Vassar Student Association

Exploring the Hudson Valley: Climb in the Gunks

Climb in the Gunks


It might surprise you to learn that the best rock climbing in the North East is 45 minutes from the Vassar campus, just outside of New Paltz. The Shawangunk Ridge—referred to by climbers as the Gunks—has approximately 1,200 documented climbing routes, ranging in difficulty from 5.0 to 5.13, and attracts roughly 50,000 technical climbers annually. Even if you’re not particularly interested in dangling from the end of a rope off of a cliff, the ridge is worth a trip just for the views. According to the Nature Conservancy, the Gunks are one of the “75 Last Great Places on Earth.”

If you’re an experienced climber, you probably already know about the Gunks. If you’re a beginner and want to try it, you should probably look into one of the many climbing schools and guide services in New Paltz.

People climb in the Gunks year-round, but the best months are April through November.

Yes, unfortunately, you’ll need a car or a friend with a car. Alternatively, contact the Outing Club and see if they’re planning a trip.

The two most popular climbing areas on the ridge are the Trapps and the Near Trapps (”the Nears”) in the Mohonk Preserve. The cliffs are patrolled by Preserve rangers who assist in emergencies, collect visitor fees, and oversee the parking areas. Admission to the Preserve Lands is $10 per day (everyday) for climbers and bikers, $8 for hikers.

To get to the Mohonk Preserve, cross the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie and follow the signs to New Paltz. From New Paltz, travel on Rt. 299 west for 7 miles; make a right onto Route 44-55; then go approximately 1/2 mile to the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center that will be on your right. The parking lot is another 50 yards uphill.

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