Mohonk Preserve Crown Jewel Hike


Many hikes in the Hudson Valley offer scenic views. But this particular loop, which is part of the 8,000-acre Mohonk Preserve, is special for natural viewing pleasure and accessibility. It doesn’t hurt to be located near two beloved and long-standing restaurants for a post-hike reward.

The iconic and heavily trafficked 4.7 mile loop from Undercliff Carriage Road to Overcliff Carriage Road, located in the Shawangunk Mountain Range in Gardiner, is a year round destination for all outdoor enthusiasts: runners, hikers, cyclists, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, boulderers and climbers.

The Oval Circuit is by far one of the most popular treks for reserve members and visitors. The carriageway’s trails are wide enough to accommodate its many visitors, and other than a half-mile section where climbers congregate in summer and fall, it rarely feels crowded.

The views also make this trek unforgettable. With ample parking at the West Trapps trailhead, located just past the hairpin bend on Route 44, the loop is flanked by stunning views of the Catskill mountain range on the west side (via Overcliff) and the valley. from the Hudson River to the east (along Undercliff).

Along Undercliff, travelers can even get a few stamp-sized frames of the historic Sky Top Tower, perched atop the Gunks, especially when all the leaves have fallen.

Within these five miles there is so much natural and cultural history that it’s hard not to stop and take in a piny depth.

Scenic by design

Undercliff Carriage Road was built in 1907 by the Smiley family, the owners of the Mohonk Mountain House, and the creators of the Mohonk Land Trust (now known as the Preserve). The road is 2.3 miles long from Trapps Bridge to its junction with its twin sister, the 2.4 mile Overcliff Carriage Road, which was built about 100 years ago. Building the Twin Roads required skilled stonemasons, blasters, and heavy labor, and together they were considered feats of engineering by the turn of the 20th century.

The trails offer stunning views of the Catskills to the west and the Hudson Valley to the east.

Erin quinn

The additional connection of Overcliff Road across the Trapps Bridge allowed visitors to have different views when traveling from Mohonk Mountain House to Lake Minnewaska and back. Legend has it that back in the day, horse and carriage drivers had to take guests to Minnewaska via Overcliff Road, but drive them back along Undercliff so they could get multiple glimpses of the Sky Top Tower while ‘they were approaching the hotel.

These historic carriage roads are part of a complex and deliberate design aimed at highlighting the existing romantic elements of the landscape while blending in and preserving its innate character. The curves of the road offer a constant unfolding of the landscape while continually changing the point of view of the traveler.

A circuit adapted to each outdoor activity

Today, the historic carriage road encircles what are known as the “Trapps”, arguably the most visited and used climbing area in the northeast.

If the weather is favorable for climbing, anyone traveling the Undercliff motorable route will pass dozens of climbers assuring a partner, scaling the white cliffs of the conglomerate or swinging off a rock ledge hundreds of feet above the ground. -above.

There’s plenty of fruit on hand for the bouldering too, and you’ll often see specially designed mats neatly tucked away under chalk-laden boulders as people test their strength, agility, and ability to master holds and knocks. boulder handles, knowing that there is a safe drop below.

What makes this loop so appealing to all levels of athlete and outdoor adventurers is that it is easily accessible, yet wide, on clay, and lined with stones, which allows for multiple activities.

Seasoned Under / Over loop runners have an ongoing debate about which direction could lead to a faster time: Over to Under, or Under to Over? The majority of runners, during the annual Shawangunk Summer Series at the reserve, take Undercliff first and end alongside Overcliff, which ends with a slight but noticeable descent.

The last mile, marked by those who hike it often, is a small boulder that helps point out exactly when the trail begins its mile-long descent.

The Overlook and Undercliff carriage roads date back to the turn of the 20th century, designed back then to blend in with nature and showcase the surrounding beauty of the Gunks.

The Overlook and Undercliff carriage roads date back to the turn of the 20th century, designed back then to blend in with nature and showcase the surrounding beauty of the Gunks.

Erin quinn

Ironically enough, it’s the walk from the parking lot to the start of Under / Over that people often scoff at as the hardest part. It’s a steep, albeit short and lovely trail that connects the West Trapps parking lot to the top of the ridge where the loop begins.

Beyond the gentle incline and trapeze movements of climbers on the cliffs above, Undercliff / Overcliff can take visitors over 35 miles of motorable roads and walking trails, making it easy to extend your adventure to Mohonk.

The loop is also a wonderful starting point for hikers and recreational cyclists, and a perfect training loop for veterans looking for a bucolic boost on their way through the Gunks.

When the snow falls, the trail is also groomed for cross-country skiing, and there are also many trails for snowshoers.

Meal after the hike

Refuel after your Gunks adventure at one of two long-standing family restaurants located just down the road from the West Trapps parking lot. Brauhaus mountain (3123 US-44), a German restaurant at the foot of the Gunks, has been operated by the Ruoff family since 1955. Known for its bratwurst sausages and cutlets and other authentic German dishes, Brauhaus also offers a variety of vegetarian or vegan options made with local produce. , farm-fresh ingredients. (The Ruoff family takes their annual winter break from December 19 to January 19, then reopens for the rest of the year.)

Family style Lombardi Restaurant (2808 Benton Cors) is renowned for being one of the few Italian restaurants in the area that makes its own fresh Italian pasta and bread on site.


Tips before you go

Mohonk Preserve members can access this route free of charge as part of their $ 60 annual membership fee. Otherwise, the daily visitor fee is $ 15 for walking and $ 20 per day for skiing, rock climbing or horseback riding (cash or credit card).

Those planning a trip to the reserve can also call the Mohonk Reserve Visitor Center to see if the parking lot is full or if the trails have been groomed for skiing: 845-255-0919.

During peak weekends, visitors and members can also access the Undercliff / Overcliff route by parking a bit further at the Visitor Center and taking a quarter-mile long connecting trail.

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