July 25, 2016 – New Paltz, NY
Difficulty: moderate – strenuous
Length: approximately 6.5 miles
Route type: circuit
The Mohonk Mountain House is a resort hotel located on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, New York. It is situated in the town of New Paltz, N.Y. on the western side of the Hudson River. The property consists of 1,325 acres and adjoins the Mohonk Preserve, which is crisscrossed by 85 miles of hiking trails and carriage roads. I have been wanting to do this hike for quite some time. It’s very popular among hikers and even though it costs $26.00 per person to gain access to the grounds on weekends, I had heard that it is often crowded. I was lucky enough to receive some free day hiking passes to the Mohonk Preserve and decided to visit on a Monday to avoid the crowds. I had just gotten a Shawangunk Trails map set from the NY/NJ Trail Conference and was itching to put it to use. Upon arrival at the gatehouse, we were told that the free passes entitled us to park free at the Spring Farm Trailhead which would have added another 2.5 miles to our planned hike. The woman at the gatehouse told us we could park in the gatehouse lot for $10.00 per person. We didn’t want to add any additional mileage to our planned hike since it was going to be a scorcher in the mid 90’s, so we paid and parked. She also gave us a map.
We had gotten an early start so there were only a few cars in the lot when we arrived. The trailhead started behind the bathrooms (which were filthy).
We walked along the trail which was not marked, but they did have signs at some of the junctions which helped somewhat. There were some areas that were confusing and even after consulting my trusty map they were hard to figure out. At first we walked along a carriage road that ascended slightly.
We turned left at the sign towards the Glen Anna Path.
The Glen Anna Path was unmarked but the trail was mostly discernible until it ended at a staircase which led out onto Huguenot Drive.
We crossed the road and began on the Fox Path which was also unblazed, but well worn.
When we came upon Sky Top Road we turned left. We were supposed to turn right according to the hike directions we were following, but I misread it (it was also poorly worded). So we continued on Sky Top Road which was another carriage road that overlooked the Mohonk Mountain House.
We stopped at one of the many gazebos along the way and took in the view.
This was our first real view of the hike and it wouldn’t be the last.
Up to this point I thought that we were still going along with the hike directions that I had printed out, but were sitting comfortably by my desktop at home. Nevertheless it wasn’t a big deal at that time because the route we took was very scenic and we didn’t encounter another soul along the way. We continued up Sky Top Road and passed by Lily Pond which was a very picturesque detour.
As we continued on the carriage road I saw a wild turkey which was much too quick for my lens and then western views opened up to our left.
All of a sudden I looked up and I could see the Sky Top Tower. This was supposed to be our turnaround point. We had missed the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze. I was not to be deterred, but first we climbed the tower and captured some images.
The views from the tower were spectacular. It was a hot day and that breeze really hit the spot. It felt like I could see forever up there. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.
After taking in some views from the tower we found some shade and rested a bit while we contemplated our next move. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.
After consulting my map I discovered that the end of the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze trail was just below us. It is a one way trail so we decided to descend down the mountain on Sky Top Path to the lake where we would take on this challenging trail. That meant having to climb the mountain twice, but I didn’t care. I was not going to let something like double elevation in one day stop me. We arrived at the start of the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze trail and encountered this sign. To be honest, I didn’t even read it. I took a photograph of it and kept it moving.
I would have preferred to do this at the beginning of the hike due to the strenuous nature of the trail. We had already hiked over 3 miles at this point on a hot day, but the adventure was about to begin. A group of loud 20 somethings got there at the same time we did, so we let them gain some distance before we proceeded with our journey. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.
Right from the beginning it was challenging. We had to crawl through a space between two boulders, climb up a ladder and like a contortionist twist around and drop down on the other side. The trail was easy to follow as it was blazed with red arrows which indicated the correct direction in which to go. We continued on, stopping every so often to stay hydrated. In places where it would have been more difficult there were ramps positioned to assist.
As I approached some sections, I thought to myself “say what?”
The ladders were helpful and kind of fun.
I am 6′, 200 lbs and not as flexible as I once was, so some of these spots were a tight fit.
We just kept following the red arrows.
There were a few tight spots along the way and we hadn’t even gotten to the “Lemon Squeeze” yet.
A little more bouldering…………
and we arrived at the entrance to the Lemon Squeeze!
We climbed up a few ladders……..
and now we were about to get squeezed!
From this point it got very narrow and I got stuck a couple of times, but after removing my backpack and twisting around to get the best angle I was able to wiggle through. The last few feet seemed to be the most difficult part of the trail. The ladder ends about 12 feet from the top and with limited footholds and space it felt as though it was almost impossible to climb out. Heat and exhaustion certainly didn’t help either. After taking a moment to survey the situation, I pulled myself up and out.
I made it!!!!
It was a pretty tight squeeze and even though I wore the smallest camera sling pack I owned, I had to remove it in order to squeeze up through the crevice.
A look down where we got squeezed.
Well, that was certainly a very unique hike. I felt such a sense of accomplishment having completed this challenging trail. It took us a little under an hour to complete this portion of the hike. After rising out of the crevice I was greeted with sweeping views that seemed to go on forever. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.
We certainly earned these magnificent views and we were in no hurry to leave. We could hear hikers grunting, cursing and complaining as they made their way up the crevice. Some repeating the same phrases as us when we were in their place. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.
After spending quite some time at this magnificent spot, it was time to move on. Since this hike had left us up by Sky Top Tower, we decided to retrace our steps from there back to the parking lot. After a challenging hike and thunder roaring in the sky followed by lightning, we preferred a nice carriage road to make our way back. We got drenched for the last 2 miles of the hike, stopping once at one of the gazebos for shelter and to dry off a bit. This hike makes my top 5 list for sure. I’m looking forward to going back to explore some more trails soon. I hope you enjoyed the hike. Don’t forget to follow my blog to receive an email every time I publish a new post. Until next time, keep your boots on the ground and I’ll see you around.