• Grade context: US
  • Photos: 55
  • Ascents: 7,529
  • Aka: Gunks
  • Aka: The Gunks




The Gunks (short for Shawangunks) is one of the premier climbing areas in the country. Located near New Paltz, NY, the Gunks is about 85 miles from the NYC metropolitan area, making it a popular weekend destination. The rock is quartz conglomerate, solid rock with horizontal rather than vertical cracks. Climbing at the Gunks is characterized by roofs, jugs, traverses, big air, and sometimes "sporty" pro. The Gunks is famous for great one-to-three-pitch climbs of all levels of difficulty. You'll find some of the best easy and moderate trad climbs in the country at the Gunks. There are a few bolted climbs at the Gunks, but no sport climbs.

The ratings at the Gunks are stiff; beware of a climb with a "+" at the end of its rating. Climbs like Thin Slabs / Thin Slabs Direct (5.7+), Something Interesting (5.7+), Modern Times (5.8+), Broken Sling (5.8+), Le Teton (5.9+), and Coexistence (5.10+) will seem like sandbags to many climbers. Climbing overhanging rock, even with jugs, requires endurance and commitment. Most climbers new to the Gunks drop down a few grades in their first leads to get a feel for the rock, the ratings, and to learn how to place pro in the horizontal cracks.

The best time to climb at the Gunks is during the fall: September and October are the prime climbing season. Mid-October brings the fall colors to the area, and climbers will have to vie with "leaf peepers" for restaurants and places to stay in New Paltz. Climbing in the spring is also popular, but tends to be wetter and more buggy. Summer is hot and humid (don't miss the swimming hole), and winter offers a few climbable days. New Paltz weather forecast

The Gunks is one of the oldest climbing areas in the country. Fritz Wiessner first climbed at the Gunks in 1935, and he and Hans Kraus put up many classic routes in the 1940s. High Exposure, established in 1941, remains one of the most exposed and exciting 5.6 routes any climber will ever do, and should be on every visiting climber's tick list.

Most of the Gunks is part of the Mohonk Preserve, a land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting the northern Shawangunk Ridge. Climbers must pay a $17 daily fee to climb at the Gunks, or else buy an annual pass for $90 (amounts as of 2011). Stop at the Visitor's Center, on Rt. 44/55 just below the cliffs, for more information.

Access issues

The main cliffs at the Gunks are The Trapps and The Near Trapps. The Trapps is several miles long, and ranges in height from 30' to over 250'. A convenient gravel carriage road traverses under the cliff for its entire length, and designated access trails climb from the carriage road through the talus to the cliff. Access to most climbs at the Trapps involves hiking along the carriage road for 5 minutes to a half hour, followed by a short hike up to the rock. Some of the climbs on the left end of the Trapps start right off the carriage road. Parking exists at the Mohonk Preserve and day passes are required for entry.

The Nears is also a popular destination, with climbs ranging in height from 30' to 200'. While not as extensive as The Trapps, the Nears offers many excellent routes with short approaches. The near (north) end is most popular, but there are good climbs farther down the cliff as well.

Around 2000, the Mohonk Preserve installed around 40 two-bolt belays spread out among routes in the Trapps, Nears, and Lost City. There is one dedicated rappel line, just north of High E, which can be rappelled with one 50m rope.

Millbrook is more remote and offers adventurous climbing for those wanting to get off the beaten path. This area is frequented more by Gunks locals than first-time visiting climbers. The approach is roughly an hour along pleasant rambling trails, and Westward Ha! is worth the walk!

Sky Top has many classic routes, and was closed for over ten years by the landowner (the Mohonk Mountain House, an exclusive and expensive resort). As of April 2007 climbing is LEGAL at Sky Top once again - IF, and only if, you are there as a client of their only approved guide service, Alpine Endeavors.

Peterskill, in Minnewaska State Park, is another popular Gunks climbing destination, offering single-pitch climbs, top-roping, and bouldering. Follow directions to The Trapps and continue on Rt. 44/55 for about a mile past the steel bridge to get to the park entrance. A separate admission fee is charged.

Other Gunks climbing areas, such as ?? and Bonticou, are under-documented by local tradition. Climbing here is by word of mouth; go with a Gunks local or perhaps get information at Rock & Snow, the local climbing shop in New Paltz.


By Plane

The out-of-state climber may want to fly into Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), La Guardia Airport (LGA), or Stewart International Airport (SWF), rent a car, and drive to New Paltz.

Newark Liberty to New Paltz: 97 miles, 1 hour and 39 minutes. Directions from Newark Liberty Airport to New Paltz Hostel

La Guardia to New Paltz: 87 miles, 1 hour and 38 minutes. Directions from La Guardia Airport to New Paltz Hostel

Stewart International Airport is the closest commercial airport to the Gunks. The airport is a quiet regional hub; you rarely have to wait in line, and you can arrive at the airport less than an hour before your flight. Connections to and from here may be limited, however.

Stewart International to New Paltz: 22 miles, 28 minutes. Directions from Stewart International Airport to New Paltz Hostel

More on arranging transportation: Getting around

By Car

To get to New Paltz: take the New York State Thruway (Interstate 87) to exit 18 (New Paltz/Poughkeepsie). Pass the toll booth and go to the first traffic light. Turn left at the light onto Rt. 299 West. Follow 299 several miles into New Paltz, where it becomes Main St.

To get to the Gunks from New Paltz: continue on Rt. 299 for 7 miles until it intersects with Rt. 44/55 (The Brauhaus, Bistro and EMS are at this intersection). Turn right and continue about 1.5 miles up the hill to reach the Mohonk Preserve Visitor's Center. Stop here for maps, information, and to buy daily or annual passes (you can also get passes from the rangers on the carriage road). The Warwarsing parking area, which provides convenient access for climbs on the right side of the Trapps, lies just beyond the Visitor's Center. The West Trapps parking area, used to access the left side of the Trapps and the Near Trapps, lies up the hill, beyond the big hairpin turn, just past a steel bridge. There are also parking areas at the hairpin turn, and at the top of the hill just before the steel bridge, but these are posted as 30-minute parking only (may or may not be often enforced by the local or state police, depending on season and mood).

By Bus

Trailways has a bus terminal in New Paltz, right next to the New Paltz Hostel, but it's most convenient to have a car to get to the cliffs. 139 Main St. New Paltz, NY 12561 800-776-7548

Where to stay


New Paltz Hostel is located near downtown and right next to the bus station. A variety of accommodations is available for $30/person/night. Free internet access and a shared kitchen are part of the amenities. Reservations recommended for weekends. Off-street parking is available. 145 Main Street New Paltz, NY 12561 845-255-6676

87 Motel is the cheapest motel in New Paltz. Older, on the edge of town, it is suitable for the budget-minded climber. 403 Main Street New Paltz, NY 12561 Local - 845-255-9220 Toll free - 800-879-8787

Super 8 of New Paltz rates Super 8 as the best motel in New Paltz. 7 Terwilliger Ln. New Paltz, NY 12561 845-255-8865

Rodeway Inn and Suites People seem to like the suites, but it has gotten mixed reviews. 601 Main Street New Paltz, NY 12561 845-883-7373

Econo Lodge gets bad reviews from 530 Main St. New Paltz, NY 12561 Local - 845-255-6200 Toll free - 800-424-4777

Bed and Breakfasts are available if you want a more 'romantic' getaway, or just space to lounge around in. B&Bs start around $100+/night (call around) per couple for lodging and breakfast. Because the Culinary Institute is nearby, most B&B breakfasts are quite a feast! Given that even the econo-lodges are $80/night and up without food, B&Bs can be a reasonable option, especially for cooler days when the sun sets early.

Mohonk Mountain House is great if you've just won the millionaire lottery!


NY State DEC Multi-Use Area®ion=New%20Paltz%20Region is located on Route 299 just a half-mile from Rt 44/55 in Gardiner. Camping is free, but there are no amenities or reservations. Get here early during the busy season. For more info, contact DEC Regional OfficeBold Text South Putt Corners Road New Paltz, NY 12561 845-256-3024

2011 update: ATTENTION SHANGUNK MULTIPLE USE AREA CAMPERS Due to continued impact on public health, safety and environmental resources at the Shawangunk Multiple Use Area, the number of designated campsites is being reduced to 9.

All designated camp sites will be on the south side of the road and large enough to accommodate the legal limit of up to 9 campers per site. Groups are encouraged to share campsites in order to allow the maximum number of 81 campers.

Parking will only be allowed in the main parking lot on the south side of the road, the same side of the road as camping. The parking lot on the north side of the road will be blocked off to prevent the public (campers) from parking there and crossing the road to camp. Parking along the shoulder of route 299 will be prohibited to limit traffic/pedestrian issues.

Any questions should be directed to Jeffrey Wiegert at (845) 256-3084

Trapps Camp (aka Camp Slime)®ion=New%20Paltz%20Region: Located in the Mohonk Preserve, near the steel bridge. It's a bare-bones site in the woods with a depressing quality; recommended only to climbers on a severely limited budget. Contact the Mohonk Preserve for more info.

Yogi Bear's is an RV-style family campground in Gardiner, at 50 Bevier Rd.

Creek View in Rosendale, ~7 miles from New Paltz, has flat, grassy tent sites with picnic tables, showers, and there is plenty of hot water for dishes. The owner, Bill, makes it a point to enforce quiet hours (11pm to 7am). Other privately owned campgrounds are charging 3x what Bill charges. He also has full hookups for those with RVs or just wanting some electricity. His monthly rate is the best in the area, by far.


Due to the abundance of horizontal cracks and the limited number of vertical cracks, most Gunks routes have "PG" protection: adequate but not great, although many gear ratings were applied before small cams were invented. The horizontal cracks are great for small Tricams: the pink and red are especially useful. Small-to-medium cams with flexible shafts also work well. Climbs rarely need pro larger than 3". Hexes are not often carried, but sometimes work well.

Fixed pro is sometimes available, but many of the pins are "old and rusted and shouldn't be trusted". Bring a screamer or two for the questionable pin or bolt.

A "Standard Rack" for the Gunks:

  • a set of micronuts (RPs, HB offsets, BD micro stoppers) - very often useful for 5.10 and above.
  • a set of wired nuts (#3-#13 BD Stoppers or equivalent)
  • black, pink, red, and brown Tricams (some climbers double up on the smaller sizes)
  • blue, green, yellow, gray, and red Aliens (or equivalent)
  • #.75, #1, #2, and #3 Camalots (or equivalent)
  • 10-12 extendable runners (24" sewn slings)
  • 1 or 2 long runners (48" sewn slings or rabbit runners)
  • A Yates Screamer

Additional gear that is useful on some climbs:

  • extra cams in the .5" to 2" range - very useful for new Gunks leaders
  • a very small cam (black Alien or equivalent)
  • a large cam (#4 Camalot or equivalent)
  • a set of Trango Ball Nutz (#1, #2, #3). There are several 'new' moderate routes in the Nears, put up by Dick Williams and partners, which rely heavily on Ball Nutz for protection; caveat emptor.
  • larger Tricams (purple #2, black #2.5)
  • medium-sized hexes (BD #6-#8)

The amount of gear that you carry will depend on the climb, your experience, ability, and familiarity with the route and with the Gunks. If you're new to the Gunks, err on the side of taking a little more gear rather than a little less.

Many routes can be climbed and rappelled with a single 60m rope. Double ropes can be handy, however, with the traverses, wandering pro, and roofs encountered on the typical Gunks climb, and come in handy to descend in fewer rappels.

Many popular routes have bolted rap stations, but sometimes trees are used for rap anchors. Bring some webbing along in case you need to beef up a sling anchor on a tree.

Two-way radios can be useful for communicating past the big roofs often encountered on Gunks climbs. High Exposure, Disneyland, and especially Shockley's Ceiling are routes where radios can be much more effective than shouting.


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