Spring Getaways: The Shawangunk Mountains

May 19, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
A favorite of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts looking for an adventure fix within reach of New York City, the Shawangunk region also accommodates a range of travelers. Anyone seeking a getaway that offers plenty of fresh air, good food and kind locals will enjoy a stay in this Catskills haven.

Meet the Gunks

The Shawangunks are part of the Appalachian range, and have earned a reputation over the past several decades as “a sort of Yosemite East,” according to National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

Despite that intimidating distinction, many climbing routes in the Gunks are considered “easy to moderate.” But there are challenges to be had. The Gunks have seen a huge upswing in bouldering, a type of climbing done at low heights and without ropes that draws thousands of climbers each year. And with so much to offer thrill-seeking visitors—the range is 12 miles long and 300 feet tall—National Geographic Adventure Magazine credits the Gunks and the nearby quirky village of New Paltz for supporting “one of the most authentic climbing scenes in the country.”

If you want to give climbing a try but have never done it before, fear not.

According to Amber Nolan of offManhattan, a New Paltz-based company called Alpine Endeavors runs rock climbing courses between March and November in the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. If it's your first time suiting up and giving the rocks your best shot, Alpine Endeavors can help you with basic skills. Courses are either a full or half-day, and are personalized to meet your level of ability and interest.

Before you arrive, view photographs of the ridge, the surrounding vistas and close-ups of streams and other eye-catching ecological features, courtesy of Friends of the Shawangunks.

Hikes in the Gunks

Climbing is clearly not all there is to do in the Gunks region. There are several great nearby hiking destinations, some of which are detailed by the Catskill Hiking Shack Web site.

Learn about great hikes at Wurtsboro Ridge, which features wide-ranging views; Mohonk offers intrepid trekkers small climbs and more than 100 miles of woodsy paths, including the tricky Labyrinth Path; at Minnewaska State Park Preserve you'll come across Lakes Minnewaska and Awosting.

Where to Stay

For a budget-friendly escape, plan to stay in New Paltz, a charming village that has a great mix of old and young, and the energy of a nearby college campus (the State University of New York at New Paltz). The village also boasts remnants of Huguenot culture, circa 1677, reports Chance St. John of GoNomad. Otherwise, consider lodging at the Mohonk Mountain House, a high-end hotel with gorgeous views of the mountains. Details of the trails at Mohonk and Minnewaska, both of which have distinct hiking opportunities, are also provided. In either location, "[t]he perfect climate and breathtaking views attract visitors all across the state and beyond," writes St. John.

Off the Mountain

Eventually, you might want a break from nature. Heed the advice of the Shawangunk Ridge Coalition, which details how you can follow the nine-winery Shawangunk Wine Trail. The trek features views of the mountains, and presents opportunities for straying, namely art galleries, antique shops and various summertime festivals.

New York Magazine has a comprehensive article on where to stay, where to eat and what to do in the Shawangunk region. You'll also get insider tips on some alternative activities, such as a local trapeze club and a winery tour.

Gunks Tips

To keep up with the latest happenings in the Gunks—firsthand trip reports and information on which trails are closed, for example—visit Stick to the site's "Discussion" section for various climbing-related forums; assorted topics are covered as well, such as gear and places to climb outside the Gunks.

And for true climbing fanatics, brothers Jason and Jeff Karl host The Überfall, an alternative Gunks climbing site with news and history about the sport.

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