John Guilford's Hikes
Mt. Mohonk (Mohonk Lake) on 1993-05-01
People: (including myself): just myself
Left Waterford: 10:30
On Throughway: 11:00
New Paltz: 12:00 (75 deg)
Start hiking: 12:30
Skytop (lunch): 4:00
Back to car: 7:40 (73 deg)
Originally I was planning to go with someone else, but he couldn't make it.
It was such a nice day that I decided to go by myself, despite my getting a
late start. That turned out to not be a problem, as I had plenty of time
there, and was just as happy to head home when I did.
I opted to drive to the gatehouse for Mohonk house, as opposed to the more
traditional route of parking further south and hiking in through the Mohonk
preserve. This cost me a little more but saved time. The cost was
$8/person for a day permit for the Mohonk House area ($5 during the week).
For an additional $2 you can get a shuttle between the gatehouse and the
hotel, but as I was there for a walk, I didn't even consider it.
It was a hot and beautiful day with bright sun. It was a delightful drive
down the throughway to New Paltz. There you take 299 west through town
(which seems like a real nice quaint little place - if I lived closer, I'd
have to check it out sometime). You cross a river and immediately take a
right (marked with a sign for Mohonk) and continue up the hill (bearing
left at the fork) to the top where you find the gatehouse. It is really
easy to find.
Once I got there, I went to put sunscreen on (I had the window open on the
drive down and was afraid that I might have sunburned my arm). To my
dismay I found that I didn't have any! I must have taken it out of my pack
and forgotten to replace it or something. Oh no! I'd fry w/out sunscreen
on a day like this. I figured I could probably get some at the hotel, so I
continued. There are numerous trails winding around the area that range in
difficulty from carriage paths to rock scrambling. The map is invaluable
in knowing where you are and where you are going. It could be easy to get
lost without one.
On the walk in, I met a group of girls - apparently there was a walk-a-thon
in progress that day (they were wondering if I was part of it). I thought,
"Oh-oh, it looks like it might be crowded", but I never really say many of
the walkers. That was probably due to where I went (not optimum
walk-a-thon terrain). On the way it, I tried to find a non-carriage path
called "Fox Hollow Trail". I found something (unmarked) about where the
trail looked like it should be on the map. I started following it and it
was obvious that a path/road had once been there. It was overgrown and
didn't appear to get any use, however. The forest around here is pretty
open and it often isn't apparent where trails are since you can pretty much
go in any direction (as opposed to the Cascades, where the brush is often
so thick, that it is really difficult to go off trail). This 'trail' went
as far as some telephone lines and seemed to stop. It seems that what I
had followed was merely an access road used to maintain the line. So I
walked back out and continued down the carriage path. On my way out, I
followed Fox Hollow trail out from the other end and discovered that it
joined the carriage path a tad before I had joined the carriage path (which
isn't quite like it shows on the map) and that is why I had missed it. For
the most part the Mohonk people are pretty good about labeling their
I got to the 'Picnic Lodge' which is a food building designated for the day
visitors. You can buy food and beverages there (they have a grill, etc) as
well as restrooms. Unfortunately, they didn't have any sunscreen.
I next went to the hotel (even through day visitors aren't supposed to go
there - the map they give you at the Gate House has a big label in red that
says "Don't Enter Hotel" - I guess they don't want a bunch of scummy day
walkers cluttering up their fancy hotel) and got some sunscreen at their
gift shop. Yikes! I had to pay $10 for the 4oz tube. But if you need it,
you need it. Ten dollars is better than a week of sun burn. I slathered
the stuff on wondering whether I had already got a burn and continued on.
The hotel itself is a grand and imposing building of stone and wood. It
looks somewhat like a castle. It is a National Historic Landmark (as are
the grounds where I was hiking) and one of the last old mountain resorts
in the East.
The distances on the map are somewhat deceptive. I am not used to having a
map with such a large scale. I'd see a trail junction on the map, and
before I'd know it, I'd be there. Get used to the fact that you can cover
distances on the map real fast.
The hotel sits at the north end of a lake that is about 1/2 mile long. At
the south end of the lake, particularly on the east side, there are shear
cliffs that rise up a ways. These do not go all the way to the lake, as
there are paths and roads that go between the cliffs and the lake. At the
base of the cliffs, there tend to be lots of loose rock. This can be
scrambled over, and several of the trails go through there. The most
famous of the these is the Labyrinth that passes below the main cliffs
(where rock jocks do lots of climbing). The Labyrinth has some named
features like "Fat Man's Misery", "Lemon-drop Squeeze", and the "Crevice"
which is a large cleft in the rock that the trail ascends to Skytop.
The top of these cliffs is the high point on Mt. Mohonk, and there is a
stone tower built there. It is called Skytop.
I walked around the lake and headed for the Labyrinth. There was a sign
there saying that due to snow and ice, the trail was closed, but it was
full of hooey. There were numerous people there, and though I did find a
little snow in the Crevice, there were no problems at all. The Labyrinth
is really accessible to almost anyone who is in halfway decent shape - I
say people taking children 6 years old through there (although that
particular kid, didn't seem terribly thrilled over it, though the parents
were cajoling her to go on). Any real difficult parts have ladders to make
it easy. I went on a ways until I came to the first group of climbers
(there were more than a dozen groups scattered along the face) where I
stopped and watched for a couple hours (while frying in the sun - there
wasn't really any shade, and the rocks reflected the heat of the sun well).
I basically watched two groups doing this one route. The first group
seemed less experienced (to me). They did more of hanging from the rope at
times. For example, at difficult places the lead would climb up to his
protection, sit in the rope and reach up and set the next piece. He'd also
rest in the rope. The follower also did a fair amount of resting in the
rope. This was different from the 2nd lead (I didn't stay until he was up,
so I didn't see his follower climb). This guy only used the rope for
protection and never (as far as I saw) used it. He'd climb up to a
difficult place, reach up and set some protection, and then down climb a
bit, and rest for a while. Then he'd climb back up, a bit higher this
time, and set another piece, and down climb. He did this numerous times
until he was ready and climbed past this difficult place, went up higher
and set another piece. He made me a bit nervous at the beginning, though.
The very start of the climb has a big overhang 10 feet off the ground that
you have to climb around. He set some protection there, climbed around the
overhang, then, to my surprise, removed that protection and climbed up
about 30' before setting another piece. If he'd fallen during that time,
he would have cratered real good. Of course, that piece at the overhang
wouldn't have helped him much once he got a bit higher anyway (the
distance from the climber to the protection was larger than the distance
from the protection to the ground).
It was hot watching them, and the bugs were just verging on being annoying.
A few flies, but it really wasn't bad, nothing was really biting.
I finally headed off and went up the Crevice to Skytop. The very end of
the Crevice was interesting. It is pretty narrow and it is some work to
get up. The complication came in from the fact that I had my daypack on.
This precluded me from turning my body to either side, and that made it
awkward to get me feet where they had to go. Jim tells me that he usually
passes his pack up to the previous person. Unencumbered, getting up is no
problem. In some ways, it would be fun to try and climb the Crevice as a
chimney, though I wouldn't try w/out a top rope.
At Skytop, I was getting hungry, so I ate my tuna sandwich. It felt real
hot, and I was doing a lot of sweating. Unfortunately, I only brought 1L of
water, and that really wasn't enough. I had to start rationing it. After
eating, I went over to the east side of that particular hill, checked out
the Pinnacle Rock trail (and Pinnacle Rock - a shear spur that is separated
from the main cliff - not terribly spectacular) and the Stair Cliff trail
which went down a longish stair to deposit me back onto the rocks at the
base of the cliffs. I passed several more climbing groups there.
I skirted the south side of the lake and went up onto the western
promontory, which isn't as high or as spectacular as the eastern one, but
it does give a good view of the cliffs and the climbers across the lake.
The trail up was another rock scramble. On top of the plateau is a
carriage road that takes a meandering path. A foot path cuts the loops and
allows one to walk along the top of the cliffs. Along the edge were
numerous little 'Gazebos' that provide some shade and a place to sit down
and enjoy the view.
I headed along the edge back towards the hotel, until I could drop down a
gully (stairs) and get to the lake edge. I followed that back south (bugs
were more annoying along the lake) and around the south side of the plateau
to get to some trail on the west end of the property. Humpty-Dumpty was
an interesting rock scramble - more difficult that the Labyrinth. It
wasn't really hard - it just made you take your time. At one point, the
trail dropped into a bowl that was quite cold with snow still at the
bottom. Sometimes the 'trail' was difficult to follow as the only thing
marking it was painted blazes on the rock. There was nothing to
differentiate the correct path from any other, except the correct path
led to somewhere specific.
By now, it was getting late and I was getting tired. My water was almost
out, and I was quite thirsty from having rationed it. I was looking for a
trail to get back up to the top and cut off a big loop in the carriage road
that I had come onto. I never did find the trail, but I saw a ladder up on
the hillside so I assumed that the trail must be there. Ha! With the
exception of the ladder, it was a bushwhack (no bushes, thankfully) up the
steep hillside. At the top, I followed the road around the tennis courts
and back to the hotel. Along the way I came across a clearing with 6 deer
there. They didn't seem to mind me too much, though they kept on alert
until I left and wouldn't have let me get near them. I settled for some
I went back to the Picnic Lodge. The food area closed at 5:00, but the
rest rooms were still opened which allowed me to refill my 1L bottle (and
drink half of it on the spot). From there it was an uneventful walk back
to the car. I followed the Fox Hollow trail just to see where it went to.
Along the way I stopped to see the Old Wooden Bridge as it was marked on
the map, so I thought it was something to see. Wrong. There isn't even a
bridge (that I could see). I think it was someplace where there used to be
an old wooden bridge, but I sure missed it.
It was cooling off a tad by now and was a pleasant walk back to the car and
The grounds seem like they would be a real nice place to spend the day with
a friend, just strolling around and enjoying the amenities. If you stay at
the hotel (mucho mega bucks) you can use the lake for swimming or paddle
I don't know what it is like after dark (how many lights they have, if
any), but it might be fun to eat dinner there, and spend some time after
dinner strolling around the lake and gardens, etc. Dinner is actually
reasonably priced, and allows you to drive to the hotel and use the valet
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015