The Shawangunk Ridge Trail runs for about 40 miles along the world renowned Shawangunk Ridge between High Point State Park in New Jersey in the south and Sam's Point Preserve, New York in the north.
This was another staff day that opened my eyes to trails and areas that I have not traditionally spent a lot of time in. This time it was the Shawangunk Ridge on the Shawangunk Ridge Trail. We hiked the section of trail in the Roosa Gap and Shawangunk State Forests which is north of Wurtsboro and south of Ellenville. The section we hiked is about 5.7 miles in length and makes for a great day trip with some wonderful views of the southern ridge, the surrounding countryside and the Catskill Mountains to the north.
About the Shawangunk Ridge Trail
The trail travels north from High Point State Park in New Jersey following for the most part, the crest of the Shawangunk Ridge northward while occasionally using abandoned roadways and rail beds. In addition to the ridge crest, the SRT passes through the Basha Kill Wildlife Management Area. After leaving the Basha Kill, the trail climbs back onto the ridge after Wurtsboro and spends the next ten miles or so along the ridgetop. This section of the trail offers extensive views of the Catskills to the north and the High Point area to the south, along with views to the east and west. After crossing Route 52, the SRT ascends to Sam's Point Preserve, where it currently ends. The Shawangunk Ridge Trail was initiated by the Trail Conference in 1989 and continues to be a work in progress. The Trail Conference and its partners work to protect a ridge-length trail corridor and connect the trail to other trails along the way.
Adventures in the Outdoors has a resource page for the Shawangunk Ridge Trail
The Shawangunk Ridge Trail SRT crosses many roads as its makes its way along the Shawangunk Ridge. These crossings provide ample opportunities for day hikes of varying lengths if you are able to set up a vehicle shuttle. Loop trips are significantly rarer.
Our hike took us from the small parking lot where the SRT crosses Ferguson Road to Route 52 via a short side trail from the SRT to Route 52. The total distance was 5.2 miles. Ferguson Road is accessible from Route 209 in the west and Route 52 in the east. Route 52 is the major east-west route in the area while Route 209 travels in a north-south direction. There is a small pull off on Route 52 where the yellow-marked side trail from the SRT exits on to Route 52.
This section of the SRT is shown on the Trail Conference's Northern Shawangunk Ridge Trail Map and is described as part of the Long Path's Online Guide.
Learn more about Long Distance Hiking Trails in the USA
Hiking the SRT between Ferguson Road and Route 52
This hike is best done south to north, from Ferguson Road, to the yellow trail and over to Route 52.
From Ferguson Road the blue marked SRT climbs steadily with views of the southern Shawangunk Ridge opening up after about a half a mile of climbing. The climbing is steady, but not difficult.
The difference in elevation between the southern portion of the ridge and the northern portion you are now on is evident, as you can see all the way down the ridge to High Point in New Jersey. The Basha Kill wetland system can also be seen - it is the large open area that sits near the base of the Shawangunk Ridge to your south. On a clear day, you can see the High Point Monument.
Views available on a regular basis (especially without leaves) as you make your way up and after about a mile of hiking, you reach the crest of the ridge and the SRT generally follows the ridge crest for the rest of the hike.
The SRT continues to make its way along the ridge with views in almost all directions. The trail is surrounded by blueberry plants so if you were hiking in August, you could have a snack the entire way!
The trail comes to a large boulder and begins descending to a small col between portions of the ridge.
The trail descends down to the col, then climbs back up on to the ridge, but the forest here is thicker and there are fewer views. There is also less use along the trail, though it is still easy to follow. At about two and a half miles in, the trail drops through a line of cliffs without much difficulty in a thicker forested area. The trail follows the cliff line for a short distance and then turns and begins climbing through the forest on a gentle slope. There are old roads and stone walls that the trail crosses as it climbs.
At about three and a half miles, the trail climbs back up on to the higher portion of the ridge. There are views to the south, but there are also now the start of views to the north of the Catskill Mountains. You also begin to pass some interesting escarpments and rock formations that drop off to your right.
A little over four into the hike, stunning views of the Catskills to the northwest begin to open up, along with views northward into the Shawangunk Ridge. The last of these views are around 4.7 miles into the trip.
The trail descends quickly and steeply from this point down to an old roadway. At the old roadway, the SRT turns left and follows the road, while the yellow marked side trail goes straight ahead. We followed the yellow side trail to get back to Route 52 more quickly (the SRT crosses Route 52 in about 2 miles otherwise).
The yellow trail descends steeply alongside a small stream with a series of cascades. It then climbs steeply up and over a knoll and then down to the pull off on Route 52.
All told the hike was about 5.7 miles and took several hours to complete. We were doing trail maintenance along the way and took the entire trip at a leisurely pace, so you could make the trip in a shorter time frame.
For More Information on Hiking in the Shawangunks
Check out the Shawangunk Ridge section of our Adventures in the Outdoors Bookstore.
The Trail Conference publishes maps for portions of the Shawangunk Ridge on its Shawangunk Trails Map and maps for High Point State Park in New Jersey are included on the Kittainny Trails Map. The book, Scenes and Walks in the Northern Shawangunks is a guide to trails of the northern Shawangunk Ridge area, as is Gunks Trails: A Rangers Guide and the Shawangunks Trail Companion.
More information about USA's Top 50 Long Distance Hiking Trails from the site Boot Bomb