Hike Mohonk Preserve's Gatehouse to Skytop Tower
New York › Gatehouse Road
Added by Nickolis Irby
Hike through through Mohonk Preserve and see some of the best the Shawangunks have to offer: a serene pond, deciduous forests, dramatic cliffs, historic buildings, and sweeping vistas.
Begin at the intersection of Gatehouse Rd and Mohonk Private Rd. There is a small shoulder to park on here. Begin hiking into the preserve along the gatehouse road. There will be signs stating you need a membership or pass to enter. Don't worry about these, there will be a place on the trail where you will purchase your pass. After passing through the gatehouse, continue along the scenic trail. You will see a tower in the distance on top of a mountain. That's where you are headed.
Follow this gravel road, which becomes Lenape Lane, for a little over a mile. You will reach a switchback heading uphill. A little further up, the trail will switchback again. You will reach a junction 1.75 miles in. This is where there will be preserve staff that will help you purchase your day pass. Pick up a free map while you are here.
From the junction, make a hard left turn onto Duck Pond Rd. This gravel road will continue for .75 miles, leading you past an old aqueduct and over and alongside a small stream. You will reach a fork in the road. Don't worry about which trail to take - they all reunite a few hundred feet ahead at duck pond.
Take a break at the pond if you prefer. When you are ready, continue to the right of the pond for .1 mile. There will be a small foot trail to the left with a sign marked "Duck Pond Trail." Take this trail. It will be marked with red blazes on the rocks and trees to help guide you. Continue on this trail for a little less than a mile. It will intersect with Oakwood Drive. Ignore this gravel carriage road and continue upwards on Duck Pond Trail for another .2 miles. This section will be steep and strenuous.
Duck Pond Trail will appear to end when it intersects with another gravel carriage road. Ignore this carriage road as well - Duck Pond Trail continues immediately uphill beyond a sign that reads, "Caution: Rough Path." There will be red blazes on the rocks through this section that you can follow, as the trail becomes more obscure. Don't worry if you lose the trail, just continue heading uphill. In .1 miles, you will reach the Skytop Cliff wall.
From the cliff wall, head left, still following the red blazes. This section will be approximately .3 miles, and will stay against the cliff wall. When the trail opens up to a large collection of crumbled boulders you have reached the Labyrinth. Continue to follow the red blazes for another .1 miles. The blazes will lead you around a corner and up steeply towards a corner in the cliff wall. That corner is the entrance to the "Lemon squeeze," a claustrophobic crevice where will crawl and shimmy your way through narrow choke-points and up wooden ladders.
The lemon squeeze will open up to a large ledge with beautiful views. However, the views are only going to get better, so keep heading up. Take the bridge over the crevice you just crawled up, and follow the path up the large Tower. You've made it! Climb to the top of the tower and enjoy panoramic views of the Hudson Valley, Shawangunk Ridge, Mohonk Lake and Mountain House, and the Catskill Mountains. There are several benches and small gazebos near the tower where you can enjoy your lunch and the awesome scenery.
When you are ready to hike out, head to the right and down the gravel path when exiting the tower. There will be a small path heading downhill to the left which reads, "Skytop Path (To Mountain House). Take this trail, sticking to the left whenever possible. This will lead downhill to a steep staircase that will put you back on the forest floor. Continue to the right of the cliff, again following the red blazes.
In a few hundred feet, you will again enter the labyrinth. Follow the blazes marked on the rocks to get through the area safely. You will pass by the lemon squeeze - now will be backtracking the path you took up. Follow the trail along the cliff until it leads back downhill to the first carriage road.
Continue downhill on Duck Pond Trail, passing the second carriage road, leading all the way back to Duck Pond Road. Head right to Duck Pond. Take your first left and continue following the path for .75 miles. You will reach the intersection where you purchased your pass. Take a hard right onto Lenape Lane, following the switchbacks downhill. Follow this road straight back to the gatehouse and your vehicle.
- Water (1 Liter+)
- $12 per person (For purchasing day pass. Cards accepted)
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World Class Climbing, Breathtaking Hiking
I have been hiking and climbing at the Mohonk Preserve for almost 20 years. This is a world-wide known destination for trad climbers of all skill levels and a gem for hikers who seek amazing views and warm-hearted locals. What's more is that it's only a 1.5-drive from New York City and the quaint local town of New Paltz always hosts local events and is fully featured with restaurants, breweries, cafes, antique shops, and novelty stores. Almost 20 years and I've never felt the need to go elsewhere.
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