September 29, 2019 – Gardiner, NY
Length: Approximately 6.5 miles
Max elevation: 1,120 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 657 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Fee: $15.00 day hiking fee (Non-Member) – Purchase Membership
Trailhead parking: Mohonk Preserve West Trapps Trailhead Parking Area 3142 US-44, Gardiner, NY 12525
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.
There are over 100 miles of carriage roads and trails. Walking in the preserve ranges from easy, scenic strolls on carriage roads to rough scrambles over boulders, through crevasses, and across open ledges. Only a brief indication of the possibilities can be suggested; hikers are encouraged to go maps in hand and make their own discoveries.
Please note: The distances shown in parentheses are the approximate distances traveled during this hike and not necessarily the total length of the actual trails.
- West Trapps Connector Trail (0.5 mile; yellow blazes) – This crushed stone road connects the West Trapps Trailhead parking area, to the Shongum Path, the Overcliff and Undercliff Roads and the Trapps Bridge.
- Overcliff Road (2.5 miles; directional signs at junctions only) – This easy, level walk on a wide and well maintained carriage road, runs on the west side of the Trapps Ridge. Along the way, it passes lichen-covered cliffs of Shawangunk Conglomerate. There are several viewpoints to the northwest of Ronde Barre and Dickie Barre. The Rondout Valley, with the peaks of the Catskills visible in the distance, may be seen to the north.
- Laurel Ledge Road (0.4 mile; directional signs at junctions only) – This well maintained crushed stone road connects to Mohonk Mountain House lands, ending at Copes Lookout. It is intersected by numerous footpaths, making any number of loop hikes possible.
- Old Minnewaska Trail (2.3 miles; blue blazes) – This old abandoned carriage road runs along the western edge of the escarpment and is the same route used by the famous Long Path and also the Shawangunk Ridge Trail (SRT). In places, the carriage road narrows to a footpath and it is maintained as a trail and not like the well manicured carriage roads in the interior of the preserve.
- Shongum Path (0.6 mile; red blazes) – This footpath connects the Old Minnewaska Trail with the West Trapps Connector Trail, linking the Coxing Creek area with the West Trapps parking area.
I normally prefer to hike the Mohonk/Minnewaska area on weekdays due to the large crowds on weekends. Parking is always an issue when visiting the Mohonk Preserve, so it makes for an early rise. The preserve’s website lists the West Trapps Trailhead parking area as opening at 9:00am on weekends, but when we arrived at about 8:30am, it was near capacity.
Update: Please consult their website for information on the West Trapps Trailhead as protocols have changed in 2020.
The first part of the hike can be done by using either Overcliff or Undercliff Road. We chose Overcliff Road as it is less traveled (Undercliff Road is popular for rock climbers) and the morning sun is shielded by the cliffs, thus avoiding sun glare while walking and/or capturing images.
This moderate loop hike travels mostly on wide carriage roads that are easy to follow, with only short stints on footpaths. The elevation gain is mostly at the beginning, but the last stretch along the Shongum Path is uphill. This hike was done counterclockwise starting from the West Trapps Trailhead.
From the kiosk at the eastern end of the parking area, follow the yellow-blazed West Trapps Connector Trail which leads east, parallel to Route 44/55. In about 750 feet, a sign on the left marks the start of the red-blazed Shongum Path. This is your return route, but for now, continue ahead, following the yellow blazes. In about a quarter of a mile from the start, you’ll reach the Trapps Bridge, where a stairway leads up to the Undercliff and Overcliff Roads.
At the top of the stairs, turn left (do not cross the bridge), then immediately turn left again at the junction ahead. You’re now following Overcliff Road, completed in 1903 by the Smiley family, who owned and operated the nearby Mohonk and Minnewaska Mountain Houses. This road is part of an extensive network of gravel roads built by the Smileys for horse-drawn carriages, but used today for walking and bicycling (and, during the winter, for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing).
Overcliff Road climbs gently to reach the west side of the Trapps Ridge.
As Overcliff Road curves to the east, there is a west-facing viewpoint across Clove Valley, to the Lost City cliffs on Dickie Barre.
Along its route, Overcliff Road passes lichen-covered cliffs of Shawangunk Conglomerate. The name “overcliff” is somewhat of a misnomer, as the trail does not run atop the cliffs, but once it levels off, it passes several viewpoints to the north over the Rondout Valley, with the peaks of the Catskills visible in the distance. Dickie Barre and Ronde Barre may be seen to the northwest. The vegetation along Overcliff Road is largely a mix of pitch pines and scrub oak.
Overcliff Road is especially scenic during the Fall foliage season.
Overcliff Road then descends gently through a series of curves, and after almost 2.5 miles, ends at a complex junction of five carriage roads at the stone Rhododendron Bridge.
Turn left onto Laurel Ledge Road, a wide, maintained carriage road, which is open to bicyclists as well as hikers. Soon the road travels alongside steep cliffs on either side of the trail.
In about 0.4 mile, Laurel Ledge Road comes to a junction with the Old Minnewaska Trail, which begins on the left. Turn left on the blue-blazed Old Minnewaska Trail, which begins as a wide carriage road, but soon narrows as it descends.
At the base of the descent, at a junction with the Undivided Lot Trail, you’ll come to a broad viewpoint, with pitch pines lining the slope below, and the Catskills visible in the distance.
Turn left to remain on the Old Minnewaska Trail and follow this old carriage road as it heads downhill in a westerly direction.
The Old Minnewaska Trail is a carriage road built by the Smileys in 1879 to connect the Mohonk Mountain House with the newly acquired Minnewaska property. A few decades later, other routes replaced this one for carriage traffic between the two resorts. The original route (this trail) was then poorly maintained and has narrowed to a footpath in places.
In about 1.8 miles from the start of the Old Minnewaska Trail, a deep cut in the road is reached. A small stream here was once crossed by a bridge. The bridge abutments of shaped conglomerate blocks may still be seen, but the footpath dips down to the stream, which It crosses on rocks. After this stream crossing, the roadway widens, narrows briefly, then widens again.
In another 0.4 mile, the Old Minnewaska Trail comes to a junction with the red-blazed Shongum Path, which begins on the left. You will come back to this junction, but for now, continue a short distance to a wooden bridge that spans the Coxing Kill and is also the terminus of the Old Minnewaska Trail.
Cross the wooden bridge and turn right at the kiosk towards Split Rock.
This rock formation is quite unique, and picturesque. There is a small waterfall under the bridge, which flows into a crevice, which is about 5-8 ft. deep. Very clear water that has turquoise highlights when the sun is bright.
Located at the site of the former Enderly family sawmill, the naturally tiered “rock beach” has long been a favorite place for picnicking by the Coxing Kill (stream).
The Coxing Kill plunges into a small gorge of solid rock and streams out on the other end into a pool.
When you are done at Split Rock, retrace your steps, recrossing the wooden bridge, returning to the junction with the Shongum Path and turn right. Ascend the log steps and follow the red blazes in a southerly direction.
The Shongum Path continues along a gravel path bordered by rocks. The trail then follows a long stretch of narrow boardwalk across a wet area and soon crosses a stream on a wooden footbridge, followed by more wooden planks, then passing a junction with the yellow-blazed Enderly’s Path. Continue following the red blazes as they head uphill for another 0.3 mile, where the Shongum Path ends at a T-intersection with the yellow-blazed West Trapps Connector Trail.
Turn right on the West Trapps Connector Trail and follow the yellow blazes for approximately 750 feet to the West Trapps Trailhead Parking Area, where the hike began.
This is a really nice hike on well marked trails through an extremely scenic landscape. This hike is especially picturesque during the fall foliage season. The crushed stone carriage roads throughout the interior of the preserve, are well maintained and easy to walk. The Old Minnewaska Trail is a rougher carriage road which sees lesser foot traffic and feels removed from the preserve itself. Overall a very pleasant hike and if done early enough, few people will be encountered along the way.
The Gunks, scenic views, Split Rock, cliffs, shaded trails, well marked trails.
Very popular hiking area and attracts crowds.
Take a hike!
- Mohonk Preserve
- New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
- Scenes & Walks in the Northern Shawangunks – Jack Fagan