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8. NY Route 32 (Town of Woodbury) to Heritage Trail in Monroe
Feature: Schunemunk Mountain State Park
Distance: 8.85 miles
USGS Map Quads: Popolopen Lake, Cornwall, Maybrook, and Monroe
Trail Conference Maps: Trail Map 114 (West Hudson Trails)
The trail proceeds for a short distance just inside the woods on the south side of the right-of-way of the Metro-North Port Jervis Line, before beginning a steep ascent of Schunemunk Mountain. Schunemunk (pronounced "skun-uh-munk") is a northeast-southwest trending ridge, with steep sides and a nearly level top. The mountain was formerly owned by the Star Expansion Company. In 1996, the Open Space Institute acquired 2,100 acres of land on the mountain (including most of its ridgetop), and it transferred this parcel to the State of New York in 2003, securing its lasting protection and ensuring public access for future generations. Schunemunk Mountain State Park was New York's 163rd state park. Upon reaching the Jessup Trail and Highlands Trail, which are co-aligned along the entire length of the mountain, the Long Path turns south and is co-aligned with these two trails. As the trail heads south, the height of the ridge becomes lower, but it still affords many fine views. The trail soon enters private lands. Hunting is allowed on these lands (as well as on the northern portion of Schunemunk Mountain); hikers should be aware of the dates of the various hunting seasons and plan accordingly. At the southwest end of the mountain, the Jessup Trail ends in Gonzaga Park,* while the Long Path and Highlands Trail continue toward the Heritage Trail in the Town of Monroe. The trails follow a mix of local roads and footpaths through privately-owned woods and pass along Orange-Rockland Lake. This section ends in a commuter parking lot adjacent to NY Route 17 (future Interstate 86).
Take the New York State Thruway north to Exit 16, Harriman. Continue north on NY Route 32. Approximately 1.8 miles north of the "Woodbury Police" sign in the Village of Highland Mills, you will pass under a high railroad trestle painted black. The Long Path leaves the west side of the road about 50 feet north of the trestle.
0.00 At the intersection of Evans Drive and NY Route 32, about 0.2 mile south of the railroad trestle. (41.36085°, -74.10769°)
6.55 In Gonzaga Park, about 1.0 mile from Exit 130 of Route 17. (41.35669°, -74.17556°)
8.80 Monroe commuter parking area at Exit 129 of Route 17. (41.34678°, -74.19807°)
0.00 The Long Path crosses NY Route 32 across from a driveway, about 100 feet north of the high railroad trestle that goes over the road. It climbs a wooded embankment on rock steps, crosses under a railroad trestle on a gravel road and turns right to climb rock steps and a steep embankment (watch for poison ivy) to the grade of the tracks. The trail continues between a fence and an earth embankment for about 300 ft. At the end of the fence the trail crosses the earth berm, then makes a quick right and follows the bottom of the berm. After a short distance the trail climbs up onto the berm which runs along the railroad. The Long Path soon drops off the berm, goes up and down a bit, then turns away from the railroad.
0.45 The trail reaches a woods road and turns left. Almost immdiately, just before reaching a gully, the trail turns right into the woods, soon reaching another woods road. Follow this second road to the right as it begins a meandering ascent of Schunemunk Mountain, crossing several stone walls along the way.
0.85 The trail turns left onto a narrow track and heads uphill. It now ascends steadily, first steeply, then more gradually, passing several good viewpoints, including one at Little Knob.
1.70 Reach High Knob. This open ridgetop has fine views up and down the valley and of the Hudson River to the north. The trail continues on the top of this flat ridge and then goes left on rocks forming the west side of the ridge. It descends to approach the head of the valley between High Knob and the main ridge to the west. As the gap between the ridges closes, the trail drops into the woods to cross two small rocky ravines before ascending a boulder-strewn slope to the opposite ridge. On the low ridge between the two ravines an unmarked trail goes right, and shortly afterwards, another unmarked trail goes left.
2.30 The Long Path crosses the old Woodbury Park trail. Traces of red blazes are still visible.
2.70 The trail crosses Dark Hollow Brook and climbs to the main ridge of Schunemunk Mountain.
2.90 The Long Path reaches the Jessup Trail (yellow) near the top of the ridge. This is also the route of the Highlands Trail (teal diamond), which heads northeast to Storm King Mountain and southwest through Sterling Forest State Park to the Delaware River in Riegelsville, NJ. The orange-blazed trail straight ahead is the Western Ridge Trail, the former route of the Long Path. The Long Path turns left (south) and is co-aligned with the Jessup Trail to its end. Follow the yellow Jessup Trail blazes, as the Long Path and Highlands Trail are marked with their trail logos only at occasional intervals and at junctions.
8.1 View from the co-aligned Jessup-HT-LP on Schunemunk. 2012 [JAKOB FRANKE]
3.35 Reach the southern boundary of Schunemunk Mountain State Park. An unmarked side trail on the right leads to a woods road that descends to Mountain Lodge Road in about 0.6 mile. Many other unmarked trails intersect the Long Path in the next three miles.
3.55 The trail passes an antenna park. After bearing left at a fork, the trail curves to the left and heads towards the eastern side of the ridge. It emerges onto an open rock ledge, with views to the east.
4.40 The trail turns sharply right and soon crosses a small stream.
4.50 The trail climbs to the crest of the western side of the ridge and reaches a panoramic west-facing viewpoint.
4.60 The trail reaches another west-facing viewpoint and bears left, reentering the woods.
4.80 Pass a limited east-facing viewpoint and then a broader west-facing viewpoint.
5.05 The trail climbs to another panoramic west-facing viewpoint. It then descends steeply to a col and climbs rock ledges. For the next mile, the trail follows undulating terrain, with a number of ups and downs.
6.05 The trail emerges on a rock ledge, with panoramic views on both sides of the ridge – both to the east and to the west. The Shawangunks and the Catskills are visible to the northwest. From this viewpoint – the last one along the ridge – the trail descends steadily on a woods road.
6.40 Bear right at a fork, leaving the main woods road and continuing to descend on a narrower road.
6.55 The trail reaches paved Seven Springs Road, which is closed to vehicular traffic. The Long Path and Highlands Trail continue across Seven Springs Road. (The Jessup Trail turns right onto the road and ends in 0.1 mi at a gate, with the parking lot of Gonzaga Park* on the right.) The trail descends slightly, crosses a small drainage area, and passes by a spring house. Shortly thereafter there is a small cemetery on the right. The trail soon reaches an old woods road which it follows to the right for a few hundred feet to an ATT powerline cable right-of-way. The trail turns left here, crosses a couple of stone walls, and reaches Seven Springs Mountain Road (Orange County Route 44) and the entrance of Gonzaga Park.
8.2 and 8.3 Spring house and Davison Cemetery in Gonzaga Park. 2014 [JAKOB FRANKE]
6.80 The trail crosses County Route 44 and continues on Seven Springs Road.
7.25 The trail turns right into the woods, passing several stone walls and interesting low rock ledges. Near NY Route 208 there are foundations of an old homestead.
8.00 The Long Path and Highlands Trail cross Route 208 and enter the woods near Orange-Rockland Lake.
8.20 The trail reaches the lake and follows its shoreline.
8.40 The trail reaches Museum Village Road, turns left, and follows the road, crossing Route 17/Interstate 86.
8.75 Turn left onto Orange and Rockland Road and into a commuter parking lot.
8.85 Once in the parking lot, make a U-turn to find the Heritage Trail, a paved rail-trail. This is the end of Long Path Section 8.
* Gonzaga Park is a 216-acre former Jesuit retreat that was acquired by Orange County in 2001 and has since been developed as a county park. The park is located in the towns of Blooming Grove, Monroe, and Woodbury, and there still are a few of the original buildings on the site, including a chapel.