**EXTREMELY IMPORTANT UPDATE posted May 8, 2020!!**
You can’t do this hike anymore!!! I received an email update today from a New York State Parks trails planner (thanks, Chris!), who asked me to post this warning:
“Attention Jessup, Sweet Clover and Otterkill Hikers: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority forbids crossing its rail corridor in Schunemunk State Park. Trespassers may be fined or subject to arrest by MTA police. There are currently no trail connections within the park between the east and west sides of the tracks. Please utilize the Otterkill Road parking lot to access the west side of the park.”
Unfortunately, with this update, the trail guide below is now obsolete. You need to cross the tracks to do this hike as written. Apparently, hikers have actually been getting tickets for the crime of crossing the tracks. (Boo, MTA! I thought we were friends.) There’s a very helpful map posted to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Trail Alert on this closure – you can work out a different route from the Otterkill Road parking area to get to the Megaliths, but I’ve never done it. I’ll put it in my medium-term plans to get back out here and check it out. In the meantime, please don’t attempt this hike as written! They are apparently closing the Taylor Road parking area entirely (the NY-NJTC trail alert says that the lot will remain open for meadow walks, but Chris says the lot is shutting down altogether.)
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Stay safe out there, everyone!
Background you can feel free to skip: A climb to the megaliths at the top of Schunemunk Mountain will take you across so many different types of terrain, you’ll feel like you’ve just completed five different hikes. Stroll through open meadows, dense deciduous forests, boulder fields and open rock ridges dotted with spindly pines. Wait, that’s only four different hikes. Still, you get the idea. Oh, you’ll pass some cascading streams, too. We’ll call that five.
My most vivid memory from our old hiking group’s trip to Schunemunk several years ago is of our small crew sitting on the megaliths, taking in the view, as this Russian guy named Mike, who joined us for a few hikes, sat in silence next to me. I looked over to see that my buddy Jim was standing on Mike’s outstretched hand with all of his weight.
“Jim, dude, you’re standing on his hand,” I said.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” Jim said, jumping back.
“It’s okay,” Mike said, without moving his hand. I think he would have sat there all day in silence while his hand was getting crushed. My takeaway from that experience: don’t mess with Russian dudes. In any event, I hadn’t been back here since about 2005, so when I visited this hike again last spring, I kept thinking, “Why haven’t I come back here sooner?”
This is a gorgeous hike from start to finish, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a nice climb to an excellent payoff. That being said, this is a tough hike, and you should come prepared to do some sweating. Schunemunk doesn’t baby you by having a parking area halfway up the hill like some hikes around here. You park near the base of the mountain and walk a mile or so through a beautiful open meadow (you’ll need to ignore I-87 off to your left) to approach the ascent. You might even be sweating before you step foot on the mountain.
But if you tackle this climb, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most awesome panoramic views in the Hudson Valley, as well as some other nice viewpoints and sights along the way. Also, if you visit the megaliths and decide to let someone stomp on your hand at the top, make sure that you’re Russian first. Otherwise, it might hurt.
If you find this free trail guide useful, please provide payment by picking up at least one piece of litter on your hike. Cha-ching! Thanks for being awesome! (And here’s a quick primer on Leave No Trace, too, to help us keep the trails nice and fresh for each other.)
**FIVE-ALARM WARNING!!!** If you skimmed over the “EXTREMELY IMPORTANT UPDATE posted May 8, 2020!!” at the beginning of the “Background” section above, please take a moment to read it. This hike is no longer accessible as documented below. 🙁
1. From the parking area on Taylor Road, cross the street to hop on the yellow-and-white-blazed Jessup trail. You’ll also see teal-and-white trail markers for the Highlands Trail.
2. The Jessup Trail heads across a beautiful open field, dotted with huge trees. You’ll see trail markers on many of the trees, and also on posts that have been placed along the trail.
**UPDATE 2019** According to several comments from recent visitors, the meadows coming up in the next section are often quite overgrown. Here’s the relevant snippet from fellow hiker Jacki Spinelli’s comment from 9/2/2019 (and thank you for the heads-up, Jacki!)
The fields are very overgrown – with beautiful wildflowers – but still overgrown. The path is visible but the flowers, at this time of the year, were armpit high. If you are not wearing long pants then wear high socks. Not only are there ticks, as a previous comment mentioned, but I saw poison ivy in places and just the continuous lashing of the thistle and other thick stems against your ankles and calves makes for some lasting welts.
Good thing you didn’t listen when people made fun of your tube socks — time to hike ’em up!
3. When the trail makes a T into a wooded area with a house to your left and a shed and an old rusty gate straight ahead, turn right to stay on the well-worn trail.
4. Don’t forget to look back across the field you just crossed. What a beautiful place. Even having I-87 rumbling just a few hundred yards away can’t ruin it. Also, dang, putting a polarizing filter on your camera really brings out the blue in the sky. That was a good purchase.
5. About ten minutes into the hike, the Yellow (Jessup) Trail and White (Sweet Clover) Trail part ways. You want to turn left, onto the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail.
6. Make your way across yet another beautiful meadow as Schunemunk looms to your right, daring you to bring some hiking noise. If you have any freeloaders riding on your back, this is a good place to let them romp around for a moment. When the trail passes a giant tree (marked with a white blaze) in the middle of the field, continue straight to stay on the White Trail as it ventures closer to I-87 — don’t be lured onto the unmarked road that departs to your right.
7. The White Trail plunges you into the woods with I-87 buzzing to your left. Shortly thereafter, you’ll come to a fork with an unmarked woods road leading off to your right. Take the left fork to remain on the White Trail.
8. In just a moment, you’ll pop out into a clearing where you’ll have to cross a set of MTA railroad tracks. THESE TRACKS ARE VERY ACTIVE AND THE TRAINS GO REALLY, REALLY FAST. Sorry for yelling, but I wanted to make sure you’ll exercise caution here as you cross the tracks.
9. Re-enter the woods on the far side of the tracks, and turn left to follow the White Trail, which is very briefly joined by the Red (Otterkill) Trail. In just a few more steps, the White Trail doglegs to the right. Take this right turn to stay on the White Trail and continue climbing.10. “Sweet Clover Trail” sounds so friendly and harmless, right? Well, it doesn’t want to be your friend anymore. Keep climbing, and the terrain seems to change with every step, except for the fact that it is going up. That part doesn’t change.You’ll see some places where the trail route has been changed, and branches are laid across the old trail to keep you on the new section. Just keep an eye out for the white blazes and you’ll be good to go.
11. About 15 minutes after the railroad tracks, the trail skirts the edge of a ravine that drops off to your left, and you can hear a burbling creek below. If you squint, you can pretend that you’re climbing up the edge of a canyon out west somewhere. In just a few more minutes, the terrain changes again, and a field of small boulders seems to whisper, “‘Sweet Clover Trail’ sounded so easy, didn’t it?”
12. Enjoy your first real views as you continue climbing. When you cross the seasonal cascading stream with a tiny waterfall, you’ll have gained about 750 feet in elevation from the parking lot, to just about 1,000 ft. The highest point on the hike is 1,650 feet. You’re closing in on it, right?
13. From the railroad tracks, it took me one hour to reach the well-marked Sweet Clover Junction, where you’ll say goodbye to the White Trail and turn left on the Yellow (Jessup) Trail. At this point, you’ve knocked the toughest mileage off your journey, and it’s only very slightly uphill from here to the megaliths.
14. After Sweet Clover Junction, the landscape is dramatically different than anything you’ve seen so far, and really quite different from anything else in the Hudson Valley. The Schunemunk Wikipedia page calls the odd pink conglomerate under your feet “Puddingstone,” but I think “God’s concrete” sounds cooler. Unless regular concrete is already God’s concrete, in which case I’ll have to come up with another name.
In any event, carefully follow the yellow-and-teal trail markers across the wide open expanses of funky rock. There are many small cairns (fancy talk for rock piles) to keep you headed the right way. It would be easy to get turned around out here, since there’s no well-worn trail to follow across the rock. Be sure to actively search for the abundant trail markers to make sure you stay on the Yellow/Teal (Jessup) Trail.
15. I walked right past this spot without noticing it, but once you stroll a half-mile past Sweet Clover Junction, you’ll come to Dark Hollow Junction, where the White/Black (Dark Hollow) Trail begins to your left. You’ll come back to this spot later to take the Dark Hollow Trail down the mountain, but for now, we’ll just stroll straight past, staying on the Yellow/Teal Trail on our way to the megaliths. If you’re sharper than me and notice this junction, fantastic. If not, no worries, it’s easier to spot coming from the other direction anyway. Just keep staying the course on the Yellow/Teal Trail.
16. From Dark Hollow Junction, it’s about 10-15 minutes to the megaliths. Can you stand the suspense? Keep an eye out for two larger-than-normal cairns, which mark the start of the very short spur trail to the megaliths. If you miss the cairns, there’s also the word “MEGALITHS” painted on the ground, with an arrow pointing to your right.
**UPDATE September 2019** According to several recent comments, the MEGALITHS painting on the rocks pictured below is either super-faint or totally non-existent now. The cairns are a better guide to look for. (You can also click to the “Resources” section below and find the Google Terrain Map there — click the icon in the top-right corner of that map to open the Google Maps app and show your progress against my GPS trace of this hike. The Avenza app is also a great way to trace your progress against the official NY-NJTC maps.) Keep a sharp eye out for those cairns leading you downhill to your right – you’ll stroll right past the megaliths if you miss those cairns!
**UPDATE March 2020** According to Nicole’s helpful comment below, there’s a nice new sign, in yellow painting on the rock, clearly pointing the way to the Megaliths. Great news! Thanks, Nicole!
Take this right turn to head down the spur trail to the megaliths.
17. The spur trail takes you down an open rock face, then plunges you into the woods. In just a few more feet, you’ll pop out onto one of the most remarkable places in the Hudson Valley. The megaliths. You made it! Go on with your megabad self.
18. Relax and take in the view of the Catskills, the Stewart-Newburgh Airport and lots of other stuff that looks really, really tiny from up here. Exploring down in the megaliths looks like a pretty nice way to get yourself maimed, so I recommend beholding them from your safe perch up on top. You can do some pretty serious beholding from up there, too.
19. When you’re done taking it all in, go back up the spur trail and take a left to head back the way you came on the Yellow/Teal Trail. Your destination is Dark Hollow Junction, which is about .3 miles back down the trail (it took me 13 minutes to get from the megaliths to Dark Hollow Junction.)
20. The Dark Hollow Trail, which departs from the right and has odd black-square-on-white-background markers, can be tough to spot. But there is a nice big “Dark Hollow Junction” sign on the left side of the trail to keep you from strolling right past it.
**UPDATE September 2019** That nice big sign is apparently not there anymore! Sigh. Here’s another update from Jacki Spinelli and her epically helpful comment from 9/2/2019:
The Black Trail is indeed hard to find – both ways. We ran into several people as we were on our way out on the yellow trail, who had passed it and were searching. We found it easier to see the first time (and even knowing where it was – or where we thought it was – we missed it ourselves going back). They have placed some rocks at the entrance (the three black dots are on a tree around the corner and the sign you mentioned is no longer there) that almost look like they are blocking the pathway to it but upon further inspection are I guess supposed to be an entrance way.
Check out the big rock that my dog is standing on in the second picture below — that’s the one you’re looking for! You can see the Dark Hollow Trail heading downhill from that rock. I think that’s why so many people miss it — the junction really takes place on that rock, so it’s easy to miss the dirt trail heading downhill from that rock.
Keep a sharp eye out, and when you spot it, take a right turn to hop on the Dark Hollow Trail.
21. You found it! Hooray! You’ll take the Dark Hollow Trail all the way down the mountain, past some very nice views and across some small creeks.
22. Two unmarked trails join the Dark Hollow Trail from the right as you keep heading down the hill. Just ignore them and keep following the black/white blazes. You’ll be on the Dark Hollow Trail for about 1.4 miles. It took me 45 minutes to get from Dark Hollow Junction to the end of the Dark Hollow Trail, back at the railroad tracks.
23. When you see the railroad tracks again, make a U-turn to your left to hop very briefly on the Red (Otterkill) Trail.
**UPDATE September 2019** If you prefer to turn left here on the train tracks (and will be very careful not to get run over), you can walk briefly down the tracks to a right turn back onto the White Trail, and pick up with this trail guide again on Step 26 below. Some commenters prefer this route as being a little less hilly and a little less complicated. Life’s full of choices! Please choose not to get run over by a train, whichever path you choose.
24. Follow the Red Trail as it hops across the creek below some nice cascades.
25. Shortly after the creek (less than two minutes), you’ll pass the dogleg turn that you took earlier, with the White (Sweet Clover) Trail departing to your left. If you want to do the whole loop to the megaliths again, have at it! Otherwise, let’s go back to the car. In a few more feet, turn right to rejoin your old friend, the white-blazed Sweet Clover Trail. (UPDATE March 2019: Friendly hiker Chris reported getting lost at this step, never seeing the White Trail departing to his right. This turn happens almost immediately after the creek crossing – less than two minutes. After turning right, you’ll immediately cross the train tracks, which are also quite close to this junction. Thanks for your comment, Chris, and hope this clarification is helpful to future adventurers!)
Ahem. Mee mee meeeee. Now that my voice is warmed up: BE CAREFUL CROSSING THE TRAIN TRACKS!
26. Retrace your steps from earlier in the day, when your legs weren’t nearly as tired. You’ll follow the White Trail through the woods and across the meadow. Turn right at the intersection with the Jessup Trail, then left when you come to the rusty old gate again. Tromp across the other beautiful meadow and boom! You’re back at your car.
27. You have earned the right to consume at least half a large pizza — now would be a good time to see about cashing in on that. And don’t even try to tell me that you’ve seen nicer megaliths recently.
Directions to the trailhead: From Newburgh, head south on Rt 32. Four miles after the intersection with Rt 94 (Blooming Grove Turnpike), turn right onto Pleasant Hill Rd (County Rd 79). Take your first left onto Taylor Road. You’ll have to make a right in just a moment to stay on Taylor Road, then you’ll follow Taylor Road over the I-87 overpass to the trailhead parking, on the right, just after you pass Creekside Lane. (There’s also room for three cars on the opposite side of the street, a few feet closer to the trailhead.) On a nice weekend afternoon, expect some company here.
You can also get directions by checking out the Schunemunk Mountain entry on the HiketheHudsonValley.com Google map.
Sorta nearby address for your GPS: The Mountainville Post Office is just around the corner from the trailhead.
7 Ketcham Avenue
Mountainville, New York 10953
From that post office, head northeast on Station Drive for a few yards, then turn left on Taylor Rd. The large trailhead parking area is just on the other side of I-87, on your right, just past the intersection with Creekside Ln.
GPS coordinates of parking area: 41.40753, -74.08164 (Clicking will open in Google Maps or the Apple Maps app, depending on your browser/device.)
Resources & Interactives
Super-cool Google Earth flyover of hike route:
Google Terrain Map of hike route:
Related resources: If you’re looking for actual facts and/or useful information, visit these resources:
- The very informative Schunemunk Wikipedia page
- Some nice Schunemunk hikes and trail descriptions from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
- A longer Schunemunk hike from nycdayhiking.com
Want to support trails in the Hudson Valley? Here’s one great way: Visit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference homepage and click on Volunteer, Donate, or Shop! (Then you can volunteer, donate, or shop, depending on your mood.)
Comments (81)Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
You are now not allowed to cross the RR – you could be fined, ticketed, or arrested. So this hike is sadly no longer valid – there is a way from the other side of the mountain, or by using the LP, but this specific hike would result in tresspassing. Sorry for this bad news!
JBK — thank you for posting this here! I put a warning in the background section above back in May that this hike is no longer accessible, and I just now added a pointer to that warning above the first step in the trail guide to make sure everyone sees it. It’s on my to-do list to get back out to Schunemunk to document one of the other routes to the top. (And I’m also hoping that some arrangement can be worked out to re-open this wonderful version of the hike, but I’m not holding my breath – it doesn’t sound hopeful at the moment.) Now the notice is posted in three places on this page instead of one — thank you for making sure others don’t get a nasty surprise out there!
I did the red to black to yellow back to red today. The end of the black trail where it meets with yellow are missing the trail markers still. I was doing about 2-3 trips a month up there before covid now I’m doing 4-5 trips a week. I live 5 minutes away and love it there although I do not like the amount of trash that has been left on there lately since it has been very busy on the weekends.
We spoke to an MTA police officer regarding the track issue. She said they are not looking to give hikers crossing the tracks quickly and safely a hard time but they’ve been having issues since covid with people walking along the tracks across to the train station from the trails and that’s why there has been an increased police presence especially on the other side of the tracks near the trestle.
Thank you for this information. I think my cousin and I will get up there this weekend. Have you tried via the western ridge trail?
I haven’t but I Took the black trail up again about three weeks ago and there was still no indicator of the end of the trail
Really appreciate all this info and background, Michael — thank you!
I did this hike on 05/24. I used the Otterkill Road parking lot and did a 5 hour loop along the two ridges. This hike was intense but view views views! The parking lot was full but everyone managed to get a spot, compared to what seemed like 1000 cars on the side of the road for Storm King on my way here. Def happy I came here.
Hi I did the loop again today in a much better order. Park in otterkill parking. White trail to red trail, red trail to yellow trail. Yellow trail will take you to megaliths. From there keep going on yellow trail to blue and white “ridge to ridge trail”. You will descend and then end up on the red trail again. Keep going for a little while on the red trail and find the blue trail on your left. A short climb and you are on the orange trail – you are back on another ridge! Keep going down the orange trail (and take in non stop views) and back on the white trail all the way down back to the parking lot.
This might be my favorite hike in the valley. Nonstop views.
The loop takes about 5 hours to complete.
Thank you so much, Angel! It’s on my to-do list to get back out here, and I’ll use your directions to help chart my path. Many thanks!
Hi Mike and all!
My friend and I did this hike on 5/3/20, using your super duper helpful website, detailed and entertaining trail description, and it was fantastic! Thank you for all that you do here! It is so generous and so appreciated.
There weren’t very many people, which was great. Also, it’s helpful to know you can park by the post office if the parking lot is full, which it was, (-a nice man in a truck drove by and gave me that tip, which was really nice.)
Just wanted to share that we encountered a rattlesnake on our trail! In reading about them briefly, I guess this is around the time of year when they come out of hibernation? It hissed loudly at our dog, so, we were alerted to back away, (and scramble up the hill and out of the way!) and eventually it slithered down the trail and we were able to resume our path. What an adventure!
Look forward to doing more of your hikes in future. Thanks again and stay safe!
Did this hike yesterday, 2/16/20. The fields did not seem overgrown, however they were frozen and pretty easy to cross.
There is now a sign for the Megaliths, painted in yellow on a rock (if you’re coming in the direction described in the steps), very easy to see. It will point you right and just follow the cairns.
At one point on the black trail, there is a creek to cross. Not sure if it was because it rained, but it was very wide and had a small ‘island’ in the middle of it. Getting through was a bit tough, we had to find sticks as trekking poles and used them for balance while walking across a log. There was no place shallow enough for us to cross without getting soaked.
The black trail was also very icy and took us a while to get down – there are some very steep sections.
The Apple watch told us our total distance was 7.26 miles and took us about 6 hours – some of which could be due to taking our time with the ice, taking some photos and our general being out of shape lol.
Thanks again Mike for blog!
Thanks so much for all the helpful info, Nicole! I just updated the trail guide with a link to your comment, letting folks know about the new Megaliths sign. Really glad to hear that. It can be tough to find that spot without a sign pointing the way. Really appreciate you letting us all know — many thanks!
Hey Mike, did this hike today with my hubby!!! Loved it!!! Got lost, but we always do even though you write extremely detailed directions, but we always find our way.,,,,,
You weren’t kidding when you said fat climb, but definitely worth it. Megaliths. Megaviews. Love the waterfalls And creeks.
Thanks for all the recommendations and keep them coming.
So glad you had a great hike out there, Cara! Hate to hear you got lost, though — if there’s anything I can do to clarify the directions to help others avoid the same fate, please let me know. Happy adventures to you – hope you and your husband keep finding your way!
Just did this hike Christmas day. The trail was deserted but the scenery was beautiful. When we were there there was no snow on the ground but as we reached the top there was ice all over. It made it quite difficult to get around to the rock towers which we never really did. And on the way down the black trail it was covered with ice for good chunks of it. I would recommend bringing microspikes as we took it very slowly down. But other than that it was beautiful and as always this trail guide made it super easy.
Sounds like a gorgeous time to be up there, Max! Thanks for the comment, and for the reminder to always bring microspikes this time of year. Happy New Year to you!
Did this trail yesterday (September 1, 2019). Your description was not just helpful but made the experience so much more enjoyable. Reminding us to look back at certain points and the motivation of how far we had already gone (and how far we still had to go). Honestly, without first reading this, it would have been a far different, and less enjoyable, hike. Having said that I will add my voice to a few others as to the conditions of things that have changed since your latest update.
1. The fields are very overgrown – with beautiful wildflowers – but still overgrown. The path is visible but the flowers, at this time of the year, were armpit high. If you are not wearing long pants then wear high socks. Not only are there ticks, as a previous comment mentioned, but I saw poison ivy in places and just the continuous lashing of the thistle and other thick stems against your ankles and calves makes for some lasting welts.
2. There are places where the path has been moved and you have to actually scale some rocks – no big deal – but just know this.
3. The Megaliths are a little hard to find (we never actually saw the the “Megalith” painted anywhere at the start of the off shoot) but use your instincts and follow the cairns – they will show you the way.
4. The Black Trail is indeed hard to find – both ways. We ran into several people as we were on our way out on the yellow trail, who had passed it and were searching. We found it easier to see the first time (and even knowing where it was – or where we thought it was – we missed is ourselves going back). They have placed some rocks at the entrance (the three black dots are on a tree around the corner and the sign you mentioned is no longer there) that almost look like they are blocking the pathway to it but upon further inspection are I guess supposed to be an entrance way.
5. We did as others have suggested at the end and instead of following the red trail to the dogleg, we followed the rails (being very careful of the trains, as you suggested – and we did see one going REALLY, REALLY FAST). We decided to do this not because we could not find the trail but because we saw another small hill that we decided was not necessary to climb at that point 🙂
Thanks for a great hike.
Jacki, thank you so much for the kind words and your very helpful feedback and updates! I’ve just updated the trail guide above in several places based on your information (Steps 2, 16, and 20), and added links down to your comment in a couple of spots. I hope that helps other people navigate this route more smoothly, and gives them a better idea of what to expect while they’re out there. Thank you so, so much!!!
I grew up in this area. You can also park at the historic train tressel on Otterkill road, walk up the hill to the tracks, and follow them for about a quarter mile and pick up the trail at the stream. So you don’t have to do all the hiking through the fields and stuff. It’s a beautiful mountain and a great hike.
Just did this route today and it was a lot of fun! The megaliths look so much bigger than the pictures and are very impressive in person. I do have a couple notes that you might want to add in:
1. The beautiful field pictured in this guide is (as of when this comment was posted) VERY overgrown. I’m 5’2″, and the grass was often around head height. I’d suggest bringing plenty of bugspray and maybe a good pair of pants, because that section of trail is perfect for ticks.
2. The MEGALITHS “sign” on the rocks at step 15 is much smaller than expected, and I barely noticed it. The arrow is also worn off, so it’s not 100% clear where you need to go (I tried to download this guide for on the trail, but I couldn’t open it for some reason and wasn’t sure which way to go. I ended up continuing on the yellow trail until the blue trail split off before I realized my mistake). Even when I went right following the cairns, the clearing appears to end with no clear trail. I had to climb down some sizable drops to get to it.
3. If anyone is worried about getting back to the Sweet Clover trail after the Dark Hollow trail ends (step 25), they can always follow the rails. Almost immediately after the red trail turns away from the neat waterfalls, there’s a chance to get back to the railroad tracks. If you follow them to the left for not even a minute, you’ll get back to the original crossing quite easily.
Great guide overall, as always! I struggled to find my way back to the white trail towards the end of this hike, “25. Shortly after the creek, you’ll pass the dogleg turn that you took earlier, with the White (Sweet Clover) Trail departing to your left. “. I honestly could not find the tree with the red and white trail markers, and never saw the sweet clover sign after passing the creek and following the red trail. After way too much time spent following the red trail and seeing the sun start to go down yesterday I bailed and pulled out a compass to get back to the open meadow and parking lot. The trail guide is great but I’d suggest everybody pay extra attention to step 25 because it’s not clear just how far after the creek that you’ll see the white trail intersect with the red trail you’ll be on, and the red trail goes for a longgg time (take my word for it…). Thanks for all you do with this site!
Chris, thanks for the helpful comment, glad you were able to Daniel Boone your way out of that situation! I just updated Step 25 above with more detail (looking at my photo timestamps, it was less then two minutes between the creek and the junction), and hope that may help narrow it down enough to help future hikers, even if the trail markers are hidden or removed now. Let me know if that doesn’t address the issue, and thanks for your help in making sure future hikers don’t hit the same problem!
I just skipped that bit, after I hit the train tracks I just crossed them immediately and walked left for… like 100 feet?
I hiked this last weekend – loved it but TOTALLY missed Dark Hollow Junction, couldn’t see a sign at all! I put much of this down to the fact that I ended up directing almost every other hiking group that I asked directions from (!), and got distracted (they were all confusing the fact that they were walking across the puddingstone with actually being at the megaliths. Doh. This happened at least 3 times. There’s a beautiful ‘money shot’ that overlooks the Hudson – before a bend in the trail- and I think that somehow confuses people too. Couple of guys had your directions printed out and were sitting there and STILL thought they were at the megaliths). Anyway- just wanted to say that I totally agree with Josh’s point that it’s very useful to have downloaded the Avenza map in advance (which i usually do, but hadn’t). I don’t know what I missed about dark hollow junction, but the teal/yellow trail is a bit of a headache – so easy to miss markers, I ended up on some completely different route down. Your picture of the cairns to the megaliths is v helpful tho! There’s still no white ‘megaliths’ marked on the ground so I used the pic to identify when I reached the spur trail. All in all, a super hike but had a very high curse rate from me 😉
My husband and I LOVE this hike… we do it every year. This year we decided to hike the Jessup trail all the way up and then take sweet clover down…. the views on the Jessup were AMAZING! so much so that we didn’t even bother to go to the megalith. You hike up along side a stream with waterfalls pretty much the whole way and while you can’t always see it, you hear it and get glimpses of it every so often. There is a point in which you can rest right beside a waterfall which is nice. Once you get to the top, it is pretty much a 270 view… try it.. you won’t be disappointed.
Really interested in a lot of the hikes you post. However, my wife is VERY scared of snakes. I am a bit concerned at all of the talk of rattlers in the Hudson Valley. Any suggestions as to how to calm her about the snakes? Additionally, we have a 50 lb yellow lab (mostly off leash) who hikes with us. Do you ever get nervous having your dog hiking with you with the rattlers around?
Did the cornish estate a few weeks ago based on your write up and loved it!
If you don’t want to flat out lie to your wife in order to lessen her concerns (and we all know lying to our wives never ends well), I suggest some late fall or winter hiking. If you’re not comfortable wearing microspikes, I would avoid technical trails during dead of winter. From November 1 until mid-April, the chances of seeing a snake – venomous or not – on any of these trails… are somewhere between slim and none.
Will, that’s a great question, and I feel like it deserves its own blog post – I’ve started working on one and hope to post it in the next few days. The short answer is that I try to be aware of the dangers without being hysterical about them. My dog did jump sky-high once when she noticed that she was standing over a little drainpipe in a trail, and it’s my hope that she thought it was a snake. I hope that’s how she’d react.
She ran right by a rattler one time (I documented this experience in the Brace Mountain II trail guide), and it didn’t make a peep at her. It did rattle at me, though (I’d never have noticed it otherwise – it was tucked in the bushes right off the trail). I take that as a good thing – the snakes prefer to warn you rather than bite you, which is an admirable personality trait on their part. I’ve never heard of a person being bit by a rattler in the Hudson Valley, but I did stumble across a Kingston Freeman story from 2014 about a leashed dog being bitten twice at Minnewaska and dying, which is every dog-hiker’s worst nightmare. Don’t mean to make things worse by mentioning that story — in general, I think it’s worse for my dog’s mental and physical health to leave her at home when I hike, and I’ve never regretted bringing her with me.
Ethan’s advice here is also good — snakes won’t be an issue in the cold weather, so we have that going for us, too.
I’ll post a link to the blog here when it’s up, and hopefully we’ll generate some good discussion there. Thanks for reaching out!
I just posted a more detailed exploration of this topic on the blog – I hope you find it helpful, Will! https://hikethehudsonvalley.com/snakes-on-a-trail/
Hi first thanks for your guides. Did this hike today – highly recommended. I followed your guide closely but still missed the megaliths. Can you please add more details so I don’t miss it again next time? I didn’t see this part – “Keep an eye out for two larger-than-normal cairns, which mark the start of the very short spur trail to the megaliths. If you miss the cairns, there’s also the word “MEGALITHS” painted on the ground, with an arrow pointing to your right.”
Thanks again for your great guides.
Charlie, I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t find the megaliths – that must have been really frustrating. Some other comments have suggested that the painted word “MEGALITHS” on the ground (pictured in Step 15) is no longer visible or very faded. Those cairns, along with the smaller cairns leading down the rock face to your right, are your best bet for locating the megaliths. If you have a cell connection up there, you can also tap the [ ] symbol in the top-right corner on the “Google Terrain map of hike route” in the “Resources” section above. That will open the Google Maps app (assuming you have it installed) on your phone and show you where you are vs. the GPS trace of my route. From that, you should be able to tell when you’re getting close to the spur trail to the megaliths. There’s also the Avenza app, which is a more industrial-strength solution to do a similar thing, plotting your location against the official NY-NJ Trail Conference map. I hope one of these suggestions does the trick! And if anyone who has been there recently has other advice, or can suggest an obvious landmark to locate the megaliths trail, please share it here!
Hiking this tomorrow. Which one of the NYNJTC versions did you follow and describe here?
ABORTED: Started this hike on November 24th. Had a beautiful walk through the fields, with my Chihuahua in tow, and then got the first warning. “I wouldn’t b going in there without wearing bright colors” a group of hunters informed me. It’s deer season a modern long rifles. I ignored that one and then got a similar warning from the Metro-north track workers a bit further up. This warning i heeded cause they explained that the hunters in there r not locals but just hunting lottery winners. He said those guys don’t know it’s a heavily hiked area and shoot at any deer no matter it’s size. That rattled me and decided to go to Bear Mtn and come back another day w an orange hat and vest !!
Did this hike today. When I started up at 9 AM, I was the second car in the lot. Lot was full when I got back shortly after 1. Metro-North was busing people north of Harriman, so no trains to worry about, but I’d suggest people check the train departures at Salisbury Mills on their phones to know when trains will show up, as NB trains will hit the trail crossing a few minutes before and SB a few minutes after the listed times for that station. True summit (elevation 1,664 feet, highest point in Orange County) is at the top of the first rise after megaliths junction. Summit is marked by chalk markings of the elevation. Megaliths junction is unmarked except for a small faded sign hidden in the branches; keep a lookout for cairns marking the megaliths trail. Dark Hollow junction is unmarked heading south to the summit and I walked right past it even though I was looking for it, but signed heading down.
I’d STRONGLY recommend downloading the state park map and tracking your location on Avenza Maps (free download provided by the state park) so you’ll know when to look for the junctions. Unless you have hiked the thing before or have the fortune of seeing someone come from the megaliths, you’ll have a hard time finding it without GPS tracking. GPS had roughly 6.75 miles for the round trip, including less than 0.1 mile of a detour to the summit. Didn’t see any wildlife besides bugs, but the cliffs give many places for things to hide.
Great one, thanks for writing it up. I missed Dark Hollow trail the first time as well, ha. One small update, I could not find the “Megalith” writing on the rock anywhere, it took me a little while to find the Megalith trail. There is an old dilapidated and weather worn signpost, but you really have to look for it.
Also, while i have you, I know you don’t venture into NJ much, but if ever in the area there is a great hike at Norvin Green State forest. Best hike in NJ in my opinion and has some parallels to this one. Search “Norvin Green Highlights” and you will find the route I am speaking of.
Thanks for all you do! Great site and fun write-ups.
Thank you so much for this well written and informative guide! I brought it with me yesterday on the hike and had a great time. Between this guide and the map, I never felt unsure of myself or my surroundings, as this was my first time at Schunnemunk.
Thanks so much for this great guide! I just hiked it yesterday (October 16, 2016). Leaves were pre-peak and really beautiful! The one caveat is that the white paint indicating the turn for the “MEGALITHS” is a little covered up with lichen–particularly the arrow–so it’s easy to miss the turn.
Did this mountain yesterday. It was a fairly strenuous hike, but views made it worth it! Just wanted to note that we did not see the word Megalith in white paint, not sure if it’s still there, but were still able to find the side trail with no problem. You’re directions were perfect!
We did see a black snake peeking out from the grass in the meadow!
Finished this hike with a friend today. Great experience; great directions. Definitely felt like a “9.” We never spotted a snake though….just a couple of frogs…and a vulture that got very close when we sat to eat on the megaliths–that was a new one!
Wonderful, Sandy – glad you had a great day! I think you and I are the only people who haven’t seen a rattlesnake here. I’m okay with that if you are.
Wow what a hike. The accent went as planned. Unfortunately as we got to the top we never saw the sign on the ground for the megaliths so we did about 98% of the hike but missed the “money shots”
My biggest problem in this hike was finding the path for the way down. We couldn’t find Dark Hollow and subsequently followed the yellow markers all the way down. God knows how many miles we hiked but we finally got back to the parking lot after 5 hours plus on the mountain. The hike is as described. It gives you a meadow then serious vertical hiking through the woods then finally onto rock that must be millions of years old. I’m thankful we made it down and didn’t completely lose our bearings and get stuck out there.
Did this trail two weeks ago and your directions once again were great. It took us a little more then five hours since we got a little lost once leaving the megaliths. We climbed down and could not find the trail which was a bid scary. Views were beautiful and the only wildlife we saw was a 5 ft black snake sunning on a large rock. We felt very proud of ourselves once we got back to the car and went to Weirs for a well deserved ice cream.
The week before we did Storm King following your directions. Thank you for all the great info!!!
Nice to hear that these directions were helpful! If your adventure at the Megaliths resulted in any useful information that I should post here for others, please let me know! And thanks for the tip about Weirs 🙂
Thanks for the detailed information, it really helped us! What a beautiful hike! It wasn’t very crowded at all and the views were amazing. We also ran into a Timber Rattlesnake on the dark hollow trail. We will be back!
Looks like he/she hasn’t been starving since exiting its inactive state this spring. Example of why I only hike Schunemunk from mid-November through March. My aversion is THAT strong. Seriously.
Wow – great shot! The Dark Hollow Trail seems to have become something of a rattlesnake highway. Perhaps all the pictures in the comments contributed to the hike not being very crowded 🙂
Thanks for the nice feedback – glad this trail guide was useful to you!
i did a different version but i wish i had checked to see if you had done this mountain before heading out! your version of schunemunk sounds like it might be a bit safer; my pup and i hiked trestle-jessup-sweet clover-otterkill but found the trail ran a little too close and for too long, alongside the metro north tracks to feel comfortable… the scenery was outstanding though, and i cannot wait to try your version of this hike! your site will always be the first i check from now on! :o)
My husband and I took our husky on this hike today. We had an AMAZING time! We love your hikes and appreciate your detailed directions. Here’s a snap my husband took of my husky and me.Thank you again!!
Thanks so much, Lindsay. Great shot!
Wow, what a hike! I don’t think I can emphasize enough how steep and rocky this is both up and down. Came in right at 4 hours with 15 minute break at the megalith. And boy were we ready to be done.
Payoff is awesome though, and scrambling on the pudding stones is a lot of fun. One note would be that the top of the Dark Hollow trail is really overgrown right now, so while there are good markings, sometimes you can doubt yourself because the trail is almost invisible.
Also, while I can see why you would steer people away from walking along the train tracks, I’d skip that last bit where you follow the red blazes down and back up again before crossing the tracks. We were so beat by the time we got down Dark Hollow, next time we’ll just take a left and walk the 30 yards along the tracks before turning right onto the white blazes head back towards the trailhead.
Thanks for all the hard work on this page! This is the third hike we’ve tried since finding the site and it’s been invaluable.
I used your guide for Breakneck ridge and had a blast. My family loved it and they all keep begging to go back. I’m planning on doing this hike on our next vacation. What other hikes can you think of off the top of your head that have the energy and challenge of Breakneck?
Also- this review had me laughing and I’m sitting in my school library. People are looking at me funny. But oh well 😉
Thanks for a great site!
Thanks, Leah – that’s all so nice to hear! You’ve picked a winner with this hike for sure. Bonticou Crag is another one with an awesome scramble. Otherwise, the hikes I’ve marked with five cameras on “The Hikes” page are the ones I think shouldn’t be missed. Happy adventures on your next vacation!
Thanks for the suggestion! Hope to try out Bonticou in the future. Also I took your advice, found Wittenberg on your site and it looks incredible. And thanks again for the resource. I actually spent a n undergrad year overseas and we’d always do these crazy touristy hikes. I’d tell my friends what a shame there’s nothing like this in NY. Well I hit Google shortly after that and found your site and its good to know I was wrong 😉
We encountered a 3+ foot timber rattlesnake on the way down the black trail near the top.
Whoa! That is one healthy-looking snake. Thanks for sharing, Sue, and step carefully out there, all!
If it makes anyone feel better, here’s a blurb from a Penn State page on the timber rattlesnake (link): “A bite from a timber rattlesnake is a serious medical event. Fortunately, the docile nature of this species, their keen ability to distinguish between prey and non-prey organisms, and their tendency to retreat quickly from non-prey species make human encounters and bites extremely uncommon events.”
Sue, you lucky duck! (This is the second report of a timber rattlesnake seen along this trail, and someone just saw a bear here last week, in the meadow at the beginning. Exciting times at Schunemunk!)
Mike – I forgot in my post to thank you for the website and all you put into it. It is a fabulous resource. Thank you.
We hiked the trail last Sunday and very nearly stepped on a large rattlesnake, also on the dark hollow trail, coming down the mountain. My friend was about a foot away, and it rattled at her. Definitely scared us, but it seemed happy to just let us know it was there and then move on. We were so intent on following the trail markers we weren’t looking down enough. Now we know. Keep your eyes peeled! 🙂
We saw one too! And thank you Mike for the wonderful directions and tips. We loved this hike!
Thanks for a great hike! i did a slightly different version of your directions – took the Jessup trail from from the car park to the top and over to the Megaliths lookout and then down via Dark Hollow. The hike ended up being almost 7 miles which took 5 hrs including eating a bagel at the Megaliths lookout while watching the Turkey Vultures ride the air currents. I cannot thank you enough for the website pointing out all of the great hikes in the region! Thank you! Please keep it up!
I did this hike this morning…what a beautiful bluebird Sunday morning! just wanted to thank you for such a thorough guide to this hike…I am not from the area at all, but travel throughout New York State on a regular basis for business, and try to do a nice hike every time I come to visit..everything from your directions to the trailhead to your “point to point” directions were spot on…I will certainly use your guides as a resource going forward…thanks again for providing such a great resource of information!
Thanks so much! That’s really great to hear. You get the prize for being the first person (since the capability was added to the site a few months ago) to attach a photo to a comment, too! (The prize is a megalith of your choosing.)
I hope you have many more great adventures in the area!
We did this hike yesterday and it was great. Challenging but not crazy. A bit more sunshine and a few degrees warmer would have allowed for a longer lunch break at the megaliths, but oh well.
The written directions and photos were spot on and very helpful. Well done and thanks! I guess we were a bit slow, because it always seemed to take us a few more minutes.
Look forward to coming back later in the spring/summer with leaves on the trees.
Fantastic, Rich! Thanks for taking the time to leave this comment. Hope you have a great trip here next time, too!
I just did this hike yesterday and it was easily the best hike I have done so far. That moment at the megaliths was certainly memorable. While much of the path is currently overgrown (we had to walk the fields with hands up in the air) the directions you have were super helpful and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it without them!
So glad it was a success, Anne! And thanks for the heads-up on the condition of the fields at the moment! Glad that didn’t slow you down too much.
I had planned to do this hike last summer when the rest of my family was away for the weekend, but sprained my ankle in the parking lot at Fishkill Ridge. I finally got out there this past weekend and it was a great hike. Sure it’s a lot of climbing, but the views are worth it. I surprised myself by passing three different groups on the way up. I always assumed I was a slow climber.
Just before the RR tracks on the way up I saw what I assumed was a shaggy black lab bounding through the brush to my left. When I reached the tracks the group waiting there said it was a black bear. That’s my first bear sighting.
It’s been noted elsewhere, but worth mentioning again…be careful on the descent as most/all of the rocks are loose.
I assumed I’d be a hurtin’ unit on Sunday morning, but I felt great and set out on another hike. Maybe I’m in better shape than I thought…
Hi Mike – excellent guide as always! I did this hike today and absolutely loved it. Two things worth mentioning: 1) Since I hiked all the way to the megaliths, I felt it was worth the extra 2 minutes to go to the actual summit of Schunemunk Mountain. After the megaliths, I returned to the yellow Jessup trail and made a right. In less than a minute you come to the summit of Schunemunk Mountain where “1664” is painted on the flat open rocks. I stood on it and felt complete! 2) The return trip down the mountain on the Dark Hollow trail is no joke. I would suggest taking your time as it is steep and slippery in several spots. Usually I look forward to the descent after a long climb, but this one I found quite exhausting.
Thanks again for your terrific (and humorous) guides!
I prefer to stand just up from the 1664 sign where it’s a more EVIL 1666 ft.
Stumbled across your website while looking for some nice hiking trails and boy what a gold mine. Tackled this one and the directions you gave were spot on. Just wanted to comment to say thanks. I look forward to attempting some others on the site.
You made my day, Jay — so glad to hear it! Thanks for taking the time to leave this comment. Very much appreciated.
Thanks, Mike! Appreciate it! The reason we probably got confused at the very end was that we were hiking at night with flashlights and possibly just didn’t see the continuation of the white (although I must say I was happy that the white markers in general were more obvious at night, reflecting the flashlights’ light, than during the daytime!) Best, Julia
From your description, I didn’t understand why you gave it a 9 out of 10. I’ve done hikes as long and as high that were more 6 or 7 out of 10. But after going through it yesterday, I think it was pretty difficult. The way down, especially, is on paths that are full of loose rocks, so every step is unsure. It rained when we were on top of the mountain, and coupled with fallen leaves, it was extremely slippery on the way down. It took us 8 hours all together to make the hike (including breaks for photos and lunch, hiding under a big rock from the rain, and a few instances of getting somewhat lost), with 2 kids 8 and 9 years old. Good thing we took flashlights.
There were a couple of places where we got confused using your directions — specifically between points 6 and 7. When we were crossing the second meadow, there’s a big oak tree with the white dot, indicating that we are on the White trail. At that point, the road parts to the right, and continues straight. We weren’t sure what to do. We turned right, and went into the woods, where we didn’t see a white marker. We did get to the tracks, and crossed them. At this point we turned left, as per your directions (points 8 and 9) and walked on the Red trail for some time. But we didn’t see White. We thought uh-oh, we must have missed the White trail and retraced our steps back on the red. Still no White. So then we thought, we probably crossed the tracks at the wrong spot, and so we turned around again on the red, along the tracks. Finally, we found the white trail and turned right on it. We also got confused at the very end. At point 26, the last one in your directions, we followed the White Trail. Which took us almost all the way to I87. We didn’t see where it asked us to cross the field here, so we just crossed it. And then we couldn’t find the Yellow, so again, we just crossed through the trees and onto the other meadow. We knew which direction to go into, so we just went. We ended up closer to I87 than the road, and near someone’s houses. So we ended up just walking on a road that connects to Taylor Rd. and got to the car.
Just wanted to include my notes for fellow hikers who will attempt this hike and will not repeat our mistakes.
Thank you so much for your wonderful website. We check it out often and really appreciate your directions, pictures, suggestions and how you lay it out intuitively. This is the best I’ve found for hiking in this region.
All the best and thanks again!
Julia, I’m so sorry to hear about this! I wasn’t sure which road you were talking about in Step #6 until I went back to the Google Earth flyover (in the GPS goodies section above), and I could see that path you turned right on, clear as day. (Look at this video and pause it at 15 seconds: http://www.mapmyhike.com/routes/render_route_video?route_key=3484679657&site=mapmyhike.com)
Turning right there, you would have indeed hit the train tracks in a moment, but not at the same spot in the trail guide. I just added this sentence to Step #6:
“When the trail passes a giant tree (marked with a white blaze) in the middle of the field, continue straight to stay on the White Trail as it ventures closer to I-87 — don’t be lured onto the unmarked path that departs to your right.”
I hope that will keep anyone else from running into the same problem. It should also clear up the problem at Step #26, since hikers will be retracing their steps at that point. (I can see the houses and the road you took to Taylor Road in that flyover video, too, where that driveway runs parallel to the trail.)
Let me know if you think I need to do anything else to make it clearer – I hate to think of people getting lost while they’re using one of my guides.
Thank you for helping to improve this guide, and I’m glad you all completed the hike safely!
The link above is broken now because MapMyHike discontinued support for its formerly awesome flyover videos. Sigh.
did this one today– what a fabulous hike! a bit windy at the top/megaliths–
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!! this site is making my preparation so much easier!
Just wanted to chime in as well and thank you for your efforts. We did this hike last Sat. (10/12/13) – amazing weather and a great hike! Your guides are incredible, and the descriptions with photos help tremendously. I’ve already led group hikes using 5-6 of your guides (Overlook, Sam’s Point, Breakneck, Harriman Lemon Squeezer, Minnewaska) and haven’t heard one complaint – in fact, many are asking for more – so I’m just going to keep picking off your list. Hope you don’t mind and many thanks again!
This hike was awesome!! Loved the mix of terrain, the views and the majestic megaliths..
Just wanted to say your website is fantastic – we’ve tried about 4 hikes listed on your website so far and are planning on working our way through the list. The descriptions are great, and the detailed instructions on finding the trailhead are super helpful – we’ve previously spent quite a bit of time before hikes driving back and forth trying to find the parking spot and the trailhead. And your step-by-step photo guide made sure we didn’t miss any of the spectacular viewing spots.
Thank you and please keep it up!!
I just noticed that my question was already answered. Whoops! I spoke too soon. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to do it!
This hike sounds excellent. I can not wait to check it out! How long was it start to finish and what do you think the distance was?
Thanks for the terrific guide for Schunemunk Mountain. I printed all twelve pages and used it like a map. The weather on Friday (9/27) was perfect. Your notes were all that were needed.
Thanks so much for this feedback, Ken! I’m really glad to hear that you were able to navigate the loop with this guide – I hadn’t yet heard from anyone who’d used it. You picked a perfect day for it — glad it all went well!