Northeast Crags/Bonticou Crag Loop from Spring Farm
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). After paying the toll, 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 onto Springtown Road, following signs for the Mohonk Mountain House. At the next intersection, turn left onto Mountain Rest Road. Continue on Mountain Rest Road for 3.3 miles to the entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House at the top of the hill. Continue ahead downhill for 1.0 mile and turn right onto Upper 27 Knolls Road. The Spring Farm parking area of the Mohonk Preserve is just ahead on the left. A ranger is usually stationed at a trailhead kiosk to collect day-use fees ($15 per person; $60 annual pass) and distribute maps.
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. Taxi service from New Paltz to Mohonk is available from New Paltz Taxi, www.npztaxi.com (845) 255-1550.
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, the red-blazed Crag Trail begins on the right. Continue ahead on the Table Rocks Trail, which enters a field and bears right. Just beyond, a broad panoramic view of the Catskill Mountains -- known as the "Million Dollar View" -- appears on the left.
Continue across open fields on a wide path. At the end of the field, the Table Rocks Trail turns right onto Spring Farm Road, then turns left and reenters the woods. It follows a footpath on a contour along the side of a hill. After passing the Slingerland Pavilion, below to the left, the trail begins to climb, reaching a T-intersection at the top of the rise. Here, the red-blazed Cedar Trail begins on the right, but you should bear left to continue on the blue-blazed Table Rocks Trail, which now begins to descend.
At the base of the descent, the Table Rocks Trail turns right onto Farm Road, but in 150 feet, the trail bears left and continues on a grassy road, with cedars and deciduous trees on the left and a meadow on the right. At the end of the meadow, the trail bears left, goes through a gap in a stone wall and reenters the woods. Soon, Farm Road joins from the right, and a short distance beyond, the trail reaches Clearwater Road.
Turn right, leaving the Table Rocks Trail, and follow Clearwater Road uphill, with a stone wall on the right. After reaching the crest of the rise, the trail descends gradually, passing the interesting ruins of a stone building on the left. A short distance beyond, after crossing a stream, the Northeast Trail begins on the right.
Turn right and follow the blue-blazed Northeast Trail, which climbs steadily through hemlock, mountain laurel and pitch pines. Near the top, the trail emerges onto a rock outcrop, with a panoramic view of the Catskill Mountains to the north.
Continuing along the ridge, the trail climbs gradually, with more views to the right. Soon, the trail emerges on an outcrop of fractured conglomerate rock, known as the Northeast Crags, which offers a spectacular unobstructed view over the entire Catskill range.
The trail continues along the crest of the ridge and soon moves to its south side, with views through the trees over the Wallkill Valley. After a short descent through mountain laurel, you'll reach a T-intersection. Here you should turn left onto the yellow-blazed Bonticou Foot Path, which climbs, rather steeply in places, to 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. You'll want to spend some time exploring this fascinating rock summit.
When you're ready to continue, head downhill on the yellow-blazed Bonticou Foot Path, retracing your steps to the junction with the blue-blazed Northeast Trail. Turn left onto the Northeast Trail, which makes a short, steep descent, passes under an overhanging ledge and reaches a fork. Turn left to continue along the Northeast Trail (the right fork is the red-blazed Cedar Trail). Soon, the trail begins a steady climb. As you approach the top of the climb, you'll notice a huge jumble of fallen conglomerate rock on the left (through the trees), with the cliffs of Bonticou Crag towering above. Just ahead, you'll reach the red-blazed Bonticou Rock Scramble, which begins on the left, climbing precipitously over huge boulders to the summit of Bonticou Crag. You've already reached the summit by a much easier route (although you might want to attempt this challenging climb some other day).
Turn right and follow the red-blazed trail up log steps. In 250 feet, you'll reach the Bonticou Carriage Road. Turn right onto this road and follow it for a third of a mile around several turns to a four-way intersection with Cedar Drive. Turn right onto Cedar Drive, but immediately turn left onto the red-blazed Crag Trail (also marked at intersections with the blue blazes of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail). Follow the Crag Trail as it descends rather steeply on a wide path. In a third of mile, the trail crosses Spring Farm Road and Cedar Drive in quick succession. It continues along meadows, descending more gradually to end at a junction with the blue-blazed Table Rocks Trail. Briefly turn left onto the Table Rocks Trail, then turn right and descend to the parking area where the hike began.