July 29, 2018 – Marbletown, NY
Length: approximately 6 miles
Max elevation: 1,096 ft. – total elevation gain: 679 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Trailhead parking: Spring Farm Trailhead parking – Marbletown, NY 12440
Fees: $15.00 per hiker day use fee (Non-Member) – Purchase Membership
With over 8,000 acres on the Shawangunk Ridge, Mohonk Preserve is the largest member and visitor-supported nature preserve in New York State. The Mohonk Preserve is a private land conservation organization established to protect the Shawangunk Ridge, it is not public land funded by the government. Therefore, there is a day use fee to use the preserve which funds its maintenance and programs.
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 about five miles to any hike unless you pay to park on their property.
Although 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 Workshop, Humpty Dumpty Path and Rock Rift Crevices. I have done several of them and along with being challenging, they are also quite enjoyable.
This hike focuses on the Rock Rift Crevices, which is mostly a horizontal rock scramble and is fun to explore. It is a great introduction to rock scrambling for those that want a thrill without requirement of any real advanced skills. The rock scramble on this hike is less than a 1/2 mile long, but it feels much longer. It involves a lot of twisting and squirming through rock crevices and climbing over rock formations and boulders. The key is to keep an eye on the blazes as there seem to be numerous routes in which to go. This 6 mile loop also uses easy walking carriage roads to reach the crevices, a brief detour onto Mohonk Mountain House property to some magnificent views and returns on different carriage roads.
We began the hike on the Northwest Trail, which is located directly across from the booth where you stop to pay or show your membership card.
We headed south on the Northwest Trail, on a mowed path along the edge of a field.
The trail then plunges into the woods, crosses a small stream and begins to climb on a footpath, gradually at first. The trail reaches a collapsed stone wall, briefly parallels it then crosses through it. The trail then steepens as it climbs the hillside. The trail is not well marked, but easily discernible. I did spot an occasional red blaze along the way.
After about 1/2 mile and approximately 160 feet of elevation gain, we reached Cedar Drive and turned right, now heading southwest. Cedar Drive is one of several broken-stone carriage roads that connects the Spring Farm Trailhead area to the Mohonk Mountain House property.
In approximately 0.6 mile, we came to the Cedar Drive Carriage Road Bridge. The original rustic stone and wood bridge that crossed Mohonk Road was removed in the 1960’s when the public roadway was widened.
This new span, installed in 2011 once again links the historic carriage roads north of Mohonk Road to the remainder of the network on the southern side. The prefabricated steel pedestrian bridge with wooden decking is similar in appearance to the Trapps Bridge.
We crossed the bridge and continued walking on Cedar Drive. In approximately 0.7 mile, we reached the Cedar Drive Bridge.
This wide wooden bridge spans Mossy Brook and is very solidly built.
After crossing the bridge, we walked about another 500 feet and reached Glen Anna Road and turned left.
Glen Anna Road snakes its way up the hillside…..
then arrives at a junction with the red-blazed Rock Rift Trail.
We turned right onto the Rock Rift Trail and began following the red blazes and arrows. A short walk on the footpath leads to the start of the rock scramble.
The arrows point in which direction to go, otherwise it would be hard to figure out with so many crevices and rock formations.
Some of the crevices are tighter than others, but they are all doable. I am 6′ and 220 lbs. and although I had to remove my backpack at times to fit through the tighter squeezes, there were no spots where I had too much difficulty.
The trail twists and turns through a maze of jumbled boulders and a labyrinth of high rock walls.
Yes, I was able to squeeze through there.
There isn’t much elevation gain on this trail, although we did work up a sweat.
Some of the enclosed areas are very dark, but I had my trusty flashlight with me to help light the way.
We only encountered a lone female hiker going in the same direction as us. Near the end, we passed two male hikers going in the opposite direction.
With no other hikers breathing down our necks, we were able to go at our own pace. Although one of my fellow hikers commented later that we should have gone slower in order to further enjoy the beauty of this area.
Hiking this trail was like being in the Land of the Lost.
It rained heavily the two days before we did this hike and the rocks were slick in some areas.
There was one dark, cave like crevice where we had to walk about 25 feet in 12 inches of water. Luckily, I always carry spare socks in my pack.
This is a really fun trail and I truly enjoyed hiking it.
Surprisingly, this trail is not well-known. It travels inside caves and tunnels and is challenging, but at the same time, very rewarding.
This passageway, near the end of the crevices, was a little tight. My shoulders scraped against the sides, but I was able to squeeze through.
The Rock Rift Trail leads out to Rock Rift Road, where we took a short break and reflected on the wondrous adventure we had just undertook.
After our brief moment of reflection, we continued on our journey. The Rock Rift Trail continues ahead on the other side of the road, where the path now becomes a maintained trail rather than a scramble.
The trail steeply climbs the hillside on switchbacks, making this the steepest ascent of the day.
In about 800 feet, the Rock Rift Trail ends at North Lookout Road, leaving the Mohonk Preserve and entering Mohonk Mountain House property. We decided to turn right in search of some views.
We didn’t have that far to walk. In about 600 feet, we reached North Lookout.
A gazebo, known as a “Summer House” on Mohonk property, marks the North Lookout. It offers a spectacular viewpoint over the Rondout Valley, with the Catskills in the distance.
We took a lunch break here while enjoying the magnificent view. I took this opportunity to remove my wet boots and socks and let my feet air out. Those fresh socks I had in my pack felt like heaven. While there, a group of horseback riders came by and asked me to take their photographs with their phones, and I obliged.
After a lengthy break, we tore ourselves from this splendid spot and retraced our steps on North Lookout Road, past the junction with the Rock Rift Trail.
As we continued on North Lookout Road, we were looking for a shortcut trail that cuts down the hillside, but we weren’t paying attention and missed it. No worries though, North Lookout Road wraps around and we stayed left to remain on it.
We then came to a junction with the shortcut trail (the one we missed) on the left and Whitney Road on the right. This junction is a little confusing because it is not clearly labeled, but I consulted my map and continued ahead on North Lookout Road, now re-entering the Mohonk Preserve. A short distance ahead, we came to a three way junction that was easier to decipher. Here, we turned right onto Bonticou Road.
We walked northeast on Bonticou Road for about 0.8 mile, arriving at the paved Mohonk Road and crossed the street to continue on Bonticou Road.
We stayed on Bonticou Road for approximately another 0.6 mile and turned left onto Spring Farm Road.
With the vast network of carriage roads that seem to intersect each other, a lot of the junctions can at times be a little confusing. From here it was made easier by the signs posted on the trees pointing us in the right direction.
We stayed on Spring Farm Road for just under 1/2 mile as it led us downhill.
We then turned left onto the red-blazed Crag Trail.
The Crag Trail heads northwest on a footpath.
The Crag Trail is also the route of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail (SRT).
I didn’t see anymore red blazes, but kept following the blue ones and the paper signs attached to the trees.
In about 500 yards after turning onto the Crag Trail, we arrived back at the parking area, where the hike began.
We took a brief rest then headed up a short distance from the parking area, to what is referred to as “The Million Dollar View.”
This was a perfect way to end another great hike in “The Gunks.”
This was a truly great hike and the carriage roads were nicely shaded throughout, which was a bonus. The Rock Rift Crevices are about as much fun as one can have on a hike. This hike took place on a Sunday and we only ran into a handful of people on the trails/carriage roads. An all around good day on the trails with perfect weather to boot. I hope that you enjoyed the hike and will be inspired to hit the trails. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and get notified whenever I publish a new post. Now get out there and take a hike!
Pros: Rock Rift Crevices, scenic views, mostly shaded trails, well maintained carriage roads, The Gunks.
Cons: Junctions along carriage roads can be confusing.