Storm King State Park has been on my radar for quite some time now but being over two hours away, and me knowing pretty much nothing about hiking in the lower Hudson Valley, I had not taken the time to make the trip until now. It was a perfect weekend to visit the park as I was already in town for the weekend for my daughter’s gymnastics meet. We stayed overnight in a hotel and made the most of our trip by exploring while we were here!
About The Mountain
Storm King State Park is located in the Town of Cornwall, in Orange County, NY. The nearly 2,000 acre park includes Storm King Mountain which rises 1300 feet above the Hudson River directly below. The park is pretty expansive and in a really mountainous region. We weren’t really sure what to expect but as we started driving through a winding highway up the side of a mountain we were in awe.
There are several different trailheads and trailhead parking at various interesting parts of the park. All parts of the park seem to intersect with one another and you could make a longer hike by linking them together. To that end, make sure you look at the map ahead of time or have some form of navigation during the hike because there were quite a few different trails that you could follow and the potential to get lost is higher.
For this trip, we wanted to hike the original Storm King Mountain, so we parked at the main trailhead located at the bend in the road along route 9w. There were views right from this parking lot so those who aren’t as adventurous can still easily snap a few photos and enjoy the sights. There is another trailhead on route 9w that leads up a small mountain with views over to Storm King, and yet another trailhead on a different road that leads you directly to Storm King as well. I was happy with our choice of the main trailhead because this one had some interesting features that we wouldn’t have gotten to see otherwise.
The parking area is only accessible from one side of the 4 lane highway due to there being a median in the middle. Keep that in mind as you’re making your trip because this wasn’t clear on Google Maps. If you’re on the wrong side of the highway you will need to drive a few more miles up the road to do a U-turn.
The parking lot was fairly large, however when we arrived it was nearly full with maybe 20-30 cars already there. We were able to snag one of the last remaining spaces. It was about 1pm in the afternoon on a Sunday, so I was fully expecting it to be busy. However, as we arrived, there were quite a few people pulling out, and we passed even more people who seemed to be heading out as we made our way up the mountain.
The route we chose was the popular loop trail around Storm King Mountain. We opted to go clockwise starting with the Butter Hill Trail. This loop, according to AllTrails, was about 2.5 miles long. The clockwise direction was optimal because as we ascended, it was a rock scramble to the top of the first peak. The rock scramble wasn’t too bad, it would certainly be do-able coming down, but was definitely a lot more fun climbing up!
On the first day of spring, it was definitely “stick season” and not a lot of green was to be had along the trail. What was plentiful, however, were rocks, which is my favorite kind of trail. About halfway up the rocky scramble, we happened upon some ruins which appeared to possibly be the foundation of an old house.
When you get to what feels like the top, you’re actually only about a quarter of the way around the loop. I made the mistake of thinking it was the top of Storm King Mountain, which was totally plausible, considering it was a full 360 degree view and absolutely gorgeous. You could see the surrounding mountains, the highway that got you here, the Hudson River and pockets of civilization in the valleys. We had spent quite a bit of time on the various rock ledges and overlooks on the way up, and took our time on top of this small peak until we realized it wasn’t actually the peak of Storm King Mountain (which you could also see from this viewpoint!) When we came to the realization, we started hightailing it over to that peak because it was already 3pm and we didn’t want to get caught in the dark.
The terrain evened out at this point and it was minimal elevation gain. Without stopping constantly, we made it over to Storm King Mountain in about 20 minutes. The peak of Storm King Mountain was unmarked, or at least we couldn’t find the geological marker, and there were minimal, grown in-views, so we continued along to complete the second half of the loop. The second half didn’t disappoint either, as we started to descend there were multiple overlooks and viewpoints, and these were all much closer to the Hudson River.
The rest of the trail was just as rocky, but less steep, and mostly downhill, so we breezed right back on to the parking lot just in time to miss the rain.
All in all, it was a great hike that got my heart pumping, kept my daughter engaged, and gave me the views I was craving!
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