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....
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.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 05/01/2003
This loop hike follows a difficult rock scramble to the top of Bonticou Crag, with expansive views over the surrounding countryside.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.