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Schunemunk Mountain Loop from Otterkill Road
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 16 (Harriman). Proceed west on N.Y. Route 17 to Exit 130, and continue north on N.Y. Route 208 for 2.7 miles. Just past the Blooming Grove Plaza shopping center, bear right at the fork onto Clove Road (County Route 27). In 4.4 miles, turn right onto Otterkill Road and proceed for 0.7 mile to a trailhead parking area on the left side of the road.
From the parking area, proceed ahead (east) on Otterkill Road for 0.2 mile. About 150 feet before reaching the massive Moodna Viaduct (which spans the valley to the left), turn right onto a footpath, following the white-blazed Trestle Trail, which proceeds uphill rather steeply on a woods road, with the Moodna Viaduct to the left.
In about 0.1 mile – just before reaching the level of the viaduct – you’ll arrive at a fork in the trail. Here, the red-blazed Otterkill Trail begins to the left, but you should continue to follow the white blazes of the Trestle Trail. The trail continues to climb steeply, first on a woods road, then on a footpath. After you’ve climbed a vertical distance of about 500 feet in less than half a mile, the grade moderates, and the trail turns right onto a woods road. A short distance beyond, a side trail to the right leads to a panoramic west-facing viewpoint, with the Moodna Viaduct visible below to the right. You’ll want to stop here for a break!
The trail continues to climb on a moderate grade until it reaches the crest of the ridge, where it levels off. A short distance beyond, a side trail to the left leads to a magnificent viewpoint to the north and east from a rock ledge with pitch pines. The Hudson River may be seen in the distance to the northeast, with the East Hudson Highlands beyond.
About a mile and a half from the start, the Trestle Trail ends at a junction with the red-dot-on-white-blazed Barton Swamp Trail. Bear right and climb a rock outcrop with pitch pines. The top of the outcrop offers an even more expansive view to the northeast, with the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge visible in the distance. Continue to follow the red-dot-on-white blazes 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 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 the 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 limited views. 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 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, 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 step, 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. In this area, portions of the trail have 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 and follow the Otterkill Trail, which will lead you back to the start of the hike in about two miles. After about a mile, the Otterkill Trail briefly joins the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail. When the Jessup Trail bears left, parallel to the cascading Baby Brook, the Otterkill Trail turns right, crosses the brook, turns left on a woods road, then turns right onto another woods road which follows undulating terrain. After reaching a sweeping east-facing view, with the railroad tracks visible in a rock cut below, the trail descends steadily to Otterkill Road. Turn left on Otterkill Road and follow it back to the parking area.