By Jeff & Stephanie Sylva
How far would you go to experience an area noted for its endless natural beauty, dramatic scenery, and variety of outdoor activity? Add to all this a wine trail that is home to 15 family-run wineries offering friendly tasting rooms with exceptional wines. Include a thriving village—a college town—that is home to a collection of farm-to-table restaurants, boutique shops, a lively music scene, and a historic district dating back to the late-17th century. Well, all this is less than 90 miles from Manhattan in the Shawangunk Mountain region of the Hudson Valley.
Fondly known as “the Gunks,” the Shawangunk Mountains offer hiking experiences that will challenge veteran hikers with some great trails and rock scrambles. Less ambitious hikers will enjoy the relatively easy, gentler carriage roads that traverse much of the area and offer spectacular views from many points. Access to the region’s trails and carriage roads is available in three parks/preserves. Mohonk Preserve provides access to over 8,000 acres—including dramatic cliffs and rock outcrops, secluded glens, cascading waterfalls, deep forests, and tranquil streams—and over 65 miles of carriage roads and trails for hiking, running, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Info: mohonkpreserve.org.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
The cliffs of are internationally known for their more than 1,000 technical rock climbing routes. Start your visit to Mohonk Preserve at the Visitor Center for trail maps, trail information and suggestions, exhibits, day passes, and the orientation video. A very popular hike, Undercliff Carriage Road, offers great views of rock climbers scaling the cliffs and of the valley below. Outside Magazine named Mohonk Preserve “one of the 5 Best City Escapes” nationwide.
One of The Preserve’s neighbors, Mohonk Mountain House—a separate property and resort hotel—has a reciprocal agreement that allows Preserve members and day visitors to hike from Preserve property onto the 1,200-acre resort grounds. Another of The Preserve’s neighbors, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, is a 20,000-acre state park with 50 miles of hiking/biking paths and 35 miles of carriage roads. Minnewaska has three crystalline lakes for swimming and boating. (Note: Renovations at the park during 2019 will significantly reduce available parking.)
After experiencing the natural beauty of the Shawangunk region, you may enjoy sampling some of its viticulture. Nestled between the magnificent cliffs of the Gunks and the Hudson River lies the eighty-mile-long Shawangunk Wine Trail. The 15 wineries along the trail are as diverse as the wines themselves. Some of the wineries and welcoming tasting rooms are housed in brand new facilities and others in refurbished barns upwards of 100 years old. Many of the wineries offer the chance to sip wine while soaking in some fabulous views. Some are very quiet and peaceful, while some offer, food, music, and special events including Wines & Bites and the popular Wine Tasting Passport. Info: gunkswine.com.
Take time to stroll the town of New Paltz and visit the many unique shops. Be sure to visit the National Historic Landmark District, Huguenot Street. The 10-acre site includes a Visitor Center, seven historic stone houses (the most significant, intact architectural concentration of late 17th- and 18th-century stone houses in the U.S.), a reconstructed 1717 Huguenot church, a replica Munsee wigwam, archaeological sites, and a burial ground that dates to the very first settlers. Guided tours are offered May through mid-December. Info: huguenotstreet.org.
WHERE TO EAT
New Paltz has a great selection of dining choices—two that we recommend are P&G’s and Garvan’s in part because of their historical significance. P&G’s is a “Cornerstone of New Paltz,” as it has been serving locals and tourists since it first opened in June of 1900. For the last 50 years, three generations of the Beck family have been maintaining patriarch Ed Beck’s vision of P&G’s—“a fun place.” The atmosphere is casual and inviting, and the food is well-prepared and moderately-priced. Burgers are a favorite, along with Stormy’s Chili (a recipe from Storm Nickerson, an ex-Dodger pitcher, and beloved bartender). Info: pandgs.com.
Garvan’s features “New American cuisine with an Irish Twist.” Housed in a building that dates back to 1759, this self-described gastropub features original ceiling beams and stone walls in the Tap Room. Says owner Garvan McCloskey, “We serve the finest pint of Guinness in the U.S.” (No one has yet to dispute this.) A few Guinness-inspired selections include Lamb Stew, Braised Short Ribs, and Guinness-battered Fish & Chips. The eclectic menu emphasizes fresh, local ingredients with excellent presentations. Garvan’s has a beer garden for socializing and an inviting porch for dining during warmer months. Info: garvans.com.
WHERE TO STAY
Offering spectacular views of the Gunks from its large bluestone patio and its breakfast/sitting room (aptly referred to as the “big sky room”), The Inn at Kettleboro is a perfect choice for an immersive stay in New Paltz. The Inn is a beautiful mix of historic (the home was initially built in 1830) and contemporary (it reopened in 2014 after extensive renovations to the house). This intimate escape boasts three sitting parlors and a dining room furnished in classic style; its four bedrooms blend traditional style with modern amenities. The white, columned house sits atop a hill and is bordered on three sides by the owners’ 12-acre apple and peach orchard.
The Inn is more than a comfortable place to stay. Convivial owners Robert Witkowski and Michael Aiello love sharing their thoughts and experiences of the region—and most especially Michael’s own experiences growing up in the house. They also enjoy the social interaction among their guests who are encouraged to sit together at the large table in the breakfast room while Robert, the Inn’s chef, serves his delicious breakfast creations. Info: kettleboro.com.
For more information on the Shawangunk Mountain region and New Paltz, visit newpaltzchamber.org.