Walk north along Route 32 for 0.2 mile and cross under the trestle. Just north of the trestle, at the end of the guardrail, a driveway goes off to the left. Turn left here and, almost immediately, you’ll see a sign for the Long Path on the left. Turn left again and climb rock steps, then turn left at the top of the first pitch and continue under the trestle. Immediately turn right, and again...
Walk north along Route 32 for 0.2 mile and cross under the trestle. Just north of the trestle, at the end of the guardrail, a driveway goes off to the left. Turn left here and, almost immediately, you’ll see a sign for the Long Path on the left. Turn left again and climb rock steps, then turn left at the top of the first pitch and continue under the trestle. Immediately turn right, and again climb rock steps until you reach the level of the tracks. Turn left and head north, following along the railroad tracks. Remember that this is an active railroad line, and a bend in the tracks behind you makes it impossible for the engineer of a northbound train to see you. You may find it easier to cross the tracks and head north with the tracks on your left. The Long Path is marked with aqua blazes, but there are relatively few Long Path blazes in the section along the tracks.
A few hundred feet past a dirt road that leads down to an active quarry on the right, and as a chain-link fence begins on the right, watch carefully for a double aqua blaze on the west side of the tracks. Follow the Long Path as it leaves the railroad and turns sharply left onto a woods road. The road briefly parallels the tracks, but just before the road crosses a stream, the Long Path turns right, leaving the road. It crosses an old stone wall and soon bears right at a fork. A short distance beyond, at a T-intersection, the Long Path turns right onto an old woods road.
The trail now begins a steady climb, following the woods road for most of the way. After climbing about 500 vertical feet above the railroad, you’ll notice a large rock outcrop on your right. This is Little Knob, which offers an east-facing view.
A little further up, the trail bends right and begins a very steep climb up a rock outcrop. At the top of the outcrop, amid pitch pines, you’ll be afforded a panoramic south-facing view, with a relatively new housing development visible directly below. To the west, you can see the ridge of Schunemunk Mountain, where you’ll soon be headed. You’ve now climbed nearly 1,000 feet from the trailhead, and you’ll want to take a break at this spectacular viewpoint.
The Long Path continues along the relatively flat summit ridge and soon arrives at the summit of the knob, which offers a panoramic view to the north and east. North and South Beacon Mountains and Breakneck Ridge are visible across the Hudson River, and you can see as far north as the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. To the east, Storm King Mountain and the hills of Black Rock Forest can be seen on the other side of the Thruway. Just below you is the quarry that you passed as you walked along the railroad at the start of the hike.
When you’re ready to continue, proceed ahead across the summit ridge. After descending a little, the trail emerges on the edge of an escarpment, with views of the ridge of Schunemunk Mountain (note the communications antennas along the ridge - you’ll be passing right by these antennas later on in the hike). The trail follows rock slabs along the escarpment, studded with pitch pines, then turns left and descends into a valley.
The trail now climbs a steep, rocky slope and turns right. It soon reaches yet another viewpoint – this one to the north. Beyond this viewpoint, the trail climbs gently to the crest of a ridge. Along the way, a faded red paint blaze and a cairn mark an intersection with an unmarked trail that heads north, roughly paralleling Dark Hollow Brook, but you should continue ahead on the Long Path. After descending a little, the trail turns left and briefly parallels the upper reaches of the brook. It then turns right and climbs steadily to reach an intersection with the Jessup/Highlands Trail on the ridge of Schunemunk Mountain.
Turn left at this intersection, now following the yellow blazes of the Jessup Trail and the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail, in addition to Long Path logo blazes. You’ll be following these three co-aligned trails for the remainder of the hike, but pay particular attention to the yellow Jessup Trail blazes, as the Long Path and Highlands Trail are marked with their logo blazes only at occasional intervals and at junctions.
For the first part of your hike along the ridge of Schunemunk Mountain, you’ll traverse open slabs of smooth conglomerate rock studded with pitch pines. These open rock slabs alternate with wooded areas. In some places along the ridge, lines of small rocks have been placed to indicate the trail route.
After heading south along the ridge for half a mile, you’ll reach the southern boundary of Schunemunk Mountain State Park (marked by signs on the trees that face the opposite direction). Here, an unmarked side trail leaves to the right. Many other unmarked trails intersect the Long Path in the next three miles, but you should take care to follow the yellow blazes of the Jessup Trail, which continue along the crest of the ridge. In another quarter mile, the trail passes an antenna park on the right.
After bearing right at a fork, the trail curves to the left and heads towards the eastern side of the ridge. Soon, it emerges onto an open rock ledge, with views to the east. In another half mile, the trail turns sharply right, crosses a small stream, and climbs to the crest of the western side of the ridge. Here, you’ll emerge onto a panoramic west-facing viewpoint – the first broad viewpoint to the west from the crest of the Shawangunk Ridge that you’ve encountered on this hike.
The trail continues south along the ridge, soon reaching another west-facing viewpoint. It bears left and continues south along the ridge, passing additional viewpoints – first, a limited east-facing viewpoint and then a broader west-facing viewpoint. In half a mile, it climbs to another panoramic west-facing viewpoint.
For the next mile, the trail follows rather rugged terrain. It descends steeply to a col, then climbs rock ledges and continues along undulating terrain, with a number of ups and downs. Finally, 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. This is the only viewpoint along the ridge where you can see in both directions.
From this final viewpoint of the hike, the trail descends steadily on a woods road. Be alert for a right turn at a fork, where you leave the main woods road and continue to descend on a narrower road. After descending for about half a mile, the trail reaches paved Seven Springs Road, which is closed to vehicular traffic. Turn right and follow the road for about 500 feet to a gate. Your car is in the parking area for Gonzaga Park, on the right.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 07/03/2014
This hike climbs to several panoramic viewpoints along the ridge of Schunemunk Mountain.
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.