and wanted to note that the Mine Rd seems to be open at the first crossing now (the one with the guard rail limbo). I had no trouble getting under the guard rail, and stopped for a moment on the road to catch my breath, but just as soon as I had ducked back into the woods on the other side, two cars and motorcycles came flying around the corner. Yikes!
Other than that, the instructions were great! The trail is a little confusing in parts but the only time I was led astray was by some extra blue marks coming off the summit. Thanks for a great guide!
Thank you for these guides!, I’ve used them many times and there always a great resource!
This guide worked great, we just had one problem at the beginning, we were at the second parkinglot and didn’t realize we had to go over two bridges and not one, but we found our way!
Side note to anyone hiking right now: the trail (especially at the beginning) gets really narrow and is overgrown in places and it becomes impossible to avoid the brush. I had to do a really good tick check after this one.
Just did this hike and the bridge is open again. Your directions worked perfectly. Thanks!
Hi. Thank you for the very detailed and exceptionally good reporting for this hike. My only problem was finding the start point off Route 9W, as the boulders have been displaced and no marking was noticed. But, following “Murphys Law” (it should be here but not marked) we started without any problems. Your hints along the way were great and we managed the entire hike with no problems at all. It is a long hike and did take several hours. But, it was quiet, the river / george was beautiful and the view at top was worth the trip. We hiked back on May 27, the weather was perfect. Your guidance made for a successful and enjoyable time. Thank you!
Glad to hear all went well out there, Victor — thanks for the very nice feedback! If you have any tips on how to improve Step 3 above, I’d love to hear them. Several other folks have reported that the boulder is no longer there. I’ve updated the beginning of the trail guide with a warning, but would love to give everyone something better to go on!
(Cross-posted at NYNJTC)
The bridge was fixed when we did this hike on June 4, 2017! We parked in the auxiliary parking about 1/4 mile north of the Fort Montgomery site (to leave its tiny parking lot for its visitors). Auxiliary parking is on the east side of 9W, and the trailhead is on the west side; the east side of 9W has a sidewalk all the way, and I recommend staying on that side until just before the bridge over Popolopen Gorge because cars are moving very quickly. That said, dashing across 9W was not a problem at 9:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
We missed the trailhead boulders but saw a clearing at the 9Wfork, ventured in and picked up the blaze — white with red center. (Maybe we turned too soon? Or the boulders were removed in the bridge construction and haven’t been replaced?) I definitely recommend the clockwise direction for this route; this lets you go up the rock scrambles to the torne and then mostly hike rather than scramble down at a flatter pitch. (The path to the peak is a tight U, and on a wet day you can also avoid the rocks altogether by doing an out-and-back on the exit arm of the U; turn left at the road and walk about 1/8 mile to the kiosk on the right.)
The first time we did this hike, in 2016, we missed the sharp upward left turn about 1/4 of the way into the hike but knew to look for it this time and easily saw the cairn and double blaze. The descent from the tome took a little while to find both times; you have to double back to the south and can miss the first blaze. This time, we missed the turn at the very end and ended up walking 5-10 minutes the wrong way on Firefighters Memorial Drive; not a big deal.
Not sure if this trail is really worth it. Most of us just want to have a good time and not worry about anything when hiking. However, you can’t do that with this trail since it’s so confusing.
We lost our ways and never made it to the top. Although we figured out the right path, we were so drained and tired that we all decided to pack our butt back home.
We will try again this year. Hopefully, we won’t make the same mistakes. Oh great, now I forgot what was the mistake.
So sorry to hear of your experiences here, and I worry that “I got really lost here” is becoming a recurring theme for this hike. I just added a warning above that this is a complicated trail guide, and skimming is ill-advised. If you think of any more changes/updates I can make to help others avoid the same fate, please let me know! I hope you have better luck next time.
The trail is much better marked now (fall 2020) than it was then — one of my very favorites! Download this guide to your phone and you’ll be all set.
My girlfriend and I tried this hike yesterday with 7 other friends. It was a little hard to read the instructions and pay attention to the trail while having fun with inpatient friends. Needless to say, we got lost. VERY lost. We did not turn at #12 and we continued for a very long time in the trail we were. We crossed an improvised bridge (I wondered if the bridge in #13 had been destroyed) and we kept on going. We got to a shooting range…. passed right next to some policemen practicing target. We kept on walking on a paved road and that’s when we made the decision to carefully read the website (I know, I know, don’t judge). We decided to go back and find the first thing we missed (basically the bridge because we did see the stone in #11). We went back for about an hour (because we were still arguing which way to go… it’s not easy to convince 8 other people which way is the best option). We encounter two other hikers that told us that they were also following this website’s instructions but that they started doing it backward. We waved bye at them and followed our journey. The issue we had was that the sun was already setting (it was about 4:45 and it said that sunset was at 5:40). We finally saw the trail that took us to the bridge. From then, I was reading carefully and really looking at the pictures. We got to the steep parts and we started going up. Some of our crew got really tired and we had to stop for a while. I was afraid because of the sunset, but I understood that we had walked a lot. We kept going up while being scared because we knew we had to come down and we did not want to do it while it was dark. Despite all the setbacks and obstacles we got to the summit in time to see a beautiful sunset.
Thank goodness we found some people that were also coming down so we all went down the same way and we helped each other out. We took about 20 minutes to get down to Mine road. Needless to say, it was already dark and most of our phones were dying on battery so we were not going to be able to use the flashlight. Thankfully, those people that were coming down with us had parked their car in the parking lot close to that road and we asked them to give 2 friends a lift to our car so that they could pick the rest of us later. That’s what we did and we could not complete the way back because it was dark.
Overall we really enjoyed this hike but it was very dangerous and I do not recommend anyone to follow what we did. I think we mixed all of the dangerous conditions together. We got there late. We got lost for a very long time. We climbed to the summit, despite it getting dark and despite all the leaves that were on the rocks. There were some slips and almost-falls along the way but thankfully no one got hurt. Even though the view was amazing with the sunset, I would not recommend it unless you have your car parked in the nearest parking lot. If those people wouldn’t had been there, I honestly do not know what would we have done.
We were really lucky and we enjoyed the hike. The instructions on the website are good if you read them carefully. I wish I could do it with a map like google map showing me where to go.
I agree that the instructions are confusing. I printed them out and followed them as we walked. The only place we got lost was at the top of the mountain – we had to hunt around for a while to find the right place to climb down…
Hi Juan and Bill,
Sorry to hear about all the confusion and misadventures out there! If there’s anything I can do to make the instructions above clearer, or any updates I can make above that would have helped to avoid your harrowing experience, please let me know. I hate to hear about people getting lost out there.
As for a map, this is the end-all, be-all map set for this region – you won’t regret making this purchase: http://www.nynjtc.org/product/harrimanbear-mountain-trails
Hope that helps!
This happened to me and my friends too! Although, once we saw the “target practice” sign we decided to backtrack, my phone died, my friend’s phone was almost dead, luckily we were able to check her map on Fitbit and AllTrails to figure out we were wayyyyy off the trail. We didn’t turn right when we were supposed to join the blue trail.
To make matters even worse, we couldn’t find the trailhead and hiked about two miles on the Appalachian trail since that’s where everyone directed us. Also found getting down a bit confusing, I thought for a moment the Blair witch must be nearby. Overall it was an amazing hike and we all took a nap at the top. Thought it was going to be able 5/6 miles…ended up being 10 ♀️
The notice board with blue markers just behind to climb to Summit.
Seems we can post pics from phone and just 1 pic only?
Seems there are some changes. The GPS coordinates led us through Mine Road into a section that had army barriers. As we just passed the Parking lot in Point 25 above, we parked there. Across the road a bit to your left there is a notice board with blue trail markers just behind them. Follow the blue all the way up. You’ll reach a curve with good views. Don’t stop there. Hike past around the curve and the blue trail continues. Hike past till you reach 2 sections with knotted ropes to aid climbing. Climb them and you’re on top (step 21). Seems we did this hike in reverse. On the far side with river views the blue trail continues for descent. A bit tougher as it has 2 slide sections. Pretty soon you’re back on Mine Road a bit further from the notice board (turn left in road to reach notice board and parking lot).
*** we also noticed that the warning sign board with blue marker (step 25) has been blocked out with tape. There’s a blue trail leading down bljuat before the marker that leads you down to Creek Bridge. We went down followed the 77W/79/Blue/Ref on White (4 markers) trail trying to find Brooks Lake but without success. Gave up after an hour and returned back same way. Will try to post some pics when I get bcak on PC.
Great guide! Followed the directions and had a great hike despite an excessive heat warning today (feels like 105F)
One update to be made on Step 25:
“In a few more feet, arrive at a sign with multiple personality disorder. “Halt! Go ahead. But stop! Also, go away. And welcome!” The sign says stop, but the blue blaze says go. Listen to the blaze, and look just beyond the sign to see where the Blue Trail departs the gravel road, descending down the bank. That’s where you want to be. Turn left off the gravel road here to stay on the Blue Trail.”
The sign has been removed from its metal poles (in original post photo) and is now nailed to a tree just a bit up the leveled path. Although further up, you can still see the sign after passing around the gate; if you head towards the new location of the sign, you will passby/miss the point where the Blue Trail descents down to the bank.
Other than that, everything else was incredibly accurate and easy to follow!
Attached is the photo of the where the “RESTRICTED AREA” sign used to be
I wanted to give you a big, belated thank-you for this update, and for your very helpful pictures. I’ve updated the trail guide above to reflect this change. Much appreciated!
Did you follow the directions from fort montgomery? Was the pedestrian bridge open now?
I attempted this hike last Sunday. I got lost @ step #7. I passed the fire ring and after about five minutes I never saw the other blazes or cairn. The trail is pretty overgrown and I didn’t want to continue on as this hike because I didn’t know if it would end up at the clifftop. This is my first failed hike attempt in a long time so I was very bummed out. If anyone can give me a better/updated description as to how to find step #8 and continue on the trail that would be very helpful. Also, if you continue along the creek on the unmarked trail does it eventually intersect the marked trail? If I follow the creek won’t I eventually find the bridge crossing over Popolopen Creek? Thanks for the help guys! Love the page, its keeping my summer fun and filled with hiking adventures in the beautiful state of New York!
I had an awesome time hiking the Torne for the first time today. I took the reverse directions of those listed above due to heavy construction on the bridge. A change that can be made to the above directions concerns the large “Restricted Area” sign. It has since been moved further down the road so there should no longer be any confusion or concern about trespassing.
We hiked this trail on 5/15/16. Against our better judgement, we crossed the 9W bridge on the construction side. There was a large section of bridge taken out, with a small, temporary pedestrian bridge spanning the gap. There was a platform about 10-15 feet below this pedestrian bridge, so if we fell, it we (most likely) would have survived. Hahaha. I wouldn’t recommend this way, but it was safer than playing Frogger with the traffic.
Has any one else measured the length of this trail? We didn’t go around the pond/lake, and our Fitbit told us it was about 6.4 miles…a lot more than 4.7 miles. I don’t know how accurate Fitbits are. Just wanted to point it out.
We missed the turn down the eastern side of the mountain (around step #24). Quick tip – if you get to a concrete pillar with 4 blue squares painted on it, you missed the turn to go down the mountain. You have to backtrack maybe 100 feet…
We had an absolute blast!
Hey Mike, I did the hike this past Sunday and it looks like it’s gonna be a while with the 9W bridge construction. We got there pretty early and could’ve just crossed carefully but opted for the scenic route with the pedestrian suspension bridge instead, which was worth the extra 15 minutes.
Thanks for the helpful update, Harold! I linked down to your comment from the top of the trail guide. Much appreciated!
Great hike, wonderful views.
Hi Ganeene — Have you done this hike recently? Wondering if the construction on the bridge is complete yet.
I applaud how detailed your description is with all the photos you’ve contributed.
Thumbs up for this valuable resource!
I haven’t done hike yet, this was for planning. Will be going in a few days.
Now that you’ve provided such useful information I feel more confident I won’t get aimlessly lost lol
Thanks so much, Carson!
Did this hike today with the LADY! and it was great. We had to park at Bear Mountain Inn, but the walk back to the trailhead was pretty nice, and it didn’t feel too dangerous around the traffic circle.
Such an interesting hike. Lots of different types of terrain, and the creek along the right side for the first hour has some great views as well.
When you do finally get up to the top, the view is just absurd. We sat and just looked out over the hudson river for probably 30 minutes or so. I had read about the monument, but didn’t realize how big some of those rocks would be. There are so many rocks, too many, it really was emotional to see.
After a few moments of reflection, we moved on and followed out the rest of the hike.
If you do park at the Bear Mountain Inn, you’ll need to take the footbridge over the creek. You can do this by continuing past the fort montgomery visitor center. This was a little confusing, but once we found the footbridge is was just a few more minutes till the car.
Great Hike, Great Views, Lots of different terrain, awesome monument at the summit.
Just did this hike yesterday with my sister. We parked at Bear Mtn too. Definitely worth the extra trouble of crossing through the circle. The view was amazing especially with the leaves changing. Thank you for the write up. We followed your directions and not only are they informative they’re entertaining :). We’re definitely going to try some of your other hikes. Keep up the good work.
Hiked this trail for the third time today – great trail – and your directions are always spot on. They are still working on the 9W bridge so you have to plan ahead. Today we parked at Bear Mountain, incurs an $8 parking fee, but it also puts you back at the Inn where they have cold beer. We walked around the Hessian Lake and crossed Rt. 202 at the traffic circle. There is a sidewalk on the Northbound side of 9W so you can safely get close to the trail head safely. The rest of the hike followed the the trail as laid out until the end. We used the pedestrian bridge at Fort Montgomery and the Twin Forts trail to get back up to Bear Mountain. This let us enjoy the animals in the Bear Mountain Zoo and a pint at the bar to celebrate the end of a great day.
Just finished this hike. It was amazing. Followed your directions to a T. Thanks so much. it was also nice having reception the whole way so I was always able to refer back to your site. Also, finished off with an amazin slice of pizza at Foodies, just a 1/2 mile up the road from the parking lot.
I am planning to do this hike on Monda, Oct. 19th 2015… Your comment is the most recent and I saw an earlier comment that perhaps hikers should postpone this hike until the work on the Rt. 9w bridge is done. Is the usual access to the trailhead still inaccessible? Thanks.
Hi, just did this hike today. The bridge is still under construction and you will need to make arrangements. Have a look at my comments, but we opted to park at Bear Mountain and used the sidewalk from the toll plaza to get close to the trail head. The Twin Forts trail (the pedestrian bridge) leads you from Fort Montgomery back the Bear Mountain – and through the zoo! Hope this helps.
Great directions and a great trail as well. I’ve done Major Welch, Anthony’s Nose, and Breakneck among others in the area. And this might be the best. I went on a beautiful weekday and encountered one lone hiker…one duet, and one group of six. AND THAT WAS IT! I like the off-the-beaten-path vibe.
Two things you didn’t mention:
1. You can actually take a dip in the creek at a couple of points…which is a big plus for me.
2. For urban bus riders (like me) who get off at Bear Mountain, the 9W bridge isn’t a problem because you never cross it (though there is a 1.5 mile hike to get to the trail head from the bus stop). And as an addition to 2…coming back the way you came (which I did), a hiker can bushwack it up to Rt. 6 at certain points (though it is sketchy to do this) to thereby cut the time and distance back to the bus. And I kind of liked hiking rt. 6 in a weird way.
Thanks for all. With you guide, i felt safe hiking alone.
Which bus did you take? I’m coming from Queens and I plan on doing this hike. Thank you!!
Short Line from PA.
NOTE: Due to major construction work on the Popolopen Creek Viaduct on Route 9W, this viaduct is closed to pedestrian traffic for the duration of the construction. To complete this loop hike, hikers should turn right and follow along the shoulder of the paved road to the Bear Mountain Bridge. Near the northern end of the Bear Mountain Bridge tollgate, follow a red-blazed trail that leads downhill to the blue-blazed Twin Forts Trail. Turn left onto the Twin Forts Trail and follow it across the pedestrian suspension bridge over Popolopen Creek and up to the Fort Montgomery Historic Site.
Your guide for this hike is amazing. Good work! I followed it today, and it carried me through this complicated and potentially confusing trail without a hitch. The photos are perfect and invaluable, and the text descriptions are clear and exact. It was lots of fun to follow along! This site was a fantastic resource, and I hope to use it again for my next hike.
I do wonder what would happen beyond all those posted “DANGER!” signs. Not that I was about to find out! But it looked so peaceful beyond the signs….
A note: As of today, 5.15.15, the pedestrian lane on the 9W Popolopen Bridge is closed due to construction. No foot traffic is allowed, so it’s impossible to cross. The construction guy said the bridge will not reopen to pedestrians until next year! The only way to do this hike as it is here is to go behind the Ft. Montgomery Park Visitor’s Center to a path that goes down and almost underneath the Bear Mountain Bridge. It comes up at the toll booths. You then circle around to the other side of the 9W Popolopen Bridge. It also requires a very risky run across the highway! Other than that unexpected snafu, the hike when great!
Aaron, thanks so much for all the kind words! And yikes on the pedestrian lane! I just updated the trail guide with a warning and a link down to your comment. Thanks for helping to keep other hikers from getting a nasty surprise here!
Mike – we have been enjoying and relying on your website for the past 3 years, and I’ve finally come to comment and express my appreciation for how incredibly detailed and funny your guides are. We don’t use a single other guide to help us through our hikes.
Just commenting to say that we did this hike on Sunday (9/6/15) and that bridge is truly impossible to cross. We failed to read this comment before heading up for the hike, so we (dangerously and quickly) sprinted across the bridge from the parking area and into the start of the trail. It was terrifying and definitely not something I would recommend.
On the way out, we were able to exit through the side of the woods in order to avoid sprinting back across the bridge, which I was grateful for … though the bridge is short, the traffic is going very fast in both directions and there’s really no room for pedestrians to be running across.
Thanks so much for this comment, Grace! I just updated the beginning of the trail guide with a link down here, and a recommendation that perhaps people should wait to tackle this hike until the bridge situation is back to normal. Really appreciate you taking the time to share this – hope it helps others avoid running into the same problem!
What are bridge trolls?
Hi, flynnie! Take a look at this bad boy and see if it gets us on the same page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Billy_Goats_Gruff
LOL, ok, thanks!!