Tag Archives: Scenic Hudson

Independent Field Trip to Mount Beacon Park

About a 45 minute drive south of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Country’s city of Beacon, New York has a beautiful backdrop: Beacon Mountain, known locally as Mount Beacon. Mount Beacon is the highest peak of the Hudson Highlands mountain range, overlooking the Hudson River and the Hudson Valley. It has northern and southern summits at an elevation of 1,531 feet and 1,610 feet above sea level, respectively (x).

One crisp Sunday morning in mid-September, some friends and I piled into my car and arrived at our destination around 11AM. The parking lot was already pretty full, demonstrating the popularity of this destination, but luckily we found free spots. Make sure you get there relatively early if you don’t want to be parked along the road.

The hike up North Beacon begins with a long metal staircase that really gets your lactic acid flowing before you even make it to the real trail. The first stretch of the hike is a bit steep and you’ll be doing some clambering over rocks and boulders, but it is totally manageable for most people. We saw a wide range of people handle it just fine, from college kids and seasoned hikers to small children and older folk. This part of the trail ascends along the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, built in 1902, which was the first electrified incline and at one point the world’s steepest incline. It was one of the Hudson Valley’s prime tourist attractions, ridden by over 3.5 million visitors during its 75 year span of operation, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1983. Mount Beacon Park is maintained in cooperation with the Mount Beacon Incline Railway Restoration Society, which is working to restore it. You can read more about the history of the incline railway in this 2011 New York Times article.

When you reach the first summit, you find the ruins of the incline’s powerhouse and a scenic overlook to the Hudson River and the city below. The mountain and the city were named for the signal fires lit on top of the mountain during the Revolutionary War that served as beacons to warn of British troop movements, and word on the street is that there is a monument at the site of the original signal fire erected by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1901.


ruins of the incline powerhouse


view from the first overlook

It would be about a 2.4 mile (1.5 hours) round trip journey to the overlook, but our hike was far from over! It was onwards and upwards. The trail gets a bit less steep after this point (well, mostly at least) which was helpful after we took the wrong fork in the trail. But eventually we made it all the way to our destination: Mount Beacon fire tower! This brought it up 4.4 miles (3 hours) round trip.


Mount Beacon fire tower

We stopped to eat a snack and take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of the Hudson Valley. When we were there everything was still green, but I am looking forward to going back now that the trees are beginning to change colors. If you happen to be afraid of heights, you can see pretty much the same view without going up the extra 500 feet of the fire tower… but you already hiked all the way there, so you might as well, right? At least that was the philosophy that managed to take me to the top! Apparently this fire tower was renovated in June 2013 to include stairs (very nice and sturdy stairs, in fact!) for which I am eternally grateful.


it was rather windy up there!

Atop the fire tower, you could basically see everything: the Catskills and the Beacon Reservoir (the city’s main water source) to the northwest, the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and the Gunks to the west, the Hudson Highlands to the south, and — on a clear day like the one we were lucky enough to be there on — you can even see New York City in the distance. There was no way to capture that on camera, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.


City of Beacon


Beacon Reservoir




taking in the view

For more information: Scenic Hudson – Mount Beacon.

By Natalie DiCenzo


Shaupeneak Ridge

There is no doubt about it; Autumn is at our doorstep. And there is no place more beautiful in fall than the Hudson Valley. Half an hour from Vassar’s front gate is one of the most beautiful parks in Ulster county.


Shaupeneak Ridge is home to almost 9 miles of trails up and down and around a beautiful lake. A multitude of flora and fauna have claimed the ridge to their own. On my hike we encountered snakes, chipmunks, deer, frogs, fish, salamanders, squirrels, and birds, not to mention the occasional hiker and their dog. The leaves were a spectacular combination of fiery reds, burnt oranges, sunny yellows and vivid greens. I could not have wished for a more beautiful hike.


Shaupeneak Ridge is not a top tourist destination, but rather a park for the peaceful explorer. It is a little ways from any large city or other tourist destination, and it is off a small, almost hidden road (I almost missed the entrance) from 9W. Due to the large number of parks in the Hudson Valley, Shaupeneak Ridge may seem at first glance to be just another forest. But once I stepped foot onto the path in the bright sunlight and felt the soft wind on my skin, the land enchanted me. There was no one in sight and it was a perfect day. My friends, Miranda and Bernardo, had accompanied me to the park, and at 1:00 we started our hike. Little did we know that the path we chose was the hardest one in Shaupeneak. On our trek we met two families with dogs, an older trio out to take pictures, two young mountain bikers, and a middle-aged couple.


The view once we reached the summit (we climbed 900 vertical feet!) was breathtaking and well worth the hike. We could see all the way across the Hudson River and all the changing leaves. Turn a little, and we could make out the Catskills as well. It was really a perfect day for an expedition.

A little background on Shaupeneak Ridge: It’s not a profit based, nor economically providing place. It doesn’t bring in money, tourists, or stand out in any way. 790 acres of gorgeous mountainous terrain in the Marlboro Mountains. And that is what makes it so appealing to nature lovers.


The serene atmosphere is the main appeal to visitors and residents of the Hudson Valley alike. This park is solely for leisure and relaxation and even some hunting. It is by no means a high trafficked area, but it’s not barren either. It fits in perfectly with the surrounding mood and landscape of the Hudson Valley. It’s such a good example of the Hudson atmosphere that Scenic Hudson holds its annual Spring Sprint 5K Trail Race.

IMG_2089After hiking for two hours, the lake was a welcome sight. Besides holding incredible beauty, the lake was home to a myriad of little creatures. We spent another ten minutes just soaking up the sun, peace and view. All-in-all, I would definitely return to this preserve. Anyone who is up for a hike with splendid scenery should consider making the trip to Shaupeneak Ridge. If you would like to learn more, visit Scenic Hudson’s page on the park. Planning a visit? Check out Hike The Hudson Valley’s website for more detailed information on trails and weather.