Length: 6.5-mile loop
Time to Hike: 4 hours, depending on stops
Difficulty: Moderate (some climbs and precipitous cliffs!)
Location: Mohonk Preserve, Shawangunks, NY
Directions to trailhead - (plan to go early - it's a poppin' place!)
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
Highlights: Awe-inspiring views, brilliant foliage, the charm of Shawangunk conglomerate
The Gunks are SO HOT right now!
For realsies, if you’re wondering where to leaf-peep this weekend, put this on your list! Mohonk Preserve in the Gunks is on FIRE with fall colors, just in time for your Columbus Day Weekend.
We went recently to hike up to Millbrook Mountain, the southernmost cliff in the preserve.
Trail Tip: Go EARLY. Parking lots in the Gunks fill up RAPIDLY this time of year, so plan to arrive as early as possible.
We originally planned to park in the West Trapps Parking Area, but upon arriving, were forced to park at the Visitor Center since the West Trapps was already full! It seems arriving around 9am would be necessary, versus our leisurely 10am arrival (frankly, the extra sleep-hour was worth it ;) ).
SINCE we parked at the ultra-fancy-no-wonder-they-charge-$15-per-person visitor center (yes, $15 per person! But well worth it), our hike was about a mile longer than planned. However, this extra mile allowed us to spy on all the rock climbers along the West Trapps carriage road…pretty neat!
Upon officially reaching our trailhead, the blue-blazed Millbrook Ridge Trail, we began the 6.5 mile round-trip loop out to Millbrook Mountain.
One word: EXQUISITE. The colors were POPPIN’ and CRACKLIN’ along this trail. The green pitch pines gave excellent contrast to the fire-red bushes brushing past our feet, as well as to the numerous sugar maples and hemlocks strewn throughout the ridge.
This hike is great if you’re looking for a fun and moderate journey, with most of the trekking being along the cliff’s level ridge.
After much foliage-ogling, you’ll move past a couple of trail intersections, giving you bail-out options if you decide not to hike all the way to Millbrook Mountain. If you DO decide to stay strong and trek on, the trail will lead you through some varied terrain, ultimately ascending Millbrook Mountain itself.
Once you reach this SHEER mountaintop, take a second to a.) look out at the vast countryside in front of you...
...and b.) look straight down at the valley floor 300 vertical feet below you…GULP. Believe it or not, though this is the least trafficked area, some climbers do climb up this precipitous rockface, KUDOS to them!
From Millbrook Mountain, we bared right at the red-blazed Millbrook Mountain Trail in order to connect with the again blue-blazed Coxing trail, our path back to the trailhead.
Along this section, you’ll descend steadily over white Shawangunk conglomerate slabs and continue to descend through blazing blueberry bushes, pitch pines and hemlock trees.
Eventually, the trail levels out through a coniferous forest with plankways guiding your feet onward. A nice variation to your approach on the Millbrook Ridge Trail.
After about 2 miles, you’ll connect with the Trapps Road, a flat carriage road that loops you back to the Millbrook Ridge Trailhead.
Now it’s just a quick jaunt over the West Trapps road once again for one last look at all the clambering climbers ascending the cliffs lining the carriageway. Oy, alliteration much?
So there you have it! A 7.5 mile round-trip hike peppered with plenty of foliage, scenic views, and pitch-pine attractions. A MoHONKIN’ good time indeed!