The Gunks (short for Shawangunks) is one of the premier climbing areas in the country. Located near New Paltz, NY
, the Gunks is about 85 miles from the NYC metropolitan area, making it a popular weekend destination. The rock is quartz conglomerate
, solid rock with horizontal rather than vertical cracks. Climbing at the Gunks is characterized by roofs, jugs, traverses, big air, and sometimes "sporty" pro. The Gunks is famous for great one-to-three-pitch climbs of all levels of difficulty. You'll find some of the best easy and moderate trad climbs in the country at the Gunks. There are a few bolted climbs at the Gunks, but no sport climbs.
The ratings at the Gunks are stiff; beware of a climb with a "+" at the end of its rating. Climbs like Thin Slabs / Thin Slabs Direct
(5.7+), Something Interesting
(5.7+), Modern Times
(5.8+), Broken Sling
(5.8+), Le Teton
(5.9+), and Coexistence
(5.10+) will seem like sandbags to many climbers. Climbing overhanging rock, even with jugs, requires endurance and commitment. Most climbers new to the Gunks drop down a few grades in their first leads to get a feel for the rock, the ratings, and to learn how to place pro in the horizontal cracks.
The best time to climb at the Gunks is during the fall: September and October are the prime climbing season. Mid-October brings the fall colors to the area, and climbers will have to vie with "leaf peepers" for restaurants and places to stay in New Paltz. Climbing in the spring is also popular, but tends to be wetter and more buggy. Summer is hot and humid (don't miss the swimming hole), and winter offers a few climbable days. New Paltz weather forecast
The Gunks is one of the oldest climbing areas in the country. Fritz Wiessner first climbed at the Gunks in 1935, and he and Hans Kraus put up many classic routes in the 1940s. High Exposure
, established in 1941, remains one of the most exposed and exciting 5.6 routes any climber will ever do, and should be on every visiting climber's tick list.
Most of the Gunks is part of the Mohonk Preserve
, a land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting the northern Shawangunk Ridge. Climbers must purchase a $20 (as of 2018) day pass to climb at the Gunks, or else buy an annual pass
($95 as of 2018). Stop at the Visitor's Center, on Rt. 44/55 just below the cliffs, for more information or to get your pass. Passes are also often available on weekends from rangers at the steel bridge, the West Trapps lot, or at Lower Coxing, among others. If you get a day pass, keep your wristband, as the $20 cost can be credited toward the cost of an annual pass.
The main cliffs at the Gunks are The Trapps
and The Near Trapps
. The Trapps is several miles long, and ranges in height from 30' to over 250'. A convenient gravel carriage road traverses under the cliff for its entire length, and designated access trails climb from the carriage road through the talus to the cliff. Access to most climbs at the Trapps involves hiking along the carriage road for 5 minutes to a half hour, followed by a short hike up to the rock. Some of the climbs on the left end of the Trapps start right off the carriage road.The Nears
is also a popular destination, with climbs ranging in height from 30' to 200'. While not as extensive as The Trapps
, the Nears offers many excellent routes with short approaches. The near (north) end is most popular, but there are good climbs farther down the cliff as well.Millbrook
is more remote and offers adventurous climbing for those wanting to get off the beaten path. This area is frequented more by Gunks locals than first-time visiting climbers. The approach is roughly an hour along pleasant rambling trails, and Westward Ha!
is worth the walk!Sky Top
has many classic routes, and was closed for over ten years by the landowner (the Mohonk Mountain House
, an exclusive and expensive resort). As of April 2007 climbing is LEGAL at Sky Top once again - IF, and only if, you are there as a client of their only approved guide service, Alpine Endeavors
, in Minnewaska State Park
, is another popular Gunks climbing destination, offering single-pitch climbs, top-roping, and bouldering. Follow directions to The Trapps and continue on Rt. 44/55 for about a mile past the steel bridge to get to the park entrance. As it is a State Park, a Mohonk Preserve pass won't work here; a separate day use fee is charged, and separate annual passes are available.
Other Gunks climbing areas, such as Lost City
, are under-documented. Climbing here is by word of mouth; go with a Gunks local or perhaps get information at Rock & Snow
, the local climbing shop in New Paltz.
Due to the abundance of horizontal cracks and the limited number of vertical cracks, most Gunks routes have "PG" protection: adequate but not great, although many gear ratings were applied before small cams were invented. The horizontal cracks are great for small Tricams: the pink and red are especially useful. Small-to-medium cams with flexible shafts also work well. Climbs rarely need pro larger than 3". Hexes are not often carried, but sometimes work well.
Fixed pro is sometimes available, but many of the pins are "old and rusted and shouldn't be trusted". Bring a screamer or two for the questionable pin or bolt.
A "Standard Rack" for the Gunks:
- a set of micronuts (RPs, HB offsets, BD micro stoppers) - very often useful for 5.10 and above.
- a set of wired nuts (#3-#13 BD Stoppers or equivalent)
- black, pink, red, and brown Tricams (some climbers double up on the smaller sizes)
- blue, green, yellow, gray, and red Aliens (or equivalent)
- #.75, #1, #2, and #3 Camalots (or equivalent)
- 10-12 extendable runners (24" sewn slings)
- 1 or 2 long runners (48" sewn slings or rabbit runners)
- A Yates Screamer
Additional gear that is useful on some climbs:
- extra cams in the .5" to 2" range - very useful for new Gunks leaders
- a very small cam (black Alien or equivalent)
- a large cam (#4 Camalot or equivalent)
- a set of Trango Ball Nutz (#1, #2, #3). There are several 'new' moderate routes in the Nears, put up by Dick Williams and partners, which rely heavily on Ball Nutz for protection; caveat emptor.
- larger Tricams (purple #2, black #2.5)
- medium-sized hexes (BD #6-#8)
The amount of gear that you carry will depend on the climb, your experience, ability, and familiarity with the route and with the Gunks. If you're new to the Gunks, err on the side of taking a little more gear rather than a little less.
Many routes can be climbed and rappelled with a single 60m rope. Double ropes can be handy, however, with the traverses, wandering pro, and roofs encountered on the typical Gunks climb, and come in handy to descend in fewer rappels.
Many popular routes have bolted rap stations, but sometimes trees are used for rap anchors. Bring some webbing along in case you need to beef up a sling anchor on a tree.
Two-way radios can be useful for communicating past the big roofs often encountered on Gunks climbs. High Exposure
, and especially Shockley's Ceiling
are routes where radios can be much more effective than shouting.
Visit Rock & Snow
, the local climbing shop, at 44 Main St. in New Paltz, for all your gear and beta needs.
Fixed Anchors in the Gunks
Starting in 1999, bolted anchors started to appear in select locations along the cliffs. Placement of these anchors is approved by a 14-member bolting sub-committee composed of Gunks Climbers' Coalition members, volunteers, area climbing guides, and Mohonk Preserve rangers and staff. Installation and inspection of bolted anchors are carried out by Petzl and Access Fund-trained members of the bolting sub-committee.
The dual goals of these anchors are safety, and protection of the fragile cliff ecosystem. Whenever possible, anchors are placed to make it easier for climbers to go straight to the bolted anchor instead of using a tree, walking on a ledge with a tree, or an erosion or runoff gully. Please follow best practices, by avoiding the use of trees as anchors or walking up gullies!
If you have questions or feedback about these anchors, start by contacting the Gunks Climbers' Coalition
direction directly, on social media
or on the tweet machine.
definitive print guide books to the Gunks are the The Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks: The Trapps
and The Climber's Guide to the Shawangunks: The Near Trapps and Millbrook;
from Dick Williams.
For mobile devices, get the Gunks App
- both iPhone and Android versions are available. Guides to the Trapps, Nears, Peterskill, Trapps Bouldering and Peterskill Bouldering are each offered. This app offers GPS navigation and high-res cliff images.
Mike Rawdon and Marty Molitoris recently published A Rock Climber's Guide to the Peter's Kill Climbing Area - find it at Rock & Snow, at The Inner Wall, at the Peterskill center, or on on Ebay. A mobile version is available through the Gunks App.
Other guides include The Gunks Select, a best-of selection covering the Trapps, Nears and Skytop by Dick Williams, Vulgarian Press, 1996 (out of print); The Gunks Guide, Third Edition, Todd Swain, Falcon Press, 1995; and THE GUNKS, from Zach Orenczak and Rachael Lynn (Extreme Angles Publishing).
The out-of-state climber may want to fly into Newark Liberty International Airport
(EWR), La Guardia Airport
(LGA), or Stewart International Airport
(SWF), rent a car, and drive to New Paltz.
Newark Liberty to New Paltz: 97 miles, 1 hour and 39 minutes. Directions from Newark Liberty Airport to New Paltz Hostel
La Guardia to New Paltz: 87 miles, 1 hour and 38 minutes. Directions from La Guardia Airport to New Paltz Hostel
Stewart International Airport is the closest commercial airport to the Gunks. The airport is a quiet regional hub; you rarely have to wait in line, and you can arrive at the airport less than an hour before your flight. Connections to and from here may be limited, however.
Stewart International to New Paltz: 22 miles, 28 minutes. Directions from Stewart International Airport to New Paltz Hostel
More on arranging transportation: Getting around By Car To get to New Paltz:
take the New York State Thruway (Interstate 87) to exit 18 (New Paltz/Poughkeepsie). Pass the toll booth and go to the first traffic light. Turn left at the light onto Rt. 299 West. Follow 299 several miles into New Paltz, where it becomes Main St. To get to the Gunks from New Paltz:
continue on Rt. 299 for 7 miles until it intersects with Rt. 44/55 (The Brauhaus, Bistro and EMS are at this intersection). Turn right and continue about 1.5 miles up the hill to reach the Mohonk Preserve Visitor's Center. Stop here for maps, information, and to buy daily or annual passes (you can also get passes from the rangers on the carriage road). The Warwarsing parking area, which provides convenient access for climbs on the right side of the Trapps, lies just beyond the Visitor's Center. The West Trapps parking area, used to access the left side of the Trapps and the Near Trapps, lies up the hill, beyond the big hairpin turn, just past a steel bridge. NB: On beautiful weekends, parking lots fill early. By Bus
Trailways has a bus terminal in New Paltz, right next to the New Paltz Hostel, but it's most convenient to have a car to get to the cliffs.
139 Main St.
New Paltz, NY 12561
Where to Stay
Also see Rock & Snow Places to StayHOSTELS and MOTELSNew Paltz Hostel
is located near downtown and right next to the bus station. A variety of accommodations is available for $30/person/night. Free internet access and a shared kitchen are part of the amenities. Reservations recommended for weekends. Off-street parking is available.
145 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561
845-255-6676America's Best Value Inn
;rcode=sim2016, just west of I-87 at the New Paltz exit, is newly renovated.
7 Terwilliger Ln.
New Paltz, NY 12561
845-255-8865Rodeway Inn and Suites
;hotel=NY331: People seem to like the suites, but it has gotten mixed reviews.
601 Main Street
New Paltz, NY 12561
;hotel=NY156 gets bad reviews from tripadvisor.com
530 Main St.
New Paltz, NY 12561
Local - 845-255-6200
Toll free - 800-424-4777Bed and Breakfasts
are available if you want a more 'romantic' getaway, or just space to lounge around in. B&Bs start around $1xx +/night (call around) per couple for lodging and breakfast. Because the Culinary Institute is nearby, most B&B breakfasts are quite a feast! Given that even the econo-lodges are $80/night and up without food, B&Bs can be a reasonable option, especially for cooler days when the sun sets early. Here are a couple I can recommend: Audrey's
in Gardiner, Captain Schoonmaker's
in High Falls, Inn at Orchard Heights
in New Paltz, Maple Stone Inn
in Gardiner, Moondance Ridge
in New Paltz, and The 1812 House
in Rosendale.Mohonk Mountain House
is great if you've just won the millionaire lottery.CAMPINGThe American Alpine Club Gunks Campground
opened in the spring of 2015, and will be open from spring through late fall. It is located on Route 299 just a half-mile before Rt 44/55, in Gardiner. Book reservations online here
. A campground host lives on-site. Camping costs $24/night/campsite for AAC and Mohonk Preserve members; $38/night for non-members. There are limits of 4 people per campsite and 2 tents per campsite. There are 50 tent sites, with parking for one vehicle per site. No RVs or large vehicles are allowed. Amenities include: pay showers, covered pavilion, fire ring, drinking water.NY State DEC Multi-Use Area closed in May 2016. Trapps Camp (aka Camp Slime)
is now closed. Long live Camp Slime.Yogi Bear's
is an RV-style family campground in Gardiner, at 50 Bevier Rd.Creek View
in Rosendale, ~7 miles from New Paltz, has flat, grassy tent sites with picnic tables, showers, and there is plenty of hot water for dishes. The owner, Bill, makes it a point to enforce quiet hours (11pm to 7am). Other privately owned campgrounds are charging 3x what Bill charges. He also has full hookups for those with RVs or just wanting some electricity. His monthly rate is the best in the area, by far.
The Hemlock Ridge
MUA is about 19 miles (1/2 hr.) from the Trapps.
About the same distance and driving time in the other direction is the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest
Where to Eat
New Paltz is a college town (the State University of New York has a campus here), with many excellent bars and restaurants. Many local chefs are graduates of the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, so expect to eat well here!
Near the cliff: Mountain Harbor Deli
is at the junction of Rt. 299 and Rt. 44/55: stock up on Gatorade or bars on your way up to the cliff. The new owners kept a lot of the same sandwich items and added some of their own. The large parking lot and porch mean it's still a very popular meet-up spot for climbers in the morning. Mountain Brauhaus
, Corner Route 299 & Route 44-55: authentic German food on a porch overlooking the cliff.
In town: Main Street Bistro
, 59 Main St.: great place for breakfast. Bacchus
is the original climber's haunt, with 14 beers on tap and hundreds more in the bottle. The food is all excellent, and the menu varies widely between bar fare like nachos, to tuna tartare. The Bakery
, 13A North Front St.: another great breakfast place. Gilded Otter
, 3 Main St.: a great brew-pub for after-climbing drinks and dinner. P&G's
, 91 Main St.: excellent pub food and beer. Main Course
, 175 Main St.: eclectic gourmet fare and many ready-to-eat options. Lemon Grass
, 125 Main St.: spicy Thai food. Bangkok Cafe
- also Thai, on Main Street. Karma Road
, on Main St. All-vegan cafe and deli. Opens earlier than most places (8am), so a useful place to grab coffee / smoothie / sandwich on the way to climbing in the morning. Good food, obviously vegetarian-friendly, and seating indoors and out (so you don't have to smell each other). Gomen Kudasai
on Main Street is a Japanese noodle house with many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Mexicali Blue
, Main St. Good, big, cheap burritos. Very popular and tiny, there is often a long wait (i.e. 25 minutes) especially on weekends, and you will rarely get a seat, so plan on eating them in your car or somewhere else. Also vegan friendly, but fewer options. Garvan's
is a high-quality upscale restaurant in the Huguenot Village, so a bit away from the maddening crowds. The Cheese Plate
, Water Street Market, offers all natural, local ice cream, cheese plates, grilled cheese and cheese sandwiches, which can be packed for a trip to the mountains. Ice Cream
options: Huguenot Creamery, 78 Main St. (next to Anatoli's), Frosty Rock (147 Main, north side, near the liquor store and taco shop).
Also see Rock & Snow's Places to Eat
, newpaltz.org restaurant list
, or CliffMama
for more recommendations.
Outside of New Paltz, in Gardiner: Tuthillhouse
(upscale, good mixology); Rough Cut Brewing
is over the ridge in Kerhonkson, and is well worth the 10 minutes it takes to get there. In Rosendale: Garden House
(tasty artisan pizza & middle eastern food), or in Highland: Gunks Haus
(German, nice view).
Matinee, P1, 1976 approximately. Photo by (I think) Hardie Truesdale, now a successful landscape photographer. Classic! Flip-flop stoppers (2 on a single cord so that you can flip one over the othe…
Quite a weird sight... a snake eating a toad!
The 5.7+ third pitch of Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope (CCK), an airy and exposed Gunks classic. Photo by Michael Amato.
Jeff Arliss pulling the first roof on Feast of Fools (5.10).
Troy Sexton near the top of CCK Direct.
Climber preparing to start the exposed and exciting last pitch of High Exposure, one of the best 5.6 pitches on the planet.
@kaufmanntaylor on the final moves of Madame Grunnebaum's Wulst
Derek underneath the first crux roof on Shockley's Ceiling (5.7) A cropped version of a photo submitted by Denis O'Connor.
The Trapps and Skytop
Jay Peterson (age 8) bouldering, Dec 26 2001.
An early attempt of Persistence, Lost City... ~'82