Located just outside of Cold Spring, New York, Bull Hill — a.k.a., Mt. Taurus — is a popular hiking spot, offering breathtaking views of the Hudson River and, on clear days, a glimpse of the distant Manhattan skyline. If you make this climb, though, don’t be in such a hurry to reach the top that you miss the old abandoned Mt. Taurus Quarry on the way up.
Bull Hill is located within Hudson Highlands State Park, a rugged and well-timbered mountainous area that had been heavily logged, mined, and quarried throughout the 19th century. The principal resources sought were iron and copper, some of which was actually used to make cannons for the Continental Army, and later provided the raw materials for the famous West Point Foundry in Cold Spring (which was, at the time, an important industrial center, rather than the idyllic quaint village it is today).
By the early 20th century, most of the easily accessible resources had been tapped out and a conservation movement began to preserve the wilderness areas that remained in the Hudson Highlands and allow for the reforestation of the rest. However, there was apparently one more hunk of the earth yet to be dug out, as the Hudson River Stone Corporation started a quarry on Bull Hill in 1931. Extracting hard gneissic rock for use in construction, the quarry operated despite protests from the local community for over 30 years, being abandoned only in 1967. It became part of the Hudson Highlands State Park in 1970.
Thus Mt. Taurus Quarry is not only a prime rockhounding location but also provides a look at a once-barren landscape that started rebounding a little over 40 years ago. The dense older forest surrounding the trail to the top of Bull Hill suddenly — about a half a mile in — gives way to a large flat field, surrounded by man-made cliffs on three sides and covered in a savanna-like vegetative mix of long grasses and small trees. While you can easily stick to the main Washburn Trail and only skirt the edge of Mt. Taurus Quarry, a loop trail that branches off (formed by the remains of the old quarry road) affords an opportunity for a tranquil walk through this striking, transitional environment.
Local legend tells of a farmer losing his big breeding beast to the lure of the Hudson Highlands. When he tried to round up his wayward Bull, the wild thing decided to completely liberate itself. Taking a flying leap off of the nearby peak, the Bull fell to oblivion a thousand feet below. Thus, giving the names “Breakneck Ridge” and “Bull Hill” to these now popular hiking mountains. Nathaniel Parker Willis petitioned the state to give the latter the classic designation of Mount Taurus. Folks around Cold Spring call it Bull Hill.
Know Before You Go
This hike is in walking distance of the Cold Spring train station. Continue about .5 miles north on Fair Street to reach the entrance of the Hudson Highlands State Park.