Trail Stewards Greet Challenges of Breakneck Ridge with Expertise and Knowledge

Written by Melanie Schuck, Trail Outreach and Education Steward at New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

The hike at Breakneck Ridge is known as one of the most popular and difficult hikes in the Northeastern United States. With its challenging rock scramble and intense, early elevation gain, this is an appropriate reputation. The Trail Stewards of the 2021 New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Conservation Corps are up to the challenge of handling this highly trafficked hiking location. They are stationed at the Breakneck Ridge trailhead every weekend and holiday until the end of October. Despite the hike’s intensity, it remains one of the most popular hiking spots in the area with an average of around 900 hikers each weekend day. The Trail Conference works in partnership with the Hudson Highlands Land Trust to make sure that this trailhead is staffed year after year with knowledgeable service members.

With varying areas and levels of expertise, each of the 2021 Trail Stewards brings something different to take on this hiking hot spot. From a former Ridge Runner on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the Central United States, to a previous thru hiker of the AT, to five returning Trail Stewards, there is no shortage of experience on the trails in this year’s crew. They are also equipped with the Natural Resource Protection training they received in late May through the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. In addition to their main task of visitor education, the Trail Stewards perform weekly Trail Maintenance. They can mainly be found at the State Parks of Fahnestock, Hudson Highlands and Minnewaska keeping the trails clear of branches of all sizes, ingrown plant species and the occasion downed tree.

This year’s season also brings the opening of the newly constructed Nimham Trail on July 2nd. This new trail is the first construction project of Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc., in close collaboration with New York State Parks. Built over the course of about six months, the trail creates a connection from just after the first viewpoint (known for its flagpole) to the Wilkinson Trail that is at the end of the Breakneck Ridge long loop. It forms a one-mile loop that averages one hour to hike. The Trail Stewards have been diligent in informing hikers about this new adventure. The new trail features more than 500 stone steps and a wooden bridge to create a different experience than regular hikers at this location might be used to.