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This loop hike follows a difficult rock scramble to the top of Bonticou Crag, with expansive views over the surrounding countryside.
Allowed on leash
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). After paying the toll, turn left onto Route 299 and continue west through the Village of New Paltz. After crossing the bridge over the Wallkill River at the west end of the village, turn right onto Springtown Road, following signs for the Mohonk Mountain House. At the next intersection, turn left onto Mountain Rest Road. Continue on Mountain Rest Road for 3.3 miles to the entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House at the top of the hill. Continue ahead downhill for 1.0 mile and turn right onto Upper 27 Knolls Road. The Spring Farm parking area of the Mohonk Preserve is just ahead on the left. A ranger is usually stationed at a trailhead kiosk to collect day-use fees and distribute maps.
Bus service to New Paltz from New York City, Nanuet, Newburgh and Kingston is available via Adirondack Trailways, www.trailwaysny.com (800) 776-7548. Limited weekday bus service to New Paltz from Kingston and Highland is available via Routes R and H of Ulster County Area Transit, www.co.ulster.ny.us/ucat (888) 827-8228. Ulster County Area Transit also offers bus service from the Metro-North station in Poughkeepsie to New Paltz via their Ulster-Poughkeepsie Link. Taxi service from New Paltz to Mohonk is available from New Paltz Taxi, www.npztaxi.com (845) 255-1550.
From the exit at the northern end of the parking area, follow a short unmarked trail uphill and turn left onto the blue-blazed Table Rocks Trail, which parallels Spring Farm Road. As the trail reaches the top of a rise, a broad panoramic view of the Catskill Mountains -- known as the "Million Dollar View" -- appears to the left. Just beyond, you'll reach a junction with the Crag Trail. Turn right and follow this trail, which follows a row of cedar trees, continues on a wide path across a field, and parallels an old stone wall along the left side of another field.
After about 15 minutes of uphill walking, the trail crosses two carriage roads - Cedar Drive and Spring Farm Road - in quick succession. You'll now notice some red blazes along the trail route. The Crag Trail continues to climb, rather steeply in places, reaching its terminus -- about one mile from the start of the hike -- at the intersection of Cedar Drive with Bonticou Road.
Make a broad left turn onto Bonticou Road (do not turn sharply left onto Cedar Drive, which descends rather steeply). This level carriage road soon curves to the right, with trees growing out of the thin layers of deeply tilted shale on the hillside. After the road bends to the left, then again to the right, the imposing Bonticou Crag comes into view through the trees on the left. Watch carefully for a triple yellow blaze on the left side of the road, marking the start of the Bonticou Ascent Path. When you reach this yellow-blazed trail, turn left and follow it downhill to a junction with the blue-blazed Northeast Trail.
Beyond this intersection, the Bonticou Ascent Path continues over giant talus fragments and steeply ascends the jagged rock face of Bonticou Crag, climbing over ledges and through crevices. This rock scramble - which requires the use of both hands and feet - should not be attempted by those who lack agility and confidence. It is generally considered to be the most difficult rock scramble in the Mohonk area, and it will probably take about 20 minutes to climb to the top of this massive outcrop of white Shawangunk Conglomerate. (Those who wish to bypass this difficult climb should turn left on the Northeast Trail, follow it northward for about half a mile, then - after a rather steep ascent - turn right onto the northern branch of the yellow-blazed Bonticou Ascent Path, which follows a more gradual route to the top of Bonticou Crag.)
Near the top of the climb, the yellow-blazed route ascends through pines and laurels to reach the crest of the ridge. Turn right to reach the open summit of Bonticou Crag, studded with pitch pines. On a clear day, there are views northwest to the Catskills, northeast to Stissing Mountain and Dutchess County, and southeast to the Hudson Highlands. The Village of New Paltz may be seen below to the southeast.
After resting from the difficult climb and enjoying the spectacular view, head north and descend on the northern leg of the yellow-blazed Bonticou Ascent Path. (It may be difficult to locate the trail at the top of the Crag; if so, bear right as you descend, and the trail should soon become evident.) Follow the trail as it gradually descends through pines and laurels to end at a junction with the blue-blazed Northeast Trail. Turn left and follow the blue-blazed trail, which descends rather steeply. At the base of the descent, you'll reach a junction with the red-blazed Cedar Trail. Turn right and follow the Cedar Trail, which crosses a wet area on puncheons, passes an old stone foundation to the right, and crosses a stream on rocks. It climbs along an old stone wall and continues through a former field, now overgrown with young trees.
When you reach Cedar Drive, turn right and follow this carriage road, which descends gradually. At the next Y-intersection, bear left, following the sign for "Cedar Drive." In another 200 feet (just beyond where the "Cedar Drive Circle" rejoins from the right), turn right onto the red-blazed Cedar Trail, which descends a short distance to end at the blue-blazed Table Rocks Trail. Turn left and follow the Table Rocks Trail for about half a mile back to the Spring Farm parking area. Along the way, you will pass the Slingerland Pavilion and the historic buildings of Spring Farm below to the right and cross Spring Farm Road.