Schunemunk Mountain Loop from Taylor Road via Jessup, Western Ridge and Sweet Clover Trails
Directions to trailhead
Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 16 (Harriman). Proceed north on N.Y. Route 32 for about seven miles to the Village of Mountainville, and turn left onto Pleasant Hill Road (County Route 79). At the bottom of the hill, turn left again onto Taylor Road, then bear right and cross the bridge over the Thruway. The trailhead parking area is on the right side of the road, just beyond the junction with Creekside Lane.
Shortline bus goes to Mountainville and makes a stop at Angola Road and Route 32. Cross the street (Rt. 32) and walk toward Pleasant Hill Road (County Route 79). At the bottom of the hill, turn left onto Taylor Road, then bear right and cross the bridge over the Thruway. The trailhead is on the left side of the road, just beyond the junction with Creekside Lane and opposite the trailhead parking area on the right.
From the parking area, cross the road and proceed south on the joint Jessup (yellow), Sweet Clover (white) and Highlands (teal diamond) Trails, which climb gently to the crest of a field and then descend to a woods road. To the right, you can see Schunemunk Mountain, which you’ll soon climb.
Turn right on the woods road, going past a chain that blocks off the road. When the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail leaves to the left, continue ahead, now following the yellow blazes of the Jessup Trail. (You’re also following the Highlands Trail, but the teal-diamond Highlands Trail blazes appear mainly at intersections.) The Jessup Trail crosses a field diagonally to the right, crosses a footbridge over a stream, re-enters the woods, and soon climbs to a woods road, where it turns right.
Follow the yellow blazes along the woods road for about half a mile. Watch for a sharp left turn, where the trail leaves the road and climbs to cross the Metro-North railroad tracks. This is an active rail line, so be sure to stop, look and listen for approaching trains before crossing.
On the other side of the tracks, the Jessup Trail turns right, briefly joining the red-blazed Otterkill Trail. It soon reaches the cascading Baby Brook and turns left to parallel the brook. The Otterkill Trail turns right and crosses the brook on a wooden footbridge, but you should continue ahead along the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail, which climbs steadily along the brook. In the next three-quarters of a mile, you’ll climb about 700 feet.
After joining a woods road, the trail detours to the right to pass by a beautiful cascade. This is a good place to take a break. Continue ahead along the Jessup Trail, which soon reaches a junction with the red-on-white-blazed Barton Swamp Trail.
Turn right and follow the Barton Swamp Trail, which crosses Baby Brook on rocks and begins a steep climb up the western ridge of the mountain. At the top, the trail turns left and follows a rock ledge, with east-facing views. The trail continues to climb through a cleft in the rock and emerges onto a large expanse of conglomerate rock studded with pitch pines, with even broader views to the northeast. The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge is visible in the distance.
Continue to follow the red-dot-on-white blazes, passing a junction where the white-blazed Trestle Trail leaves to the right, 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 more viewpoints, as well 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 a 360° view. 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, after going by yet another viewpoint, 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 steps, 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, with portions of the trail having 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 onto the Otterkill Trail, then almost immediately turn right and cross the railroad tracks (use extreme caution, as the crossing is on a curve in the tracks, and it is difficult to see or hear approaching trains). Continue to follow the Sweet Clover Trail as it descends through the woods, turns right onto a woods road, then bears left and follows a grassy road through fields. When you reach the junction with the yellow-blazed Jessup Trail (also the route of the teal diamond-blazed Highlands Trail), turn right, then left, following the joint Sweet Clover/Jessup/Highlands Trails back to the parking area where the hike began.