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  • Writer's pictureMatt Carter

The Gunks (New York)

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

The Gunks a.k.a the Shawangunk Mountain Range in New York offers some of the best rock climbing in America. A short drive (an hour and a half) from New York City, near the town of New Paltz, you'll find "the Gunks" -- including the Trapps, the Near Trapps, Millbrook, Sky Top and Peterskill cliffs. This area has so much to offer beginner and experienced climbers -- with over 1,200 routes, that are up to 5.14 in difficulty on strong quartzite surrounded by stunning Hudson Valley views, a climbing trip here will not disappoint.

"The Gunks, or Shawangunk Mountains, are the climbing equivalent of skiing Jackson Hole: They’re the ultimate proving ground." -National Geographic

Climbers have been coming to the Gunks since the mid-1930s when the legendary Fritz Wiessner saw them from across the Hudson River and climbed Millbrook's "Old Route" (5.5) with just a loop of hemp rope. Today, hundreds of climbers from all over the world visit the Gunks every day to experience what its cliffs have to offer

Best Time to Climb

The best time to rock climb at the Gunks is between September and October. Spring also offers great climbing opportunities, but the summer and winter are often too hot or too cold to get the most out of these cliffs. The Gunks also has great bouldering, which is a great alternative when it gets a bit colder.

Getting There

The Gunks are a one and a half hour drive from the city and you can plug one of these four trail heads into your GPS :

Parking is limited on weekends and holidays, so get there early or carpool with friends. If you're not driving, the best public transportation option from NYC is the Trailways Bus ($22.75 One Way / $45.50 Round Trip) from Port Authority to New Paltz and then to take a taxi to the trail head or visitor center. Once in the Gunks, you'll find a carriage road traverses under the cliff, making most of the routes easily accessible.

How to Climb at the Gunks

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) from the Mohonk Preserve.

If you're new to climbing or want to test your limits, climbing with a guide is well worth it (visit Carters Climbs and Treks' Services page to book a day of climbing with Matt).

Where to Buy Gear

The town of New Paltz, just minutes from the Gunks, has a specialty climbing and outdoor shop - Rock and Snow, where you can rent or purchase gear. They have a well-informed staff that can help you find all the gear, books and dehydrated snacks you didn't even know you wanted. And if you have gear to offload, they can re-sell it for you second-hand.

Where to Stay

If you're visiting the Gunks for more than a day there are plenty of options for where to rest your hands and feet for the night -- it all depends on whether you want a tent or a luxurious lake-view room:

Where to Eat

The towns around the Gunks have great food options for hungry-climbers, some of my favorite include:

Recommended Reading and Apps:

To book a climb at the Gunks with Matt visit the Services page.

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