This hike follows historic carriage roads through lands of the Mohonk Preserve and the Mohonk Mountain House - one of the very best locations in the area for cross-country skiing. Although the route described is ideal for skiing, it also makes an attractive hike if there is no snow on the ground. When the ground is covered with snow, hikers are not permitted on the trails unless they have skis...
This hike follows historic carriage roads through lands of the Mohonk Preserve and the Mohonk Mountain House - one of the very best locations in the area for cross-country skiing. Although the route described is ideal for skiing, it also makes an attractive hike if there is no snow on the ground. When the ground is covered with snow, hikers are not permitted on the trails unless they have skis or snowshoes. The various carriage roads followed on this hike are not blazed, but they are marked by wooden signs at junctions. The carriage roads are intersected by a number of foot trails, also marked by signs, but these foot trails will generally not be mentioned in the description. Part of the route is along ski trails that are not mechanically groomed. However, these ski trails are usually well tracked by skiers.
From the Spring Farm parking area, go back to the entrance road and turn left. Follow this road, known as Spring Farm Road, uphill. At a yellow house (a private residence), the road bends to the right, and the plowed section of the road ends just beyond a wooden shed used as a garage. Here you can put on your skis. Continue uphill along Spring Farm Road. This short, steep section is not groomed; it is not typical of the more-gently graded carriage roads you will be following for the remainder of the hike.
At the top of the climb, Spring Farm Road reaches a junction with Cedar Drive at a sharp angle. Turn left onto Cedar Drive, which is groomed for skiing when snow conditions permit. Signs indicate that this is a "most difficult" ski trail, but it is easily negotiated by skiers of average ability when followed in the direction described in this hike. You'll immediately pass the stone ruins of an historic farmhouse of the Clearwater family on the right.
At the first road junction you reach, turn left, following the sign for Cedar Drive Circle. This loop is the most northerly carriage road constructed by the proprietors of the Mohonk Mountain House. After following this road around a sharp curve, you'll pass the end of the Ski Loop Trail and reach another junction with the main Cedar Drive. Turn left here and follow the carriage road uphill. Soon, you'll pass a panoramic north-facing viewpoint to the right of the trail.
After some more climbing, you'll reach a complex road junction. Here, you should turn left onto Bonticou Road, which soon passes thin layers of deeply tilted shale on the hillside to the right. After a few more curves in the road, the imposing Bonticou Crag comes into view on the left.
At the next road junction, bear left to continue on Bonticou Road, which is now nearly level. To the left, through the trees, you'll be able to get glimpses of the Village of New Paltz in the valley below. After passing the end of The Link to the left, the road curves right and begins to cross the Mohonk Golf Course. (This section of the road is closed from April through November, when the golf course is open.) At the next fork in the road, bear left. You'll pass a small hill used for snow tubing and reach a junction with Spring Farm Road, which is plowed. Turn left here (you'll have to take off your skis) and cross a wooden bridge over Mountain Rest Road. Bear right, passing the gatehouse, then turn right into the parking area. The route resumes on the left side of the parking area, behind a restroom building, at a sign for the Huguenot Trail.
Continue downhill along the Huguenot Trail, which is a designated cross-country ski route, but is somewhat steeper than the more gentle carriage roads you've followed so far. After joining the Whitney Road, you'll reach a junction with the North Lookout Road. Turn left and follow the road gently uphill around a sharp bend.
Soon, you'll reach a gazebo to the right that marks the North Lookout - a spectacular viewpoint over the Rondout Valley, with the Catskills in the distance. You'll want to take a break and enjoy the magnificent view! When you're ready to continue, retrace your steps along North Lookout Road. Continue around the sharp bend and past the junction with Whitney Road to a T-intersection, where Bonticou Road is to the right and Rock Rift Road is to the left. Turn left and follow Rock Rift Road downhill. Some sections of this road are rather steep for skiing, and caution should be exercised.
At the base of the descent, turn sharply right onto Cedar Drive - a nearly level carriage road which is not mechanically groomed for cross-country skiing, but is usually well-tracked by skiers. You'll pass a number of huge fallen rocks; at one point, the road is routed between two of these gigantic boulders. At the next intersection (with Glen Anna Road), bear left. Very shortly, you'll cross Glen Anna on a wood-and-steel bridge. Continue for another three-quarters of a mile along this pleasant carriage road, with views through the trees on the left, until you reach paved Mohonk Road. In 2013, the Mohonk Preserve built a new bridge that carries Cedar Drive over this rather busy road.
Continue on Cedar Drive for about another mile until you reach its junction with Spring Farm Road. Turn left onto Spring Farm Road, now retracing the route you followed at the start of the hike. If you're skiing, use extreme caution, as the descent is very steep! Take off your skis at the end of the plowed road and follow the road back to the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 02/11/2005 updated/verified on 02/09/2014
This Mohonk Preserve loop hike, suitable for cross-country skiing, follows historic carriage roads bordered by cliffs and passing several spectacular viewpoints.
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.