Spring Farm to North Lookout at Mohonk Preserve

Overview

This Mohonk Preserve loop hike, suitable for cross-country skiing, follows historic carriage roads bordered by cliffs and passing several spectacular viewpoints.

Details
Time:
4.5 hours
Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate
Length:
8 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
No Dogs
Features:
Views, Fees, Historic feature, Cliffs
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Ulster
State:
NY
Publication
First Published:
02/11/2005

Updated/Verified:
02/09/2014
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin
Trailhead GPS Coordinates
41.795208,-74.128532
Driving Directions

Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). Past the toll booths, 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, following signs to the Mohonk Mountain House, then turn left in another 0.4 mile onto Mountain Rest Road. In 3.8 miles (from the Wallkill River bridge), you’ll pass the entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House at the top of the hill. Here, the road goes under a narrow overpass and begins to descend. Continue ahead for another mile. Where the road turns sharply left (marked by a large yellow arrow), turn right onto Upper 27 Knolls Road and continue to the Mohonk Preserve parking area. An attendant may be on duty to sell day passes and distribute maps.

Bus
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.
Description

This hike follows historic carriage roads through lands of the Mohonk Preserve and the Mohonk Mountain House - one of the very best locations in the area for cross-country skiing. Although the route described is ideal for skiing, it also makes an attractive hike if there is no snow on the ground. When the ground is covered with snow, hikers are not permitted on the trails unless they have skis or snowshoes. The various carriage roads followed on this hike are not blazed, but they are marked by wooden signs at junctions. The carriage roads are intersected by a number of foot trails, also marked by signs, but these foot trails will generally not be mentioned in the description. Part of the route is along ski trails that are not mechanically groomed. However, these ski trails are usually well tracked by skiers.

From the Spring Farm parking area, go back to the entrance road and turn left. Follow this road, known as Spring Farm Road, uphill. At a yellow house (a private residence), the road bends to the right, and the plowed section of the road ends just beyond a wooden shed used as a garage. Here you can put on your skis. Continue uphill along Spring Farm Road. This short, steep section is not groomed; it is not typical of the more-gently graded carriage roads you will be following for the remainder of the hike.

At the top of the climb, Spring Farm Road reaches a junction with Cedar Drive at a sharp angle. Turn left onto Cedar Drive, which is groomed for skiing when snow conditions permit. Signs indicate that this is a "most difficult" ski trail, but it is easily negotiated by skiers of average ability when followed in the direction described in this hike. You'll immediately pass the stone ruins of an historic farmhouse of the Clearwater family to the right.Clearwater family farmhouse. Photo by Daniel Chazin.

At the first road junction you reach, turn left, following the sign for Cedar Drive Circle. This loop is the most northerly carriage road constructed by the proprietors of the Mohonk Mountain House. After following this road around a sharp curve, you'll pass the end of the Ski Loop Trail and reach another junction with the main Cedar Drive. Turn left here and follow the carriage road uphill. Soon, you'll pass a panoramic north-facing viewpoint to the right of the trail.

After some more climbing, you'll reach a complex road junction. Here, you should turn left onto Bonticou Road, which soon passes thin layers of deeply tilted shale on the hillside to the right. After a few more curves in the road, the imposing Bonticou Crag comes into view on the left.

At the next road junction, bear left to continue on Bonticou Road, which is now nearly level. To the left, through the trees, you'll be able to get glimpses of the Village of New Paltz in the valley below. After passing the end of The Link to the left, the road curves right and begins to cross the Mohonk Golf Course. (This section of the road is closed from April through November, when the golf course is open.) At the next fork in the road, bear left. You'll pass a small hill used for snow tubing and reach a junction with Spring Farm Road, which is plowed. Turn left here (you'll have to take off your skis) and cross a wooden bridge over Mountain Rest Road. Bear right, passing the gatehouse, then turn right into the parking area. The route resumes on the left side of the parking area, behind a restroom building, at a sign for the Huguenot Trail.

Continue downhill along the Huguenot Trail, which is a designated cross-country ski route, but is somewhat steeper than the more gentle carriage roads you've followed so far. After joining the Whitney Road, you'll reach a junction with the North Lookout Road. Turn left and follow the road gently uphill around a sharp bend.

Soon, you'll reach a gazebo to the right that marks the North Lookout - a spectacular viewpoint over the Rondout Valley, with the Catskills in the distance. You'll want to take a break and enjoy the magnificent view! When you're ready to continue, retrace your steps along North Lookout Road. Continue around the sharp bend and past the junction with Whitney Road to a T-intersection, where Bonticou Road is to the right and Rock Rift Road is to the left. Turn left and follow Rock Rift Road downhill. Some sections of this road are rather steep for skiing, and caution should be exercised.

Cedar Drive Bridge over Glen Anna. Photo by Daniel Chazin.At the base of the descent, turn sharply right onto Cedar Drive - a nearly level carriage road which is not mechanically groomed for cross-country skiing, but is usually well-tracked by skiers. You'll pass a number of huge fallen rocks; at one point, the road is routed between two of these gigantic boulders. At the next intersection (with Glen Anna Road), bear left. Very shortly, you'll cross Glen Anna on a wood-and-steel bridge. Continue for another three-quarters of a mile along this pleasant carriage road, with views through the trees on the left, until you reach paved Mohonk Road. In 2013, the Mohonk Preserve built a new bridge that carries Cedar Drive over this rather busy road.

Continue on Cedar Drive for about another mile until you reach its junction with Spring Farm Road. Turn left onto Spring Farm Road, now retracing the route you followed at the start of the hike. If you're skiing, use extreme caution, as the descent is very steep! Take off your skis at the end of the plowed road and follow the road back to the parking area where the hike began.