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Schunnemunk Highlight - Otterkill to Megalith Loop

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.0 (1) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A scenic route with excellent views of Storm King Mountain, the Hudson River, and the distant Catskills.


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Map Key

7.6

Miles

12.2

KM

Loop

1,645' 502 m

High

322' 98 m

Low

1,735' 529 m

Up

1,737' 530 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

37%

Max Grade (20°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Geological Significance · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall

In the summer of 2020 the NY MTA restricted access to two trails (Jessup Trail and Sweet Clover Trail ) that crossed railroad tracks in the Southern End of the park. This effectively closed two popular Recommended Route's until further notice. This is a new alternate loop that touches many of the same popular destinations.

Overview

Schunnemunk is a 3,300-acre park with approximately 20 miles of blazed trails, and this route highlights many of the park's best features.

There are multiple vista points, including views of the Storm King Mountain, the Hudson River, and a distant view of the Catskill Mountains. There are also multiple minor stream crossings, especially in the spring, and the famous Megalith that marks the perfect spot for lunch.

The hike is doable for most hikers that don't mind a bit of elevation gain but is closer to 9 miles than the 7.6 listed.

Need to Know

1) Parking is at 340-400 Otterkill Rd, New Windsor, NY 12553, also labeled "Schunemunk Mountain Otterkill Road TrailHead"

2) The trail itself begins about 2/10's of a mile east of the parking lot. After parking, make a left out of the parking lot and hike Otterkill Road and trail access is on the right

3) The Moodna Viaduct is just northeast of the parking lot, up a grassy hill. This is a beautiful photo opp that should not be missed!

Description

The hike begins up the white blazed Trestle Trail, a steep 1.3 mile trek up to to a ridge with an elevation gain around 950 feet. There are two viewpoints on the ascent, one with a nice bench for two overlooking points north. Most of this section is through hardwood forest but the foliage begins to change to pitch pines and exposed conglomerate rock once near the top of the ridge.

Around 1.3 miles bear left onto Barton Swamp Trail, blazed red. This is easy to miss as it is a sharp turn, heading back towards the direction you were coming from. Look for a large boulder with several cairns marking the spot. Barton Swamp Trail gives up a bit the elevation you gained, and heads down into a small valley tucked between the two main ridges that cross the park.

At the overall 1.5 mile mark Barton Swamp Trail intersects with Jessup Trail. Ascend the yellow blazed Jessup Trail up the hill and follow 1.7 miles until you reach Megaliths Trail. This section on Jessup Trail is stunning and offers beautiful vistas, some minor rock scrambling, and endless paths through pitched pine and exposed rock. There is a deceptive but constant small elevation gain until you reach Megaliths Trail at the overall 3.2 mile mark.

Here bear right onto the white blazed Megaliths Trail. This is often difficult to spot as there isn't great signage, but at a wide expanse of exposed rock there will be multiple large rocks and some cairns marking the trail as it heads off to the right (north west). Follow these markings until reach a small patch of forest with a clear trail that leads to the Megalith itself. This is a wonderful place with 180 degree views of the Catskill Mountains.

After a welcome break on top of the Megalith, retrace your steps about 1.1 miles and turn right onto the white blazed Sweet Clover Trail. This trail descends the ridge past a seasonal waterfall and is exquisite in the fall when the low brush screams bright red. Once you get to the railroad tracks, turn left (north) onto the the red blazed Otterkill Trail. Please note, Sweet Clover Trail used to cross the tracks and proceed to the Taylor Road parking location, but this route is now closed.

Follow Otterkill Trail north alongside the rail line for about 2 miles. Most of this path is a means to end, with a wide doubletrack trail that has little character, but it does offer some positives - multiple rock boundary lines, one great viewpoint, and if you are lucky the sound of a screaming MTA train that blitzed by at high speeds.

Otterkill Trail ends when it intersects with Trestle Trail near the trestle itself. Here, bear right down the hill and to Otterkill Road itself and your car.

Flora & Fauna

Typical southern New York hardwoods and some wetlands, along with gorgeous pitch pines prevalent along the ridge. Deer, Rattlesnakes, and Hawks are common as well.

History & Background

The Lenni Lanape were known to live in the northern portion of the park and the name Schunnemunk means "excellent fireplace" in Lanape.

Contacts

Shared By:

Lou Poulas

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  4.0 from 1 vote

#3945

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  4.0 from 1 vote
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Photos

Watching the fog lift off Sweet Clover Trail in Schunnemunk State Park.
Oct 1, 2017 near Woodbury, NY
A seasonal cascade just off Sweet Clover Trail in Schunnemunk Mountain State Park
May 20, 2018 near Woodbury, NY
One of the countless glacial erratics found spotting Jessup Trail in Schunnemunk State Park, NY
Oct 1, 2017 near Mountai…, NY
The highest ridge in Schunnemunk Mountain State Park provides multiple breathtaking views, this one features Stormking Mountain in the distance highlighted by sunshine
Dec 29, 2018 near Mountai…, NY
Cairns mark the ridgeline atop Jessup Trail in Schunnemunk State Park.
Oct 1, 2017 near Mountai…, NY
Standing on a megalith off the aptly named "Megalith Trail", here's a morning view of the ridges overlooking Washingtonville, NU
Oct 1, 2017 near Mountai…, NY

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Aug 30, 2020
Lou Poulas
Perfect Day! 9.1mi — 5h 02m