Mount Storm King is a Cruel and Vengeful King
No other easily accessible hike turns away more would-be climbers than Mount Storm King does. I’ve met the victims, walking wounded, several times on my way down the mountain.
“Are we almost to the top?” these strangers asked between labored gasps. They tried to smile, but the desperate glint in their eyes indicated something other than humor.
I would answer with something like, “you’re pretty close,” but then, compelled by a humanistic urge to Truth, would add, “but the trail only gets harder. A lot harder.”
Sometimes they would laugh, thinking that I surely jested. How could the trail possibly continue to go straight upwards any longer without reaching the sun itself?
“It’s rough-going,” I would say. Then I would reach deep into my motivational bag of tricks. “But the view from the top is my favorite view in the state” (that statement is true, by the way).
Some of them would continue on, and some would even make it to the top. Others would simply sit there, waiting for me to pass out of sight so that they could shamefully surrender to Storm King’s cruelty. These I occasionally ran across in the parking lot below, shuffling along shamefacedly and trying to evade my harshly judgmental gaze (I assume this is what they’re doing, anyway).
The trail isn’t long, only 1.9 miles, but that brevity is deceptive. The trail starts steep, and it stays that way. I don’t recall any stretches of the trail that give even a temporary level-graded respite.
Do I say any of this to deter anyone? Of course not. The kind of people who do the King are the kind of people who will be intrigued at the promise of cruelty and despair. These words are sweet talk to the breed of people who will make this climb. Are you feeling seduced right now? Feeling hot?
Step inside my office, then, my friend. The King awaits.
Where to Find the Storm King Trail Head
The Storm King trail head branches off the very popular (and much easier than Storm King) Marymere Falls trail, which itself begins at the Storm King Ranger Station. I’ve pinned this location below for your convenience (I do strive to be a good guide…please, please tell me I’m good).
The Final Trial of Storm King, and Then Those Views
There are a couple places to stop off for nice views on the way to the top of Storm King. The views are striking enough that I personally think they make the climb worth it, even if a person doesn’t make it all the way to the top.
In a way, there are two “ends” to the Storm King trail. The first provides stunning views and awards imaginary medals for toughness and courage to all who make it.
The “second end” of Storm King takes another level of irrational persistence. To make this final run, you’ll have to climb up a very steep slope of loose dirt, pulling yourself up with a rope. Allow me to stress here that I’m not saying the rope is there as a novelty or as a convenience. The rope is necessary to get up the loose-footed rise, and you will be relying largely on upper body strength.
Beyond this is another such climb. When I hiked this a few years ago,there was a rope there as well, and I believe there should STILL be a rope there. As of the date of this writing, however, that second rope is gone.
Going up these two sections is a bit tough, but nothing too crazy. Where things get a slight bit hairy is when you have to go back down. Falling down either of these two steep sections carries a legitimate risk of serious injury, and possibly death (in some nightmare scenario where the momentum carries a person clear off the side of the mountain).
But, those brave adventurers who make it to the end shall be treated visually thusly:
There’s Birds in Them Thar Trees
Up at the top of the mountain, you’ll find plenty of these grey jays cruising around and looking for handouts.
They’re an athletic bunch of birds to watch…and to envy the ease with which they maneuver through the territory you just sacrificed a piece of your soul to reach.
Like All Things Worth Doing, the Suck is the Best Reward
Like a ruptured quadriceps or a torn calf muscle, Mount Storm King is an event you’ll never forget. The views are amazing; they are probably my favorite views in the state, in fact. But, what really makes Storm King terrific is how much suck it manages to pack into a mere 1.9 miles of trail.
It’s the kind of hike you laugh about years later, fondly recalling that time you asked your hiking partner to kill you so that you wouldn’t have to go on…that time your hiking partner responded, “Only if you kill me first.”
This is the good stuff. Take on the King. He is harsh and he is cruel, but he rewards those who persevere to the end.
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