Schunemunk Mountain Loop from Taylor Road via Jessup, Western Ridge and Sweet Clover Trails

Overview

This loop hike climbs to a ridge composed of unusual conglomerate rock, with many viewpoints from open rock ledges dotted with pitch pines.

Details
Time:
6.5 hours
Difficulty:
Strenuous
Length:
7.5 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views, Waterfall, Public Transportation
Maps/Books
Buy Trail Map:

Buy Book:
Publication
First Published:
11/15/2012
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


View Taylor Road Parking in a larger map

Trail Conference volunteers maintain trails in this park.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.407553,-74.081725
Driving Directions
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 16 (Harriman). Proceed north on N.Y. Route 32 for about seven miles to the Village of Mountainville, and turn left onto Pleasant Hill Road (County Route 79). At the bottom of the hill, turn left again onto Taylor Road, then bear right and cross the bridge over the Thruway. The trailhead parking area is on the right side of the road, just beyond the junction with Creekside Lane.
Bus
Shortline bus goes to Mountainville and makes a stop at Angola Road and Route 32. Cross the street (Rt. 32)  and walk toward Pleasant Hill Road (County Route 79). At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Taylor Road, then bear right and cross the bridge over the Thruway. The trailhead is on the left side of the road, just beyond the junction with Creekside Lane and opposite the trailhead parking area on the right.
Description

From the parking area, cross the road and proceed south on the joint Jessup (yellow), Sweet Clover (white) and Highlands (teal diamond) Trails, which climb gently to the crest of a field and then descend to a woods road. To the right, you can see Schunemunk Mountain, which you’ll soon climb.

Turn right on the woods road, going past a chain that blocks off the road. When the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail leaves to the left, continue ahead, now following the yellow blazes of the Jessup Trail. (You’re also following the Highlands Trail, but the teal-diamond Highlands Trail blazes appear mainly at intersections.) The Jessup Trail crosses a field diagonally to the right, crosses a footbridge over a stream, re-enters the woods, and soon climbs to a woods road, where it turns right.

Follow the yellow blazes along the woods road for about half a mile. Watch for a sharp left turn, where the trail leaves the road and climbs to cross the Metro-North railroad tracks. This is an active rail line, so be sure to stop, look and listen for approaching trains before crossing.

On the other side of the tracks, the Jessup Trail turns right, briefly joining the red-blazed Otterkill Trail. It soon reaches the cascading Baby Brook and turns left to parallel the brook. The Otterkill Trail turns right and crosses the brook on a wooden footbridge, but you should continue ahead along the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail, which climbs steadily along the brook. In the next three-quarters of a mile, you’ll climb about 700 feet.

After joining a woods road, the trail detours to the right to pass by a beautiful cascade. This is a good place to take a break. Continue ahead along the Jessup Trail, which soon reaches a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Barton Swamp Trail.

Turn right and follow the Barton Swamp Trail, which crosses Baby Brook on rocks and begins a steep climb up the western ridge of the mountain. At the top, the trail turns left and follows a rock ledge, with east-facing views. The trail continues to climb through a cleft in the rock and emerges onto a large expanse of conglomerate rock studded with pitch pines, with even broader views to the northeast. The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge is visible in the distance.West view from The Long Path. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

Continue to follow the red-dot-on-white blazes, passing a junction where the white-blazed Trestle Trail leaves to the right, until the Barton Swamp Trail ends at a junction with the orange-blazed Western Ridge Trail. Bear left here and proceed south on the Western Ridge Trail.

The Western Ridge Trail follows the western ridge of Schunemunk Mountain over conglomerate rock outcrops studded with pebbles of white quartz and pink sandstone. This unusual rock has been smoothed by glacial action, sometimes resembling a level sidewalk. Pitch pines grow out of cracks in the rock. Soon, views appear to the left over the eastern ridge of the mountain, separated from the western ridge by the valley of Baby Brook. In about ten minutes, the Western Ridge Trail reaches a panoramic west-facing viewpoint. A short distance beyond, you’ll come to a junction with the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail, which leaves to the left.

Continue ahead on the orange-blazed Western Ridge Trail for about another mile, passing more viewpoints, as well a fascinating deep fissure in the rock to the right of the trail. After a brief descent, you’ll reach a junction with the blue-dot-on-white-blazed Ridge-to-Ridge Trail. Turn left, leaving the Western Ridge Trail and follow the Ridge-to-Ridge Trail, which descends to the valley. Here, it turns right onto a woods road, briefly joining the red-dot-on-white-blazed Barton Swamp Trail. In about 500 feet, turn left and follow the blue-dot-on-white-blazed Ridge-to-Ridge Trail as it crosses a wet area and then steeply ascends theSchunemunk Summit Rock. Photo by Daniel Chazin. eastern ridge of the mountain. The trail bears right and heads south along a rock ledge, with west-facing views, then turns left and continues to climb the ridge. Where the trail proceeds over bare rock surfaces, it is marked with blue paint blazes on the rocks and with cairns (small piles of rocks).

The Ridge-to-Ridge Trail ends, on the crest of the eastern ridge, at a junction with the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail and the teal-diamond-blazed Highlands Trail. Turn left and follow the joint Jessup/Highlands Trail, which reaches the 1,664-foot-high summit of Schunemunk Mountain – marked on the rock with white paint – in another 0.1 mile. This spot offers a 360° view. The Jessup/Highlands Trail bears left and descends, almost immediately reaching a junction with a white-blazed side trail (also marked by cairns) that leads to the Megaliths – a group of huge blocks that have split off from the bedrock. This is a good place for a The Megaliths. Photo by Daniel Chazin.break, as the interesting geologic features are complemented by a fine viewpoint to the west.

When you feel rested, return to the Jessup/Highlands Trail and turn left. In another third of a mile, the black-on-white-blazed Dark Hollow Trail leaves to the right. Continue ahead on the Jessup/Highlands Trail, soon coming out onto another spectacular viewpoint over the Hudson River and the East Hudson Highlands.

About three-quarters of a mile beyond, after going by yet another viewpoint, you’ll reach a junction with the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail. Turn right, leaving the Jessup/Highlands Trail, and follow the Sweet Clover Trail downhill. After passing an east-facing viewpoint, the trail descends on rock steps, crosses the northern branch of Dark Hollow Brook, then again approaches the brook just above a series of cascades. The trail descends some more, follows along the side of a hill, then resumes its descent, with portions of the trail having been relocated to avoid eroded sections.

Having descended over 1,200 feet from the summit, the Sweet Clover Trail arrives at a junction with the red-blazed Otterkill Trail just before reaching the Metro-North railroad tracks. Turn left onto the Otterkill Trail, then almost immediately turn right and cross the railroad tracks (use extreme caution, as the crossing is on a curve in the tracks, and it is difficult to see or hear approaching trains). Continue to follow the Sweet Clover Trail as it descends through the woods, turns right onto a woods road, then bears left and follows a grassy road through fields. When you reach the junction with the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail (also the route of the teal diamond-blazed Highlands Trail), turn right, then left, following the joint Sweet Clover/Jessup/Highlands Trails back to the parking area where the hike began.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Great Views - Dog Possible*!

I hiked this route today with the pooch only we looped in the opposite direction and double backed onto Jessup on our descent instead of taking of the Sweet Clover Trail. Be careful of the Jessup trail as it ascends past the railroad toward the baby brook falls as it is very slippery with leaves underfoot and was probably the most dangerous section of the route. After ascending Jessup beyond the falls we took a right towards the western ridge although most perfer to hike the eastern ridge first. The views atop the northern peak of the western ridge were the best we encountered the entire hike with panoramic views of the hudson river to the east, stewart air base to the north west and even the very distant catskill mountians. The WR hike was a breeze and very well marked. You will begin to notice several tree stands as you approach the Ridge to Ridge trail. The first we noted has marks from ATV travel coming up from the western side of the ridge.  The RR trail was short but wet in its lowest parts. The asecent from RR to the Yellow Marked Jessup Trail was fairly steep and had some of the largest jumps we encountered. A warning to dog owners. My pooch is about 35lbs and can bound 4' verticals fairly easily. This was the only part of our hike where I had to lift her up. Less agile dogs may have an issue hiking through if you're not able to help them up. We followed Jessup north on the eastern ridge with a detour to the monoliths which are a remarkable rock formation. Hiking north on JS was fairly easy although not as well marked as the WR and the trail seems to mander a good bit. There was one fairly large drop off for the pooch before we began our descent and our double back to JS by the baby brook falls but the rest was straight forward.  I would consider myself an amature hiker at best and all in all I would say this was a fairly easy but strenuous hike. Trails are well marked and the mountian makes it easy to orient yourself so I would say its almost impossible to get lost. For extra assurance you can download the Schunnemunk State Park map for free on the free android/ios app pdf maps. This will allow you to locate yourself on the trail with gps even when your cell service drops out. 

Great spot!

This is a wonderful place for some hiking (haven't tried running there yet, but i will eventually), although i found the views a bit disappointing, as there aren't any views that don't feature some reminder of "civilization". Very unique area though with lots of great rock formations. Anyone taking the bus, be aware that the driver may not have a clue where the stop is, so you'll have to help him figure it out.