Geology of the New York City Region

28. Mohonk Mountain House and Mohonk Preserve

The picturesque and pricey Mohonk Mountain House is a private, non-profit motel with grounds and lake that encompass 2,200 acres along the crest of the Shawangunk Mountains. The Mohonk Preserve is the largest private, non-profit ecological sanctuary in New York. It covers 6,000 acre along the crest of the northern Shawangunk Mountains and partially surrounds the grounds of the Mohonk House House. A reciprocal agreement allows members and individuals with day passes to the Mohonk Preserve to walk on the grounds of the resort (excluding the building and the swimming area).

Hiking in the Mohonk Preserve is an expensive proposition: it costs $7 per person, per day. Passes may be purchased at the Trapps Gateway Interpretive Center on Route 44 about one mile north of the intersection with Route 299. Passes may also be purchased in the parking area on the west side of Trapps Bridge (see Figure 65 on the previous page). All hikers and bikers are required to display a ski-tag-like ticket while hiking in the preserve. Access from the Mohonk Preserve into Minnewaska State Park is free; however, it is not free to enter the preserve from the park. A detailed trail map comes along with the purchase of a ticket. The parking along Route 44 is quite limited, and quickly fills up early on weekends, especially in the late spring and fall.

There are many hiking trails that follow the paths of old carriage roads through both the preserve and the adjacent state park. Within the Mohonk Preserve, an easy and very popular 5 mile circuit hike begins at the Trapps Bridge over Route 44 which combines the Undercliff and Overcliff trails (see Figure 65). The Undercliff Trails essentially follows the unconformable boundary between the Normanskill and Shawangunk Formations. The boundary is only slightly exposed about a quarter mile east of the bridge. Everywhere else is covered by great blocks of sandstone and conglomerate which have accumulated at the base of the cliffs. Numerous springs issue from cracks along the unconformity or from fractures at the base of the sandstone cliffs of the Shawangunk Formation. These cliffs (or "trapps" as they are called locally) are typically crawling with mountain climbers on the weekends (Figure 66). The Undercliff Trail connects with the Overcliff Trail about 2.5 miles to the north of the Trapps Bridge. This trail offers a return to the Trapps Bridge that is mostly enshrouded in the forests on the gentle western side of the Trapps ridge. There are several short paths that lead away from this carriage road to overlooks along the way, both on top of the Trapps, and to others that provide views of the Catskills to the north. The moderate westward dip of the cross-bedded sandstone beds of the Shawangunk Formation are quite apparent in outcrops along this trail, especially near where the trails intersect near the Trapps Bridge. The both Overcliff and Undercliff Trails connect to a complex system of trails that wind throughout the Mohonk Preserve and the land of the Mohonk Mountain House Resort. A high point marked with a highly visible monument to the northeast of the Trapps area is called Skytop. It is accessible via a two mile hike that begins at the Mohonk Mountain House.

Outcrops with climbers in the Shawangunk Mountains Mohonk Preserve
Figure 66. Climbers preparing to climb "The Trapps" in the Mohonk Preserve of the Shawangunks.

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Last modified: 3/11/2019