The Shawangunks

Shawangunk Ridge offers an amazing mix of outdoor recreation amenities for hikers and rock climbers of all abilities

Located just south of The Catskills — but geologically distinct from that range — the Shawangunk Mountains (aka “The Gunks”) are a well-developed hiking paradise with many easy flat trails.

But they also provide some rugged hiking experiences, and much incredible wilderness scenery, as well as some of the best rock climbing pitches on the planet.

Shawangunks
Gertrude’s Nose, Shawangunks

The Gunks’ tamed ruggedness is famous across the world. Every year, Minnewaska State Park draws hikers and sightseers from Europe and Asia by the bus-load.

Best Shawangunk Hiking Trails

Hiking The Gunks

To navigate this mountain range, I use the NYNJTC Shawangunk Trails Map (2019) set which includes dedicated maps of Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve. These are the definitive trail maps of the area.

They’re also available for download as digital maps from the Avenza store.

See how to use them with Avenza in Best Hiking Apps.

Rare & Delicate Plants

Once you leave the main Minnewaska Lake loop, it’s extremely important to stay on the marked trails and not wander into the vegetation on either side.

The twisted pitch pine trees are glorious to wander through — but they are intensly slow growing and it can take many years to recover from even slight damage.

The Gunks are also home to an endangered population of Broom Crowberry shrub which normally only grows in sandy costal locations — in fact, the Shawangunk Brook Crowberry population represents the only non-coastal site in the world where this plant grows naturally.

You will see many areas in the Gunks that are cordoned off. Make sure to stay on the right side of these areas to ensure the continued survival of these rare and amazing plants.

Emergency Numbers

In case of an emergency, DEC Region 3 Office can be reached at (845) 256-3076.

After hours, call 911.

richly flowing waterfall at dusk
Awosting Falls

Geology of the Gunks

The Gunks are famous for their Shawangunk conglomerate rock, a super resilient mix of sandstone and conglomerate with chunks of white quartz. There are many beautiful cliffs with dramatic talus fields below, as well as a number of insanely beautiful lakes.

The Shawangunk Ridge is Silurian — much older than Pangea, older even than the Catskills. It has been exposed to deposition, erosion and glaciation for 420 million plus years.

The Gunks are a continuation of the long ridge known as Kittatinny Mountain in New Jersey, and as Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania.

You can read more about the Shawangunk Mountains at NYNJTC.org — the people who design, build and maintain the trails that run over these magnificent hills.

“Shawangunk” Etymology

The word “Shawangunk” comes from the Dutch Scha-wan-gunk — which just a transcription from a colonial deed record of the Native American Munsee Lenape name for the region. The meaning is roughly, “in the smoky air”.

Hot tip: “Shawangunk” is actually pronounced SHON-gum.

How to Leave No Trace in the Gunks

Please remember to hike thoughtfully: Leave No Trace.

  1. Stay on marked trails. Do your part to protect the surrounding ecosystem.
  2. Wear proper hiking gear (such as hiking boots or sturdy shoes).
  3. Bring water with you, carry a trail map and make sure to leave enough time to complete your hike. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.
  4. Please note that overnight camping and use of fire are prohibited throughout the park.

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