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Bonticou Crag

Carol on Bonticou Crag
Carol on Bonticou Crag

If you live near New Paltz, New York or are visiting the Shawangunks (The Gunks), and want a great rock scramble and day hike, try Bonticou Crag (1,194 ft). It’s a knife edge style, rock ridge, located in the Mohonk Preserve, with fantastic views of the Catskills mountains. Be forewarned. This is not a hike for dogs, children, those who are afraid of heights, or lacking 4 point (hands and feet) rock scrambling confidence.

Getting to the Crag requires a hike. While parking is available at Spring Farm, I prefer starting at The Mohonk Gatehouse and following the Bonticou Carriageway to the base of the Crag. The Carriageways are a unique feature of this region and well worth exploring fully in the Mohonk Preserve and neighboring the Minnewaska State Park.

Scrambling up Bonticou Crag
Scrambling up Bonticou Crag

Gunks Maps

If you are staying at the Mountain House or are a day visitor, the maps distributed by the Mohonk Preserve are sufficient to navigate to the crag. However, if you’re interested in multiple hikes in the area, I highly recommend that you get the Shawangunk Trails Map Set published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. They are printed on Tyvek and are an excellent resource for planning trips throughout this hiking Meca.

Driving Directions

Take the New York State Thruway to Exit 18 (New Paltz). Turn left onto Route 299 and drive west through the Village of New Paltz. After crossing  the Wallkill River bridge 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 for 3.3 miles to the entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House at the top of the hill.

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7 comments

  1. Bonticou Crag is a sweet hike. I’ve climbed it twice, but I should probably go more often. The views of the river valley are really exceptional.

  2. I’ve been to the Gunks a number of times but I’ve never hiked Bonticou Crag. I’ll add it to my list for next time. Some pretty cool country there.

  3. There is the ‘easy’ up from the back, and the ‘hard’ way up from the front. Or, If you’re not keen on descending the hard way, you can just make a loop out of it.

  4. I’ve taken my daughters there 3 times now. They love the rock scramble and feel empowered when they reach the top and peer over the edge to see where they have been.

    The first time we found the Crag by virtue of being turned away from Mohank Mountain House because the parking lot was full. Determined to make a day of it, I found the Spring Farm Trail head parking about 3/4 mile further down the road.

    Ranger recommended the Crag trail because it was an easy hike in with a “rock scramble” at the end. The easy hike in led me to the base of a 150′ cliff, my girls were 3 and 5 at the time. Somehow, we managed to scramble to the top needing the aid of passing hikers just once near the top.

    The girls (now in their teens) and I returned this year with a few of their friends. The climb up takes about a half an hour so we chose to hike horizontally to explore the crevices and small caves off the marked ascent trail. I encourage you to do the same and make an afternoon of the climb.

    A word of caution though, the loop trail back down is not clearly marked and we found that we had to bush whack back down to the base along with several other groups finding their own paths.

    Despite that, this is a great day hike experience and highly recommended even for the casual hiker. Just wear comfortable and sensible sneakers with loose fitting jeans to protect you from the abrasions of scrambling up the rock.

    Also, be prepared to pay to enter the grounds as it is private property.

  5. I live near Mohonk and have hiked the Northeast Trail along the top of the crag (an uplift fault), many times. Getting onto that trail via the crag is a really pleasant route for those who enjoy scrambling. I generally budget ten to fifteen minutes, depending on how much I stop for views on the way). I would like to urge caution so fas as any exploration off the marked line (yellow lines) is concerned. The talus field itself should be no problem for a little cautious exploration, but the upper ascent on either side of the marked route is a technical climb to be done roped, and I have indeed seen it done as such. So please do exercise a little caution in so far as alternate routes on the main crag are concerned (see the previous poster, Ken, who suggested alternate routes, though I suspect he was talking about the talus, not the wall).

    • Ted,
      You are correct. I was encouraging others to explore the scrambles off the ascent trail. There are many interesting places to squeeze through that are no more difficult than the marked path to the top. Take your time to “smell the roses”. Enjoy the ascent.

      Common sense dictates that you do not attempt to climb/scramble or crawl anywhere that you do not feel confident attempting. If not, is there a cure for “Stupid” yet?

      DO NOT attempt to climb the cliff face without proper gear or training.

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