Weekend Backpacker: New York
Until you've looked up and down the Hudson Valley from Storm King, you haven't really hiked the Highlands. One of the tallest and certainly the boldest of the Highland peaks, Storm King has acquired the status of an icon over the last several centuries.
Following the Revolution, its name was changed from Butter Hill, which was thought undignified for such a magnificent specimen of newly independent American terrain. It was a popular subject for the young country's first home-grown style of painting, the Hudson River School. And in the 1960's, a band of preservationists did the unthinkable: they sued an electric utility over its plans to deface the mountain in order to build a power plant.
Looking from the east side of the river at Storm King, one sees an enormous, sparsely treed rock face thrusting out from the surrounding hills. Situated north of West Point and east of Black Rock Forest, Storm King is accessible by taking the Palisades Interstate Parkway north to its end and picking up Route 9W north as you loop through the traffic circle. Take 9W north three miles past its intersection with Rte. 293. Pull off into the parking area on your right.
There are several routes to choose from. You can take a relatively flat hike of about four miles or a shorter but more strenuous three-mile route down the mountain to a stream called the Clove.
For either hike, begin by ignoring the unmarked trailhead at the parking area and pick up the Stillman Trail (yellow blazes), which is slightly north of parking area. Since you're starting at an elevation of roughly 1100 feet, the walking is relatively easy.
To make the most of Storm King's varied viewpoints, take the unmarked trail leading off to the left 0.5 miles from the road. This involves a descent to the 500-foot level, with excellent views of the river winding north through Newburgh Bay toward Beacon and Newburgh. Simply by following the unmarked trail, you'll strike Stillman Trail again. Go left on Stillman and you'll emerge onto Mountain Rd. Take a left when you reach the road and it will bring you back to Rte. 9W. Take a left on 9W to return to the parking area.
To get to the Clove, follow Stillman and bypass the unmarked trail. Another 0.6 miles along Stillman you'll spot an unmarked trail on your right. Take it. You'll begin to descend sharply. The trail forks after one quarter mile; bear left until it deadends into the T intersection of another unmarked trail. The Clove runs beside this trail. To return to your car, simply take a right at the T. It's 0.8 miles and about 800 feet of climbing to get back to where you began.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication