Bonticou Crag and Table Rocks

Scenery:  5 cameras out of 5

Difficulty: 8 out of 10 (long hike with one extremely steep section)

Highlights:  Rock scramble (not safe for dogs or very small kids), multiple awesome views, stunning cliffs, gigantic table rocks

Distance:  6.0 miles, loop

Approximate roundtrip time: 4.0 hours

Total ascent: 1,215 ft

Max elevation: 1,195 ft above sea level

This hike is for you if: You want to climb one of the coolest rock scrambles in the area, marvel at some of the best views and walk across some of the table-iest rocks.

Cheapskate alert! $12 fee per hiker.  Money very well spent.

Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:

Google Terrain Map of hike route:

Background you can feel free to skip:  The rock scramble at Bonticou Crag takes you to one of the most spectacular natural places in the Hudson Valley (or anywhere else).

My buddy Rob came up from NYC to join me for this hike, and the whole time we were out there, he kept saying, “I had no idea there were places like this so close to the city.”  He was blown away by all of the sights at Bonticou, and he agreed that missing the extra stroll to Table Rocks would be a crime.

I’d also planned to bring my pooch along for the hike, since I’d heard that dogs go up the rock scramble at Bonticou with some regularity.

“Don’t bring your dog up there,” my friend Don said when he got wind of my plans, giving perhaps the best advice I’d ever received.  I knew that Don’s young daughter had cried when climbing the Crag Trail many years ago, scared of the steep rock scramble, and had then come back years later as a fifteen-year-old to conquer it, but I’d been thinking that my dog Memphis was up to the challenge.

No way.  This trail is not meant for dogs or very small children.  It’s very steep, hopping along huge boulders, and there’s one spot in particular where I just don’t see how any dog could ever ascend it, unless it was carried in a backpack.

 

The difficulty of the rock scramble didn’t seem lost on the buzzards that were hanging out on top of the cliffs the day we were there.  I didn’t like the way they licked their beaks when they looked at us.

 

You could take a circuit around the rock scramble at Bonticou – I’ll point out how to do that in the write-up below — but if you’re able to do the scramble, you’d be doing yourself a terrible disservice to miss it.  I love hiking with my dog, but I’m glad I ditched her for this one.  It’d be a shame to miss out on visiting one of the most awesome places in the Hudson Valley.  (And also one of the most popular.  If you’re coming on a nice weekend, get here early – or closer to the end of the day – or you run a real risk of driving all the way out here to find the parking lot full.  I prefer to come here on weekday evenings, if possible.)

Our most recent visit to Bonticou was also my first visit out to Table Rocks, which I’d initially planned to make an optional point of interest, since visiting there adds a few miles to this hike.  After checking it out, though, I don’t think it’s optional anymore.  If you’ve come all the way out to Bonticou and paid the entrance fee, you should burn a few extra calories to visit Table Rocks as well, which is an awesome destination in its own right.

If you have a day to burn, you’d have a hard time finding a better place to burn it than Bonticou.  If you’ve never been, definitely make a plan to go.  But leave the doggie at home.


Trail guide:

1.  From the parking area just past the guard shack, head uphill to find a shortcut through the woods near the last parking spot, on your right.  Head up the shortcut towards the beginning of several trails.

(This place is laced with trails heading all over the place – please follow this trail guide very carefully, and you’d do well to follow along on the map they’ll provide at the guard shack, too.  It’s easy to get lost during your travels around Bonticou, and while most trails and intersections are excellently marked, some aren’t marked at all.)

2.  Keep heading straight across Spring Farm Road.  A gate will be on your left as you cross the road and hop on the Crag Trail on the far side, turning left to keep going uphill, parallel to Spring Farm Road.

 

3.  Follow the blue blazes uphill.  In about two minutes, you’ll come to a four-way intersection.  Turn right to hop on the red-blazed Crag Trail.

4.  Walk past a beautiful meadow with some small views off to your right.  When you see other trails split off, just stay straight on the red-blazed Crag Trail.

5.  The Crag Trail heads into the woods and crosses over Spring Farm Road.  Keep following the red blazes.

6.  In just under ten minutes, you’ll come to the most confusing intersection you’ll see today.  Even staring at two maps, I had a hard time sorting this one out.  You’re at the intersection of the Crag Trail, Bonticou Road and Cedar Drive.

On the day we visited in late summer 2011, the signage wasn’t all that helpful (it was blank plywood).

You want to make a 90-degree left turn here, to head out on Bonticou Road.  It’s the gentle left turn, not the sharp left you could take to almost make a U-turn and head backwards on Cedar Drive.

Take the left on Bonticou Road and steel yourself for the rock scramble to come.

7.  It took us seven minutes to reach the yellow-blazed start of the Bonticou Ascent Path, perhaps the coolest trail in the Hudson Valley, on the left.  Take this left turn to head downhill to the start of the scramble.

8.  In one minute, pass over the intersection with the Northeast Trail.  (If you wanted to bail on the rock scramble, you could take a left on the blue-blazed Northeast Trail, head past an intersection with the red-blazed Cedar Trail, then take a right onto the yellow-blazed Bonticou Ascent Trail to hop up on top of the cliffs without having to do the scramble.)  To do the scramble, just keep heading straight on the Yellow Trail, and you’re there in a few more steps.

9.  Follow the yellow blazes as they lead you up, up and up.

10.  Clamber over the huge rocks and pull yourself up through the little chimney, stopping occasionally to remark, “Really, that’s the trail?” as you follow the yellow blazes.

11.  Never mind the buzzards.  They’ll get their lunch some other way.  Also, bonus points if you locate the rock that gives a perfect profile of Abraham Lincoln (without the hat.)

12.  It took us about 20 minutes to do the whole scramble.  And when you get to the top, man, those views.

13.  Take a right at the top of the cliffs to explore a bit beyond the Yellow Trail.  These open clifftops with views in all directions are a great place to sit and grab a snack.  Take a few minutes to soak it in.  (Update 9/30/2014: Check out this great photo sphere image of the view at the top of the Crag, taken by Dan Novin and submitted on the site’s Facebook page.)

14.  When you’re done admiring one of the best views in the Hudson Valley (or anywhere else), head back towards the Yellow Trail and follow it down to the right of the scramble, through the pine forest.  This is a much gentler route than attempting a descent of the scramble, and as a bonus, it takes you toward Table Rocks, a mere 2.5 miles from here.  (It’s worth it, really.)

15.  Keep following the Yellow Trail as it gently descends.  In about fifteen minutes, the Yellow Trail dead-ends into the blue-blazed Northeast Trail.  Take a right onto the Northeast Trail and follow those blue blazes.  (Careful here!  One person in the comments below reported missing this turn – going left on the Blue Trail instead of right — and missing Table Rocks altogether.  If you do miss this turn and come to a Red/Blue junction down the hill, a quick backtrack to the end of the Yellow Trail – marked with three yellow blazes – should set you back on course.)

16.  In about 20 minutes, some more nice views open up to your left.  Stop for a moment to check them out.

17.  About ten minutes after those views, you’ll come to the end of the Northeast Trail.  Here, you’ll take a left onto the red-blazed Clearwater Road.  You’re now in a much less-used area of the park.  Enjoy the solitude, which can be tough to come by at Mohonk.

18.  About five minutes down the Clearwater Road, you’ll come to an unmarked fork.  (Unmarked as of late summer 2011.)

If you look very carefully, you’ll see an old red blaze on a tree to the right.  (Update 5/7/2015: According to Jim’s comment below, this is now a well-marked intersection with red blazes all up in your grill.  Awesome – and thank you, Jim!)

Take a right here to stay on the Red Trail.

19.  In another couple of minutes, you’ll see the Farm Road joining you from the left, with some educational signage by the trail.  We’ll come back to this point after visiting Table Rocks.  For now, keep heading straight.

20.  As you keep heading straight, the blazes become blue, and you’re now on the Table Rocks Trail.  From the intersection with the Farm Road, it’s another mile out to Table Rocks.

21.  After about fifteen minutes, keep an eye out on your right for the Table Rocks Trail sign, where you’ll turn left to visit the rocks.

22.  Wander out onto the rocks, being careful not to fall into any of the numerous chasms.  If you brought some snacks, this would be a choice place to relax and eat ‘em while you take in yet another view.  Wander down the rocks as far as you dare – it’s a little scary hopping over those cracks when you can’t see how deep they go.  Best estimate: very, very deep.

23.  After you’re done checking out Table Rocks, head back to Table Rocks Trail, where you’ll turn right to retrace your steps back to the intersection with Farm Road.

24.  We’ll be taking Farm Road all the way back to the parking lot, which is easier said than done.  Turn right to begin heading down Farm Road.

25.  Almost immediately, the blue-blazed Table Rocks Trail splits off to your right.  Keep left to stay on Farm Road.

26.  In another minute, emerge into a meadow with an unmarked fork, where you’ll keep to the left to stay on Farm Road.

27.  In another minute, a yellow-blazed Ski Loop Trail departs to your left.  Shortly thereafter, you’ll see the Ski Loop join you again at a fork in a meadow.  Keep right at the fork to stay on Farm Road.

28.  Two more minutes, and you’ll pass another intersection with the Table Rocks Trail.  Keep heading straight, and just after that intersection, Farm Road hooks to the left as an unmarked trail joins you from the right.

29.  In about five more minutes, you’ll see the Slingerland Pavilion (nickname: the King of Gazebos) on your left.  Stay on the road that hugs the edge of the pavilion, passing it on the right, and in a moment, you’ll wander past some fancy, Mohonky outhouses on your left.

30.  One minute past the outhouses, go right at the fork, then take another right when the right fork dead-ends in a moment.

31.  You’ll start seeing some “Exit here” signs along the road, and you want to follow those back to the parking lot.  You’ll take a right, then a left, following the exit signs.

32.  Just a couple of minutes after you take that left turn, the spot marked “Million Dollar View” on the official Mohonk map will come up on your right.  Take some time to enjoy it, and maybe grab a seat in the grass for a few minutes.  The Catskills won’t mind if you stare at them.

33.  If you’re visiting the Million Dollar View at sunset, a million dollars might seem like they’re not charging enough.

34.  When you’re done getting your money’s worth out of the Million Dollar View, proceed another minute down Farm Road to arrive at the parking lot on your right.  Now would be the appropriate time to start planning your next visit here.

 


Directions to the trailhead: 

From the village of New Paltz, head west on Route 299.  Just past the bridge over the Wallkill River, turn right on County Rd 7 (Springtown Road), towards the Mohonk Mountain House.  In half a mile, veer left onto County Rd 6 (Mountain Rest Road).  Follow this road up and over the hill, past the Mohonk Mountain House parking area on your left and under the little overpass.  Almost exactly one mile past the Mountain House, turn right onto Upper 27 Knolls Road (also marked with Spring Farm Trailhead signs for the Mohonk Preserve.)  Follow this road to the guard shack, where you’ll pay your entrance fee and pick up a map.  Park on the left in the main lot, just past the shack.

 

You can also get directions by checking out the Bonticou Crag + Table Rocks entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.

 

Sorta nearby address for your GPS:  The address for the Mohonk Mountain House is:

1000 Mountain Rest Road
New Paltz, NY 12561

From there, just keep heading north, going under the one-lane bridge to Upper 27 Knolls Road on your right in about a mile.  Continue to the guard shack, pay, and park on the left in the large lot.

GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.7959, -74.12706 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)


 

Related resources:  If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:

More Bonticou Crag + Table Rocks pictures from the hike’s Picasa album:

Was this trail guide useful to you?  Please leave a comment!


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48 thoughts on “Bonticou Crag and Table Rocks

  1. Followed your impeccable directions today, while all trails are far better marked now. Getting from point to point wouldn’t have been possible without this site. I’d say the scramble is difficult (being afraid of heights and falling they all are for me)… comparable to the scramble at mohonk before lemon squeeze or breakneck. The adrenaline and the views at the top are well worth it.
    The walk to table top and initial reaction was meh… but brace for the cracks and go out a bit, definitely worth it!
    A year after a prior review of a timber rattlesnake. . We believe we also encountered one. At the view spot mentioned to the right of the scramble.
    Awesome hike, for those with some desire for adventure, some experience and good moral supporting hiking buddies!

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  2. Thanks for the wonderful directions and your commentary! We would’ve probably gotten lost multiple times today if not for you. We loved the hike and the views. Caution: we came very close to a rattlesnake… About 2 feet from us… Basically just booked it for 100feet until we felt safe. That was on the northeast trail just past the beautiful views on our left. I think it was a timber rattlesnake after researching quite a bit. Also, this hike is not for anyone with knee problems… I injured my knee a while back and I definitely felt them on this hike… We did the lemonsqueeze and labyrinth yesterday so that could’ve had something to do with it. We did this hike on a Monday and only saw 2 other pairs of hikers the entire time. We had the top of the mountain after the scramble and table rocks all to ourselves. Amazing! Would definitely do this again! Thank you!!!

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  3. Did this hike last Friday and it was an amazing experience. However, make sure you take a right at that last car in the parking lot to the trailhead instead of straight past to the million dollar view meadow. We were incredibly turned about once we got there (probably mesmerized by the view) and ended up picking up the red trail off of a main road higher up.

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  4. This was way more intense than Breakneck, at least the scramble section. Falling here is certain injury. I was with my wife and we did Breakneck no problem. There was one part at the top where I didn’t think she was going to be able to push her way up and there’s no way down but up. Definitely a 10 on that scramble.

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  5. Is this hike not safe with rain showers? A group of us coordinated schedules this weekend for Sunday (can’t do Sat) and it’s saying rain showers.

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        • Good luck, Elysa! And I agree with Giulia — if the rocks are wet, it would be too dangerous to attempt the scramble. The route around the scramble may be possible, but you’d still need to exercise caution (with the disclaimer that I’ve never tried that route around the scramble, so I can’t vouch for the terrain).

          Fingers crossed for better weather!

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  6. Took this Hike today and your directions were perfect. There were few spots where I would have definitely gotten lost if not for this site.

    For anyone who is concerned about the Rock Scramble — It is challenging, but it wasn’t as hard as some reviewers here and elsewhere make it sound. Even the toughest portion (The first picture after the “Skip this part”) wasn’t overly tough. You have to push off of the rock wall on the right, but your next placement is easily reachable with your knee or foot depending on how flexible you are, and there are some solid spots to grab in the rock.

    While this may be overall more of a challenging rock scramble than Breakneck, Breakneck has two walls (that you can easily skip out on) that are harder than anything you will find here.

    Once you do get to the top — A) your adrenaline will be pumping, B) The view is just incredible, and C) The hike down is nice a easy.

    The walk out to the table rocks is fairly easy — just be aware that the way back to the Farm Road is all uphill, so you’ll work up a sweat. I definitely think that the table rocks are worth the time if you have it. The view IS NOT going to trump the view from the top of the crag, but it’s unique, and would 100% be worth the hike if the Crag wasn’t even part of it.

    Also — if anyone is too afraid of the Crag — you can take a more mild trail up to the yellow and make it an There and back as opposed to a loop.

    Outside of that — Mike, Thank you very much for putting together this site. I’ve been using it for the past year, and I absolutely love it. Prior to finding this site I used to just hike Mt. Beacon. Now I laugh when people suggest it because it just pales in comparison to all the amazing hikes you’ve outlined. You’re the man!!!

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  7. Just a warning to my fellow hikers…be cautious when descending on the yellow trail. I did the scramble this weekend and followed the yellow trail back down, with intentions of taking the route described above. The trail took me down an incredibly steep, dangerous path that I am lucky to have made it down. Then the trail stopped in the middle of the woods. I was lucky enough to bump into a park ranger, who informed me that he was investigating an unfinished yellow trial that supposedly was made by a local and was confusing hikers. So if you go to descend and think that the trail looks more dangerous and steep then it should- it’s the incorrect one. The ranger said that the real yellow trail is closer to the point where you first arrive at the top of the mountain.

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  8. I’ve done the lemon squeeze and breakneck with my kids from age 5 and up. Sometimes they need a little help but usually they are pretty limber. My youngest is now seven. Is this much different in terms of danger?

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    • Bonticou Crag scramble is steeper and there are no ladders. I saw several children when I was there, most seemed to be 10 or older. I was considering bringing my 12 year old who loved the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze but I’m glad I left him home for my first trip to the Crag. I had to really pay attention to the scramble and it would have been difficult to have to worry about my youngest. Now that I’m familiar with the route I would feel better about bringing him with me.

      Also, I messed up the date of my visit, I was there on Friday 7/3, not 7/4. It rained on 7/4 and I would not recommend trying to ascend that scramble on wet rock!

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      • Tova,

        I agree with Jim’s advice — my friend’s daughter was probably older than seven when the scramble up the Crag made her cry and turn back. As far as difficulty, Bonticou is similar to Breakneck and the Lemon Squeeze, but it does have more of a sheer drop. They’d probably be okay, but I’m only going on what you’ve said, and I definitely wouldn’t issue a blanket recommendation that it’s okay to bring seven-year-olds here. My oldest is six, and I’ll probably wait at least a couple of years before trying this one with him.

        Hope that helps – and good luck, whatever you decide!

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  9. what a great write up! went there today and your page was a great resource! did the scramble and almost cried myself. happy I didn’t turn back though. so totally worth it!

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    • Completed this killer hike today. I’ve spent a lot of time in the southern end of the preserve but I’m glad we decided to head more north…this loop has instantly become one of my favorite hikes here. The scramble really held my attention. And the Table Rocks were totally worth the additional effort. Kudos on the laser sharp directions!

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  10. My husband and I followed your instructions for the Bonticou Crag and Table Ricks hike on this mild winter day and it was beautiful. Thank you so much for the crystal-clear instructions and mapping out such a perfect route.

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  11. Thanks again for the great trail review and instructions. Completed the full loop today, with the visit out to the Table Rocks – well worth the effort. Also, somebody must have read your post, on step 18 above – they have added four or five very visable Red blazes at that interestion.

    Great fun up the rocks, will have to go back next summer, when it is warmer!!

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  12. Just did a shortened version of this hike leaving out the table rocks. It was awesome! The rock climb was a such a rush getting to the top! It’s getting a little chilly out there and my fingers were numb by the time we were done but totally worth it! Start early. By the time we were done by 10am the parking lot was full

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  13. So glad I found this site! Love all the detail you provide. My husband and I did Bonticou Crag this morning. We just could not find a yellow marker showing the beginning of the rock scramble. Thanks to the photos on your site, and a little patience on our part, we found the darn mark on the rock in front of our faces!
    The buzzards were still hanging around at the top…

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  14. Just followed your hike this past Friday (as the start to my bachelor trip weeekend!) and it was amazing! Your guide was incredibly helpful! We got a little mixed up catching the Northeast trail (we had to backtrack up a bit to find it), and we also lost Farm Road after the Pavillion, but were able to find our way back to the parking lot regardless.

    The crag scramble, views at the top of the crag, and the table rocks trail/views were all amazing, and well worth it! Definitely include the table rocks trail if you go!

    Thanks for the great guide!

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    • What a great way to kick off the weekend! Glad you had a great time out there, and glad you enjoyed Table Rocks (there’s not unanimous agreement that they’re worth the extra miles, but I still say they’re worth the trek). If this trail guide could be updated in any way to help others not get bucked off the Northeast Trail or Farm Road, please let me know!

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  15. This was such a great guide! Thank you for taking the time to lay it out so well. We were a bit disappointed with the table rocks after going through a lot of muddy paths to get there. We met with a lot of bugs and while the view was great, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen along the way. However, if not for your guide, I believe we would have taken wrong turns along the way! Thanks so much.

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    • Nancy – thank you! Really glad to hear that guide was useful. I may update it soon with a link down to your comment, too. A friend of mine agreed with you that Table Rocks wasn’t as impressive after everything else he’d seen up to that point. I’d still put it on my preferred route, but other folks may want to chop the hike down to just the crag and back. Appreciate the feedback!

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  16. How does the rock scramble here compare to Breakneck? Obviously Bonticou much smaller in length and height, but in terms of difficulty how do they compare?

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    • Hi Brian! Very comparable – though there is one spot at Bonticou that’s tougher than any particular spot at Breakneck (this spot is pictured in the first image in the “Background you can feel free to skip” section). Otherwise, anyone who’s comfortable doing Breakneck, I wouldn’t expect to have any issues at Bonticou. Hope that helps!

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  17. Thank you for this. I’m 50 something now. I’ve been loving the B-Crag for 30+ years but… not as often as I’d like. They keep changing stuff… so now, thanks to you….next time I won’t get lost.

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  18. Thanks for your guide! Was great today and very helpful for our hike. Didn’t think we’d make it up the scramble, but we did, and it was worth it!

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      • Oh geez, you’re right! We pulled in the other lot first, and then looked at their map, then we drove over to the Spring Farm lot because it was closer to this hike. Oops. Now we know better . Thanks so much!

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        • Mystery solved! Thanks for following up, mg – glad to know what happened, and also glad you had a great day out there. Maybe Mohonk will name a gazebo after you for chipping in a few extra bucks!

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  19. Thanks for your site! We did the hike using your guide, and we definitely would have missed things if we had simply followed the map from the guard shack. Love the photos of your hand pointing in one direction or another.

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    • I neglected to respond to this comment when you left it last September, Harvey, but I wanted you to know that before getting your comment, I’d decided to take it easy with the whole “pictures of my hand pointing” thing. Your comment inspired me to rock the pointing again. Thanks for the kind words and feedback – really glad to hear the guide was helpful!

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  20. I just did Bonticou with some friends, and your guide, which I printed and brought with me, was actually more useful than the map and instructions we got at the guard shack. Soon we realized that all we needed was your guide, which accounted for every turn and every possible problem, and we did the whole hike following just that. The pictures made a huge difference! Great work! Thanks so much.

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    • I just noticed I never replied to this comment, Eduardo — thanks so much for taking the time to leave it! I actually posted your comment to the site’s Facebook page right after you left it. This was really nice to hear. Thank you!

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  21. love your site, thanks for sharing all of this. did the above hike today & found that the instruction at #15 didn’t work out for us. not sure if the right turn was right at the end of the yellow trail, if it was we missed it. We descended to where the junction of blue & red were and that clearly wasn’t the spot… never got to table rock.

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    • Scott, that is a sincere bummer, and I’m sorry to hear it. Yes, you definitely need to make a right turn right when the Yellow Trail dead-ends into the Blue Trail. There are a ton of junctions to follow this trail guide, and it’s really easy to motor right past one.

      I just updated that step with a warning based on your comment. If you think I should add anything else to make sure people don’t miss out on Table Rocks, please let me know! Hope your next adventure here goes smoother, and table-ier.

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      • I will pay attention when i re-try this in August/ September and see if anything to add.
        I just got back into hiking and find your site a treasure trove. thanks for putting it up!

        do you plan to do some of the harder hikes in Harriman?

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        • Awesome, Scott, and thank you! Funny you should ask about Harriman – I’ll be putting up a 7.3-mile loop (Lemon Squeezer to Surebridge overlook) in the next few weeks. Well, next month or two, anyway. Hope to add more Harriman goodness as we go – let me know if you have any recommendations!

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  22. Hi. I ran into your website the other week and it helped me survive Breakneck Ridge. So, thank you! Ha! I do have a question about Bonticou Crag. I don’t have a car (Im from Queens) and you mentioned your friend took a train from NYC. Does this mean this is accessible by train alone? I’ve been googling my brains by I couldn’t find train directions. Thank you!

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    • Glad to hear that all went well at Breakneck! I’m afraid I picked my buddy up at the station in Poughkeepsie and drove to the trailhead from there, about 30-40 minutes away (with one brief stop for a SUNY New Paltz student to ram my car while texting, but that’s a story for another day). I amended the write-up to say that Rob came up from the city, without mentioning the train, so I won’t get anyone else’s hopes up about that. You could get to the Walkway Over the Hudson from the Poughkeepsie station without a car — the nearby River Station restaurant runs a free shuttle there (or at least they did last time I checked), and there are cabs all over the place there. Hope that helps!

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      • I guess I’ll have to trick a friend with a car into coming with me. Ha! I am currently glued to your website looking for great hikes. Thank you, thank you for sharing this!

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        • Sounds like a good plan. You could bribe someone by paying their entry fee! Really glad to hear that this site is useful for you. Happy adventuring!

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        • In case you’re still monitoring this site and interested in this more than a year later: There are Trailways buses that go from the Port Authority to New Paltz, and there should be taxis available from New Paltz. Also, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) schedules lots of group hikes that are public-transportation-friendly (meeting place is at bus stops or train stations and then then people with cars provide rides to the trailhead for those who just got off the bus or train). You should check them out – it’s how I originally discovered hiking in the Gunks before I had access to a car!

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