Orange County High Point Trip Report

Schunemunk Mountain (1,664 ft)

Date: March 25, 2000
Author: Dan Case

From NY 32 at Mountainville, turn west on Taylor Road and go over the Thruway. Just past it you will see a parking area on your right.

From the parking area, follow the yellow blazes on telephone poles 0.4 miles along the road to where they cross it, putting you on a gated wood road across a field, then along its edge. This is the Jessup Trail, the most direct way to the summit, running the eight-mile length of the ridge.

It passes a nice little waterfall (when there has been enough rain) along Baby Brook right at the RR tracks (actively used for both freight and passenger service, so be careful), about a mile further along.

Past the tracks, it narrows to trail length and begins to climb through denser patches of mountain laurel, eventually reaching a beautiful (albeit adelgid-plagued) hemlock grove and waterfall just below the cleft between the mountain's two ridges, a result of its unusual formation, geologically distinct from the nearby Hudson Highlands.

At the leveling-out point, 2.5 miles or so from where you started, the trail reaches a junction with the red-dot-on-white Barton Swamp Trail (BST). The Jessup Trail continues uphill another mile and a half to the summit, but I chose to follow the BST up some tricky switchbacks to the western ridge. There, you can follow the Long Path (aqua blazes) south for a couple of miles, meandering between rock outcrops and dwarf pitch pine stands and taking in some incredible views of Orange County and the Hudson Valley. You can see all the way to the Catskills from here on a clear enough day. I recommend this detour even though it makes the trip longer.

To get back to the Jessup Trail, go left on either the Sweet Clover Trail (white blazes) or the Western Ridge Trail (blue dot on white) down to Barton Swamp, then follow that one to where the Western Ridge goes back up to the summit ridge. Be careful ... this runs along some more tricky ledges and outcrops before it finally ends at the Jessup Trail, which at this point also bears the aqua-diamond blaze of the Highlands Trail, which runs across here on its way down to the Delaware Water Gap from nearby Storm King. The summit is about a quarter-mile down to the right.

Either way you come, you'll know it when you get there. Near the top of the rock outcrop, "1,664'" is etched into the rock, where another etching says there was once a fire tower. And you can see for miles in every direction, over the treetops.

You don't have to take the Jessup Trail all the way back ... keep going down and you'll hit the black-dot-on-white Dark Hollow Trail, then further on the Sweet Clover Trail, both of which go down past some nice viewpoints to the tracks and then a large field near the Thruway, past a farmhouse and then right to the parking area (I don't recommend either of these as ways up, however).

Total vertical: about 1,300'. Mileage: 3.5 (one-way via the Jessup Trail).