Picture a mother and son conversation regarding a hiking trail in New York.
The conversation with my son went something like this:
Me: We are going on a hike that will take us past the remains of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway, which used to carry passengers to the summit of the mountain where once stood a hotel and casino.
Son: (Eyes get really big) So you are saying we are going to see ancient artifacts? Will there be dinosaur bones?
Me: Not exactly. The hotel and casino burned down years go, but we will be able to see ruins of the pulley gears and machinery from the railway which closed down in 1978 and was later completely destroyed in a fire.
Son: Was it before you were born?
Me: Well yes.
Son: (Runs off screaming to his sister) We are going to see ancient artifacts that are even older than mommy!
About the Casino Trail in Beacon, New York
To take advantage of the last warm days of the year, we headed to the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in Beacon, New York in early September to explore the popular Casino Trail. This New York hiking trail begins from the parking lot at the intersection of 9D (Wolcott Ave) and Howland Avenue. A kiosk at start of the trail contains a map of this hike (red blazes represent the Casino Trail). I highly recommend snapping a picture of this map so that you can reference it if needed throughout the hike.
Hiking the Casino Trail in Beacon, New York
The start of the trail begins at a gravel path that passes by the tracks of the Mount Beacon Incline Railway. Built in 1902, this railway was once the world’s steepest passenger funicular and the first with an electrically driven power plant. A few minutes later, the real fun begins as a steep, metal staircase comes into view!
During our climb up more than the 150 stairs, I began to wonder if this hike is really going to be doable for the kids (well truthfully I was more worried about myself). After the steep staircase, the hike continues with multiple steep and rocky switchbacks. My kids ran up ahead, easily maneuvering the trail, while I huffed and puffed trying to keep up. After what seemed like a few switchbacks too many, we finally came to the “ancient artifacts”.
My kids were very excited to see the remnants of the brick powerhouse and the rusty gears from the incline railway. We followed a nearby path to a gorgeous overlook of the Hudson River Valley.
A hotel and casino stood at this summit of Mount Beacon before a fire destroyed them in 1927. This is a perfect resting spot to hydrate on the Casino Trail and fuel up and have a pow-wow with your group to decide if the next mile to the fire tower that you see in the distance is doable. Many people choose to turn back here, resulting in a strenuous and rewarding 2.5 mile roundtrip hike, with an elevation gain of around 1000 feet.
We came to hike the Casino Trail with a goal to reach the fire tower so after a much needed break, we decided to give it a shot. Fortunately, the next stretch of trail is gentler as compared to the first section of the hike. After about three-quarters of a mile, be on the lookout for an uphill path on the right side of the trail. When we came to this intersection, we were unclear if we should follow the red trail, or take this unmarked uphill path (which turned out to be the white trail). Fortunately, some hikers coming down the path directed us uphill to the fire tower. I would have liked to see a sign or trail marker indicating the path to the fire tower, but since no marking currently exists, be on the lookout for the turnoff.
The uphill stretch to the fire tower was slippery and steep, but when we got to the fire tower, we were awarded with amazing 360 degree views. Having climbed the fire tower to a panoramic view of the Hudson Highlands, I took the opportunity to teach the kids about the beauty of the world around them. However, the kids took the opportunity to remind me that I had promised them a lunch and dessert of their choosing if they successfully hiked to the fire tower. My educational lesson was therefore cut quite short, so I took a few deep breaths of fresh mountain air and headed down the tower. We retraced our steps back to the viewpoint at the site of the “ancient artifacts”, and then traversed the rocky switchbacks, down the metal stairs, and returned to the car. From the parking lot, to the red trail, to the fire tower and back was about a 5 mile journey, with an elevation gain of around 1400 feet.
Our review of the Casino Trail in Beacon, New York
My family loved the hike on the Casino Trail due to the variety of terrains, “ancient artifacts”, and stunning views. Even though we had 2 bottles of water per person, we did have to ration the water towards the end of the hike. I will use that as a teaching moment to remind others to always carry enough water and snacks. We all agreed that this New York hiking trail is definitely on our must-do again list, and are planning to check it out again to see the fall colors of the Hudson Valley!
Want to hike more with your kids?
Check out these Jersey Family Fun blog posts about hiking.
- Hike the Stairway to Heaven Trail in Wawayanda State Park
- Hike NJ Hacklebarney State Park Hiking Trails with your Kids
- Hike Mount Tammany of the Kittatinny Mountains in NJ With your Kids
- Hike Up Anthony’s Nose in New York
- Hike the Ice Caves Trail at Sam’s Point Preserve
- Hunterdon County Hiking for Kids at the Hunterdon County Arboretum
- Hawk Rise Sanctuary ~ Linden’s Nature & Wildlife Trail
- Discovering a Kid’s Love for Nature in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve
- Updated for 2018, Get Ready for the New Jersey National Trails Day Events