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The Shawangunks

Stretching 50 miles from the New Jersey border at Port Jervis northeast past Rosendale in a series of rolling ridges and escarpments, the Shawangunks, or "Gunks", form a unique environment and ecosystem. World famous for their hiking and cliff climbing, the Gunks are also recognized for the uniqueness of their habitat and the rarity of the many species of plants and animals that life on them.

The Northern Shawangunks are protected by a network of public and private parks and preserves containing a magnificent 26,000 acres of protected lands. Minnewaska State Park, the Mohonk Preserve and the Nature Conservancy are the main players in this complex patchwork of preservation and public access. The reasons for the heavy visitation to the Gunks range from an incomparable trail system, world class cliff climbing, the rare and protected micro ecosystems, extraordinary landscape and mountain vistas and the sheer beauty of the place. Primary among all of this is the location of the Gunks, within a two hour drive of New York City.

The reasons for your going to the Gunks can be any of the above, just make sure you go. The experiences you can have in the Gunks are unlike anywhere else in the world. The unique geology of the Gunks makes experiencing them one of the things you absolutely must do in the Hudson Valley. Gently rising from broad valleys in the northwest, the Gunks suddenly split along their eastern face into a series of cliffs and escarpments exposing the white limestone glistening in the sun. The escarpments parade along the length of the Gunks making them visible from great distances as you travel the Valley.

From atop these cliffs you are provided some of the most spectacular views in the world. To the east lies the mighty Hudson River and its broad valley, to the west and north rise the majestic Catskill Mountains with all the lore and legends filling their quiet valleys and dells. Before you and behind you the white cliffs of the Gunks themselves march away cradled in a verdant cloak of green. From atop or below the cliffs surrounding Route 44/55 you can watch the dozens of courageous and slightly crazy people into the sport of cliff climbing. They dangle from ropes and tiny little metal anchors swaying in the breeze calling out to each other.

On the north side of the ridge are miles and miles of trails of all challenge levels. Broad level carriage paths compete with boulder scrambling to attract people. You can stroll for days along the many trails out into the varied environments, from dense hardwood forests on the lower levels up to the windswept distorted pitch pine stands seemingly growing up out of the very surface of the stone. Spectacular "sky lakes" dot the ridge providing extraordinary swimming in cold mountain water and dozens of cascading streams carve out falls and ravines as they fall down the ridge side. Dense hemlock forests give way to the dappled sunlight of arching maples that give way to meadows and pastures from old farms. Different access areas on the Gunks lead you to dramatically different environments.

Take your mountain bikes out on the trails, put on your cross country skis or snowshoes and trek the way along the roads and trails. Spend a quiet afternoon observing the wildlife or watching the hundreds of species of birds that make the Gunks their temporary or permanent homes. Many species of small mammals as well as bears make the Gunks their home giving the Gunks a rich and varied population. The Gunks are about day tripping into nature, spending a glorious day in the great outdoors. Go to the Gunks for an experience and a landscape and some of the most incredible views to be had in the Hudson Valley.

Specifics on visiting the Shawangunks were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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