Five years ago I had never heard of the Gunks, and I will wager that they have eluded many a keen hiker, especially those who, like me, are in-comers to our region. The Catskills didn’t elude me, nor the Adirondacks; but I lived a Gunk-less life for my first 15 years as a Tri-Stater. So, the basics: The Gunks are the Shawangunk Mountains, a ridge which runs through New York from the Delaware River almost to the Hudson – Port Jervis to New Paltz. The highest and widest part of the ridge is the northern part in Ulster County.
No surprise that it is this high-and-wide part that attracts us hikers. It is comprised of the Sam’s Point, Minnewaska State Park, and Mohonk preserves, plus other public open space. It is 17 miles long and, at its broadest, six miles across – a plateau bounded by white cliffs, dotted with high lakes, and covered in often stunted forest. It offers exceptional views, both of itself, and of surrounding lowlands and the Catskill Mountains to the north. Surprising, then, that I did not find it for so long. Perhaps if the Catskills and Dacks were not so close and magnificent, the Gunks would be a big name.