October 22, 2017 – New Paltz, NY
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Length: Approximately 8 miles
Max elevation: 1,291 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 896 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Fee: $15.00 day hiking fee – West Trapps Trailhead
Trailhead parking: Mohonk Preserve West Trapps Trailhead Parking Area 3142 US-44, Gardiner, NY 12525
The Mohonk Mountain House property consists of 1,325 acres, and much of it is landscaped with meadows and gardens. It adjoins the Mohonk Preserve, which is crisscrossed by 85 miles of hiking trails and carriage roads. The Mohonk Mountain House charges $22.00 Monday-Friday and $27.00 weekends/holidays for a day hiking pass. A hiking pass does not include access to the interior of the house or lake swimming. The Mohonk Preserve (non-profit nature preserve) and the Mohonk Mountain House (resort hotel) are two separate places. The Mohonk Preserve charges $15.00 for a day pass (annual memberships available) which also allows access to the Mohonk Mountain House property. The only drawback is that you have to hike a couple of miles in order to get to the Mountain House grounds. That normally adds five miles to any hike unless you pay to park on their property.
Mohonk is famous for its Lemon Squeeze, which lies within the Labyrinth rock scramble. There are other notable hikes that involve rock scrambles, agility, and the use of hands as well as feet, including Arching Rocks Path, Cathedral Path, Giant’s Path, Humpty Dumpty Path and Rock Rift Path. Our intention was to hit the spots that were clustered together. This hike covers Giant’s Path, Humpty Dumpty Path and the Cathedral Path.
We arrived at the West Trapps Trailhead parking area at 8:50 am and the lot was already at capacity. We were lucky to find a spot after circling the lot. This parking lot fills VERY early on peak weekends.
We grabbed our gear and headed towards the northeastern end of the parking area to begin our hike on the yellow-blazed West Trapps Connector Trail.
After a short, easy walk of 0.4 miles, the trail arrives at the junction for Undercliff and Overcliff Roads.
Overcliff Road would be our return route, we stayed right and took Undercliff Road. Either way will bring you to the same spot as the two roads form a five mile loop.
Undercliff Road makes for any easy walk, with its crushed stone surface.
This loop road was first built in 1903 so that guests at the Mohonk Mountain House could take carriage rides and enjoy the views. Looking southeast, splendid views of the Wallkill Valley can be seen.
Undercliff Road passes alongside the Trapps Cliff, which is usually filled with rock climbers.
The Gunks has some of the best rock climbing in the world.
Walking along the road with never ending views on a gorgeous Sunday morning, was the start of a great hike. Looking northeast, Skytop Tower, built in 1921, can be seen in the distance.
After approximately 2.5 miles from the start of the hike, we came to the intersection of Undercliff/Overcliff Roads, and Laurel Ledge, with the Rhododendron Bridge on the right. I did not see a rhododendron anywhere.
We continued straight ahead on Laurel Ledge Road.
We stayed on Laurel Ledge Road for about 0.4 miles. Just past the junction with the Old Minnewaska Trail, We turned right onto the blue-blazed Giant’s Path.
This turn can be easily missed if you’re not paying attention. The sign is about 15 feet off the trail and not easily visible from Laurel Ledge Road.
Giant’s Path leads to the base of the Giant’s Workshop, a rock scramble over and under boulders and through narrow rock crevasses, that climbs Eagle Cliff.
It is similar to the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze, but on a smaller scale.
It was a tight squeeze in several spots and we had to remove our backpacks in order to fit through. Sadly, I had my camera packed away during most of the scramble, but did capture an image looking down after we emerged on a rock ledge.
The view from the rock ledge as we came out of the Giant’s Workshop.
After a brief rest, we continued to ascend Eagle Cliff on Giant’s Path. In a few hundred feet, we turned right on the Humpty Dumpty Path and began another rock scramble.
This trail, although it gains elevation, is more of a horizontal scramble. Similar to Giant Stairs in the Palisades, but not nearly as long.
Once again, having to use both my hands and feet to traverse this trail, I only captured a few images. This trail has got to be hiked to be appreciated.
The Humpty Dumpty Path ends at Humpty Dumpty Road, a carriage road on the shoulder of Eagle Cliff. It provides a fantastic view of The Trapps Cliffs. We began our hike on Undercliff Road at the base of those cliffs..
The area below the level of Humpty Dumpty Road is part of the Mohonk Preserve, we were now on Mohonk Mountain House property. Humpty Dumpty Road snakes its way up the mountain…….
with the imposing cliffs to the right of the road.
In about 0.3 miles, Humpty Dumpty Road arrives at a junction with the Cathedral Path. Right next to the junction is a wooden gazebo with great views.
We descended down Cathedral Path and over to Cope’s Lookout. It is supposed to be one of the best views at the Mohonk Mountain House property, I would have to agree.
Looking northwest, the Catskill Mountains are visible in the distance.
We sat here and enjoyed our lunch and the fantastic view that we earned.
We then continued on Cathedral Path as it descends the mountain. A steep rock scramble that was challenging, but lots of fun.
As challenging as this trail is going down, it must be a lot tougher to ascend. I look forward to trying it some time.
Below is an image looking back after descending.
We veered off the Cathedral Path briefly onto Arching Rocks Path to take another brief rest under the Arching Rocks.
We then jumped back on the Cathedral Path and took it to its terminus at Plateau Path. There we turned right and took Plateau Path until its terminus at Laurel Ledge Road and turned left.
We stayed on Laurel Ledge Road until it comes to the junction at the Rhododendron Bridge. There we turned right and began following Overcliff Road.
Overcliff Road climbs gradually as it turns and begins to head southwest.
Overcliff Road has numerous views to the west of the Catskill Mountains.
This was a nice way to end a long hike. Easy walking and views for days.
Overcliff and Undercliff Roads can be done as a loop by themselves for a very scenic 5 mile hike.
The views never seem to end, but I won’t complain.
We arrived at the junction with Undercliff Road and veered right, walking between the Trapps Bridge and the wooden railing, to the yellow-blazed West Trapps Connector Trail and back to the parking area, where the hike began.
This was one of the better hikes that I have done. I was pretty tired, but it was well worth it. There are more rock scrambles that we did not do, but we had to save energy for the long walk back to the parking area. Next time, stay tuned.
Pros: Rock scrambles, outstanding views, The Gunks, fun and challenging.
Cons: Parking area fills up early.
Take a virtual hike with additional images added below.
Take a hike!