Shawangunks: NY's 'unknown' mountains

The Shawangunks don't get the same level of public notice as other New York mountains such as the Adirondacks and the Catskills, but as mountain ranges go they offer a lot.

For some "The Gunks,'' as locals call them, are just a piece of the Catskills. Geologically speaking, however, they are the northernmost part of the Shawangunk Ridge that juts from northernmost New Jersey up through Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties as far as Rosendale, just south of Kingston.

However you like to define them, The Gunks offer the year-round attractions of stunning topography, wineries, hamlets full of antique shops, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing trails, winter hiking in the Mohonk Preserve, historic sites, dining diversity, and other goodies tucked mostly into Ulster County on the west side of the Hudson River about 75 miles southwest of Albany.

Their sheer physical diversity attracts droves of outdoors enthusiasts, and it's a particularly family-friendly place where more than 100 miles of trails and carriage roads link the Mohonk Preserve with the adjacent Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

This time of year, the rock climbers take a hiatus from such attractions as the famous Trapps Cliffs from which those ambitious enough to scale them get a gorgeous view of the Walkill Valley. However, even in winter there are open trails to get you out into nature.


Huguenot Street Historic District, New Paltz: This National Historic Landmark neighborhood preserves what is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited street in America with its original houses. The principle structures were built by Dutch immigrants in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Each house today is presented in a different time period from the 18th through the mid-20th centuries. The neighborhood is open for public tours that begin at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center on Huguenot Street.

Harness Racing Hall of Fame, 240 Main St., Goshen, (845) 294-6330: Thoroughbred horse racing fans have their hall up in Saratoga Springs. Here, the trotters and pacers and their drivers are the royalty, enshrined along with more than 1,500 works of art, 1,000 pieces of such ephemera as tickets, programs and scrapbooks, 5,000 photographs, 300 jackets, caps and helmets, 50 sulkies and harness and 200 trophies.

Mohonk Preserve: Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the big attractions this time of year. The preserve has four suggested ski trails covering 1.7 miles (easy) to 7.3 miles (strenuous). It also has three snowshoeing trails, one of them 1.5 miles and the others 6 miles each.

Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, Liberty and Washington streets, Newburgh, (845) 562-1195: Gen. George Washington used this stone farmhouse as his Continental Army headquarters from April 1782 to August 1783. In 1850 it became the first publicly operated historic site in the U.S.

Shawangunk Wine Trail: 10 wineries sprinkled throughout the area are part of an organized tourist trail. Among them is the Brotherhood Winery, the nation's oldest continuously operating winery.


The range is from country "home cooking'' to New American cuisine, often with kitchen staff trained at the nearby Culinary Institute of America. A few examples:

In Kingston, the Armadillo Bar & Grill at 97 Abeel St., (845) 339-1550, offers good Southwestern and Mexican food "with a Nuevo Latino twist.'' Examples: grilled pork tenderloin with ancho chile/orange reduction and mango salsa; fragrant ropa vieja chicken stew.

In New Paltz, the Main Course restaurant, 232 Main St., (845) 255-2600, has a nice brunch menu from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday mornings, offering such dishes as two styles of eggs Benedict (one with bacon, one with spinach and smoked salmon) and a breakfast pizza.

In Kerhonkson, Oscar Contemporary Country Cooking, 5945 Route 44/55, (845) 626-9838, is a comfort food haven serving such things as barbecued or braised ribs, a pierogi platter and prix fixe pasta dishes.


Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, (845) 255-1000: This monument to woodcraft is a fascinating 265-room Victorian-style castle sprawling along Lake Mohonk. Built in 1869, it offers old-fashioned luxury, 85 miles of hiking trails, golf, tennis, boating, ice skating, horseback riding, children's programs and dining for both guests and mealtime visitors. It is part of Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Single: $270 to $740. Double: $445 to $840. Rates include meals.

Wine Trail Associates: Connections to 30 B&B's, inns and chain hotels/motels as well as three campgrounds, all affiliated with the Shawangunk Wine Trail.

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