to the west of New Paltz are the mountains and cliff
faces of the Shawangunks, affectionately known as
"The Gunks." From every point in New Paltz and the
surrounding area The Gunks loom up as a massive backdrop.
some 420 million years ago, The Gunks have been eroded
by weather and ground down by glaciers to form a unique
landscape ideal for hiking, biking, skiing and climbing.
Within 15 minutes of the center of New Paltz are over
200 miles of trails located in the three properties
preserving The Gunks: Mohonk Mountainhouse, Mohonk
Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The trails
range from wide and pleasant carriage roads to steep
and challenging rock scrambles.
Atop the ridge are
the crystal blue "sky lakes" of Mohonk, Minnewaska and
Awosting. Both Lake Minnewaska and Awosting Lake are
open for swimming by the general public in Minnewaska
State Park Preserve.
ridge is capped by a layer of gleaming white quartz
causing the unique erosion patterns that have formed
the cliffs. This unique geology has created the most
exceptional site for technical climbing on the East
Coast, and one of the best in the world. Devotees
drive all night on Fridays to arrive and climb the
cliffs. Everyone has their favorite locations, the
Trapps, Near Trapps, Sky Top, Millbrook and Peter's
Kill. On any beautiful warm day you will find hundreds
of avid climbers of all skill levels scaling the dizzying
And the geology has led
to the evolution of a distinct ecosystem designated
by the Nature Conservancy as one of the world's 75
"Last Great Places." The mountain soil is acidic,
sparse, shallow and nutrient poor. The ridge is prone
to fires and is exposed to harsh weather. The result
is an ecosystem like no other in the world, dependant
on these conditions, an extremely rare and fragile
ecosystem. On the ridge top are 5,000 acres of pitch
pine forests, 7,000 acres of pitch pine & oak heath
were some of the pines are over 300 years old, and
pitch pine blueberry swamps.
The Gunks are home to
numerous rare and endangered species of plants. Fox,
bear, deer, porcupine, beaver, bobcat, skunks and
snakes abound. And the Gunks are ideally situated
on the major migratory paths of birds making them
a perfect location to observe both permanent residents
as well as those just passing thru.
Accessing all of this
bounty can be a bewildering set of choices. Just follow
the links below and find out what's where. Then make
sure to read a little further down to find out what
to do if where you want to go is full, and a few tips.
State Park Preserve
Want some outdoor
fun? Come to The Gunks!!!
But there are a couple
of things you should know in laying your plans. The
Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz is an exceptionally
popular place, thousands flock there on pleasant warm
days. With alarming frequency, Minnewaska and Mohonk
will actually shut down before they officially open
in the morning from the crush of people. They both
limit the number of people that can access their properties
by limiting the number of cars that are allowed into
their parking lots.
So if you want to go to
Minnewaska State Park Preserve or Mohonk Preserve
via Route 44/55, GET THERE EARLY!
Plan ahead! If you get
to either place and they have indeed shut down, you
have alternatives. Basically speaking they open the
parking lots and allow additional cars in every hour,
but just so many cars as have left. Depending upon
where you want to go, here are the parking places
for you to head for:
ELSE IS ILLEGAL FOR PARKING CARS!!!!
Preserve - Visitor Center Lower Parking Lot -
located just to the south of the hairpin turn on
Preserve - Visitor Center Upper Parking Lot -
located just to the south of the hairpin turn on
Preserve - Trapps Entrance Parking Lot -
located about a half mile west of the Trapps Bridge
on Route 44/55.
- Peter's Kill Parking Lot - located about
a mile and a half east of the main entrance.
- Awosting Parking Lot - located immediately
adjacent and to the west of the main entrance.
- Lake Minnewaska Parking Lot - just follow
the road into the preserve from the main entrance.
Until '98 parking was
allowed along several sections of Routes 44/55. But
with the opening of the Mohonk Preserve Trapps Visitor
Center the Town of Gardiner has finally started cracking
down on parking in the area. It's been a dangerous
situation which is now shifting into the new parking
areas. "No Parking" signs have been erected all along
Routes 44/55, and they mean business.
If the parking area you
have targeted is full, don't worry. Go to another
one! An exceptional feature of The Gunks is that all
of the trails and carriageways interconnect and you
can flow from one property to another.
But what do you do if its
that perfect warm day and everything is full? Simple,
go around back!
The area centered on Routes
44/55 is the most popular section of The Gunks, but
there is much more for you to enjoy. If everything
is full along Route 44/55, there are two other places
where you can go on the Mohonk Preserve that will
provide you access to unlimited hiking and biking.
Between the two of them there is always parking, except
on those most unusual of days.
If you are at Mohonk,
point your car toward the west on Routes 44/55. If
you are at Minnewaska, go east on Route 44/55. You
want to find Clove Road, it will junction off or Routes
44/55 to the north about midway between Mohonk and
Minnewaska. When you first see Clove Valley Road you
may become nervous, but don't! It's a good solid road.
Turn off of Routes 44/55 onto Clove Valley Road and
head north. When you come to the "Y" intersection,
stay on Clove Valley Road and go to the right.
This is a particularly
lovely section of road with the stream running along
side on the left. And make sure to look at the stream.
It's a little unusual as the soils are so shallow
its actually running along on the surface of the rock.
In a mile or so you will come to the Clove Valley
Road entrance to the Mohonk Preserve. The parking
lot is small but you may luck out.
If you don't, just continue
on Clove Valley Road heading north. In a couple of
miles you will come to an intersection. At all intersections
from now on always take your right hand choice and
follow the main road. After you start heading slightly
uphill start watching, on the left, for signs leading
you to the "Spring Farm" entrance to the Mohonk Preserve.
"Spring Farm" is
a very under utilized section of the Mohonk Preserve
and there is almost always parking available. The
northern section of the preserve is very different
in feeling from the Routes 44/55 section. Its rolling
hills & meadows, easy walking and spectacular views.
If it's one of those days
tho when every parking slot is full and you want to
scream, don't! There's so much more to do in New Paltz
that you wont miss the mountaintop. Visit Huguenot
Street and experience life in the 17th century. Take
the New Paltz Historic Tour and see how the town grew.
Or take a break and stop for a leisurely lunch at
one of the many bistros and cafes on Main Street.
Or how about visiting the wineries! There are so many
things to do in New Paltz you simply can't have a
ahead! The Shawangunk Ridge is just 90 minutes
north of Manhattan and within a three hour drive
of 26 million people. Arrive early.
Prepared! Neither Mohonk Preserve nor Minnewaska
State Park Preserve have anything but the barest
of facilities for you. There are no food concessions
or restaurants or other amenities of that sort.
So if you want food and drink, you must bring it
with you. If you are "day tripping" into the Mohonk
Mountainhouse, there is a day use canteen where
you can get snacks and light beverages.
It Back Out! Both the Mohonk Preserve and
the Minnewaska State Park Preserve are "Carry In-
Carry Out." Whatever you take in you must take back
out with you.
Careful! The Shawangunk Ridge is honeycombed
with ravines, gullies and sheer cliffs. More injury
and death occurs in the preserves from people quite
literally falling off a precipice than any other
reason. So stay well back from cliff edges and drops.
Use your common sense and know your limits.
It's a beautiful day and you are out in one of the
most spectacular regions in the world. Open your
eyes, look around you and observe the details. Slow
down just a little and allow it to fill your spirit.
Fun! The Shawangunks provides unparalleled
chances to experience the extraordinary natural
world and have a great time doing it!